24 August 2015

Addiction

I guess we are all addicted to something. My poison is chocolate. I can't be in the same room as chocolate and not eat it. It worries me until I've eaten it up. I have to hide a box of chocolates somebody has bought me or I would probably eat the whole box in one sitting. But I can go months without it, so it's under control (unless I'm in an exceedingly long queue at the supermarket and it winks at me from the checkout display!) Alcohol - I can take or leave. I love a glass of wine or a cocktail like the next person, but can count on one hand the number of glasses I consume in every two months. I used to smoke cigarettes a long time ago as a student but stopped 35 years ago. I have never taken drugs.

When you are really and truly addicted to a substance, it is hard to ignore. No matter how much people tell you you are going to die from it, you cannot see that. You can only see that your body is crying out for more and craves it so much that dying is far less of a problem than the craving. You need it and you need it NOW. (Greg wanted nothing more than to stop drinking but try as he might, he could not, even with professional help. )You know you are hurting the loved ones around you and you gladly want to stop for their sake if not your own, but the craving pushes you on to your next fix.... and the next..... and the next. You lose your family, your friends, your job, your money, your home and you eventually hit rock bottom, where you either claw your way back to recovery or surrender to the grim reaper.

The following  is a song written by Rick Hale who has lost a brother to addiction. I think the song and video beautifully encapture what it is like to be an addict or live with an addict. The video contrasts the present with the addict as a child in a family setting. The words are below.....


The muffled sound of old regrets
Burning out like cigarettes
Halfway gone and half to go

Fill the air with darkened haze
And all my empty yesterdays
Have brought me down a deeper low

And I can hardly breath it in

Chorus
What if there’s no end at all?
How much further can I fall?
Getting higher as my life’s descending

Something’s taken over me
I’m not the man I used to be
And I can’t take it if it’s never-ending


I know it’s hard to understand
You’ve only breathed it second-hand
But never walked inside these shoes

You hope someday I turn around
When I’ve crashed against the ground
And I have nothing left to lose

Chorus


Trace the marks across my skin
Laying draped around my frame
They tell the story of my sin
But you turn your back and wash your hands of all my shame

Chorus

17 August 2015

Two weeks on

Kay finally got through the first twelve-days of her new job and came up to see me yesterday to celebrate my mum's 92nd birthday. It was lovely to see her again. When she was up north at university, I probably saw her once every few months. Now she is only about 30 miles away, we shall be able to see one another more often - I shall be able to pop over to see her for a few hours or vice versa. Lovely jubbly, as Del Boy would say.

As reported in my last post, her initiation in her first job was horrendous. The first five days on the ward with 28 patients, some of them very ill with no senior doctors (or junior for that matter). Just her and the nurses. She did 5 days of 13-hour shifts with no (or no more than 5-minute) lunch breaks. Everything changed at the weekend. She was on-call which meant she was floating round the whole hospital, dealing with newly admitted patients, but she did have a Registrar senior doctor to advise her. Then on the second Monday, she was back to the old ward again firefighting single-handedly. One patient had died over the weekend, meaning her first Monday morning job was to perform an examination of the corpse in the Mortuary to issue to the undertaker. The Registrar was back from his holiday but spent little time with her. It was Wednesday before he realised the extent of her work and arranged for two locums to come in swelling the ranks from one doctor (Kay) the previous week to five doctors (Kay, two locums, Registrar and the F2 who had also just started)  at the end of the second week. It was bliss. Kay only had 6 patients to deal with  for the last 3 days of last week , was able to finish at 5pm and even had a whole lunch break, sitting down! Her consultant returns from his holiday today so maybe she'll even get some recognition for what she did. Miracles can happen. Meanwhile she's made a heck of a lot of friends in just the space of two weeks and her fellow junior doctors all around the hospital have elected her to be president of the doctor's mess, organising their socials. She's not quite sure how this has happened, but is looking forward to taking the role on in her spare time!

I waved her off last night in her car filled to the roof with home comforts to make her digs more home-like. She says she's very happy. And that frankly makes me even happier.

05 August 2015

Working Girl

Two days ago Kay started her first ever real job (not counting Saturday jobs as a teenager or the hospital placements as a medical student). This is her first ever paid "proper" job and her first as a doctor. After two days handover with the outgoing junior doctor, she is on her own from today.  Apparently her Consultant and Registrar are both on two weeks' annual leave, which means she is effectively on her own with any of the problems that could arise (God help her). She's already signed her first prescription. She's doing 12 days on the run before she gets her next break (she's on-call over the coming weekend). Welcome to the World of the Workplace!

(Added 24 hours later. On her first day, with no senior staff or peers, she single-handedly looked after 28 patients. She did a 13-hour shift with a 7-minute lunch break. That's what I call a baptism of fire and very bad rota planning.)

28 July 2015

Too much excitement

I don't get out much. I'm a very stay-at-home kind of girl usually. I like my home comforts, my own four walls and am easy to please - a chocolate biscuit in front of the telly and I'm anybody's (well almost). But this last month has been busy with a capital B.  First of all a few days in York with Kay, then almost a full week in Rome and then a few days up in North England for Kay's graduation as a doctor. The poor cat thinks I've left home permanently and superglues herself to me when I return to show her undying love in case her lack of emotion is the reason I have left.

