21 April 2014

Teenage binge-drinking

You might have been forgiven for missing this programme  (https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tonight/series-19/episode-11-britain-s-young-drinkers-tonightwhich ) which was quietly slipped into the TV schedules just before Easter on Maundy Thursday.  It was not exactly well advertised and not exactly fun-viewing on the evening leading up to the long Easter weekend. But definitely well worth seeing.

For me, its contents were nothing new. I know enough from Kay and her friends about the format teenage nights out after school or at uni take. The pre-drinks at home where vast quantities of alcohol are drunk to get you well in the mood before you go out, including drinking games with forfeits and dares. Then afterwards the actual night out in clubs and bars, where the drinks are on ridiculously low offers (particularly midweek to draw the punters in). A pound a shot or 12 for £10. It doesn't take much maths to work out they're going to be well over their recommended daily intake of units within the first couple of hours, let alone by 4am when they start to roll home.

When you are young, nothing touches you, nothing fazes you. You can't imagine being old, infirm, riddled with cancer or affected by liver disease. That's for oldies or someone else. Smoking/taking drugs/drinking alcohol can look cool and win brownie points with your mates. Which is why this programme helped to confront some of the youngsters about the dangers of excess drinking. How one evening's drinking can definitely impair the liver.  Whether they'll actually learn from it is another thing, but while the drinks are easily available and as cheap as chips, you can't blame them for experimenting. The liver is a marvellous organ which has the ability like no other human organ to recover from damage. But there comes a time after repeated damage when it can no longer recover and will go into serious decline and failure.

The government are not keen to raise alcohol prices or limit availability because they rely on the taxes it brings in. Others will recite freedom of choice as a reason to keep the status quo. It's down to us as adults to guide our kids, explain the dangers and just hope they wont be another statistic. Liver damage has increased 40% in the last decade and more so in the younger generation, whereas it was always regarded as an older person's disease. Concerns over your fluffy four-year-old grazing their knee are swapped for concerns your equally fluffy 14-year-old will be drinking cider behind the bike-shed or your adult 24-year-old might be drinking 28 shots of Jaegermeister bombs or vodka in one night. Fortunately Kay is reasonably sensible and has watched her father die of alcoholic liver disease. Not a pretty sight. But even she is under peer-pressure and has admitted that being the only sober or semi-sober one in a whole group of zombies on a night out is not that much fun, so on rare occasions she sometimes pushes the limits.

Meanwhile, it's been lovely having Kay home for Easter, although it hasn't been long enough by far. Because she is still on hospital placements, it has meant she could only get a week off for Easter. With a day at either end taken up with her driving down each way, we have effectively only had from Good Friday until tomorrow, but it has been lovely. Girlie shopping trips to Bluewater, lazy evenings chewing the cud, good wholesome home cooking, catching up with London friends. Absolute bliss.

01 April 2014

Mothers' Day and April Fools

I had to laugh at an article in today's newspaper about chickens laying square eggs. Of course it was an April Fools' Day item, but it reminded me so much of when Greg and I lived in Germany and he did a whole 30-minute April Fools' Day programme in 1978 for the radio station he was working for. In one of the items, I pretended to be a German farmer and spoke English in a very heavy Germanic accent while Greg interviewed me. I had found a way to grow square tomatoes that were so much easier to slice to fit in sandwiches. It was all we could do to keep a straight face while the item was being recorded for transmission. A cousin of Greg's was listening to the broadcast over in England when it was finally aired and actually believed it was for real.

I have just had a lovely weekend up north with Kay. I had gone up not just because it was Mothers' Day but because Kay was appearing in concert in the local choir. They sang with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and one piece was particularly commissioned by them from a modern composer, so it was a World premiere of the piece. I was so proud to see her singing with such a prestigious ensemble. Here is the view from my seat!



The auditorium was more packed than this photos shows. I did not want to take pictures while the concert was in full swing, so just took them before everyone was seated. Kay's in the choir behind the orchestra.

On Mothers' Day Sunday itself, we took a trip to Knaresborough, a place I have heard so much about but have never visited I was pleasantly surprised. Such a picturesque village. It was a shame it was shrouded in mist the whole day and the sun did try its hardest to poke through, but never quite succeeded. Here's one of my favourites.....


I was out of breath by the time I climbed up here!

27 March 2014

The Gas Man Cometh

Well, actually in my case, not the gasman but a workman. And "cometh" he did not. Although I say so myself, I'm pretty good with a paintbrush, screwdriver and hammer, even with a monkey wrench, but am useless with a saw, so there is the occasional job where I put my hands up and admit defeat. So, in the middle of last year, I looked up the ads in our local paper for a handyman to come to my rescue. I was so impressed with the way he thought round some of the problems without the alternative of racking up a huge bill, that I decided to use him before my mother moved into her retirement flat at the end of October.

The main job was to freshen up the paintwork of the walls of her entire one-bedroom flat (the woodwork seemed fine and I thought painting that would unnecessarily delay her moving in). Again Handy Andy (his name for himself, not mine) did a sterling job and I asked him if he could return in few weeks to hang my mother's pictures and replace a skirting board that had been removed by the previous owner in the kitchen to make room for an extra-wide fridge-freezer. His advert proclaims that "no job is too small", so I expected he would fit the work in when he had a spare moment.

To cut a very long and boring story short, I am still waiting.  Every so often, I ring him and he tells me with an exasperated tone that he might get over in a couple of weeks, but weeks turn into months and I ring him again. Finally after about the fourth time of reminding him, I pinned him down to giving me a definite date which would suit him. He suggested Wednesday 26th March at 2.30pm. Yesterday.

It was not entirely convenient for me, as I had a hospital appointment at lunchtime and other commitments later on, but I bust a gut yesterday to be at my mother's flat at the appointed time. I had even texted him the day before to remind him, but had ominously received no reply. Of course, my mother and I sat like lemons all afternoon waiting for him to arrive and needless to say he didn't show. I have now sent him a "yours disgusted" text telling him not to bother. I shall find someone else more reliable.

What gets me is not that he might be snowed under sub-contracting to someone else, possibly fitting bathrooms, kitchens, or who knows what (that I can understand) and that he can't be arsed to turn up for a petty little skirting board and a few pictures. What really annoys me is that he can't be bothered to pick up a phone and tell me he is snowed under. Even when I reminded him the day before, he would prefer to let me sit there all afternoon listening to a ticking clock.

Workmen, eh?

