15 October 2018

A new chapter

I've suddenly realised I've not blogged for a while. Nothing out of the usual has happened really for me to blog about, but that's all about to change. In the middle of this week, something massive is going to happen to me that I have been thinking about for decades since I was a teenager. It will change me physically. It's been shelved a few times and at other times completely dismissed as ridiculous, but a few months ago I got written approval to go ahead and this week it's all about to happen. At this stage (if ever) I don't want to divulge what it is, but believe me this is huge and I am half-excited that it is actually going to happen and half-petrified that it will. I still have a day or two to back out of it, if I feel I cannot face it after all, but, seeing as I have spent the last 18 months chasing it to fruition, I'd be mad to back out now.

Wish me luck.  And courage.

24 September 2018

I have survived

Well, I survived the great eventful bathroom makeover. I'd waited 30 years for that moment and I can't think why I didn't do it sooner. Well, I can. Life just got in the way. Work, having a baby, Greg's alcoholism, caring for my mother. Excuses, excuses, I know, but seriously there never seemed to be a right time when I could devote time to planning it and executing it. The last few months have given me that time. Kay's bathroom (or, to be more precise, the family bathroom) is now looking great. It's not an experience I'd want to repeat in a hurry, although repeat it I must, as I have my own ensuite bathroom to update too.

It took a fair bit of planning, getting my head around what was available, what my plumbing system dictated (poor pressure at the top of the house) and what we wanted. I let Kay do a lot of the choosing as it is the bathroom she would be using. She's been used to a dribble for a shower, poor flush on the toilet and increasing growth of mould, so I figured she deserved a big say in the design. She had a vision for colours, so I gave her free rein.

Here are some of the before, during and after photos.


BEFORE - The sad 1960s style bathroom







DURING - Back to the brickwork and replastering



The plumber and his young gofer lad worked like Trojans every day for the two weeks allocated to the task, bringing in a plasterer, electrician and tiler in a well organised relay. The young plumber's lad ran up and down my five flights of stairs all day long, carrying out the discarded rubble and rubbish and bringing in the new, lugging about 20 different toolboxes containing valves and pipes and screws. He also used to vacuum-clean down the stairs each evening before they left. They barely stopped for refreshments which I plied them with regularly. I cannot fault their stamina and attention to perfection. But, oh dear, they managed to mark walls up and down the stairs with their grubby hands and tool boxes, so that I had to paint one complete landing wall after they'd gone and touch up the skirtings. The lad seemed to spread all the tool boxes into three of the bedrooms, even though I had shut the doors deliberately to keep out the brick dust. Each evening I would find the bedroom doors open again and a layer of brick dust covering everything. Each morning I would shut the doors to find them open yet again in the evening. One evening I discovered a brown wet stain on a cream bedroom carpet. I worried overnight that there was a pipe leaking and rusting from the adjacent bathroom work, only to discover the next morning from the lad that he had accidentally kicked over a full mug of coffee. On a cream carpet! He looked sheepish and said he had tried to clean it up himself, but of course had said nothing until confronted by me the next morning, by which time it was too late to remedy. I have scrubbed and scrubbed and removed about 90% of the stain but it still shows slightly! They could see I was not happy, but I did not have the heart to push it further as I was so happy with their hard work otherwise.

THE FINISHED ARTICLE - Clean and fresh





So it was all worth it, although I can see why my reluctance to get workmen in is backed up by the pain, mess and damage they cause all over the house. I shall try not to leave it another 30 years to get my en suite bathroom done, but may just give myself a few months rest before I put myself through it all over again.

01 September 2018

Denial in 3D

Wow. Did anyone see that documentary about the BBC presenter Adrian Chiles last week? If not, here is an opportunity to see it.  This man admits to drinking 25 units a day  (almost double the weekly recommended amount EACH DAY) for six of every seven days of the week. He only abstains on one day when he is working on air. He appears to think he doesn't really have a problem, but then tots up that his units are into three figures on a weekly basis. Jeez. If that's not a problem, I want to know what is. 

