07 July 2020

Shed a tear

My late husband, Greg, wasn't a carpenter, although I suppose he had it in his genes - his grandfather was a carpenter in Northumberland and, in the Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, headed south looking for work. Greg subsequently inherited all his grandfather's tools and used to like nothing better than to potter around in his spare time, making sideboards, cupboards and bookshelves. I suppose it helped relax him, as his job was very stressful and required a lot of mental input, whereas tinkering around with wood allowed him to empty out. One of his projects was this natty little garden shed-cum-bench for our patio garden. 



Our patio garden is too small for a conventional shed, so this fitted the bill. Small enough to look inconspicuous, large enough to house a few garden tools, some herbicides and sundry garden chemicals with a little bench to sit on as an added bonus. Greg made it a good 20 years ago, long before alcohol became a more attractive hobby for him.



However, over the intervening years,  it has fallen into disrepair, as a closer inspection of the above photo shows. I have tried to get it to limp along with the aid of filler and duct-tape,  every time bits of wood fell off. I have painted it several times to keep it looking dapper. But finally it has given up the ghost and, if it weren't for the fence behind it, it would have keeled over and crashed into a thousand pieces.

Ever keen to keep Greg's little shed with us, I recently hired a carpenter to completely replicate it. Observing lockdown rules, he would access the patio garden via a side alley without coming through my house.  I had taken great pains to watch the weather forecasts and we agreed on a date right in the middle of a very dry spell as we did not want the wood to get wet while it was being made or while it was being painted. Unfortunately, he let me down twice and made lame excuses each time the night before he was due.  It was irritating because he was not doing his normal self-employed work because of lockdown and was home all the time, so his excuses were a bit feeble, particularly as he let me down each time at midnight the night before he was due, on one occasion saying he had to take his son somewhere.  Considering I was giving him some much-needed money and he was going to work outdoors, so no risk of contagion, it was a bit much.  

He finally told me he was coming to do the job on the Sunday before last - the wettest week of the summer so far - and it took all of four hours to make it. For the money he charged I was expecting a whole day's labour or a shed the size of a bungalow!

Anyway, this was how the carpenter left it.


No description available.



No description available.

I had offered to paint it, as I enjoy painting, but because of the delay in getting the shed made, I was then faced with painting it in the worst of the weather. The days following consisted of wall-to wall rain or showers at unexpected times of the day and quite at variance with the forecasts. Trying to nip out between showers and prime it, undercoat it and topcoat it, allowing the required eight hours for each coat to dry, was a nightmare. I had to keep covering the shed with an old shower curtain and polythene to protect it, as I did not want to paint over wet wood or get rain on the paint. There were heavy winds too blowing all sorts of tree seeds and grit all over the wet paint. 

I shed a tear (see what I did there?) to see the old one go, but Greg's shed lives on, albeit a complete reincarnation. After what seemed an eternity in getting it built and painted, the new shed now finally looks like this....





08 June 2020

Relapse

Supermarket wine aisles to shrink, says Bibendum buyer - Decanter
picture from decanter.com

With Covid-19 still wreaking havoc where it can, our supermarkets are getting into the fine art of making customers social-distance. Well, most of them are - there are still reports that a few have not completely mastered it. As I am classed as "vulnerable", I am getting online supermarket deliveries to avoid any social contact, so I have no personal experience of the new systems,  but I read on a local social media site, that our local supermarket has a system where, when it comes to the checkout, customers are being made to form a single queue down one aisle and only proceed to the cashier(s) when they are at the head of that queue. That allows customers to keep to the advised distance from one another in the queue, not clog up all the aisles with queues and to approach the cashiers, when directed to do so, so there is only one customer alone with a cashier at any one time. That all makes good sense and, maybe, that is what is being adopted generally. However, it seems our local supermarket has picked the alcohol aisle for the queue to wait. 