20 March 2014

It's behind you. O no, it isn't. O yes, it is

The whereabouts of flight MH370 is turning into a pantomime.  I'm sure it's not intentional but that's the way it's coming across. The story has more twists and turns than the flight itself. Every day there is a different slant on things. It's in the China Sea. No it isn't, it's in the Malaccan Straits. Wait a minute, it could be anywhere between the South pole and Kazakhstan.  Or maybe somewhere off Australia.  Mechanical failure or terrorism? No idea. The villains are the two people with false passports who have hi-jacked it. No, wait, it could be that the pilot or co-pilot had a funny five minutes or it might be Al Qaeda.  It wouldn't surprise me to read tomorrow that it was abducted by aliens.  And meanwhile in all seriousness those poor relatives wait for the final explanation, which, the more time passes, can only be bad news. Apparently the plane's diversion was done with the flick of a simple switch and a "Goodnight. All's right". That simple. (Terrorists please note). Is that all it takes?

With all the world's technology and enough willing helper countries out there searching, we still are in the situation where first a plane can disappear without trace and secondly nobody has a clue where to look for it. How on earth could this happen? The aviation industry is going to have some job making sure this does not happen again. Maybe in future something similar to Skype or CCTV contact from ground to cockpit to "see" what happened may become as essential as the black box.

06 March 2014

Four years


Greg
 
6 March 2010
 
 


01 March 2014

Hellfire and Brimstone

Have I died and gone to hell? I did wonder this week. It has without word of a lie been a ****ing awful week.

First my landline phone died ten day ago. I gave it a few hours, as often, when there are engineers mucking about with junction boxes in the road, they pull the wrong wires. This indeed may have been the case, as a few hours' later the phone was working again. However, nothing is that simple and I then discovered my internet connection was down. I so dread having to phone BT.  I have a hearing problem which means I don't hear too well on the telephone and phoning BT complicates things because I invariably end up talking to their call centre in Mumbai which means my ears cannot decipher the heavy accents. I might just as well be listening to Punjabi, Swahili or Cantonese for all I understand and I feel sick with fear every time I have to ring them.  With heavy heart, I had no choice and with great difficulty found myself explaining my problem and interpreting their replies, frequently asking them to repeat what they had said. They had me running up and down stairs between my main telephone junction box on one level and the internet router on another level, unscrewing things, pressing buttons, disconnecting and reconnecting, while they tested the line. Eventually they concluded there was a problem between my house and the exchange and I should give it 24-48 hours to right itself.

Of course nothing changed over the 48 hours and I was forced to ring Mumbai yet again to inform them. More running up and down stairs on my part and more testing on theirs to which they said someone would monitor the line and ring me the next day between a 2-hour slot. Did they hell? I had to ring them a third time. More running up and down stairs (at least I am getting fit) and more testing on their part concluded the router was at fault and they would send me a new one. For that they transferred me to another part of BT - this time in Glasgow where I had just as much difficulty deciphering the thick Glaswegian accent of the man who answered the call.

I had to wait 3 days for the router to arrive, but thankfully once the new router was installed, the problem was solved. It is funny how bereft I felt without internet for a whole week. I could not access bank accounts online, send or receive emails or read your blogs. Not to mention the BT television service which allows me to record, rewind or pause live television. It felt like my right arm had been cut off. How did we manage without the internet before?

As if all that was not enough, life threw me another curveball to deal with. On Tuesday I received a call from my bank to say they had been presented with one of my cheques payable to a Mr D... H.... for £3400. Was it genuine? I told them I neither knew Mr DH nor had I recently written a cheque for£3400. In that case, they asked, should they stop the cheque to which I screamed in capital letters... YESSSSSSS. It transpired the bank had flagged up the unusually high amount and the fact that the cheque number was grossly out of sequence (in fact when I checked back through my own records, that serial number went back at least 30 years!)

Then next day I went along to my local branch  and was able to see  the cheque on screen. To all intents and purposes it looked exactly like one of my cheques - same sort code, account number, branch address and account holder. What was vastly different was the handwriting both of the letters and numbers. However from close inspection of the signature I was able to tell that certain letters were not how I would write them even though the basic shape of the overall signature was very similar.

The bank suggested I may have lost a cheque book in the past but to my knowledge I have never lost one and always shred books once I have finished with them, even the stubs. It was a mystery how they had been able to copy the cheque and my signature, but of course the serial number was what had led to the forgery being discovered. I was assured the cheque had been stopped and the case was being passed to the bank's fraud department.

It was a little unnerving, particularly as my internet was still down at that point, that this had happened at all and especially because I could not check my account regularly online, but  tried to convince myself this was a one-off and that this type of low-life exists everywhere and you just have to be alert. Imagine therefore how I felt when two days later on Thursday I got another call from the bank with news of another cheque coming in. This time it was to a Mr A.... A.. for £2800. This was worrying. This apology for a human being was trying it on again with another forged cheque of mine and with my signature. The bank employee asked me to verify that I wanted the cheque stopped which I confirmed and she hung up.

This was clearly even more worrying. Once was an accident, twice a definite targeted attack. By now I had internet back again, so I decided to go online to look up the number for the bank's fraud department and discuss it directly with them. Unable to find the number listed on a google search, I decided to look up my account and see if the number was listed on that webpage. It was then that I saw it........... the stupid bank employee has deducted the £2800 from my account and I was £2800 poorer.

My heart started pounding, my mouth went as dry as the Sahara Desert and my brain turned to mush. The thought of some insect getting their hands on my hard-earned, hard-saved money drove me crazy. Somehow, I grabbed all relevant paperwork, threw myself into my car and drove manically to the local bank branch, turning corners on two wheels  rather than four in my panic to get there. Once at the bank I blurted out like some drunken imbecile that I had just been the victim of a fraud and needed to speak to someone in authority. NOW. I was taken to the Manager' Office upstairs where I poured out my story and she was able to reassure me that she would stop the cheque. Several phone calls to other departments later, she was able to confirm it had been stopped although it would take a while to reappear in my account again.  Again I saw the cheque on screen with the same handwriting as the previous forgery and the same attempt to forge my signature.

It is a mystery how this has happened and one that hopefully the Fraud Department will unravel. Suffice to say that it has made me nervous that it will happen again and with every phone call I get at present I am anxious it is a another call from the bank!

Please tell me I have not died and gone to hell.

17 February 2014

Wedding Nerves

I would imagine, the majority of brides look forward to their wedding day.... the day they've longed for since they were little girls and used to throw a net curtain over their head and teeter around in their mother's high heels to practice for the big day. A lot of frogs later, they finally meet their prince and it's full-steam ahead for the real thing. Apart from the worry of whether their caterers will go bust, or the gown won't get altered in time or they will erupt in a crop of acne just before the appointed hour, most will get excited and can't wait.