The programme shows him going along for a blood test which sadly shows his liver function is OK. I say "sadly" because that often supports the alcoholic's blinkered thinking that they don't have a problem. However by the time the blood test might flag up something, it is often too late.  The liver is a very forgiving organ and can take a lot of hammering, before it finally gives up the battle. However a subsequent ultrasound shows Chiles that he does in fact have fibrosis of the liver which will in turn lead to cirrhosis and death, unless he does something pretty soon about it. That is a more sobering thought for him, but even then he limits his drinking to a still deadly level compared to what is acceptable.

Denial is one of the symptoms of alcoholism.  The alcoholic thinks he is invincible. Greg thought it. After every detox in hospital he would kid himself the occasional drink wouldn't hurt and he could take it or leave it. Until it spat him out on an intensive care bed and flat-lined him on the monitor, too late to turn back.

Let's not beat about the bush. Alcohol is a poison and, like any other poison, can be deadly toxic if not consumed within safe levels. It is not something you can play Russian roulette with and hope you are the one who will be fine. Adrian Chiles should take note.

23 August 2018

Demon Drink or Old Friend?

When I was growing up in the 1950s, alcohol was rare in our house. It was reserved for Christmas time only. It was a big thing as just before the festivities,  we bought in a bottle of sherry, a bottle of port, a few bottles of Babycham and a bottle of Advocat (or some might know it more as eggnog). It was eked out over Christmas and New Year and shared with visiting grandparents or friends. When it was gone in early January, that was it until the next Christmas. I used to get excited if, as a teenager, my parents offered me a Babycham (so elegant) or a Snowball (a mix of Advocat with Lemonade and, if reckless, a dash of lime). My parents were not exactly well-off post-war and money was hard-earned, so they were not going to squander it on non-essentials. Most families I knew were the same. Drunks on the street were rare and I personally had never known an alcoholic

At university, I occasionally used to go to the pub or university union bar, but it was a rare treat. Some (the rugby players, I recall) used to get legless in the bar, but they were a rare breed. It was expected of rugby players. Most of my circle of friends could not afford it.  Our money went on books and food with little left for anything else. With our meager maintenance grants we could afford food or alcohol but not both.

When in the Seventies I lived in Germany as a young twenty-something, the German attitude to alcohol was different. For a start they were a major wine-growing country and produced excellent beer too. Most people had a crate of beer or plentiful bottles of wine in their cellar and would readily offer it to guests, something we Brits took a while to get used to.

Fast forward to today and our culture has changed. The first major difference is that alcohol is more readily available. Before it could only be bought from pubs or off-licences (special shops that only sold alcohol).  Both were only allowed to be open at set times. Pub closing time was 11pm and, unless I am wrong, off-licences were only open in the evening between about 6pm and 11pm. Today of course alcohol is available 24 hours round the clock from supermarkets, petrol stations or corner shops, as well as specialist alcohol shops and online delivery services. Pubs and clubs stay open to the wee small hours or even longer.

Another change is the mindset that you cannot enjoy yourself unless alcohol is involved. The binge-drinking teenagers or city workers who think being unconscious is a great way to enjoy the weekend spring to mind. Young people now (both of school age and at university) obviously cannot afford to pay a lot, so buy cheaply from a supermarket to have "pre-drinks" at home with their friends before then going out completely inebriated to pay expensively for a few in a club or bar setting. Legless individuals are a common sight.

Then there is a group of people who don't think they are alcoholic. The recent article about Linda Robson bears this out.  They think one glass of wine every day won't hurt. They might have two - one while they are cooking and one with the meal. But this can escalate until it is the norm. A single mother I knew at my daughter's school once told me she could not wait for 6pm to come round because it meant she could open a bottle of wine without feeling bad. Sometimes she found it really hard to wait till 6pm and would always drink the whole bottle that evening as she found it distasteful to leave any left over in the bottle to the next day. I know quite a few people who think nothing of consuming a whole bottle of wine on their own a day. Yet they don't think they have a problem. What is more surprising is that that mum struggled to make ends meet, yet could find the money to spend on wine.  If alcohol is the answer, then, believe me, you have a problem.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a killjoy and I enjoy a  glass of alcohol like the next person, but I know my limits. I know the safe amount to drink to preserve my dignity and keep my wits about me, whilst allowing me to relax in convivial company. I don't get the need to drink myself senseless or forget my problems. Those problems are going to be there the next morning and probably with a hangover to add to the list. Also I don't feel compelled to have a drink every day or even every week. I can get through several months without a single drop and then maybe have several glasses in a week, but by and large I can take it or leave it and mostly leave it. I reserve it as something really special to do as a treat -for drinking within limits with friends in a cosy convivial atmosphere.  Anyway, living on my own for most of the time, as I have been since Greg died, I consider drinking on my own would definitely be a slippery slope to avoid.  I suppose too, having seen the devastating affects of alcohol first hand and what it does to you with Greg's alcoholism and death, I am not keen to go down that route myself. Everything in moderation - not to excess and not to exclusion. 