The person who reported this on social media wrote of a woman in front of them getting very twitchy and on her mobile phone to someone. As the queue slowly moved forward, the woman got more and more panicky and was heard to say they could not cope with being in the alcohol aisle any longer, as the temptation was too much. In the end, they abandoned their trolley and rushed out of the supermarket. The supposition was that the person was a recovering alcoholic and being too close to that temptation in a very slow-moving queue was too much for them. I suppose any aisle chosen for the queue is going to be a problem either in terms of whether it has popular items which would attract a large volume of customers trying to get past those queueing, or where there are temptations for others (my personal nightmare would be queuing in the chocolate aisle), but it seems the alcohol aisle could be the undoing of many a hard recovering addict. Supermarket managers please note.

22 May 2020

BLOG

I cannot believe that it is twelve years since I wrote my first tentative post on my blog. At the time, my life was so topsy turvy, living with an alcoholic husband, who was in and out of hospital; trying to keep life normal for a growing teenager with important exams on the horizon; walking a dog; helping an aged, partially-disabled mother; and keeping a household going single-handedly. I felt I was slowly sinking. 

I had been drawn to blogland by one or two quite well-known blogs which featured in the daily press at the time and quite quickly dipped into more along the way. To start with I was just a reader, but one blogger, asked why I didn't blog. I remember thinking "what on earth I have I got to blog about that anyone would be interested in?"  Then one day, a particularly awful day, when my mood was in my boots, I suddenly felt the need to write it all down to empty my feelings out and lighten my load. I had shared my problems of living with an alcoholic with nobody. Neither friends, nor wider family, nor neighbours knew a single thing. Those privy to the bare outlines (and I mean bare outlines) of the truth consisted of my mother and my sister-in-law but, as they geographically lived a long way away, I hardly saw them enough to share the minutiae of my troubles with them. I had bottled everything up inside until I was going to blow a gasket. So on that very bad day, I just sat down and typed and typed without stopping. Suddenly the penny dropped. This was not just my story, but there must be others in the same circumstances out there too. Maybe this was the beginnings of my blog. 

So twelve years ago, I wrote this.  I remember tentatively hesitating before I pressed the "Publish" button. I didn't think anyone would actually read it really and, in any case, it was mainly written for me. Did I want to wash my laundry in public? But, hell, nobody would read it anyway. I pressed "Publish". To my utter amazement I received eight comments within a few weeks and so my blogging existence began. I had readers!

Since then, its readership has waxed and waned. At the height of things I maybe got 40 to 70 comments. Now I am lucky to have three. I suppose the tale was quite gripping at the time, as the twists and turns of my marriage changed dramatically and Greg's condition worsened. Obviously, my ramblings since have become less about alcoholism and more about general things and interest has tailed off. I do however take great comfort from the fact that many people living with an alcoholic have found the blog a great help and even alcoholics themselves have thanked me for helping them to steer away from what was on the cards, if they continued drinking, having seen the tragic outcome for my husband.

Sometimes, I think I have run out of steam. Twelve years is a long time to keep a blog going, particularly as its original purpose is long finished.  Yet I also feel it has been a useful tool to look back on the past - a sort of online diary - particularly to sometimes punch myself what that alcoholic past looked like, as the passing years have mellowed the reality somewhat. So I sometimes keep going for that alone. Having said that, I am not sure whether I shall continue or not. Maybe now is the end of the road. Or maybe there is more road ahead. Right now, I cannot make that call. 

25 April 2020

What is this world

Leisure
by William Henry Davies (1871-1940)


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


I've been cooped up indoors for the last two weeks, doing my bit to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, staying at home and protecting myself into the bargain too. I have too much information direct from the front line to know that I don't particularly want to catch this virus any day soon (if at all) and would prefer to wait until my local Intensive Care has the capacity to take me, which, because of my age, it won't at present. Too many people are being cavalier about how they take their exercise and see it as a right to go as often and as far as they damn please. They won't be so smug, when they get to their local hospital and find no room at the inn. The government's advice on exercise is their compromise to stop us all going crazy indoors, but not meant to be an excuse for a day's outing or holiday or whoop-up. We are supposed to be staying at home, where at all possible, and only going out when it is essential.  Short bursts of exercise, short distances. When will people finally get the message? When it's too late?