I therefore felt sorry for Leanne Baker, who was so scared of being the centre of attraction, that she hanged herself a week before the event. I could well understand her agony, as I too felt like that. Not enough to hang myself, obviously, but I have always been on the shy, self-conscious side, particularly in the first half of my life, so when it came to my own wedding to Greg, although I was very happy to be married to him, the actual ceremony terrified me. For a good few months beforehand, I worked myself up into a mental frenzy and kept getting a 3D technicolour vision on continuous loop of me entering the church with my father and the entire congregation turning round to catch their first glimpse of the bride. Me.  My knees would buckle under their gaze and I would pass out. The closer to the wedding it got, the more anxious I became until I could bear no talk from my parents about the  preparations and would take to my bed with exhaustion at 6pm in the evening when I came home from work. I think if I had had the energy to escape to Gretna Green, I would have done. By the appointed day itself, I was a gibbering wreck and by the time my best friend/bridesmaid turned up at the house to get ready, I was sweating buckets (well, it was in the heatwave of 1976).

My father had been running up and downstairs all morning with alternate glasses of milk or brandy to steady my anxious, rebelling stomach and by 2pm I was functioning on automatic pilot. Somehow I got dressed and into the vintage Rolls Royce waiting outside. The houses and streets passed in a blur until we arrived at the church. Emerging from the car in the idyllic countryside setting of the church on a gloriously boiling hot day,  my nerves suddenly vanished (or maybe the brandy had kicked in) and as the doors opened to let my father and me in, I sailed down the aisle, didn't fluff my lines and sailed serenely out at the end. All that worry for nothing. Its such a shame that Leanne Baker couldn't keep her nerve. She might have enjoyed it after all.
All my worries over

10 February 2014

Denial

I see Paul Gascoigne's back in rehab. His sobriety didn't last very long, despite the TV programme I saw on him a while ago, where he seemed to be doing well. "Seemed" being the operative word. The trouble is that a lot of alcoholics seem to think that once they have kicked the habit, they'll be all right to have the occasional drink after that. They seem to think their addiction has been knocked on the head once and for all and they are back to being like the rest of the human race. They seem to think they can make their own choices.

Greg seemed to think that too. He would always say after one of his hospital stays, when he emerged reborn, off the drink and much healthier, that the occasional social drink, the occasional drink with his Sunday dinner, the infrequent get-together with his old work pals would do no harm.

Denial is a huge factor in alcoholism. The alcoholic will deny they have a problem, that they  don't drink heavily, that they can stop whenever they want to (they just don't wish to), that they are not causing problems, are not hurting their family etc etc etc. Once they have finally admitted it, gone through detox and rehab, they are often still in denial ... they think they can go back to drinking "normally"  as and when they want like the next man. Their families are often in denial too. I admit I was. I didn't want to admit Greg was an alcoholic, that he had a problem, that it was causing us problems. The search for another reason often takes a long while, until the truth finally dawns.

The fact is that an alcoholic once made sober again, be it from a hospital stay, detox, rehab or whatever, can never touch the stuff again. Not even one solitary glass. Because their addiction will grab them by the throat and lead them back down the path to alcoholism once more, quicker than you can say "hangover". That's the bit a lot of them just can't get. Whether you are rich or poor, famous or not. Sadly, Paul Gascoigne still hasn't got it.

03 February 2014

Roll on Monday

This has not been a  good week in the Alcoholic Daze calendar and I can't wait for normality and Monday.

About 6 months ago, I had been to see my GP about two strange marks that had erupted on my face. One on my chin - a gingery irregular circle-shaped thing about the size of a 50p piece which has grown very slowly over the space of 8 years. It has not responded one jot over the years to the various lotions and potions prescribed by the different GPs who have diagnosed everything from solar keratosis to ringworm to a liver spot. It is apparently none of these and refuses to leave the space taken up on my chin. I went to see a GP again last  summer, as I wanted another attempt at getting them to diagnose what it really was or at least refer me to a dermatologist. Almost in passing I had also mentioned the second mark - a pearly white spot on my forehead which suddenly appeared almost overnight about 9 months ago. That turned out to be immediately more suspect and worthy of a referral than the gingery mark. Before I knew it, I had had a skin biopsy  on the pearly spot and the result, which I received back in November, was that it is a basal cell carcinoma.

The very word "carcinoma" is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies, but I was assured that, although a cancer, it does not spread to other parts of the body, grows slowly and can be removed with success. So far so good.

Fast forward to last Thursday when I finally got an appointment with the consultant dermatologist to look at it. She confirmed to the fourth-year medical student at her elbow that the pearly thing on my forehead was indeed a basal cell carcinoma and talked her through how to recognise it with its "rolled edges" when the skin is squeezed. Talk then moved to the gingery thing on my chin. With much prodding and poking and staring at it through an illuminated magnifier, the consultant first admitted she hadn't a clue what it was ("oh no, I'm to be a guinea pig", I thought) but then she later decided it too might be a variation of a basal cell carcinoma. "Best get another biopsy to make sure" she said. So now my chin is sporting two stitches, as well as the scar from the original biopsy stitches I had on my forehead back in September. My face is so resembling a patchwork quilt!  Long story short, I'm being referred to a maxillofacial surgeon for the offending growths to be excised.

So that is how my weekend started with the thought that if the chin one has to be removed, I could have a hole in it the size of Siberia and look like Quasimodo. Probably all my fault too, because, as a teenager back in the Swinging Sixties, I used to soak up the sun.  In addition, my Dad had a table-top ray lamp that could be used as infra red for his bad back. It had a switch to convert it to ultra-violet rays which is what I would use it for and stick my face 6 inches away from it to tan my face. We sadly didn't know the danger in those days.

Saturday was the 13th anniversary of my father's death. My mother still misses him dreadfully and each year seems to get more painful for her than easier. I had on the agenda a lunch out at a local carvery to distract her which I think did the trick, although I did feel a tad self-conscious walking around with two stitches in my chin, as if I had done ten rounds with Mike Tyson or emerged from a Frankenstein set. At least we got a table away from anyone else. I think they thought we were going to be trouble. Sunday was the 13th anniversary of the worst day of my life. I can't help it, but the two dates always bring back such rotten memories on both losses.

Sorry if this post is a bit depressing, but that really sums up my crappy week.  From here on, this week has only got to get better, hasn't it?

23 January 2014

Running up a spiral staircase

I've run out of steam. You've probably noticed it's been a while since I last blogged and a while before that too. You HAVE noticed, haven't you?

