Thursday, 15 February 2018

Monty Python's Parking Circus

Warning, the following is a long off topic rant about anti-social parking and how dealing with local authorities sometimes feels like living in a surrealist comedy sketch.

The area where my wife and I live suffers from anti-social and illegal parking. Most houses have some off road parking, but most were built before widespread car ownership and don't accommodate modern volumes. It wouldn't be too bad if households had a couple of cars each, but some have small fleets of five or more (more than they can physically drive), and that's without those who prefer not to use their off road parking, or the twats who use this residential area as a storage lot for their commercial businesses.

We have two driveways, one at the front, and one at the rear, both accessed via dropped kerbs. Both have suffered from obstruction by anti-social scum, the one at rear being particularly problematic. In July of last year my wife applied to Surrey Highways for access protection markings (H bar) across this rear dropped kerb in the hope it would deter pondlife, and in December it was installed. Access protection markings are advisory only, so have no legal value, but they 'advise' the existence of a crossover, and crossovers are protected by Section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004. Since the markings went in I've been regularly reporting obstructions to the local 'parking enforcement' team, which have been duly ignored until two weeks ago when I was astonished to receive two replies in succession.

Parking enforcement in Tandridge District is shite. Surrey County Council devolve enforcement to the boroughs and districts and some years ago Tandridge District Council (TDC) outsourced its enforcement to neighbouring Reigate & Banstead Borough Council (R&B). R&B runs token enforcement in Tandridge, a skeleton crew working primarily Monday to Friday daytime, cover more than twenty small towns and villages over ninety-five square miles. Report an offence and you'll get an email saying someone might look in 24 hours, apart from Sunday's when they won't bother. There's no worries about offenders being fleeced by over-zealous wardens hunting profits; parking offences aren't just widely ignored, the absence of enforcement means penalty charge revenue is so limited the 'service' makes a loss.

Local councillors are well aware of the problems and the general shiteness of 'enforcement'. I know because I used to be one and I'm still in contact with my former colleagues. Unfortunately, the district and parish councillors who favour meaningful intervention lack required influence, whilst the county councillor who has influence is mildly sympathetic but reluctant to go as far as meaningful intervention. His reticence is partly due to seeing it as low priority versus Surrey County Council's serious financial problems, but it probably doesn't help that local twats have become conditioned to getting away with their parking offences. The robust solution proposed by those committed to meaningful intervention is a residents parking scheme, but Surrey Highways doesn't want the hassle and there will be a contest between residents who want the problems tackled and residents who cause the problems. A half-way solution would to replace R&B with fit for purpose enforcement, using professional processes and staffing, this would pay for itself, but the inconvenience to offenders remains a political consideration. A couple of years ago the county councillor did support a scheme to reduce double yellow lines around the intersections, this would have freed up extra parking spaces, but it was repelled by residents who pointed out this would prevent access for larger vehicles like refuse collections (already a problem) and would make the area into one giant bottleneck.

So, back to the unexpected responses from R&B. Okay, they were so late as to be useless but it was progress surely? To my eye it looks like R&B has upgraded its reporting system, a cynic might note that the TDC contract comes up for renewal soon; but given that R&B has shown little interest in the contract I suspect that it's more down to the local parish council bunging some additional subsidy its way to try and get a little bit of attention. Whatever, it's welcome intervention, but a little pathetic given a fit for purpose enforcement regime wouldn't need a bung, fit for purpose regimes up and down the country make surpluses just by covering the basics.

However, the responses were eye opening, firstly they pointed out the obstructing vehicles had been removed, fairly fucking predictable given it took two or three days to investigate. But there were other dubious remarks. Both responses stated R&B couldn't enforce advisory markings, disingenuous sophistry given nobody was asking for this, the reported offences were crossover/dropped kerb obstructions which are enforceable. Also, one of the responses stated that they were not able to enforce partial obstructions, only complete blocking of the  crossover. This really did piss me off, as having repeatedly read Section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 I know it does not make any such claims. As a former councillor I'm also well practised in spotting the tricks used by statutory authorities to shirk responsibilities.