I have limited my exercise to doing it at home -pilates and yoga both online and from books. I have limited my fresh air to sitting outside my back door and soaking up the sunshine. But yesterday, after two weeks at home, I felt it was high time to stretch my legs just a little bit further from home. Nothing drastic, just a 40 minute walk round the block from my house, taking in the local park. Unfortunately, a lot of people failed to observe the two-metre distancing. One narrowly missed me as he thundered past on his bike. I don't think I'll repeat that in a hurry.

As I walked, the poem above came into my mind and I took advantage of my rare outing to notice those things I normally have little time to notice. Nature is really excelling itself at the moment and the colours are amazing. What is this world, indeed, if we have no time to stand and stare..... Maybe when we get back to normal, we'll take more time to stand and stare and not hurry back to the things that distract us. If Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is to value the simple things in life.




London City skyline from my local park


Local park woodland


Bluebell woods in the park

A witch's stake or the beginnings of a teepee?

A mighty oak











08 April 2020

She is all I have

We are into our third week (or is it more? - it seems forever) of Coronavirus reality in the UK. Each day's television press conference and news seems to get worse and I can feel my anxiety levels rising. We know what it has been like in places like China, Italy and Spain. We know we are only a couple of weeks behind the last two in terms of the pandemic's progress, so we know what is still to come. The statistics roll off the experts' tongues as they stand at their podiums each day. It is difficult to keep those numbers in our heads, yet they seem dire enough whatever they are.

I have been a good girl and stayed inside as best I can.  With modern technology, isolation is not the ghastly thing it once might have been. People I have not spoken to in years are already phoning me, video-calling me and writing to me. I am taking part in online pilates classes, Gareth Malone's online Great British Choir and many more. I have been gardening, tidying cupboards, sorting through the jobs I keep putting off. I am already into my second week alone and it has been no big deal. Worse things happen in a proper war.

Although I am not yet 70, I am only a few months off that milestone and I am pretty sure the virus is not going to be able to tell whether I am 69 or 70 when it strikes. However, I do have an underlying health condition which might make me more vulnerable. I have sarcoidosis - a granulation of the lung tissue - in itself no great problem and I have only minor irritating symptoms for which I do not take any medication, so I must not grumble, but I have no idea how it would react if I caught the nasty coronavirus.  For that reason, I am being cautious and  Kay has given me strict instructions to stay at home at all costs. "You are all I have," she says tearfully, which is true, and she is all I have. For that reason, she moved out 10 days ago into hospital accommodation to protect me, as I explained in my last post, so she is coping with this on her own and so am I. 

She is all I have.  My anxiety is not helped by the fact that at the end of last week she was asked to transfer from her current ward to work in Intensive Care for the foreseeable future. That means she will be even more on the frontline than she ever was before. This wretched virus does not discriminate between old and young any more,  or between healthy and unhealthy. It seems it can strike anyone dead. Its transmission rates are incredible. I wonder if she is more at risk because she is exposed to it more? I wonder? Who really knows? I worry. 

She is all I have. She offered to do my shopping for me to stop me going out and did a massive big shop before she left 10 days ago. I am slowly getting through it, but will need more fresh stuff by the end of this week. She offered to do some more shopping and bring it home for me, dump it on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and drive off. However, I did not want to put her under any more pressure after an exhausting week of very long hours at work, as she is an hour's drive from here, so I tried to get an online delivery from my usual supermarket. I could not get a delivery slot for love nor money at any time over the next three weeks that they publish. On their website they urge you to ring a number if you consider you are in a vulnerable group and have not been contacted, so I tried - a good twenty times over several days - but lines were overloaded and a recorded voice told me to try later. Then the message was changed to one of asking you to register on gov.uk. They would check your eligibility with your GP and get back to you. I was sceptical, but was overjoyed several days ago to get the all-clear and plenty of choice of delivery slots - I now have one organised for Thursday. I feel relieved that I don't have to haul Kay back here to deliver it.