My days are filled with running back and forth to continue easing my mother into her new home...... dealing with her mail (often sorting out complicated solicitor's letters connected with the move), helping her with shopping, showering, making beds, laundry, visits to the bank, the doctor, a hospital appointment or whatever. I've been over there most days of the week. I hoping some day soon, things will settle into a pattern and I'll maybe only go over twice or three times a week. I'm hoping for some spare time for me to do the things I said I'd do once I had the freedom (without anxious dog metaphorically handcuffing me to the house) such as visits to Kay; sightseeing in London (although a Londoner and having lived here most of my life, there are still areas of London I know nothing about and have never visited); sorting through the last decade's photographs; researching the family tree; and visits to friends in far-flung places.

Kay rang me yesterday and was very down. Since Christmas, she has been on a placement on a paediatric ward seeing cute fluffy kids with sadly all manner of things wrong with them.  However yesterday, with not much for her to do as a medical student, she had been sent to observe or assist in A&E. And what did she see? Two separate alcoholic cases.  One had been in a fight and had got a lacerated face like two pounds of rump steak. The other had evidently been found unconscious on the street. It was supposed he had hit his head with one hell of a whack as he came down, as he had internal bleeding in the brain, was in a coma and not likely to survive. The effect on Kay from these two cases was to bring the past flooding back and she was tearful. That in turn made me upset to think she is still suffering from the affects of Greg's drinking. I had hoped it would get less and less until it disappeared altogether, but I guess that is more wishful thinking than reality. The truth is, I suspect, that it will never go away completely for either of us.

I felt the need to seek out an Al-Anon meeting today to get a bit of peace of mind and order my thoughts. A bit of precious me-time too. I think it did the trick.


02 January 2014

When Only a Cuddle will do

When our kids are little, hopefully the worst you, as a parent, have to worry about is a grazed knee or your little darling being sad because their bestest friend ever has fallen out with them. A plaster or a comforting cuddle soon puts the world to right again.

As your beloved offspring get older and more daring, the worries as a parent grow in proportion. Or at least they do in my case. I know I can worry for England. I admit I am a glass half-empty type of person, can always see that little chink in the sky where it might fall in and can see the worst in every situation.  The psychoanalysts would have a field-day with me. Maybe it goes back to being raised in a family where on the one side my grandmother lost two children in one week  to pneumonia/whooping cough, or on the other side my Dad's family were severely decimated by Adolf Hitler. It can sometimes make you a bit wary to stick your head out of the front door in case a rampaging tyrannosaurus rex happens to come through your front gate!


So imagine how I feel just having seen Kay disappear into the distance in her car about to do a five-hour journey round the M25 and M1 onwards to the North, going far out of her way westwards via Ealing to pick up a friend who wanted a lift that way too? To be fair she did do the trip for the first time in the other direction a few days before Christmas. Then, I spent the day worrying until there was a ring at the doorbell and she stood there in her Santa hat, but this time I watched her drive away, knowing she had at least five hours' drive before she reached her destination. Not helped by the fact that I have just received a call from her to ask for directions onto the M25 as her satnav has taken her the wrong way and she is outside a farm somewhere in Kent!

picure from www.ineedmotivation.com



23 December 2013

Where was Dumbledore, when you needed him?

I'm sorry I've been off radar for a good while. I have been reading your blogs, just not always able to comment on them or write on mine. Life has a habit of getting in the way.

First I have been busy getting my mother settled into her new home. The flat needed some tweaking to make it just how she'd like it, so we were off to shops to buy new bits and bobs for it. Then of course, I was chief curtain-hanger, picture hanger, furniture re-positioner, online purchaser, Christmas card writer and cleaner. I have been at the flat every day for four weeks solid. Even the retirement flat warden suggested I buy one of the empty flats in the block as I was there so often. It's a lively community considering the average age of residents is about 85. The warden sits in the entrance foyer and usually has a gaggle (or whatever the collective noun is) of residents sitting around her. Some are waiting for taxis to collect them, others just sit there to pass the time. There is always a hub-bub of conversation and their eyes follow me as I arrive and head for the lift, or come out of the lift and head for the main door, usually with questions about what I am doing or where I am going. It has become impossible simply to arrive and depart without comment or attention. My mother meanwhile is settling in well and apart from seeing me almost every day so far, has also been to loads of communal coffee mornings with the neighbours,  a Christmas dinner (where they all wore evening dress) and already received a shedload of Christmas cards from them all which has resulted in me having to  wander around the building to reciprocate delivery of mum's cards.

My other preoccupation has been the cat. Once the dog had died, she took ill too and was throwing up all her food on twice or even thrice daily basis for over two weeks.  She seemed incapable of keeping her food down. I had to take her to the vet several times, spent over £350 in fees to establish what was wrong and even had the vet accuse me (jokingly he said) of having Munchausen's by Proxy (first taking the dog back and forth and then, once the dog had died, the cat). As if I actually enjoyed scooping vomit off the carpet and paying exorbitant vet bills. But, as I say, he did say he was joking. Hmmm. I'm not laughing! She was put on a drip at one stage to replace fluids and blood tests were done - all of which produced no diagnosis. The vet finally reckoned, in the absence of any other result, that she may have had a bug and refused to  consider she might be pining for the dog or have some kind of blockage. Thankfully  this last week she has improved, although she has still thrown up  once or twice.

Finally, I have actually been away for a few days. (Shock, horror.) It was something I have not been able to do for years. When the dog was alive he hated being left without me, so I was virtually trapped in my own home for years ...and so now I have the freedom to go away for the first time. I went up North to visit Kay for a special reason.  Those who have been following this blog for some time will know that Kay took time out of her Medicine course to study Human Physiology in one year as a degree within a degree. She took her exams in the summer and came out with a BSc for that (the medical MBChB degree will be in 18 months). The BSc graduation ceremony was this week.  I was so proud of her. I leave you with a photo of the opening scene as the bigwigs arrived on the stage.
All we needed was Dumbledore in the big chair and an owl flying through the hall!

Have a great Christmas. Normal service will be resumed in the new year. I hope


26 November 2013

Dog-gone



This is the last ever photo taken of Snoopy or, to call him by his real name, Freddie. It is now four weeks since we had him put to sleep and this photo was taken the day before his demise. Oh, the house does seem empty without him.

Freddie came into our lives in June 1999 for a very good reason.  Some years before, when Kay was a toddler we stayed on a farm in Yorkshire and late one afternoon, as we were walking around the farmyard, Kay was attacked by a Border Collie, who was taking his job of defending a barn full of turkeys seriously. Thankfully there was no physical harm done, as the dog only managed to grab the leg of her dungarees and not her actual leg, but it was enough to give Kay a massive phobia about dogs and she would freeze  in panic every time she saw one after that incident. Both Greg and I had grown up with pet dogs and loved them, so we were dismayed to find Kay was getting so fearful every time she saw a dog in the street. We decided to get a dog for her as therapy to get over her phobia. We chose carefully, visiting a number of rescue centres in the London area over quite a few years, until we found the right one.


