20 October 2013

Large Vehicle Blind-Spots - A Missed Opportunity?

I have never really got involved in the HGV blind-spot debate as others seemed to be more 'educated' about it, and living in a rural area meant that i (thankfully) had little experience to draw on.  Indeed my only 'near-miss' with an HGV was when riding down a steepish road, holding back on the brakes as i was touching the 30mph speed limit, only to be overtaken, on a slight left-hand bend, by an HGV who had had to exceed the speed limit to do so, and then proceeded aggressively to cut me up by taking the apex of the bend to such an extent that the air flowing round the lorry damn nearly sucked me into the wheels. 
Accepted 'Blind-Spot' of a large vehicle

My encounter was nothing to do with blind spots, terrifying though it was.  I felt that I had nothing really new to add to the blind-spot debate apart from my anger over deaths of the unfortunate people whose inquests touched me these last few weeks. 

But then i saw a photo posted on Twitter that showed the blind spot as seen from outside the cab looking backwards and for some reason the angle of the shot suddenly reminded me of something I'd seen about 25yrs ago as a young boy.

Often the laughing stock of modern vehicular engineering, British Leyland (yes, really) in it's 80's guise as Leyland Trucks built a 7.5 tonne lorry called the 'Roadrunner'.  One of it's more unusual design features points was a 'window' more or less in the the foot-well of the passenger seat that allowed the driver to glance downwards and see how close he was to the curb. 

Indeed, the idea itself was not a new one, as it was also a design feature of the Morris FG lorry of the 1960's, and was designed into the Roadrunner cab purely with the driver in mind.

However, in the light of all the incidents that there have involved HGVs and cyclists and from reading newspaper articles surrounding some of the various recent court cases, I would suggest that most cyclists, or at least a good portion of their bikes, would have been visible to the HGV driver. 
The 'window' as viewed from the front,
showing the potential blind-spot area reduction
Cab interior - you get an idea of the potential
extra visibility from the drivers point of view.

I don't pretend to have any idea of how lorry cabs are built, though I obviously realise that the Roadrunner was a 7½ tonne vehicle (to get around the need for full HGV drivers licence) and not a full size HGV of today.  However, if this is something that has been incorporated before on more than one occasion then surely it can be incorporated again and, i suspect, improved upon with modern techniques and materials. For example,
  • a bigger surface area
  • more rounded into the side of the door
  • possible smart use of mirrors to look alongside the lower part of the cab/HGV
From the below image as well, it shows that the window needn't impact too much on the colour scheme or imagery on a cab either.

It is obviously a great shame that this design did not catch on, as, from what i have read, it could possibly have prevented some of the fatalities that have occurred in the past few years or so.  An idea like this is such a missed opportunity especially as it was once deemed an important feature in the safety of motor transport in the UK.

6 November 2011

Adoption Timeline

We have often been asked about just how long the process can take (and of course it is in the news at the moment). In fact even though we have just completed the 3 days training there seems to be an expectation that we will sorted in no time... Not so easy i'm afraid.

So this more or less is our Adoption Timeline based on what has actually happened, what we know will happen or (at the end) what we expect/hope to happen...

Mar/April | Final IVF attempt failed so decided Adoption is for us
May | Gathered information about agencies
June | Went to Adoption information evening
July |
August | Preliminary meeting with care worker
September |
October | Invited to Apply to be Adopters + Application Accepted
November | 3 days Adoption Training Meetings with Workers
December | Meetings with Workers
January | Meetings with Workers
February | Day 4 of Adoption Training Meetings with Workers
March | Meetings with Workers
April |--------------------------------------------------------
May | Sometime during April-August 2012 expect to go in front
June | of Adoption Panel to be recommended to become Adopters.
July | Once confirmed the child matching process will begin.
August |--------------------------------------------------------

After the matching process has started then it will take as long as it has to to find the correct match - this can be anywhere from a few months to over a year.