She is all I have.  People are being advised to stay home if at all possible. Except for essential shopping. Except to collect medicines. Except for some minimal exercise a walkable distance from home. Except for work, if they are key workers or cannot work from home. The result is that there have been many people who have abused this. On a local facebook group, there have been idiots who clearly have no intention of heeding the advice and are galavanting about the country visiting the beach, picnicking in parks and clearly not giving a f***.  Idiots, who think they are above the rest of us, maintain they are not doing any harm and can do what the hell they like. One man argued on social media with others in the community,  that he had the right to go out and buy a paintbrush if he considered it essential. He has bragged that he was off to Hastings for the day today and would buy a magnum of champagne if he so wished, as that too could be considered essential. Part of me wondered if he was just trying to rile the rest of the group, but another part of me has seen previous posts from this idiot and I think he was serious. He argues that he is avoiding contact with anyone, but doesn't seem to realise he may already be a carrier and everything he touches, might be touched by someone else following him.  It almost seems like there is a  (thankfully very small) part of the community who thinks this whole thing is a joke and a major irritation in their daily lives. If they could see the deaths my daughter is witnessing on a daily basis, they might think again.   Is it so much to expect people to stay inside for a few months and limit outings to the "essential" if it means they are not the indirect cause of someone else's death? People have given up far worse in wartime, having loved ones on the front, children evacuated, food shortages and living in air-raid shelters to name a few.  Am I to sacrifice the health and maybe even the life of my daughter, so these idiots can do what they damn like?

She is all I have. So please stay at home. We need to isolate ourselves, so that we can isolate the virus and halt its progress. The virus is otherwise having a whale of a time jumping from human to unsuspecting human to repopulate in the next person. If we all get it at once, there is no hope in hell we shall have enough medical capacity to cope with it and more people will die. What if one of those destined to die for lack of vital equipment was your loved one? What if you took an unnecessary car journey, had an accident and the ICU beds were too full to take you? My 28-year-old daughter is having to make decisions who lives and who dies. No human should have to make that decision yet alone one so young and tender. I hear the tension and exhaustion in her voice when I speak to her. If people refuse to observe the advice and courtesies for other human life, what kind of people are they? 

She is all I have. So please stay at home unless you need essentials or some minimal exercise close to home, adhering at all times to the two-metre distance from human contact.  End of.

31 March 2020

Coronavirus

You may have heard something about a little bug called Coronavirus (or Covid-19, as it is grandly called) that is doing the rounds. It's not as if it has been mentioned much!! To be fair, you can't see it or smell it or taste it, but it can see you, makes a beeline for you, lays you very low and, if you survive, makes you lose your sense of smell and taste. It's incredible that such a tiny little organism can create so much chaos in the world and knows no boundaries. It has a whole Schengen zone of its own, except it covers the entire world. It has caused so much anxiety and panic, as well as changed all our lives in so many different ways. 

My own life has changed beyond recognition. Just at a time when I was beginning to branch out and find a life for myself, joining pilates classes, choir sessions and volunteering at food banks to name a few, these have all gradually come to a stop. Medical appointments and lunches have fallen by the wayside too. My diary is full of crossings out and nothing to do for the weeks and months stretching ahead. I have a new car, but nowhere to go with it, or at least I could try, but might get stopped by the police and asked whether my journey was necessary. It is sitting on my drive, gathering dust. So far I know two people who have caught the virus - my friend in Brighton and Kay's boyfriend. Both have been self-isolating and both have lost their sense of smell.

Kay was invited to four weddings this year - all very close friends of hers. So far three have been cancelled. The fourth is in October and hanging in the balance. The ceremony for Kay to receive her certificate from the Royal College of Physicians (which allows her to put MRCP behind her name) is also cancelled. More crossings out in the diary.