I wrote back challenging both claims, and I even got a reply on the latter point (it seems the cheap wheeze conflating advisory markings with crossover obstruction wasn't worth defending). It said:

"Section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 as amended does grant local authorities with Civil Enforcement Powers the power to issue a Penalty Charge Notice to vehicles which are parked adjacent to a dropped kerbs inside of a Special Enforcement Area. However, please be advised that partially obstructing or overhanging a dropped kerb is not an offence which local authorities are able to enforce. In order for the vehicle to be issued with a PCN, the vehicle would need to be parked adjacent to the dropped kerb. However, please be advised that partially obstructing or overhanging a dropped kerb is not an offence which local authorities are able to enforce. In order for the vehicle to be issued with a PCN, the vehicle would need to be parked adjacent to the dropped kerb."

It seems fair enough, until you read it carefully sentence by sentence:

"Section 86 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 as amended does grant local authorities with Civil Enforcement Powers the power to issue a Penalty Charge Notice to vehicles which are parked adjacent to a dropped kerbs inside of a Special Enforcement Area."

Yep, that's true, I've read the relevant section several times.

"However, please be advised that partially obstructing or overhanging a dropped kerb is not an offence which local authorities are able to enforce."

Hmmm... this is not so clever, the Act itself makes no such claims. It's hard to see how it could be, it would have to define what partial obstruction is, opening up a whole new can of worms.

"In order for the vehicle to be issued with a PCN, the vehicle would need to be parked adjacent to the dropped kerb."

This third sentence is consistent with the first one, but it contradicts the second sentence if you're interpreting them all literally. A vehicle overhanging or partially obstructing a dropped kerb is 'adjacent' to that dropped kerb if you understand the term 'adjacent' in its literal sense. Was I going mad? No. I went and checked in several different dictionaries, here's what the online version of the Cambridge Dictionary says:

So a car overhanging a dropped kerb is adjacent to that dropped kerb, it's physically impossible for it not to be adjacent. More expansive definitions of adjacent actually use synonyms such as contiguous and overlapping, which are even clearer on this point.

So what is going on? Is there some figurative or metaphorical reading of the Traffic Management Act 2004 which reconciles the mutually exclusive claims within R&B's response? Is it possible to be physically adjacent but simultaneously not physically adjacent for the purposes of R&B's claims?

If there is a special exemption for vehicles parked physically adjacent to a dropped kerb, but only overhanging or not completely obstructing, what is the objective definition of this? There has to be an objective definition, otherwise it gets too complicated. How does it work if you can get ingress or egress to a motorbike but not a transit van? Is that partial obstruction? Fuck knows! This the problem when logically inconsistent claims are made. Maybe reconciliation can be achieved by some legislation or statutory instrument omitted from the statement? Maybe R&B has been asked to go soft on parking offences, maybe that's why it's shite, and I'm unfairly maligning apparent indifference? But if that's true why not simply make it clear to the public there's no point in even reporting parking offences? The whole fucking thing is batshit.

Monday, 5 February 2018

CKD on BBC News

There's been a couple of interesting stories around CKD in the past week or so. There's this positive one about a guy who has developed a successful dialysis app that assists people in finding treatment whilst travelling. Then there's this not so positive one around the shortage of kidney donors, something that is especially prevalent amongst ethnic minorities.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Nephros Writes

Yesterday I launched my new blog "Nephros Writes". It's where I'm going to start publishing stuff about the stories and poetry I've been working on, along with occasional commentary and reviews of things I've been reading, watching and listening to. Basically stuff that up till now has largely resided in my notebooks or in half-finished drafts, and stuff that doesn't really belong on this blog which is mainly about my CKD and other gripes about the 'real world'. I started by republishing the poem I wrote back in October about CKD.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Trawling the January sales

I hate others buying me clothes, my size and shape means getting clothes that fit nicely, or that aren't hideous can be challenging. I can't trust standard sizes, because they're not really standard, and you can't trust the cut without trying on, many a time I've found a pair of trousers that fit my waist but then have inexplicably narrow legs, as if designed for a ball shaped person with pipecleaner legs! So every year I tell people not to buy me clothing as gifts, and every December this is ignored, and every January I take the unwated clothing back to be refunded or exchanged.