Kay's graduation was lovely, although it nearly wasn't. We checked into a hotel in the busy part of town, mainly because I wanted to be close to shops and restaurants at times when Kay was off with her friends. However the room was noisy with the window open (which we needed to open on account of the muggy but overcast  weather). When we went to bed on the eve of the graduation, Kay donned earplugs to drown out the noise of buses, cars and passing drunks at all hours of the night.  The pillows were like bricks and we tossed and turned all night. Next morning(the day of the graduation) she shook me awake with the news that she had awoken hot and agitated from lack of sleep, tried to remove her earplugs with difficulty and had managed to get one stuck in her ear. In trying further to remove it, she had heard a pop, followed by a rushing of liquid and had gone deaf. In her own self-diagnosis - she had perforated her eardrum! We were both on our feet in an instant and by 6.15am sitting in the local hospital's Accident & Emergency department. Thankfully it was the tail end (and quiet end) of the night shift and we were seen pretty quickly. Kay's diagnosis was confirmed by the doctor. It might clear up by itself or need some help with a minor operation, he said. GREAT. He was about to conjure up the ENT specialist when we said we were from London, only up for Kay's graduation in a few hours and could we get it done back in London? He agreed and suggested we see our GP once home to get the ball rolling.

We rushed back to the hotel, got changed and met Greg's sister who had come up from Lincolnshire. We had invited her as Greg was conspicuous by his absence on such a milestone day and in the circumstances we wanted his sister there in his place. (It was bittersweet that this was yet another milestone Greg has missed out on and sad for us too not having him by our side in the family photos!) By 2pm we were sitting in the Great Hall watching the ceremony like a scene from Harry Potter. The students were called up one by one to receive their diplomas and then had to quote the Hippocratic Oath. Shortly thereafter we adjourned  for champagne and nibbles.  On getting back to the hotel at 6pm, Kay lay down for a few minutes  on her bad ear and was shortly surprised to see a small plug of blood on her pillow. She sat up and COULD HEAR CLEARLY for the first time all day. We were able to go out for a lovely celebratory meal in the evening feeling far less anxious and able to enjoy it. To cut a long story short, our GP in London was able to confirm that the eardrum seems to be healing nicely and there is probably no long-term damage or need for an operation.

Kay departs today for her first hospital job. Shortly I am off to a wedding in Hull, but I can do without all this excitement, I can tell you.  I'm looking forward to a nice chocolate biscuit in front of the telly to recover!

20 July 2015

Roamin' in Rome

Well, Kay's back from her European tour, having taken in Amsterdam, Berlin, Krakow, Auschwitz, Budapest, Zagreb and Split. Her companion had to come back to the UK earlier than Kay, so I offered to meet Kay for the last few days she had left, particularly as it meant she would have been on her own for her 24th birthday. Where to meet? First choice for both of us was originally Prague, but then the logistics let us down, meaning we had to choose somewhere else she could easily reach from Split and me from London without arriving at midnight or leaving home at 3am. We stuck a pin in the atlas and came up with Rome. Neither of us had been there before.

I booked hotels and flights feeling very pleased with myself that I had chosen a hotel equidistant from all the sights and flights that were at reasonable times. What I had not done was check the climate.  O stupidity!  Rome in July is like walking into a furnace. Whatever possessed me to book a break in Rome in July? Even the Romans leave Rome in July!  What was I thinking?

To say it was hot was an understatement. The average midday temperature was about 37C. It only fell to about 25C at night.  For a post-menopausal lady of a certain age given to frequent tropical moments even in the middle of a snowy January, this was not good news. Even blinking brought me out in a sweat. Thank heavens for air-conditioning in the hotel. Kay threatened to disown me as I had invested in a UV-resistant parasol to dive under when shade was sparse, but I did notice she was quite happy to dive under it too at times. And, no, I did not  have a trail of tourists following me around thinking I was their tour guide. There were enough like-minded tourists doing the same.

There was one spooky moment, when we were sitting in a square and musing about Greg, when all of a sudden a street musician started to play a very old song which was one Greg used to strum on the guitar. It was a hair-raising moment.

Despite the intense heat, we packed a lot into 5 days. Here are some of the places we saw.

Colosseum outside


Colosseum inside at 8.30am (to beat the heat and the crowds)
 A lion I fought earlier


Pantheon outside


Pantheon inside


Trevi Fountain complete with scaffolding and no water!
St Peter's Basilica and Square (also at 8.30am- half an hour later, the queues were half a mile long)


San Giovanni in Laterano
Vatican - which one's the Pope's bedroom?



Il Vittoriano

Roman Forum

The Forum's bigger than you think

Presidential palace


Spanish Steps

Somewhere to recharge the batteries


A beautiful city - from the Borghese Gardens

29 June 2015

My little baby

The news still hasn't truly sunk in yet - for either of us. To think that my little baby is a doctor, all grown up and making important decisions which could literally affect someone else's life. 

It seems only yesterday I was writhing and giving birth, then looking in amazement at the beautiful little bundle I had nurtured inside me for 9 months. A much-longed-for curly-headed miracle. Some time later I had watched her playing with her grandfather, as she described with vivid imagination the major accident he had just had in which he had been hit by a lorry carrying glass. He had a broken leg and broken glass embedded in his leg.