What do you think?

14 August 2018

Awash with complications

I'm not stupid. Well, at least I hope I'm not. I had a university education (circa 1972 - so a serious education and unlike the Mickey Mouse subjects that are available nowadays). I am bilingual in German. I speak a fair bit of French and I studied Latin up to the age of twenty. I adored biology at school and now soak up any TV programme on medicine available.  I watch history and politics on TV too. I had a serious job in the Civil Service before becoming a mother. I can do house painting, a bit of carpentry, gardening, dress-making, build flat-packs, fix electric plugs or fuses and turn my hand to a range of other things. But one thing has completely floored me. Updating my bathroom.

Greg and I moved into this house in 1988.... thirty years ago. The house was not that old - built around 1970 - but it needed a fair lot doing to it. The previous occupant was an old lady with dementia who had a penchant for throwing coffee at the walls or urinating on her carpets. Our plan was to buy it cheap and do it up quickly before moving on. Ah yes, THAT was the plan. In reality, life got in the way. We did a quick fix as soon as we moved in, sloshing paint over anything that didn't move, completely renewing every carpet throughout and gutting the kitchen and building a new one ourselves. After that our jobs were so demanding that we tailed off a bit in impetus and then Kay came along and the house took a back seat. Then Greg retired and his alcoholism set in, sapping his energy and money, so the house waited patiently for us to resume its transformation. When Greg died in 2010, I set about trying to continue the work myself, slowly painting and decorating where I could. However, then my elderly mother was next in line to claim my undivided attention and the house got put on hold again. It's only recently that I have been able to take up the challenge again. 

What is desperately needed is modernisation of the two bathrooms. They are stuck in a 1960s time warp. Kay's bathroom has a yellow bath and originally had grey tiles which Greg and I managed to cover within weeks of moving in with washable wallpaper. My suite is peach with white walls. With polystyrene tiles on the ceiling and carpeted floor, they definitely look ghastly. I have been promising Kay an update for years but now have finally got round to doing it. I've hired a plumber to do the job but then set about ordering the "furniture". What's so hard about that? Or so I thought. Maybe it's me, but there's a confusion of bathroom suppliers out there and each has a language of its own. Prices vary for what looks like the same thing. There's toilet projections,  sprange sockets and autovents. Toilets are wall-hung or close-coupled. Baths with or without tap holes. Who knew bath wastes could be pop-up or click-clack. As for bottle traps - who'd want to trap a bottle down a basin? Square taps or round taps? Mono taps or duo taps? It's taken me four weeks to digest what is available and I've dragged the poor plumber over three times to discuss my confusion before I make a confident order with the supplier. Fortunately the plumber appears slightly confused too as my water pressure is low (something to do with the bar, but I don't think he's talking about the local pub), so he needs to consider which shower is suitable for the pressure and I've been let off the job of ordering the shower, as even HE is not sure whether power shower, electric shower, mixer shower or eco shower is the most suitable until he starts the job.

Before and after pictures will be forthcoming when the job is done. Meanwhile I'm feeling very much the dumb blonde with all my stupid questions.
 

30 July 2018

I've fallen in love all over again

Kay came back midday last Sunday (22nd) from her five-month tour of Asia and South America. Which was more than could be said for her luggage - it didn't arrive on the flight from Bogota to London via Madrid. It apparently wanted to stay a few more hours in Madrid. Thankfully it turned up on a later flight and was delivered by courier to our door the very next day.

There was so much to talk about, having not seen one another for so long and Kay powered through the jet lag and lack of sleep to regale me me with never-ending amazing stories of her travels, the history and the geography of the nine countries she had visited. I was in awe that my baby had successfully negotiated half the world and had so much to tell. It was great to have her home in one piece.