Adoption Training - Day 3 pt2

The issue of Contact (raised in pt1 below) is obviously very emotive...  I will be honest and say that this was the biggest area that 'worried' us from the time of the information evening back in Early Summer up until now.  You suddenly become very possessive over something that you haven't even got yet and your human nature of wanting to turn around to birth parents and say 'you broke them, we're trying to fix them and do what you couldn't so why the hell should you have ANYTHING to do with them' is pretty understandable (if a somewhat unflattering use of words).

Being honest again, we felt a little like this when we started out on Wednesday.

I think now though we feel somewhat different... and i think the main reason you feel different is because in a couple of the exercises we did you get to see things, if not exactly from the Birth Parents perspective, then at least as a fly on a wall in their lives.

While the cases in the exercises are fictional scenarios, they are based on truth... how someone who possibly had been in the care system themselves, or maybe on the fringes of it, or just unlucky in childhood can end up in situations, often the same situations that their parents had been in, suddenly seems so easy... plus also how those situations can spiral out of control without being realised.

Probably the saddest thing I heard over the three days was that at least two seperate care workers actually said that they have either dealt with or are now dealing with the children of cases they dealt with 20-25 years ago, which is both shocking and heart breaking in equal measure... Plus it is a shameful indictment of our society (PLEASE don't get me started on the politics of it all or we will be here for days!!!).

I don't think that you pity the Birth Family as such, but you do develop a level of empathy, which i realise to someone outside of this soap opera may seem strange.  In a lot of cases they are not bad people, they have just been victims of unfortunate circumstances, which often are not of their making or that they have control over.  The really sad part for them is that in almost all cases they will probably never get 100% out of them.

So, to answer the questions from the previous blog, while we don't know how we would feel about a face to face meeting (which would only be a situation if the circumstances were acceptable, so no abuse etc) the rest we are much more comfortable with than we were.  The ironic thing is that the hearsay has told us that often it's the Birth Families who, even after agreeing to the face to face meeting, don't bother turning up!!!

You could of course avoid all these issues by simply not mentioning anything about being adopted at all (if the child is young enough) and i am sure that for some couple the 'ignorance is bliss' route must be tempting... wrong, but tempting none the less  (we were even told that a long, long time ago this was actually the advice given to adoptive parents!!!)

On to more happier things... once matched, one thing that helps both the adopters and, if they are old enough, the child, are what are called Life Story books.  For us these would be a series of reports etc about the child and possible something from the child itself.  For the child, they get a book that tries to explain about their 'Tummy Mummy', explaining adoption in as simple a way as possible and to help to introduce the new parents.  Us, as adoptive parents, would also help with this with words and pictures perhaps about their new home, their bedroom, the swings in the local park and of course not forgetting Mr Tippz and our two cats... and our birds... and the fish... 

After the mind games of Contact issues came the chance to meet two real-life adopters.  This was like a release valve going off as after 2½ days of what at times was heavy going was just great to hear all their stories. 

Confession time - it was during these chats that it was my time to almost get all gushy when one of the ladies explaining the matching process said 'i read the profile and then looked at a photo of this child lying down on their elbows, head resting in their hands and I just knew they were the one'... i think the longing to have that feeling myself was just one emotion too much for me after such an intense few days (plus my eyes had been prickly and sore all morning etc etc etc).

Being boring for a second, i actually feel this training has raised some serious points... the most basic of which is that all five of us actually felt more qualified to raise children now than none adoptive parents awaiting their first child.  I don't mean that to sound pompous in anyway, and i will try to explain more in future.

In summary, the workers were fantastic, not the ogres that they are often made out to be on TV or in the media, and they helped us all on every level.  None of us had any complaints and we all walked out of there after three days with heads high, ready to take on the world.

To my new friends, if you happen to stumble upon this, we wish you all the luck in the world in getting what you ultimately want, and know that like us you'll get some things wrong, but that you will make brilliant, loving parents...


4 November 2011

Adoption Training - Day 2

Second day of adoption training started with understanding what is in someones name, and how, despite everything else, it is the one single thing that is yours.  You can lose your safety nets, you can lose your family, you can lose you home, you can lose everything that is important to you, but you still are you and you still have your name... I would never have thought of wanting to change a childs christian name, though apparantly there are some that do.