As he lay pretending on the sofa, she painstakingly picked out the glass with huge plastic tweezers which her three-year-old hands could barely grip, her nurse's cap balanced precariously on her tight little curls. 

Later still aged 7 on a visit to my parents she had watched a real-life incident where her grandfather fainted at a craft fair and was attended by St John's Ambulance. Little did we know at the time, this was to be the onset of his leukemia and they ordered an ambulance to take him on to the local A&E for tests. This inspired her to join St John's Ambulance as a Badger - the name given to the little ones who wear

Photo courtesy of flickr.com
black and white tabards and learn  very rudimentary rules of First Aid, before they go on to become  St John's Cadets at the age of 11 and get more involved. Many's the time she attended the London Marathon at the start of the race at Blackheath, doling out plasters or safety pins.

She was never going to be a linguist like Greg or me. He and I studied German and could also get by in French, Russian, Italian and (in my case) Latin. Kay struggled with French, was a lot better in German and Spanish, but clearly preferred the sciences. (I was certainly the opposite and struggled with Physics and Chemistry at school). Kay was clearly on her own in this family for her science studies. No scientists or doctors to help her at all, even if it were just absorbing occasional parental conversations about their jobs.

Then came GCSEs and A-levels when she had to get her head down and concentrate. At that point Greg had taken early retirement and was embarking on his excessive drinking sprees. He was never violent, as I have said in the past, but drink did make him argumentative and loud. He didn't suffer fools gladly and would shout at the silliest things. Coupled with falling over a lot and umpteen hospitalisations when his body protested severely at the amount of alcohol - this was the backdrop for Kay's serious studies. Both she and I tried to blot this out and I tried to carry on as normal (as normal can be in an alcoholic world) to give her support. Given all that, the fact she got into med school at all was a miracle, not to mention the general  fierce competition for a medicine place (one in twenty).

Six months into university, of course, Greg died. She missed a couple of months' study and an important exam, but the university agreed there were extenuating circumstances and let her take the exam in the summer holidays. Since then, she has powered on and amazed me. She may not have liked languages but medicine is a gobbledegook all of its own. So many unpronounceable conditions, drugs and treatments with never-ending syllables. With an -itis here and an -ectomy there.

My little curly-headed baby is a doctor and I still have to pinch myself that it's not all a dream. She's going to be out there practising (in the medical sense, not literally!) but this time with real instruments and on real patients. There'll be no pretend lorries or pretend glass there.

She came home earlier last week with the last six years packed tightly inside her car right up to the roof. You couldn't have fitted a matchstick in anywhere. She has officially moved out of the northern university town that was her home for the last six years and is now back in the South East about to embark on her first job. My reasonably tidy home was converted to a bombsite within minutes, as she unloaded box after case after clothes on hangers (when did she acquire more clothes than the entire stock of Oxford Street?) She was home for less than 18 hours. In a whirlwind, which I think was her, she unpacked, showered, headed off for a quick admin-interview with her new hospital some 20 miles away and flew off to Amsterdam at stupid-o-clock the next morning  with a friend to start the beginning of a four-week European tour. My life is just about to get very chaotic interesting.

18 June 2015

Is there a doctor in the house?

The answer is a big .........

picture courtesy of shutterstock.com


She's only been and gone and done it! The exam results came out yesterday and we found out that my gorgeous, kind, lovely, super-talented daughter is now a doctor of the medical variety. She passed!!! Proud mother? What, me?  Of course. Don't deny me that.

She has worked so hard over the last six years, she so deserves this. Particularly given the the bad atmosphere in the house, when she was studying for her GCSEs and A-Levels at school, with an alcoholic father shouting all the time in his permanently 24/7 drunken state. Not to mention  her alcoholic father dying on her in the first 6 months of university which would be an excuse for anyone to drop out.  Despite these uphill struggles, she ploughed on over 6 years and not only got one but TWO degrees - a MBChB for Medicine and a BSc for Human Physiology in the middle of that. To say I am proud, doesn't do it justice. I'm bursting with emotion.

Am I allowed to have a pat on the proverbial back too for having stuck through it with her? The sense of achievement I feel for having gotten through the last 5 years as a single mum-cum-pensioner and now come out the other side relatively unscathed (and still solvent) is quite tremendous. I feel a celebratory glass of wine is in order for us both and at last a time to relax a little and enjoy the fruits of that achievement. 

It's bittersweet. If Greg were alive, I know he would be as proud as Punch too. When Kay got a university place amidst fierce competition (20 applicants for every place), Greg phoned everyone in his address book - worldwide, I might add - to tell them. I can well imagine him now, sitting up there on his cloud with a glass of whisky in one hand and a telephone in the other.  (Another blimmin milestone he's missing out on!)

But meanwhile, Kay and I are doing a little celebratory dance round the room.  Cheers!

08 June 2015

Another One Bites the Dust

Poor old Charles Kennedy. Sounds like he died a horrible death, all alone. One of the most ghastly effects of alcoholism is oesophageal varices which basically are varicose veins in the throat (although they can develop anywhere along the digestive tract from the throat to the anus). When these veins rupture (which they will do unannounced) you have little time to seek medical help unless you are literally a stone's throw from the hospital when it happens. If not.........well, poor old Charles Kennedy found out..... you bleed internally to death. Even with hospital intervention, it is not always possible to avoid a fatal outcome. Whether loved ones are present or not, it is a grisly end.