The whole coronavirus business has brought out the best and worst in people. By and large, people have come together in an almost wartime spirit to help one another in their need. Local groups have been emailing me or posting leaflets through my letterbox offering help with shopping, if I need it, or asking me to volunteer to shop, if I am able.  Fitness people have been posting free videos online to keep us fit and stop us going stir-crazy. NHS staff and the elderly are being given special shopping hours to shop at supermarkets before the mob of looters grab the entire stock off the shelves. An army of volunteers have signed up to do any of the much-needed jobs to support the NHS and other key workers required in this crisis. I even found a bouquet of flowers on my doorstep wrapped in newspaper with no card, so I have no idea whom to thank, but somebody obviously intended them for me or Kay.




There are a few people (there's always some) who do their worst. There's the ones that are buying 10 multipacks of toilet roll, no doubt to paper their walls with, as they cannot possibly use all that in a few weeks. I've heard of people snatching the last tin of beans from a frail old lady and even heard of how an old lady locally was mugged on her way home and her bag full of shopping stolen. Kay tells me of an NHS colleague who has a six-month-old baby, went into a supermarket after her shift, near to closing time, to get some tins of powdered formula milk for the baby. She found two tins left on the shelf and was just about to take both, when a man grabbed one out of her hand and said he needed it desperately, as his wife is Vegan and uses it in her coffee. Kay's colleague was so flabbergasted, she handed one of the tins over, but then wished she hadn't, when she thought of the cheek of it. Then there are the scams that are cashing in on people's vulnerability.

I can also report that the Alcoholic Daze household has been badly affected by this snivellin' little sh*t of a virus. Kay is a hospital doctor and working right on the frontline to use the analogy of war, which is so prevalent at the moment. Last week she was on-call, which meant she was going around the entire hospital dealing with emergencies that arose. She saw four patients diagnosed with Covid-19 with just a flimsy paper mask for protection. You don't need to be an expert to know that puts her very much at risk of getting it pretty soon. Because I am almost 70 (well a few months off, but that isn't going to stop a virus having fun beforehand) and have a very minor (but nevertheless) lung complaint called sarcoidosis, I have no idea how I would fare with this virus. I am generally very fit and healthy for my age, but the virus is indiscriminately killing people a quarter of my age. So Kay has decided she cannot risk bringing the virus home. The hospital had offered to provide free accommodation to any staff who live with a vulnerable person, so Kay has been allocated a  free room at a large chain hotel and she moved out from here yesterday morning with two large suitcases, a yoga mat, weights, sewing kits, food and her laptop. She is exhausted, Her colleagues are exhausted. They've had a few major problems at work over the last few months over certain issues with management and are weary of being taken for granted and weary from the long hours they put in. Morale is low. Now they are being used as cannon fodder to deal with this crisis, with no suitable protection and with forthcoming decisions that no human should have to make. Our parting yesterday morning was tearful, as we have no idea when we shall see one another again. It could be many months. If she catches the virus, as catch it she will, she will have to self-isolate in a lonely hotel room. I am really worried for her.

I am holed up in my house on my own, with nowhere to go and afraid to walk far, as joggers round here pay scant attention to social distancing and the 2-metre rule, as I have found to my cost. Instead, I plan to attack overflowing drawers and cupboards, tidy the garden and maybe even do a spot of decorating, if the whim takes me. I'm also taking advantage of free online pilates classes and phoning people I haven't spoken to in months. There is a wealth of memes doing the rounds and some are hilarious. Anything that makes you laugh is surely good. I leave you with one that had me crying with laughter.







20 March 2020

Changes

I have been a little more absent in Blogland of late, as you may have noticed.  This has been partly because I have been preoccupied with other stuff, mainly of the technological kind and THAT can cause lesser mortals like me to go into meltdown.

Basically, Life had conspired to bring me to a point at New Year, where I needed a new mobile phone, a new laptop AND a new car simultaneously. I am not a creature who likes change. The fact that I have lived in the same house for 32 years bears witness to that, as well as the fact that my car is now 21 years old. Not being one to cope with change and technological change at that, I had put off, doing anything about them, until the fates conspired and meant I had no choice. Not wanting to make said changes all at once, I decided to go slow and take one at a time, read the manual, get used to it and then move on to the next. It seemed like a good plan.