We could not relax or chat for long, as we were planning a trip together in less than 36 hours. On Tuesday we were off to Dubrovnik in Croatia.  Kay had been invited to a work colleague's wedding out there - a three-day Indian wedding, which she was keen not to miss, as Indian weddings are lavish affairs. When she had started to book her flights for Dubrovnik, she had hit on the idea that maybe I could tag along too (not for the wedding, as obviously I had not been invited) to have a look around Dubrovnik together for a few days before the wedding. I immediately jumped at the chance. As a widow and lacking in any surviving relatives, apart from Kay, I don't get the chance to go on holiday, unless I go alone, which is something I don't particularly relish at the moment. 

The plan was that we would fly out on Tuesday. I would then fly back alone on Friday while Kay would stay on with other friends coming out for the wedding at the weekend. Kay would fly back to London today, as she starts a new job on Wednesday 1 August - talk about rushing from one thing to another with only a day between!

I have been to Dubrovnik before. A long time ago in 1984 with Greg. At that time Dubrovnik was part of Yugoslavia and Communist. I fell in love with the town at the time. Its red roofs, traffic-free lanes and medieval walls captured my imagination and stole my heart. We stayed at the time in the Hotel Imperial (now the Hilton - that's what happens with the breakdown of communism) just within spitting distance of the medieval Pile gate and from our room had breathtaking views of the red roofs encapsulated by grey thick castle walls. I had never forgotten it and it ranked as the most romantic place I had ever been to. How could I give up a chance to revisit it? 

It did not disappoint. I fell in love all over again. The town had not changed much in some ways but there were differences too. There were pock marks from shells - a reminder of the Homeland War in 1991-95 which we learned a lot about and which I recall from the news at the time.  Croatia had spent a lot of money patching things up. Also, when I had visited before the shops were very subdued, all had the same things for sale at the same prices as it was controlled by the communist state. Now there is a much more colourful, vibrant atmosphere. But the buildings are still preserved in their medieval splendour and Dubrovnik's nickname of "Pearl of the Adriatic" still applies. The only thing I did not like was the overwhelming mass of tourists which at times were shoulder to shoulder along the main thoroughfare. (But then it was July when most schools are on holiday throughout Europe.) Probably the best times to come are April, May or September. Note for the future.


Kay and I stayed in air bnb accommodation down one of the many stepped alleyways, so were literally half a minute away from all the life and bustle of the town. We could wander the traffic-free streets and alleys to our hearts' content right up to midnight and beyond and not have to worry about a bus home to the many hotels that litter the coast  a mile away. We never felt unsafe, the Croatians were extremely friendly and the weather baking. In the two days I was there, we crammed in a walking tour; a cable-car trip up the hill behind for aerial shots and a visit to the fortress for history of that war; wanderings round churches, cathedrals and medieval apothecary; not to mention shops. Oh and countless ice creams! We even called in at the Hilton to raise a glass to Greg, as I felt him there with me all the time.  At night we could choose from a 1001 restaurants in the backstreets all touting for business AND you could drink the water, often refilling bottles from the fountain in the main street.  I was so sad to leave again on Friday and the journey back on the airport bus was spent looking over my shoulder at every turn of the hairpin coastal road to catch one last glimpse.

It's true to say I fell in love all over again.


The pearl of the Adriatic


Those attractive red roofs

The crowds
The medieval walls

More red roofs


The town fountain



A typical alleyway with hundreds of steps

The Imperial Hotel (now Hilton)
A sneaky pina colada on the last evening

19 July 2018

Three more days to go

For those who have been reading this blog for some time, you will know that my daughter Kay has been travelling for the last five months. First to Asia and then to South America. She is due home in three days' time. I am counting down the hours now and cannot wait to get her back in my arms and give her a tight hug. I am so proud of the way she has negotiated her way round this big old crazy world of ours. She's had her 27th birthday while she was out there, but to me she will always be my baby.

02 July 2018

London has been spared a painful moment

I've joined a choir!

When my dear old mum passed away in November, years of dedicated caring for her came to a sudden stop and for the first time in decades (if you count caring for my alcoholic husband too) I suddenly had time for myself. I had yearned for some ME time for ages, but now I actually had it. Time to pursue house improvement projects and some hobbies. Truth be told I was so dazzled by the newly acquired freedom, it was difficult to know where to start. 