It never fails to amaze me that  intelligent people can get reeled in by this awful disease, when elsewhere in their lives they are so knowledgeable and clever. Greg was a case in point and so too, it seems, was Charles Kennedy.

03 June 2015

Sussex by the sea

I tend to be very preoccupied these days with caring for my almost 92-year-old mum.  I rarely getting a lot of time for myself.  As each days goes by, my mother seems to be like one of those wobbly toys that fill babies with so much fascination. You know the kind - with a round base that won't stay still and wobble from side to side and back and forth. My poor old mum has scoliosis and arthritis, so her spine is severely curved to one side and affects her balance. Add to that two arthritic knees (one broken as well last autumn), it is not difficult to see why she is so wobbly.


As my mother gets more and more wobbly, she cannot cross a room without holding on to furniture and when we are out she clings to me for grim death. She uses a walking stick and I am trying to convince her to buy one of those rollator things, as she manages to get around quite well on her own with a trolley at the supermarket. However she depends on me more and more, so I find I am over at her flat quite a lot, either helping with housework or taking her out to appointments or a big food shop. 

On the rare days in between, I try to catch up with things in my house or escape from London. Yesterday was one such rare day when I could escape. I had earmarked a day-trip to Brighton to visit a very dear friend. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. We had planned to meet at the mainline station, walk along the seafront and eat at one of the lovely fish 'n chip restaurants on the promenade (tablecloths and wine of course, not the greasy spoon type of place). So what happened? It tipped it down with rain the whole day, the wind was gale-force, a tree blew down in south London delaying or cancelling a lot of the trains going in my direction and when I arrived in Brighton, we could barely stand upright, let alone brave the seafront. We hunkered down in my friend's kitchen and chatted the hours away, managing to dash to the nearest pub for some sustenance at lunchtime.  Good job we had a lot to catch up on and could ignore the raging gale outside.  Of course today I am back caring for my mother and the weather.....?....... is sunny.  Just typical.

20 May 2015

The Long Long Wait

Well, the exams are done and it's now a waiting game until the results are out.  A long wait.  A long long wait. Four whole weeks in fact. A time to relax after weeks of hard study, but relaxation is hardly a way to describe the state of tension Kay's in for fear those results are not the ones she wants.

picture courtesy of wisegeek.com

06 May 2015

Finally the finals !!!

It's THAT time of the year. Panic season, otherwise knows as exam time. This year is the year of Kay's finals. Finally the FINALS. After six years at uni, this will be her last set of university exams, though doubtless not her last exam ever in her career. In a few weeks' time, God willing, she will be unleashed on the unsuspecting British public and coming to a hospital  near you (maybe). You have been warned!

My father was once told (whilst in hospital in August) "never go into hospital in August" - it's when the medics graduate into junior doctors and are placed knocked-kneed and pigeon-toed into the wards. One minute they are laid-back long-haired scruffy students, the next minute they are starting their working life as independent, decision-making adults wielding a scalpel or a syringe. It's not hard to see why it's better to be ill in April or July or even (God forbid) September but not in August.

Wishing you all the luck for your exams, my gorgeous daughter..............I have every faith in you.




24 April 2015

Election Fever

Picture courtesy of The Telegraph
Only another two weeks to go and hopefully the election bandwagon will eventually grind to a halt.  I'm sick of live debates, leader interviews, politicians kissing babies, women, or one another. I'm cheesed off with promises, manifestos, smear campaigns and posturing. I suppose it could be much worse -  in the USA  their election is not for another 18 months and already their politicians are taking to centre stage to start their campaigns! At least we can be thankful ours only lasts a month.

But be careful what you wish for. Vote for any of the parties other than the main three and you will end up with seven parties not having a clear majority and each having to do a deal with someone else.  It could look something like this.....


..........and we all  know how that ended!

18 April 2015

The Good and the Bad (with no Ugly)


First the Bad.....

I got an email midweek from a very distant family friend of Greg's who lives in the USA.  I met her once about 12 years ago when she was over in London but we don't even  make contact at Christmas, so my relationship with her since has been virtually non-existent. She did send me an email a few years ago to let me know her father had died, as he had been best man to Greg's father and mother at their wedding, but otherwise little else. The email last week came as a bit of a surprise and even more so when I read she had had to leave America in a hurry and rush to London where her cousin lay seriously ill in hospital with lymphoblastic leukaemia. The hospital were demanding a deposit before they would operate and as she had rushed from home, she had failed to take sufficient means of payment with her, so would I mind lending her the deposit, which she would of course pay me back, as soon as she returned home.

Alarm bells rang with me and just as I was wondering whether to take it seriously or not, Kay rang and I told her. She informed me first that lymphoblastic leukaemia affects children only and, as it is a blood disease, there is no operation involved in its treatment. In any case, I had already worked out that treatment at any NHS hospital would not demand a deposit upfront (if at all, but I'm not certain about whether tourists are expected to pay at some stage). I decided a phone call to Oklahoma would be cheaper than forking out thousands to a scam, so I telephoned the lady in question to discover my suspicions were correct.  Her mail had been hacked into and it was a scam.  What vile people there are in the world to concoct such lies and wrap it up to make it convincing.... or not so convincing in my case.

Then the Good.....