The mobile phone seemed the easiest to tackle. My three-year-old 8GB smartphone was struggling with updating apps and kept telling me I had not got any room for updating or could not access things. Salesmen laughed in my face and said 8GB was needed just to make the phone perform its basic functions and that nowadays 64GB was the norm. I researched online and chose what I wanted, went into the shop and bought it. Now, some eight weeks on, I am well used to it and so glad I upgraded. My phone is now functioning without telling me to delete stuff and I'm adding on apps like it's going out of fashion.

The next thing to tackle was a new laptop. As many of you will know, Windows 7 ceased to update as of mid-January. Whilst it is still possible to work with Windows 7, lack of updates can cause security issues and my bank had already emailed me and a million others to warn of severe caution using internet banking on Windows 7. My laptop is 10 years old and I had been thinking of replacing it anyway. Many's the time I had felt like flinging it through a window when it would not load up a program and the little wheel went round and round and round and..... You could hear my expletives a mile off.

Replacing said laptop with a brand new Windows 10 model was not to be the easiest thing I have done in my life. I spent a good while researching. A friend helped advise me on RAMs, storage, drives, screens and reliable models. I read up the online reviews of previous customers.  I drew up lists of pros and cons on a lot of models, went to inspect them at two different retailers, several times, although not all models were on display. Round and round the showrooms I went, getting more confused in the process. On many the picture quality was appalling. Screens seemed dull and grainy. They made my eyes go in different directions. They were supposedly anti-glare but were far inferior to the glossy-glass versions, which of course were far more expensive or only available on much smaller screen sizes. I do a lot of photo-editing in my spare time and the screens were not up to that. I thought I had found the perfect one, only to be told it was out of stock and not likely to be available for a good while. The search continued. I eventually bought one that seemed to fit the bill but was not available in the showroom. I had to cross the vast expanse of London to find the last model available. I started to set it up only to discover the salesman had ill-advised me. His assurances that the model had a glass screen and not a matt one were false and the picture quality was awful. I took it back and got a refund.

The laptop search so traumatised me, I decided to shelve further searches for a while and concentrate on a new car. I already knew what I fancied - a small run-around town car. I don't do a lot of long-distance driving and hate motorways with a passion, so a compact Hyundai i10 seemed to fit the bill for what I wanted. I did a test drive (my old car is so old it doesn't even have power steering and central locking, so even that was a learning curve as well as all the gizmos on the dashboard and steering wheel!) I had intended to buy a one-year-old model, as I was not keen on losing £2000 depreciation value the moment I drive a brand new one out of the showroom, but the salesman threw in a curve ball. He had a brand new one, special edition PLAY model. As an ex-civil servant I was entitled to a £1000 reduction and he was offering £250 for my old heap of metal junk in exchange, so for an extra £750 I was getting a brand new car. Plus a year's road tax, 5-year warranty, 5 year breakdown cover with RAC, metallic paint, tinted windows, integral satnav and a full tank of petrol. What was there to think about? It seemed too good a deal to refuse. I picked it up yesterday.  I was sad to see the old workhorse go, so here's a picture of the old one for all posterity....


....but I have swapped it for this.....



....and shall no doubt fill the next few months growing to love that too. Meanwhile the hunt for a laptop continues. I may be gone some time.....

06 March 2020

Ten Years

It's hard to believe, at times, but today is the tenth anniversary of Greg's death. Ten years since I watched him die after a week of Intensive Care in hospital and after six years of even more intensive alcohol addiction. Six years of him drinking to excess, shouting, swaying, slumbering and crisis after crisis. Six years of Kay and me treading on eggshells, fearful to invoke another angry outburst from him, living in fear of the house burning down from one of his fallen cigarettes, hoping in vain a miracle would happen and that he would stop drinking. Ten years have since passed, adjusting to the calm; feeling more relaxed, yet getting angry at what life could have been now but for the alcohol; feeling nostalgic for happier times. So many emotions, so many wishes, so many dashed plans.