We found Freddie, when we had all but given up hope, so much so that we had settled on taking two kittens instead. At the eleventh hour, just as we were negotiating collecting the kittens, the rescue centre told us about a litter of puppies they had just received. Freddie was the last one to be homed. He was an 11-week-old puppy, the runt of the litter produced by the union of a German Shepherd and a Manchester Terrier.  Now for those of you who know your dog breeds, you will know that the former is a large dog 



and the latter very small.


Which was the mother and which the father, I don't know, but whatever way round, either the union must have been comical (as the smaller dog mounted the large bitch - probably with the aid of a stepladder) or the labour excruciating (as the smaller bitch produced outsize puppies).



So it came to pass that in June 1999, we staggered home with two 8-week-old kittens and an 11-week-old puppy. We must have been mad. As the kittens were always dozing, we nicknamed them Freddie and the Dreamers.

As a tiny puppy Freddie looked a bit like a long-legged dachshund............

Freddie at 11 weeks











Freddie with one of the kittens


........but as he grew and grew, he started to resemble a Doberman. If I had a pound for every time I was asked by strangers on our walks if he was a Doberman, I would be a very rich woman indeed by now, but as the photos below show Freddie was really nothing like a Doberman in looks or temperament.
 
Freddie (note floppy ears, fatter face
and lots of tan colouring)


Typical Doberman (note pointed ears,
 slimmer face and less tan markings)




Freddie had a lovely nature and was as soft as grease. He was simply adorable and quickly integrated into the family. When Kay had some of her friends over at parties or sleepovers, Freddie would put up with no end of pulling and tugging from the boisterous kids, but never once bared his teeth. I would have been willing to place bets that you could put him a in a room with a defenceless baby and he would not have harmed a hair on its head. (mind you, I can't say I would have the same faith in him if he were alone in the room with a cat or squirrel, as they were like red rag to a bull to him). We would take him with us on our annual holidays and he even had one of the first generation of pet passports, so he ended up travelling to Ireland, France and Germany with us, as well as Scotland and all over England.

When Greg died in 2010, Snoopy was a tower of strength for me. He gave me a reason to get up each morning, take him out for his morning walk, no matter what the weather, and was literally someone to talk to as Kay was already away at university. He would curl up on one side of my bed at night and still be there in the morning, encouraging me to get up and feed him! 
 
 
Two and a half years ago, Freddie developed chronic gastric problems, alternating between diarrhoea and vomiting. The vet reckoned from blood results that he had either liver or pancreas problems, possibly a tumour, but he was already of an age where to be opened up and undergo invasive tests was probably not a good idea.  Already back in 2011, I was preparing myself for our parting and not looking forward to it. But Freddie surprised us all and, although he had many ups and downs, he always managed a good walk in the morning and periods in-between where he was fine.

As more time went by, he had signs of arthritis too and would often lick his wrists to relieve the pain in them. Unfortunately any painkillers prescribed by the vet irritated his gut, so he could not take them for more than a few days without them making him sick or causing diarrhoea.

In addition to all that, in the spring of this year,  aged 14, he became incontinent and I had to cover the sofas and his own bed with waterproofing and nappy squares to cope with it. (Fortunately by now, his arthritis meant he could not jump up onto my bed anymore, so he slept on his own bed). His bedding and the sofa throws over the waterproofed sofas were getting a daily wash and my poor old washing machine coped admirably with the extra loads, sometimes three or four times daily.

Sadly a few weeks ago, things got even worse, as Freddie became doubly incontinent and began pooing absent-mindedly in the house.  It was a nightmare, when I had to take him to my mother at the start of her house move, as I was terrified he would muck the house up for the new owners, but I followed him around like a shadow and made sure there were no accidents.

By now I had began to discuss with Kay the possibility of putting him to sleep and she came down for a long weekend to see him and discuss it with me. We dithered and postponed the deed, because apart from the incontinence he was still the same lovable old rogue we knew and was still loving his walks and looking at us adoringly. How could we walk him in to the vet, with only minor inconveniences wrong with him, and have him put down? As if to steer us in the right direction, fate was to intervene.

On Monday 28th October, I instantly knew something was wrong. He did not want to get out of his bed and come downstairs with me and by mid-morning, Kay and I tried to cajole him. It was apparent, he could not stand on his legs, so we carried him downstairs in a blanket and supported him, while he did a wee in the garden. As we returned him to his bed, he was trembling with pain. We knew the time had come and there was no backward glance as I rang the vet.

Now, the vet is a one-man band whom we have used ever since Freddie was a puppy. To my horror, the vet was not at work that day, but away at a conference.......... something he never did, but of course had chosen that very day I needed him! In a way, I was relieved we could defer the appointment to the next day, as it meant 24 more hours with Freddie. I gave him a painkiller to ease any pain and we went to bed that night thinking we had made the right decision.

Next morning, Freddie, energised by the painkiller, was up on his feet, as soon as I opened my eyes, and he hopped, skipped and jumped down the stairs to the kitchen. He foraged round the rubbish bin, as he often did, and sniffed around the base of the cupboards for crumbs. He was his old self. We had to remind ourselves that it was the painkiller talking and that he would only stand a few days of that before he was vomiting or pooing liquids. We were also pretty certain that if we had gone back on our decision, he might well have relapsed in a day or two again and Kay would not have been there to say the final goodbye. We decided to go ahead with our decision, having taken the courage at last after so long to make one at all. With heavy hearts, we fed him his favourite foods, (which latterly had always upset him), took him for a nice leisurely walk in his favourite park, followed by a car-ride to the vet.

I know, he was nearly fifteen, which is a grand age for a dog of his size, and that he had a lot of things going wrong with him. I know too that I had put up with six months of his incontinence, when others have told me they wouldn't have done. However, if we had been able to put him to sleep on the day his legs collapsed, there would have been no contest, but the fact that he rallied round the next day has left me with the feeling that I killed him. 

People ask me, if I am going to get another dog. My answer doesn't need thinking about. It's a clear and resounding "No". There will never be another dog that would come close to the wonderful dog Freddie was, who would be as loving, as intelligent, as docile, as caring, as funny, as......... Freddie-like.  When we lose a close relative, we don't replace them, do we? Freddie was one of  our family, not just a dog.  He's irreplaceable.

I like to think of him up in doggie heaven now, watching over me, as I blunder along on my own.  Rest in Peace, Freddie. You are sorely missed.