I took my mother to a  large DIY outlet the other day in search of a white washing-up bowl. Her old one was showing signs of old age and she fancied a new one, but it had to be white. The current fashion in washing-up bowls seems to be black or grey or garish red or lime green, but not white. As my aged mother had been unable to walk too far around the store looking for the correct department, I had left her leaning up against a shelf near the entrance while I hot-footed it around the store to check. I had only been gone about 3 minutes, but when I found her again, she was chatting to another customer -a very attractive young black girl, who had seen her struggling to lean against the shelf and had dragged a sun-lounger chair along the aisle over to her to sit her down. It was such a lovely kind thought and we thanked her profusely even though we were now leaving the store empty-handed. I should add that is the second time in a week, a complete stranger has approached my mother and offered to help her. There are good people in the world  and you don't always have to go looking for them.

Certainly a week of contrasts.

11 April 2015

Fit for a Queen?

I was listening to LBC on the car radio over the weekend.  Apparently in a survey 55% of people voted for Camilla not to be Queen when Charles eventually takes to the throne.  The radio presenter seemed surprised and not altogether certain that was a representative figure. Surely people have warmed to Camilla? The phone-in that followed seemed to produce a lot of people who like Camilla and thought the survey unfair.

At the time of Charles' marriage to Camilla ten years ago, the Royal Household put out some sort of compromising pacifier that she would only be referred to as the Princess Consort, when Charles eventually becomes King.  This was because at the time there was still a lot of deep feeling amongst the public about the way Diana had been treated. As Diana had said in that famous TV  interview, there were three of them in the marriage, so Camilla could not be entirely blameless in what then went on to happen to Diana. But I could not help but notice that gradually over the years, the Camilla PR machine has been pounding on to make her look like Mother Teresa. It was inevitable that eventually the Princess Consort thing would gradually morph into Queen, in the hopes that people would forget.

Many argued in the programme I listened to that the past is past, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, Camilla is a decent stick really, the Royal family are only human after all and she should take up her place as Queen, when the time comes. It made me shudder.

I was always a great fan of Diana. Yes, she was young; yes, she may have been a bit of a drama queen when she found out Charles didn't love her, but she could be surely forgiven for that, particularly because her dashing prince was already straying before the wedding ring was on her finger. Camilla was already smirking in the wedding congregation and exchanging texts and gifts to Charles on the sly.  Diana certainly did a hell of lot worldwide for GB Ltd,  for the fashion industry in particular, and for the Royal Household's hitherto rather dowdy image. Not least, she produced two very dashing heirs, whilst at the same time making sure they were fully grounded and in tune with ordinary people around them. The fact that so many people love William now is down to  what Diana made him. She herself was keen to be an ambassador, the Queen of Hearts, someone to care for the downtrodden or poor: to give out the love she never had. Her untimely death was a shock and the nation (if not the whole world) poured out its grief at her funeral. I have never by the way believed her death was an accident. I believe one day the real truth will emerge. It might take a hundred years, but it will come.

If Charles and Camilla had a thing going before Diana came on the scene, they should have taken their opportunity to marry then, before Camilla upped and married someone else.  Charles should have been man enough to stand up and chose the woman he really wanted rather than bow to the pressures of the establishment. He has shown he can stand up to things when he wants to. Talking of the establishment, I always think it's funny how the Queen's sister was not allowed to marry a divorced man, yet three of the Queen's own children ended up divorced.  The couple have now got what they wanted - each other - but it should be at a cost. They can't surely expect to have their cake AND eat it. I would even go as far as to say I would prefer that Charles should not even become King, (let alone Camilla Queen) although constitutionally there is no way round that. So stuck with Charles we are, but Camilla. No way. (In any case, if she were to be made Queen, it would mean The Royal Household had broken the promise they made ten years ago. Not exactly confidence-inspiring or a role model for us lesser mortals).

Like an elephant, there is just no way I can forget.

What do you think?

07 April 2015

Easter

What a glorious weekend on all counts. 

First because Kay was home for a few days and I could spoil her. On our first evening together we ended up in one of the many local bars to celebrate her last day of hospital placement EVER as a student. If I wasn't deaf beforehand, I certainly am now. The music they were playing was so loud, my head felt as if it had been inside a spin-dryer. Even the 20-somethings were having difficulty holding a conversation and most were engaged in shouting closely into one another's ears. Fortunately this bar was not serving the cocktails Kay fancied, so we left for another relatively quieter bar, where the only noise was from a group of young men trying to stay upright. The rest of the weekend was spent shopping till we dropped to find a special pair of shoes for an upcoming ball and we had a lovely family roast lunch on Easter Sunday. Sadly Kay had to be back in the North by Sunday evening, so the time just whizzed by.

The weather put on a glorious show and it felt warm and balmy in the sunshine. We even managed  to sit in the garden. Roll on summer.

18 March 2015

Is is just me?