I have some major works on the house in view - two new bathrooms for a start, as both are stuck in a 1960s time warp. The showers barely dribble and the colours are so old-fashioned, so it all needs dragging into the 2020s. The kitchen needs a slight overhaul too and the general decoration of the rest of the house, which I did myself back in 2010-2012, now needs renewing.

But that wasn't going to fill all my time or make me some new friends, so I had a big think and decided the first toe in the water was to join a choir. I have always liked singing (well, that's what I call it), so decided it would be nice to do it in a trained way and meet other people in the process.

The local choir was just the thing.  Although I like classical music, I'm not into singing it.  The choir I chose is a selection of gospel, Beatles, Abba, Carpenters. That sort of thing. Gentle melodies with 4-part harmonies. There's about 80 of us in the choir. A lot of Altos and Sopranos, with a light sprinkling of Bass and Tenor.

I have really enjoyed the weekly rehearsals and, guess what, made new friends too. We already have quite a big repertoire and the choir mistress makes it all fun and we do hilarious warm-up exercises at the beginning of each session which reduce us to giggles.

There is a concert each term. The last one (and very first one for me) was scheduled in early March at the local church where we rehearse. I got all dolled up for it, even excitedly dragged Kay along for moral support, but when we got there, the church was all in darkness. It had been cancelled the day before because of a very heavy snowfall. In actual fact, by the time of the concert, the snow had completely melted. If only they had waited a few hours more!  As I was the new girl, they had not got my email onto the system in time to tell me. I was so disappointed that my debut as a star would not happen.

The next concert was yesterday lunchtime. We were to sing at a local comprehensive school summer fair along with other choirs. We had honed our repertoire to perfection in rehearsals and I was all geared up for it. My best friend, who lives a two-hour drive away, wanted to come along to see it and stay with me for a day or two, so all was prepared, beds made, food bought ready for the big day. Then, less than 24 hours before, late on Saturday afternoon, I received an email to say the concert had been cancelled. The pianist was ill. Now one cancellation was unfortunate, but two was beginning to show an alarming pattern. Although I do enjoy the rehearsals, I am beginning to think the choir is a tad disorganised.

But then again, Londoners were spared the moment, when they would have been exposed to the warbling of the lesser spotted Addy.  Maybe not a pretty sound after all.


25 June 2018

Sorry and Anniversary

I apologise to anyone who has left a comment on my blog in the last six months only for it not to be published. After a spate of comments in either Chinese or from people who had found happiness through Dr Quack and been reunited with their philandering husband, or who with the help of Mr Wooloveryoureyes had won a lot of money, I decided to impose comment moderation on all comments. In the beginning, I  used to be notified of comments by email, so was able to accept or delete them. However, over the last six months, the comments had dwindled to nil and I was getting no notifications whatsoever in my email.    Thanks to Yorkshire Pudding, I have discovered that people were indeed leaving comments, but I was unaware of them.  I am not sure what happened, but have found the solution and discovered 120 comments awaiting comment  moderation. Now a good third were from Dr Quack or Mr Wooloveryoureyes followers, but the remainder have now been published belatedly. Apologies again and many thanks to Yorkshire Pudding for bringing this to my attention. 

Changing the subject drastically, I suddenly realised that last month saw my 10th anniversary of blogging. Way back in May 2008, when I was troubled by my husband's alcoholism and needed an outlet to put all my fears and frustrations to cyber paper, I tentatively started my blog. Here is that very first post. Incidentally I wasn't known as Addy in those early days, but Rosiero. I later changed it to Addy (AD being short for Alcoholic Daze). But neither are my real name in any case, as  anonymity is important to me. The blog led from being an outpouring on my part to helping others in similar situations, then morphed into a diary for me to keep. Never in a million years did I think I would still be writing it ten years on.

14 June 2018

Messing about on the River




Kay has not only been away from home, but also away from the UK for what seems like years, but in reality is only months. I miss her so much. She is my one and only child and now my one and only surviving relative, so naturally I miss her. She has only been away for 14 weeks and will back in another six weeks.