12 November 2013

The Highs and Lows of October

October was a bit of a blur. One minute it was September, suddenly it's mid-November and the bit inbetween has passed me by. Not in an I've-been-unconscious sort of way. More in an I've-not-had a minute to myself kind of way. In a nutshell, it has been manic. Mostly good, partially bad, but manic nonetheless.

First, the good news..........

My mother has moved up to London and is now 5 minutes drive from me. The sale of her house went relatively smoothly. Exchange of contracts was 26 September with a completion/moving date of 25 October. I had labelled the move in three phases:
  1. Moving out of her 4-bedroom house on the coast
  2. Staying a week with me while her furniture was in storage, so that we could have her retirement flat decorated and double-glazing put in
  3. Moving in to the retirement flat

Known for my good organisation (I have lists for everything and even lists of lists) I planned it meticulously like the Cabinet Office sorting out World War II. Not a detail was left behind. Gradually over the first few weeks of October, it all fell into place like a well-rehearsed play with nobody forgetting their lines or missing a cue. Even the weather behaved itself. It had been rain, rain and rain for most of the month, but on moving day, the sun shone, it was dry and we saw the furniture and 37 boxes of possessions off onto to the big van. (The removal men were heard to say "Doesn't your mother have a lot of china"!)  Phase One was a success.


 
 
 
Phase 2 went relatively well. In fact, apart from Hurricane Jude, it would have been a roaring success. Over the weekend preceding Phase 2 week, the news and weather reports had been heralding the arrival of Jude with all sorts of dire warnings and predicted mayhem, so our double-glazing team rang me to cry off their appointed installation on the Monday 28th and to regroup instead on the Tuesday.  With that being the only minor blip in the timetable, all else proceeded smoothly. The painters turned up on the Monday in storm conditions and had the flat completely painted by the Wednesday. On Thursday, I vacuumed the carpets to within an inch of their lives and we awaited Phase 3.
 
On Friday 1 November, the start of Phase 3, my mother and I stood in the empty flat bathed in sunshine and watched as the removal firm brought in her furniture and possessions. As I had suspected (and tried in vain to warn my mother several times) a four-bedroom house will not fit into a 1-bedroom flat. We had done some serious down-sizing, off-loaded many items to charity or left them behind in the house at the request of the new owner, but still there was too much to fit into the tiny flat. So far as furniture was concerned, we had a mahogany bookcase and a wing chair that seemed to be lacking a place to settle. (The former has now been donated to charity along with the books it once held and the wing chair sits determinedly squashed between two other items, making the lounge look like a doctor's waiting room! There were 37 boxes altogether to unpack and they were all clogging up the little space between the furniture, so there was nothing for it but to start unpacking with gusto. The removal firm had been paid to do the packing (but not unpacking) and had used a whole forest of paper to wrap even the smallest of items. Very soon my mother and I were standing head-height in scrunched-up paper and we still had thirty or more boxes to unpack! Over several days, we managed to unpack the possessions and find a home for most of it. We carefully folded each sheet of paper for the removal firm to reuse and it (and the boxes) were collected yesterday.
 
My mother is happy in her new home, has made lots of new friends already through an organised coffee morning and afternoon tea. There are other events scheduled over the coming weeks and her social life has improved 100%, not to mention the fact that I pop over most days. She wishes she'd made the move a lot earlier.
 
And now for the bad news. The very bad news.........
 
My beloved Snoopy has gone to the big park in the sky and I miss him terribly. I'll write more about that another day, when I feel I can, but his death on the Tuesday of phase 2 could not have come at a worse moment in some ways, although was a blessing in others.

 

29 October 2013

Heartbroken

Snoopy
 04.04.1999 - 29.10.2013

 My constant companion, my confidant, my rock.
Gave so much and asked for so little.
We shall miss you so much. x


 
 

16 October 2013

Have a good one

My gorgeous Dad (see here) would have been ninety today. Happy Birthday, wherever you are.

26 September 2013

In the nick of time

I swear I've got another few grey hairs overnight.   Selling my mother's house and buying her a retirement flat near to me was in theory easy peasy with only three of us in the chain (a cash buyer, us and a lady going into a home), but even so, it has taken since early July when offers were made until today when contracts were finally exchanged. Only in the nick of time, mind.  I won't bore you with the details about how the cash buyer turned out to be in reality a mortgage-buyer and the inevitable wait for surveys and reports to be done, shortfalls of money offered and solicitors working at snail's pace etc. 

Mum's buyer (MH) was off to the USA for a long-planned month's holiday this afternoon which meant if the contracts did not get exchanged today, it would be another month before we could do so. The vendor of the flat was getting impatient and threatening, if contracts were not exchanged by today, to pull out and sell to someone else (not that they had someone else in the frame). So with us in the middle being squeezed and dictated to by both sides, there was a lot of histrionics and nail-biting over the last few weeks trying to chivvy surveyors and solicitors to extract their digits and earn the fortune we are paying them. Contracts were exchanged at 1044 hours this morning and MH left for Heathrow at 1200 hours. Just an hour's difference between elation and utter despair.

We've got a month to sort out the removals and a million other things connected with it, but for now I'm just off to pour a glass of wine and find the hair dye.



24 September 2013

Ten green bottles

I know nothing about the programme that is going to be on ITV at 9pm tonight (Living with Paul Gascoigne), but am hoping it might give those of you who have never lived with alcoholism an insight into what it is like to live with an alcoholic.

Probably living on cloud cuckoo-land, Gascoigne may either not admit he has a  problem (denial) or think he can beat it (denial). He'll more than likely end up on a mortuary slab as another statistic (most probable outcome).  Alcoholics always seem to think they are going to lick this awful disease, but 90% never manage it. As one falls there is always another in denial to take their place.

This programme will be worth watching if only because (for me) it'll be like picking at a scab to relive the nightmare.

16 September 2013

Ashamed

I took a tram into Croydon this morning. There's one shop there which I don't have in my local neighbourhood, so I like to browse around there occasionally. I like travelling on the tram. It appeals to my sense of loss of not living anymore in Germany where trams are the norm and gives me just a small sense of feeling I am living somewhere foreign, which is not entirely deluded. 

The tram is full of all kinds of nationalities, creeds and persuasions.  The streets reflect the same. Glancing out of the window there are Latvian shops, Polish supermarkets, Jamaican cafes.  There's even a tramstop called Lebanon Road, where you could easily be, if you happen to count the number of burkahs walking along the road. Croydon has the potential to be one big melting pot, although the people don't always "melt" ......the recent tensions in the London riots a couple of years ago showed this. I suspect people do tend to get on well with one another, if given the chance, but Croydon has turned into a rather drab poverty-stricken area, where even the very fabric of the buildings shrieks for improvement and some TLC.