I've always taken the view that a car is a metal box on four wheels designed to get me from A to B. I can't be arsed whether it's brand new, a status symbol, has a hundred gizmos and does 200 mph. I just want it to get me to my destination. My wonderful aged T-reg (16 years old, no central locking, no power steering, not even a CD player but still going like a dream) is more than enough for me. It'll be no surprise then that I have never watched a single episode of Top Gear  and so I do not have the slightest regard for Jeremy Clarkson that the rest of the nation seem to have, if all the recent fuss is anything to go on. But, aside from all that, let's look at the evidence. This is a grown man of fifty something who, after a long day, apparently threw a strop after he was served soup and a cold platter instead of the steak he fancied. The hotel chef had dared to go home after 10pm (probably after an even more exhausting day than Mr Clarkson will ever experience). Furthermore, we are told, Clarkson lashed out physically at his producer because of it. So why is everyone signing petitions to keep him in his job and treating him like the victim?  Is this the behaviour of someone you would like to know? If he were a work colleague of yours, would you be less worshipful?  If he were a child, you'd surely send him to his bed or the naughty step. Which, I think, is what the BBC should do with him. Anything else will surely give him a bigger stroppier head than it seems he already has.  As for ITV lurking in the wings for a chance to nab him for their schedules  for some astronomical sum, they should be ashamed of themselves, as they are only rewarding bad behaviour. It's tantamount to taking him to Disneyland because he's attacked his granny. Or is it just me?

13 March 2015

Red carpet

The Baftas and Oscars have been and gone, so I was surprised to find myself belatedly getting a gong myself. The lovely Flowerpot nominated me a couple of weeks ago for a blog award on her Flowerpot Days blog. I have been very tardy in responding to the challenge, but am keen to rectify that now, so am donning my ball gown, high heels and bling to teeter along the red carpet and start the ceremony.



Here are the rules for accepting this particular award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog
  2. Nominate other blogs and provide a link where they may be found
  3. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated, and where to find the information they need to accept.
  4. Then  mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks. 

1. So, first a very big thank you to Flowerpot for nominating me. I love her blog Flowerpot Days because she writes so lovingly about Cornwall where she lives and works. (Her stories reminds me of my lovely honeymoon in Cornwall many decades ago, where Greg and I once considered living,  if only we could have got work down there. We fell in love with Polperro and went for job interviews in Plymouth, but it wasn't to be and London beckoned instead).
2. There are so many blogs I read and return to and they are all good in so many different ways, or else I would not go back to them time after time, but three stand out for me at present and are worthy of this award. The first is Hippo at Hippo on The Lawn who writes a pretty good read on all manner of subjects about his life in Angola.  The second is  Kellogsville with her blog A Guiding Life, as she is a mine of inspiration in keeping young people busy with all sorts of projects. The third is Nota Bene and his blog Don't Panic. RTFM - if you don't have a social life, you can live one through him - I don't know how he finds the time to sleep, but he is a mine of information on culture and things to do!
3. Done
4. Three things that have inspired me the most during the past few weeks
  • my wonderful daughter - she is doing more and more in hospital as she is 98% of the way to becoming a doctor. She rings me regularly and tells me snippets of what she has been doing and I am so proud of the mature way she already approaches things and deals with them. I can't say I was that level-headed at her age. I am so proud of her.
  • the lovely man I have been employing to do all sorts of odd jobs for me - on the roof, the brickwork and fences. He always rings first to warn me he is on his way, arrives bang on the dot, does an extremely professional job in so many different tasks for a reasonable cost and always tidies up after himself. Furthermore, he declines all offers of tea or coffee, as he prefers to get on with the job. An absolute gem and worth keeping in the contacts book for future work.
  • good friends - I have two very close friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin since we met at university and have never failed to deliver.
Well, that's it. Thank you again Flowerpot for thinking of me and I pass the baton on to the three above.  Won't be a mo -  I'm just going to kick off those high heels and have a glass of champagne with George Clooney and Richard Gere .........

05 March 2015

Wood

The appropriate gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is wood apparently. Quite who in their wisdom first decided on this is anyone's guess. Why wood, for heaven's sake? But then again why paper for the first and tin for the tenth?  Champagne might be a better choice or a long-service medal. But wood? What are you supposed to do with that? Bash one another over the head with it?

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary since Greg died. I can barely believe five years have passed. I used to hate it when he was away from home for more than a few days. Occasionally we might have the odd week apart if I went away on business or he had to go off with the BBC to cover something for a report. But I could never have envisaged I would ever spend five weeks without him, let alone five years.

Till death us do part. Vows taken thirty-nine years ago with hardly a thought that they might one day actually mean something. That death would us part. I mean, honestly, who thinks about death on their wedding day? I suppose if I did ever think about it, it meant that we'd grow old together until one of us was struck down by sheer old age. We'd totter about in our carpet slippers in our double room in an old folk's home until one of us simply fell off our zimmer frame. The reality was far from that. Twenty-eight years of wedded bliss, another six of alcoholic hell ending in his death and now five as a widow. 

Surely, I'm too young to be a widow? I'm often told I look even younger than fifty and I feel it too. Somebody told me the other day I don't even look old enough to have a 24-year-old daughter. (If you are trying to envisage what I look like, I am a cross between Twiggy and Lulu -  I kinda look a lot like Twiggy in this picture - here (from the neck up obviously, though to be fair less sticklike from the neck down!)   I don't feel old. The very word "widow" makes me feel a hundred years old. It's one of those words in the English language that immediately has negative connotations. 