One particular exercise caused certain discomfort when you had to write something very personal and potentially revealling which was then put in other peoples hands. It was all designed to explain trust and responsibiliy etc... pretty intense for all of us really, so more than others.

A couple of case studies and lunch later and we are on to the (so called) joy of parenting... though this did turn a bit into 'Steven gets the Powerpoint Presentation to work' :-) ... just like at work!!!

It was to try and explain that things that may be taken for granted in a normal household can all create negative emotions for adopted children (depending on each case naturally) - for example, a situation where there is shouting going on could be interpreted as the 1st stage of violence to them (shouting to pushing to fighting to violence) or large groups of people, like a party for example, to an adoptive child could be seen as an upcoming period of neglect (esp if in the past it involved drink or drug abuse).

Even harder can be normal situations (to us) like meal times that either may have been either non exsistant to a child previously or, conversely, could be all to familiar and recognised by a child as being the first stage of violence (ie mum makes tea, dad thinks its rubbish, throws it around, much shouting... you can work the rest out).

Good news is we have our appointed worker now, and the first visit is next week, so the ball is rolling a bit faster now.

Sorry if this seems a bit dis-jointed but it's quite tiring and i'm about to fall asleep at my keyboard

Nighty night xx


Adoption Training - Day 1

Dissapointed that only five people are doing the training.  Still, five is better than none i guess...

(are you listening Mr Cameron??? you simply won't get more children out of the care system until you have more people interested in Adoption in the first place... so incentivise it... make it worth peoples while so they are more willing to invite someone potentially less than perfect into their ideal little familes).

So, we learned about theoretical cases and how no two situations are the same.

Just as important was learning about the emotional bond that occurs and how these foundations are important for all children. Yes it's obvious stuff, but sometimes it takes someone stating the obvious to make you realise it.

Played with bricks in the afternoon, making developmental walls, showing how the odd missing part of development doesn't cause a disaster for a child, but how the total breakdown of their early life and leave it's footprint for years.

On a personal level, the biggest thing for me today was actually looking at the profiles of some of the real-life children looking to be placed for the first time - i just haven't been able to bring my self to do this so far :-)

So, all in all a good, though tiring day.
Now got some homework and forms to fill in for tomorrow...

Now all I need to do is just find my driving licence so i can complete the forms...

2 November 2011

Let's Go Round Again

OK, so I have been planning on updating this for weeks...
Updating on the last, failed IVF cycle and so on...

But i haven't got round to it...

So l planned on doing it this week before we start the Adoption Programme...
Showing my hopes for a new start...
But i didn't...

So now it's the night before it starts, and i still can't be bothered...

I really want to do it as i know i will regret it later...

But maybe it's just the finality of it all - the realisation that one dream is not going to end as i want it to...

Or maybe just with 12 months of crap at work involving idiot managers, going into administration, uncertainty or future, producing information to prove to prospective buyers that my friends and colleagues are worth employing, bad weather, idiot administrators, new idiot owners, old managers suddenly leaving at a moments notice, more work uncertainty, working for useless fools who don't know how to run holiday parks, seeing friends getting even more bogged down, working with people who if they had brains they would dangerous, losing even more friends and having to put a brave face on working for the most customer unfriendly, cold-hearted bunch of fools who ever walked the face of the planet has just worn me down to the point i just don't care any more.

No, it's defiantly the first... though the second lot hasn't helped.  Through the toughest 18 or so months of my home life I've had to contend with this as well, and as i go into yet another 'most important week of my life' it still looms over me like a big black cloud.

So thank you to my friends for keeping me sane, and for their help and encouragement over the past few months.  You know who you are and you are all very special xxx

I know I've been a moody sod, especially when certain conversations are taking place in the office... sorry but i just can't help it.  Having to llisten to an hour of mindless baby chat in a morning really doesn't help my mood, but i should probably stop being so self centred and selfish...

On second thoughts, why the hell should I stop?

31 October 2011

The end... the beginning... or just another chuffing page...

 First published in Feb 2011

"The path of my life is strewn with cowpats from the devil's own satanic herd" - Edmund Blackadder

I don't think I ask for too much in life...

I have been lucky enough to be born in a free country and have a roof over my head with food to eat.