Across the aisle from me on the tram sat a very young black mother. A girl in her early twenties with a small toddler of about 2 years, if that, next to her.  At first, the child sat glued to the window (just like me), looking at all the interesting things going by on a sunny Monday morning. Not so his mother. She sat, face down less than six inches away from her mobile phone, texting. The child babbled turning excitedly to point out things to her, but still she texted. On and on she texted, as the tram went from stop to stop, never lifting her head once to glance at her son. The boy began to fidget and lost his shoe, trying to crawl under the seat to get it, but he was not able to reach it. He tried to get his mother's attention, but she was too busy texting and dragged him roughly back onto his seat. He sat there dangling one foot in a sock, the other with a shoe, looking under the seat at his lost shoe and by now his mother was distracted by something else - she was scrolling down to find something on the internet. The little fellow then got off the seat again and onto his knees, still trying to retrieve his shoe. At this point the mother, who remember had her mobile phone in one hand, whacked him in the chest with her free hand and dragged him forcefully by the scruff of his clothes back to his seat.  As she did so, she caught his head against the hard base of the seat which caused him to break out into howls and screams. To stop him getting off the seat again, she used her large handbag to pin him down and carried on staring into her mobile phone again, completely ignoring him. The boy howled and howled. The noise was deafening.  People stared into their laps or at the ceiling. Anywhere but at the boy. The woman opposite me began to tutt in disgust and I muttered as loudly as I could that the mother had had her head in the mobile phone for the entire journey. No reaction from the mother or anyone else. The howling went on until eventually it subsided into a few sobs and then quiet. Still the mum went on texting.

I am ashamed to say that NOBODY (me included) did or said a single damn thing. Going through my head was all the things I wanted to say to that mother. The poor kid was starved of attention or stimulation. The mother looked no more than a kid herself. Kids having kids. But did I say anything? Sure as hell, no.  And I'm ashamed of myself. I've spent the entire morning worrying about that little kid. Worrying about what slap he's getting now and what he's going to grow up like. And when the girl and her son got off the tram, everyone was glad they could stop looking in their lap. Shame on us all.

12 September 2013

Museum Piece

I told you my mum hoards things and can't bear to throw them away. If proof be needed, two items have been accepted by the local museum

One is a brown Bakelite electric hairdryer pretty much identical to this one 
in its own carry-case complete with mirror estimated to have been manufactured in about the 1940s or possibly even 1930s. It first belonged to my grandmother and I used to use it as a child.









The other is a set of kitchen weighing scales complete with weights similar to this one. 









I can't help having a big smile on my face that my mum's home is part of a museum!

09 September 2013

My whole life flashed before me - in a carrier bag

I'm convinced my mother has a carrier bag fetish. I've just spent the last ten days at her house clearing out cupboards and drawers of stuff that she'll have no room for when she moves out of her 4-bedroom house into the 1-bedroom retirement flat to be closer to me. Moving day is drawing ever closer as the solicitors and agents do their searches and wotnot so I have been cranking up our clearing out and preparations too.

My mother doesn't just keep a few things out of sentimentality. She hoards them. Not only that but she then wraps them in plastic carrier bags. The plastic bags are then put in groups inside larger plastic bags. Each bag is tied with a tight knot (presumably not only to stop things falling out but to keep them airtight too.) Sorting through her possessions has resulted in me tying to unpick knots from plastic bags, find more plastic bags (also knotted) within and eventual finding the contents - birthday cards going back decades, receipts of furniture bought in the 1950s, hospital appointment letters going back decades, a cocktail stirrer from a cruise, letters from relatives, restaurant bills, picture Kay drew as a child, pictures I drew as a child. They are all carefully put back in their envelopes (the stamps alone tell the history of the rise in postage over the last few decades).

Sorting through her wardrobes has also been an eye-opener. Birthday or Christmas presents carefully inserted back into the original wrapping paper lie unused (she would hate to insult the giver by using the present and ruining it!).  We have enough unopened bath foam to open a shop. As she's moving to a flat with a walk-in shower we may need to! In one of the bags in her wardrobe, I found two of my old school hats and a primary school blazer. She even asked me if I wanted to keep them. I mean, I am sixty-two.... would I still fit into them? Needless to say they were relegated to the textile recycling at the local dump. In the kitchen cupboards were at least twenty empty glass jars, just in case the urge to make jam or chutney descended upon her, as well as countless gadgets hardly used.

In ten days I have filled a huge packing box with hundreds of discarded plastic carrier bags (to keep just in case...); made several visits to the refuse tip with discarded paper, cards, and irrelevant items; humped countless bags full of stuff in reasonable condition to charity shops and filled my car to the roof on my return journey with stuff I might possibly be able to sell on ebay or keep myself (perish the thought that I am turning into my mother and Kay will be doing all this for me in a few years' time).


I have left her to fend for herself over the next few weeks (her cracked ribs are now nicely healed and she can cope on her own again). She is under strict instruction to wade through another 6 large containers of letters or documents inside bags inside bags and  be RUTHLESS. She is only to keep the very precious things to a minimum. What are the chances when I get back there, she's put them all back again in a knotted bag within a knotted bag?

27 August 2013

You take the high road and I'll take the low road

I hate motorways. Not just an "I prefer other roads if I can help it" sort of hate, but a full blown "I'm never going to go on another one ever again" sort of hate. I NEVER go on one as a driver and I avoid where at all possible going on them as a passenger. I think I'm a reject from another era and deep down prefer horse and carts to fast speeds.

I can pinpoint exactly where my hatred of motorways stems from. When I was newly married to Greg, I lived in Germany and used to bomb up and down the autobahns to explore other places. I confess to being a bit nervous even then of the lack of speed limits and the sinking feelings when someone came bombing even faster up behind expecting you to pull over even though it would mean swerving into a ten-ton truck you were overtaking, just so they could get past. But the big moment came one early evening in October 1978.

Greg and I had been out visiting another town that day and were on our way back home. It had been a real autumnal sort of day and now it was 6pm, dark, foggy and crisp. The roads were relatively busy and we had overtaken a fair few lorries and other traffic when we came up over a rise and the dark autobahn stretched ahead of us.  In the middle distance there were no cars and everything was swathed in darkness, but in the far distance we picked out a few cars that that seemed to be stationary with their flashers blinking. Greg slowed down as we drove into the dark middle ground between us and them , anticipating there may be trouble ahead. Suddenly Greg slammed on his brakes and swerved to the hard shoulder. There before us, in the dark empty space was the dead body of a horse, lying between the two lanes (this particular motorway only had two lanes as a lot of German motorways do/did). It became apparent very quickly that the horse had been decapitated.