I have a photo of Greg on my study wall behind my laptop. I look at it daily. Sometimes I talk to it.   I might tell him what he's missing in the world's news; or in our own life; or how Kay's getting on; or how bloody lucky he is to have got off scotfree with some of the problems I'm facing with the house at the moment. When we were together, he would help put the bins out or unload the dishwasher (both jobs I absolutely hate - in fact owning a dishwasher at all was Greg's idea - I actually much prefer the therapeutic hands-in-sink  option). Now it's me every time that  puts the bins out and unloads the dishwasher. He smiles down on me from the photo frame beatifically, as if it's all the same to him. "You're on your own with this" he seems to say. "Not my problem any more".

He will of course eternally be the sixty-years he was when he died, but at the same time he will have missed out on the experiences I or Kay or the world have had since in the last five years. He will never see Kay graduate and take her first steps as a doctor; nor will he take her down the aisle and see her married with a family. So, on this wooden anniversary of his death, touch wood, wherever he is now, I hope he is happy and his suffering was worth it. As for me, I shall never ever truly know why he chose to go down that path, but it's time I moved on and stopped looking back, counting the years, or I'll never see the wood for the trees.

 Greg
1949-2010

23 February 2015

Frustrating

I consider myself to be reasonably able to negotiate new technology, given I am now retired, living alone and do not always have my daughter around most of the time to fall back on at times when technology defeats me. So it has been a little frustrating that there are some of you out there - particularly those who write Wordpress blogs, where, try as I might, I cannot leave a comment. There is one blog in particular where I have tried to leave comments time after time over the last few months. The comment box is there. It has my correct blogname, email address and blog address. I write my comment, press "submit" and the comment never appears. At first I hoped it was just waiting for blog administrator's approval before being published, but that was not the reason as weeks later the comments still don't appear. I have even googled for advice on what to do if my comment won't appear, but that seems to draw a blank, as the answers seem to be directed at the blog owner not being able to receive comments, rather than the commenter not being able to leave comments.

So if you use Wordpress, live in the USA, are going through a bad patch  and don't get any comments from me, it is not for the want of me trying! If anyone else has any ideas what I am doing wrong, let me know.
courtesy of pixshark.com

17 February 2015

Playtime

I've been enjoying watching the BBC2 series Inside the Commons not least because, when - in a previous life - I was a Civil Servant, a part of my work involved having to draft replies for Parliamentary Questions; or brief Secretaries of State and Royals for visits; or submit support for Honours nominations; or answer MPs' questions on all sorts affecting their constituencies. It has therefore been interesting to see the inner workings of the hallowed halls where my hard work over several decades landed up.

But oh my word, had I by mistake tuned in to Children's Playhour or something? Considering the British Parliament and democratic system has been long revered all over the world, it was something of a shock to see the juvenile way they carry on. I know we've been accustomed to seeing TV coverage of the daily shenanigans between Cameron and Miliband where they duck and dive at one another with only a table to keep them apart.

You stole my lollipop.
Well, you took my model dinosaur.
Well, I'm going to tell teacher, so there.

We've also heard the excited baying of the House like a load of sheep. But Members deliberately playing for time and sabotaging Private Members' Bills by first interrupting them in mid-speech and then talking for as long as they can (even according to William Hague for as long as 24-hours) to prevent the Member reading out his bill.... that really is childish. Or camping out all night in the corridor next to the relevant office to make sure their bill is first in the queue. I thought that only happened the night before the Harrods' or Apple sale. Fancy all that being the envy of the world! It's all a little bit like this.......


11 February 2015

One Day at a Time

I realised the other day that it must be six months since I last went to an Al-Anon meeting.  I have been so preoccupied caring for my mother and her broken knee, that I have completely got out of my usual routine.  In any case, I had been thinking I wouldn't go any more, as I have never really got the complete hang of Al-Anon, like some people do. I can't take comfort from a Higher Power, as frankly I don't have a clue what my Higher Power is. I don't have a sponsor. I find it hard to open up in front of strangers (believe it or not). I get tongue-tied, as we sit around in a circle,  and dread the silences when it is obviously my turn in the group to speak but I have nothing to contribute, yet all eyes are secretly willing me to speak, as I am the only one who hasn't spoken yet and there are still 20 minutes of meeting time left.  The silences can be so awkward. I end up gibbering a load of irrelevant rubbish and wishing the ground would swallow me up. I don't find it helps me get things out of my system. More the reverse. More nerve-wracking. Why do I put myself through it? Some people go to several meetings in different locations in a week, declare they are soooo pleased to be at the meeting, as they couldn't get through another day without it.  I am definitely not one of those.  So, no, I am not comfortable with Al-Anon meetings. In fact I have found writing this blog has helped me far more to get inner strength and get things out of my system. However, that is not to say I have not found Al-Anon useful at all. The tips, literature, slogans, sometimes just knowing you are not the only person in the whole wide world going through alcoholic hell - all help. Of all the things I have picked up at the Al-Anon meetings I have gone to, there is one slogan which has always stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the advice.

One Day at a Time.

I found it useful not only when I was trying to cope, when my alcoholic was alive, but it is a very good tool for using in the rest of my life too. Whether you are living with an alcoholic or not, there are always times when things get on top of you, mount up, overcome you, seem impossible, or drown you. Too many things to do, too many bills to pay, too many problems to deal with, not enough time, not enough patience, not enough energy. Where to start? How to start?

One Day at a Time.