She is currently having the experience of a lifetime. She has come to a natural hiatus in her career. The time between being a junior doctor for just two years and starting the hard slog to the next major rung of Registrar. Before embroiling herself in the next two-year phase of hospitals and exams combined, she wanted to see the world. It wasn't going to be possible once she put her head down and worked the arduous schedules that a doctor has to work.  It might not also be possible once she got tied down by mortgages or children of her own.  So it was now or never at the age of 26 years old. She was going to take a year off the career ladder and have a delayed GAP year.

She had a plan.   She spent the first seven months (August to February) working as a locum in a big London teaching hospital, squirreling away the high fees locums can earn. That fund was to support her financially over the remaining five months (March to July) when she would go travelling. Her boyfriend, a dentist, did the same.  

In early March, the two of them set off.  First to Thailand, where they visited umpteen temples, lounged on golden sands in deserted coves played with elephants and learnt how to cook Thai-style.





Then on to Cambodia to learn of its horrific past of Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Next was Vietnam with its crazy bikers in Ho Chi Minh City, its quaint sea resorts and the bustle of Hanoi. (Not to mention that monkey bite.)








Then on to South America, starting with Argentina, where they learned to tango (it does take two),  admired the haunts of Eva Peron (Evita), and took in tours of the Malbec vineyards. 


 
Then down to the deep Patagonian south of the continent, the "end of the world", where they climbed glaciers


and watched sea-lions and penguins, just as Charles Darwin would have done. 


On to Santiago in Chile.  The Argentinian and Chilean painters and decorators alike seem to have had a field day and gone berserk with a job-lot of paint. 




Then sand-boarding in the desert followed by crossing the salt flats in Bolivia, ending up at Lake Titicaca in Copacobana (and not the one Barry Manilow sings about). 





Next to Peru and the main part of their tour, not to mention the title of this post. They have volunteered to work with a charity that runs medical boats along the Amazon. These are floating clinics staffed by doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives  and physiotherapists. Most of the medics are Peruvian, but foreigners can volunteer to work free of charge on the boats for the experience. These boats call in at remote villages where the only access is by river. If these boats did not come, the villagers would have no access to a doctor. Kay and boyfriend are, as I write, currently on board, treating tribes who are highly suspicious of modern medicine, but resort to it when their own herbal remedies fail.



Kay is also out of internet contact, because they are in the middle of the rain forest. I shan't hear from her for another five whole days!!!   (How my parents coped when I went off to Germany for a year in 1971 with only snail mail, which took a week to get anywhere, or the very rare highly expensive phone call from a kiosk, I shall never know).

The next thing on the list, after the Amazon trip, will be a trek up to the summit of Machu Pichu. Then on to Ecuador and Colombia, before the flight back home towards the end of July. I expect they will both be very weary. Kay starts her new job back on the career ladder on 1 August.  She'll need a holiday first!

She will have experienced so many sights, sounds, smells and changes of cuisine from nine different parts of the world. Something most people never get in a lifetime. What a marvellous experience.



04 June 2018

Kew Gardens

I had to meet some American friends at their hotel in Kew on Friday, as they were in London on a whistle-stop tour doing some research at the nearby National Archives for a book they are writing.  As I wasn't meeting them until 7pm, I decided I'd get over there a bit earlier (five hours earlier to be precise) and have a look at Kew Gardens. Such a long time since I was last there.... I think I may have even been under ten years old!

The weather  was changeable. The internet forecasts kept changing from being dry and sunny to rain. It was touch and go whether I'd do it at all, until the very last minute when the forecast changed yet again and showed it would be dry.

Mind you, when I got there, you'd have been forgiven for thinking it might rain. But thankfully it didn't. There aren't many places to shelter, if it does, and most of the 326 acres is open to the elements.



The newly refurbished Temperate House was magnificent.



Inside as well as outside.





The Giant Pagoda and the Japanese Gateway installed calm in me.




At one stage I found the lake and sat down for a rest. 

 
I made a friend. It came out of the water and started pecking the ground near my feet. It had very big feet. Almost as big as mine!


After a short stay I wandered over to the Palm House.


It was very hot and humid in there.


Then on to the Bee Hive, commissioned by the UK for the Milan EXPO 2015, which gives an insight into a bee colony.





Then another rest by another lake,




 

  before it was time to meet my American friends nearby.