Greg knew that we had overtaken a lot of bunched-up traffic and that they were probably less than a minute away from coming along this bit of road too, so he was fearful of a multiple pile-up. He jumped out of the car, ordering me to stay put, while he took the obligatory emergency triangle out of the boot and headed off on foot back down the motorway in the direction we had come, waving the emergency triangle at passing cars as he went. Fortunately he was wearing his favourite clothing which nearly always included a white Aran sweater, so he hoped to be spotted in people's headlights.

Meanwhile I sat in the car on the hard shoulder, dark fields to my right and a headless horse to my left which was beginning to steam in the cold of the evening. I was terrified Greg would be run over as he tried to do his good deed. What seemed like an eternity passed and Greg returned to the car having eventually got the traffic to slow and stop, aided soon after by the police doing the same. As we eventually set off again gingerly along the slow lane, we soon pieced together what had happened, because there in the throng of cars  we had seen ahead with their lights flashing, were a few people restraining a foal. It would seem the foal had run out onto the motorway from a field, its mother had followed and a car had hit the mother. It was a very sad way to end what had been a lovely day out for us.

After that I started to get very nervous on motorways and hated the speed, the way lorries would pull out, often without indicating and spent the entire journey digging my fingernails into my palms. Journeys between home in Germany and relatives in England would involve at least 8 hours on motorways and I hated them. Once we returned to England, any holidays in Britain began and ended with a nightmare journey for me.  Since Greg has died, I have studiously avoided motorways altogether and if I have had to travel long distances, I have opted for the train.

So it was with great pride and utter terror that I waved Kay off on Saturday to return to uni. She had passed her driving test a few months ago and we had bought a car about a month ago. Because she had been in Borneo she had little chance to drive it or practice in it. Greg's sister volunteered (without any prompting from me) to  come down from Lincolnshire and sit as a passenger with Kay while she drove it ooop north. My heart was in my mouth at the thought of my only-born hurling herself into the mayhem of the M25, then M11 and A1(M) northwards. To start on the M25 as your first ever motorway experience was more than a little brave, I thought.  To crown it all, the weather was typical Bank Holiday weather and the heavens opened with rain like stair-rods from morning to night. The whole world and its granny was on the move too, so that in places motorway speeds were reduced to 20mph or crawling. However, Kay also managed to get up to 70 mph (she said rather too gleefully) and even managed to overtake things too. They broke the journey in Lincolnshire, so Greg's sister could collect her own car and then do the second half of the journey on Sunday with Kay driving in her car behind, thus giving Kay the experience to cope with the drive entirely on her own, albeit following her aunty's car.

When Kay rang me on Sunday afternoon to say she had arrived at the other end safely, I was heartily relieved. She's made of sterner stuff than me. I am indebted to Greg's sister for doing the run with her. I do so wish Greg was still alive as I am sure he would be very proud of them both too.

19 August 2013

Savages

I've had one of those revolving door weeks - when Kay returned from a trip to the Far East, was home for a few days, sprinkled her belongings liberally throughout the house turning it into a tip, dumped her laundry and was back out again to the V-Fest music festival weekend.

She'd had a great time in Borneo, once known for its head-hunters. Far from being savages, she found the Malaysians very friendly, eager to help and not too keen on trying to sell you something you didn't really want. They didn't push their tourism on you but were full of suggestions when you needed them. She spent three days in the jungle under her own steam and visited this wonderful place, taking thousands of photos of macaques, proboscis monkeys, orang-utans, toucans, crocodiles and much much more. Although I bit my fingers down to the knuckles as I anticipated her flying from place to place by air or taking 7-hour bus rides and being dumped in the middle of the jungle on a quiet country road, she survived and came home to tell the tale and give me her dirty laundry!

The music festival was less successful. For a start, it had cost half the amount it had cost for a one-way ticket to Borneo. She'd staggered up there with not only her own luggage but our 8-man tent to house her and some of her mates. The main attraction on Saturday (let's just call it a woman with a name like B*****e) was rubbish, keeping them waiting for half an hour before she deigned to put in an appearance and then disappearing for copious costume-changes. Whilst standing shoulder to jammed shoulder in the throng, Kay had had some stranger's urine thrown over her from afar. On returning to the tent on Sunday evening, the girls found someone had decided to trash their tent - they'd jumped on it, bent the poles, made a large hole in the canvas and vomited on it for good measure. The tent was one of our best tents, but it's now been binned.

Now, tell me who the savages are.

16 August 2013

Ninety years young

My gorgeous mum is 90 years old today.  She doesn't want to be and is clinging on to her 80s with all her might.

As an 18-month old child in 1925, she saw off double pneumonia and whooping cough , which she and her two sisters all caught at the same time.  It resulted in her younger and older sister dying within a few days of one another and it left Mum considerably weaker.

She saw off a poor childhood during the Depression,  often having nothing to eat for a meal except mashed potato.

She saw off the Germans during the Second World War, although ended up marrying one who was a refugee here. He conquered her heart while they worked together on the land (she as a Land Army Girl and he driving tractors).

She saw off a happy 54-year-old marriage, when my Dad bravely fought leukaemia and lost the battle.

She fought (and often lost) against the crippling pain of arthritis and scoliosis which has curved her spine beyond all recognition.

She has even recently fought and survived cracked ribs.

However, time waits for no man and, despite her not wanting to celebrate her ninetieth, because she does not feel old enough, I give you my gorgeous mum at ninety...........

05 August 2013

POSTCARDS

I've always loved receiving postcards and have kept them from as long as I can remember in an old chocolate box. I didn't consciously start to do that, but it seemed such a shame to throw them away when someone had taken the trouble to send me one and the pictures transported me to places I had never seen, so I liked to look at them from time to time. I can remember in the Fifties when I was a little girl getting postcards from a great uncle and aunt who had ventured as far afield as Spain (that was a long way to travel in those days) and they sent me several postcards with flamenco dancers depicted on the front with real material tiered dresses. Whether the postcards were from within the UK or abroad, I still liked to keep them. Over the years, I must have gathered hundreds

Recently I got to thinking that people don't seem to send postcards any more.  With email and wifi, we seem to be more into electronic contact these days. Kay, just for example although not to single her out, will text or email or Skype from wherever she is, but she doesn't send a postcard. It's a real shame as a postcard is a visual reminder of what happened whilst away and can still be looked at in 20 or 40 years time, where an email or text most probably won't stand the test of time. Also, I know I can google an image of the place someone is visiting to get an idea of what the place looks like, but it is not the same as that postcard dropping on my doormat, having come hundreds and often thousands of miles to get to me.