There's a Chinese proverb which says something along the lines of "A  journey of a thousand miles starts with the very first step". In other words, make a start, keep plodding along and eventually you will get to the destination, however far away it may seem.

One Day at a Time.

If you make a list of all the things that need doing, breaking down items into further subsections if they are complicated, you'll know what you are faced with. It might seem insurmountable, but prioritise and start with the most urgent. We all need a roof over our head, food, water and warmth, so I assume that  is at the top of the list, alongside a source of money obviously. Everything else drops into place behind that depending on its urgency, necessity and personal requirements.

One Day at a Time.

Start by dealing with the most urgent. If it all seems too much, just deal with one thing each day. In one week, you'll have crossed seven things off your list. The feeling of achievement, pride and relief in being able to cross those things off the list is immense. It is surprising how over the weeks, those things get whittled down. Of course things get added to the list too, as life goes on, but again just prioritise them, slip them to the top of the list or the bottom or the middle, depending on how important they are.

One Day at a Time.

You probably think I'm stating the blimmin obvious, but sometimes we are too deep in a rut, too emotionally wrung out to see the wood for the trees. Particularly if we are living with an alcoholic and juggling many balls in the air, dealing with the crazy rollercoaster of an alcoholic  relationship.

One Day at a Time.

This has helped me so many times to live with the alcoholic, accept his death, deal with the aftermath and pick myself up to carry on as a single parent to my 23-year-old daughter (still dependant on me as she is at uni) and as a carer to my 91-year old disabled mother. There have been times over the last five years, when, although Greg is dead, the legacy created by his alcoholism and death have caused problems in my life or Kay's. This has helped propel us forward. 

If you are finding life is getting on top of you, just try it.


One Day at a Time.

 

  

03 February 2015

I'll get it done if it kills me


I've decided it's a new year and about time I try to envigorate all the plans I had to get the house up to scratch since Greg died. Knocked back last autumn by the setback of the rain coming through the roof, coupled with the untimely accident of  my mother's broken knee, I got off track somewhat and everything was put on hold. Onwards and upwards, I have decided it can wait no longer.

I've shortlisted a roofer to come and sort the roof out and blow the guarantee with the original roofer who put it on 2 years ago. Work on that starts in a week or so. I'm getting someone to sort out my front door which suddenly won't shut properly without slamming it so hard, it causes the whole neighbourhood to quake. I'm also trawling for builders to do a bit of cementwork between brickwork, where it has come a bit loose. I've arranged for someone to repair my fence which started to loll to one side, when my neighbour decided to have their garden landscaped and had a go at it from their side. Once that's done, I'm getting two new bathrooms. I'm finally sick of the Sixties-style yellow suite and grey tiles in one of them and peach suite and white tiles in the other. Why is it Vintage can be OK in clothes but not in baths? So I am a busy bee.

I'm a little perturbed  by the amount of unsolicited mail  I'm getting offering me life insurance or urging me to consider saving for my own funeral. Is someone trying to tell me something?

19 January 2015

A load of bullshihtzu

Twice a week I make a point of getting up really early to be in the local park by 8am. Over the years when I used to walk Snoopy, I made a lot of dogwalker friends and nowadays, even though Snoopy has gone to that big park in the sky, I still like to catch up with my park friends, chew the cud, put the world to rights and connect with their dogs.  As people go, they really are lovely people - after all if they love their dogs to bits, as they seem to, they are my kind of people. The bracing morning walks in all weathers also helps me get a bit of fresh air and some decent exercise beyond riding the vacuum cleaner and raiding of the fridge.

In the past year there have been some new dog additions on the block:
  •  two Labradoodles (half Labrador, half Poodle)
  •  two Cockapoos (half Cocker Spaniel, half Poodle)
  •  a Pekeapoo (half Poodle, half Pekingese)
  •  a jackhuahua (half Jack Russell, half Chihuahau)
  •  a bullshihztu ( half bull terrier, half Shihtzu) 

courtesy of cartoonstock.com
Last week I met the cutest furriest 12-week old fluffball of a puppy I have ever seen and was told he was a Schnoodle (half Schnauzer and half Poodle). His owner was training him well and he can already sit, lie down and all but do a backward somersault on command.

On that basis, my beloved Snoopy ought to have been called a Mansation or an Alsachester Terrier, because he was half Alsation(German Shepherd) and half Manchester Terrier.


Forgive me if I am wrong, but didn't we just used to call them mongrels or crossbreeds?  To be honest what a lot of bull terrier/shihtzu crosses. 
 
My Mansatian - one in a trillion

07 January 2015

Shock

Something happened over the Christmas period that upset me greatly. I don't want to go into detail here but suffice to say it was a shock and it took me best part of ten days to get over the sickening feeling I felt to my very core. It's taken me a good few years to get over Greg's death and feel relaxed about the past events, not so angry, more understanding about the depression he was probably going through and why he had turned to alcohol. But in an instant I was transported back to the old feelings of insecurity, madness and rollercoasters. I had all but forgiven him, missed him even, but suddenly I was so angry again at how he had ruined everything in his wake. It would seem you are never free from the insane hold that the alcoholic has over you, even when they are long departed. I appreciate I am not giving much away for you to understand, but right now, I just want to crawl into my shell and pull the proverbial covers over my head.

01 January 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR

HAPPY NEW YEAR!