So that's a good start, as many are not that fortunate.

I have a fantastic wife, a loving family and some great friends and work colleagues.

So that is a big thumbs up as well.

I've been able to travel a bit and have seen some of the great sights and wonders of the world.

Plus I have met some very clever and brave people along the way.

So far, so good.

In fact there is only probably one more thing i want out of life...

but it is proving to be rather elusive.

I want to be a dad.

Not too much to hope for really, especially when you see the state of some so called fathers and how they are to their children or partners. Even good ol' Rod Stewart at the age of 66 has apparently just fathered his eighth child, so i guess some guys do have all the luck :-) But that seems to be just what we are missing... luck.

We did things the right way - we got a house, we got married, we got financially stable etc.

None of this living off the state, sponging money stuff.

Yes, we had problems with illnesses and such like that meant we had to start thinking about starting our family a bit later than most do but we did it the fair way, the proper way, the right way.

So when the time was right we tried naturally...  for a few years...

When this didn't work we pestered our GP who eventually gave in and referred us to Royal Preston Hospital where we tried Chlomid medication for a few months...

When this didn't work x-rays and tests were done that showed that there was some dodgy pipe work going on inside Julie which meant there was virtually zero chance of non-assisted success.

So we were guided in the direction of Liverpool Women's hospital for potentially two NHS IVF treatments (this was not our original choice as we wanted to go to CARE in Manchester but Preston PTC doesn't deal with them... more of this later on in the saga).

So thinking our luck must change sometime we tried a run through of IVF early last year.

From memory, after Julie had endured 6 weeks of between 4 & 8 injections per day (sometimes performed in the most ridiculous of situations, such as by the light of a mobile phone sat in the car in a multi-storey car park before going in to a concert) 8 or 9 follicles produced 5 eggs, of which 3 fertilised, of which 2 grew well enough to be implanted back inside.

And our luck ran out.


The embryo's just didn't take and that was it... all over.

All we wanted was the 8 that became 5, and that then became 3, and that then became 2, to end up as one.

But it was not to be.Against our better judgement we jumped back on this roller coaster of emotions and dived straight into the second set of treatment.

But this time with increased medication... so more drugs must mean more chance of success... Right???

erm, no actually... in fact it was a big fat WRONG!

This time we didn't get to the implantation stage or to the embryo stage nor did we get to the fertilisation stage.

 We didn't even get to the egg stage.

We got nothing!

Any follicles were empty.

And again, for a second time, that was it.

 But this time it really was IT, as that was the end of our NHS funded treatment.

And we certainly aren't in the position to pay our own way without resorting to some drastic measures, such as changing finance on our house or robbing a bank.

 Before our second set of treatment we discussed between us about possible tests to increase our chances, or at least point us in the right direction.

One of these tests involved auto immunity tests which, taking Julies past medical history into account, was worth pursuing.

Or so we thought.

Liverpool Women's hospital refused point blank to listen to our requests to take the tests, because they a) don't do them (they get sent to Chicago) and b) they don't believe in them.

We reasoned with them from our medical backgrounds and even offered to pay for them (somehow)... but they still said no.

So, now we are free of the NHS rules we have finally gone to CARE, but this time privately instead.

We have done various tests which have shown a low level of fertility in general (which obviously would have been REALLY good to have known before starting the whole damn thing).

And recently we also took the auto immunity tests mentioned above.

And guess what?

24 vials of blood later they have shown a BIG problem.

We are genetically very similar.

In fact probably too similar.

If i was donating a kidney or some other organ etc then this would be fine... but for pregnancy it is the opposite way around.

We're not talking incest here, but it is that kind of idea...

Even if we went down the Donor Eggs route it would make no difference as to much similarity can cause problems with fertilisation, with carrying, with premature birth and potentially with the genetic make up of any baby that pops out.

 So, there we have it... and the question we now ask is 'What do we do now?

'Well, we don't know.

Plus, of course, in this game nothing is guaranteed to work because no amount of money will make it work.

We just need to be lucky!

And unfortunately, throughout all of this, that is just the one thing we just don't seem to have.