So over the last couple of weeks I've made my annual January trip to the shops. I don't like shopping, bookshops excepted, but it's a necessary evil and I could do with a few new shirts for work. I was hoping to snag a bargain amongst all the seasonal shite and leftovers hauled out of the store room; the better quality, well designed stuff that looks good year in year out generally stays full price, but you do get the odd bit of luck. Sadly, I didn't have any luck. There was no shortage of shite on sale, but one thing that stuck me looking at shirts is how many, nominally good quality shirts there were on sale, but in unusual sizes. I typically take an 18 inch collar regular fit shirt, tailored and slim fit are too tight for someone my size (slim fit is for bean poles, tailored fit is basically slim with regular shoulders). There were an awful lot of slim and tailored fit shirts on sale with 17 to 20 inch collars, which when you think about it is a pretty niche market, Okay, you might get some roid head musclemen with slim wastes and big necks who rock a tailored 17 inch collar shirts, but a slim fit shirt with a 20 inch neck?  

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A reprieve of sorts

Okay, I had my Nephrology appointment last week and the result was something of a reprieve. I weighed in at 114kg, reflecting too many sweets and not enough exercise over the holidays, but the main thing was my GFR had gone back up to 31. Last time out it had dipped to 25, raising fears I was sliding towards failure, but the consultant now thinks my kidneys were 'too dry' when the previous test was taken. It doesn't stop the inevitable, but it pushes back the horizon and I’m grateful for that.
I had been a little worried the test results had been compromised. The day after bloods were taken I got a call from the surgery saying one of the four vials had been damaged in transit and 'could I come back for another test'? At the time I was on the M40 heading north for New Year, so that was a negative. Fortunately, it seems the damaged vial was one of the less important tests. My blood pressure is good, so my medication has been left alone, but I’ve been told to watch my potassium levels as they’re on the high side. The potassium may well be the culprit behind my muscle cramps and probably means the end of peanut based treats.
Whilst I was there I handed in my fourth semen sample for andrology analysis; twelve months on and I’m still don't waiting for the all clear from my vasectomy (although I do know my fertility is severely limited). 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Looking forward, looking back

This will almost certainly be my last post of 2017, I'm currently back up North visiting my family for New Year. 

It has been a strange old year, certainly a busy one, hence the limited posts, and maybe it marked a turning point in the managed decline of my kidneys. The dip in eGFR reported in October was a sharp reminder my kidney function is on borrowed time, in a couple of weeks I’ll get my next set of numbers and we’ll see if has dipped again. My weight has pretty much flat lined around 113kg, not ideal, pretty much where I was ten years ago, but at least I’ve avoided ballooning to the kind of weight I was five years ago.

There has been the ongoing farce of my vasectomy. The same day I go to my next Nephrology appointment I’ll be submitting my fourth andrology test to try and clear up the little matter of non-motile sperm. The GP will also hopefully have received a response from the surgeon who carried it out.

There are lots of positives ahead in 2018; I have my new job starting in early January and I’ve started to get my shit together for a podcast project I’ve been planning for a while (more about that soon). I’m going to make more of an effort to post here; perhaps broaden the scope a little bit and more importantly tackle some of the big topics I’ve been mulling over like the implications of ‘presumed consent’ for organ donation. On the CKD front the GP’s decision to refer me to the ‘Healthier You’ programme could also provide the next much needed step change in my lifestyle.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 29 December 2017

My poem about CKD

I wrote a poem about my CKD back in October. It was my submission to a competition run by my employer’s Disability Staff Network Group (DSNG) to publicise ‘International Day for Disabled Persons’ on December 3rd. Unfortunately I didn’t win, I didn’t actually hear anything at all, I only found out who won yesterday when I did a bit of searching across the staff intranet.

I actually joined the DSNG at the end of February and I’m still waiting to hear back about upcoming meetings and events. To give credit where it’s due the mental health stream is very active; with workshops and drop-in sessions heavily publicised, but I suspect this is due to the efforts of a few committed individuals and overlap with the corporate health and wellbeing programme. To be fair, I don’t consider myself as ‘disabled’, although that may change when my CKD gets to end stage.

Anyway here it is:  

Forgive my words if they are terse
It's not the end, it could be worse
They try their best, I'm sure it's true
But it's all my kidneys they can do!

They were never right from the start
Now I fear they'll break my heart
And when their time is finally come
I’ll beg a donor for another one

No point in asking ‘Why’?
Will only send my BP high
No more gout I hope and pray
It can only spoil my day

So a rather sorry little tale
I'll horde the days until they fail
Till then I mustn’t worry
For dialysis I’m in no hurry