I still miss him. Of course, I do. You cannot throw away the thirty-nine years we spent together without feeling something. Thirty-three of those years were happy. It was just those very last six years, but six years that unfortunately hung a huge cloud over the rest.  A huge cloud that enveloped me so much it occluded the previous happier times. I have tried over the ten years to keep busy in various ways to smother the memories, good or bad, but occasionally those memories bubble to the surface.

The last ten years have, however,  seen me mellow. Gradually. Not at first, because the anger and resentment fought to be the prime emotions. Why him?  Why me? Why us? But over the years I have come to understand more about addiction and its companion, depression. My anger has turned to pity, to sadness, to longing and now to acceptance. 

Kay too has been through a whirlpool of emotions over the last ten years, struggling to maintain the equilibrium whilst coping with studies at school and uni, forging new friendships and becoming an adult. I have seen it affect her in so many ways. She has now also more or less come to terms with it, but I notice it still gets to her sometimes, like last week when she asked if I could lay my hands on a certain photo - "the last one I had taken with him" she adds with a wobble in her voice.

Today we are both visiting his home town in the Midlands to mark the occasion at the spot where we scattered his ashes. We shall talk to him, update him on the latest news, reprimand him for being a naughty boy and tell him how much we miss him.

I have often thought about the possibility of having another relationship, but cannot even bring myself to start the very beginnings.  Part of me thinks it would feel like a betrayal. Part of me feels I cannot cope with any more tugs on my emotions, particularly if it all went wrong.  I have learned to be stronger, to be a survivor.  Even if I say it myself, I have coped remarkably well solo. I have been without him for ten years. A quarter of the time we were together. My logic tells me I cannot keep on marking the anniversaries forever. Ten years seems a good enough place to stop.

03 February 2020

Twiddling

In an attempt to stop myself grazing on chocolate and other unhealthy rubbish, while I watch TV in the evenings (something I do far too much these days - both grazing and watching TV, but what's a widowed girl to do on these long dark evenings?), I have taken up knitting. I've been doing it for a couple of years now to try and keep my hands busy and to stop them from reaching out for yet another biscuit or bag of crisps. I try to keep slim, but it is so difficult on cold winter nights when it gets dark so early and too cold to venture out alone in the evenings. It's also a pastime that can be done quite easily in conjunction with watching mindless stuff on TV, as I don't need to look down to knit.

For the past two years I have knitted zillions of squares to make into patchwork blankets for animal rescue centres.  I have blogged about this before - see here. I took a load to our local rescue centre last year and a couple of weeks ago, Kay and I went to Battersea to deliver 28 blankets to The Battersea Cats' and Dogs' Home. It was so lovely to wander round and required a very hard heart indeed to leave without a cat and dog under each arm. We were more than sorely tempted.

However, I was getting a little tired of knitting squares and my attention was drawn at new year to another outlet for my needles. Two people at the new year party I went to had relatives with dementia and we got on to the subject of twiddle muffs. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, they are like hand muffs for people with dementia. They are decorated with all sorts to attract the attention of the dementia patient and are a sort of Western version of worry beads in that the patient twiddles with or strokes the sewn-on novelties to calm them. With this in mind, I looked up a pattern on the internet and got cracking. With one person's husband in mind,  I decided not to make it too feminine. His favourite colour is green, so with that in mind, I proceeded to knit a piece 30 cm (12 inches) wide and 60 cm (24 inches) long with different colours, textures and stitches. Thus far, it looks like a scarf.


the long piece measures 30 x 60 cm
It is then folded in half so you have an outer side and a lining side 12 inches square. 




The piece is then decorated with things that will attract or allow twiddling. Buttons, ribbons, pom-poms, sequins, cord - anything available to hand. 


The lining side is decorated with sensory things to play with
Then the piece is sewn up to resemble a tube with the lining side inside and the outer side on the - well, outside.


Inside out
Top side of the outer layer (the hands go in to the right and left)

Bottom side of the outer layer
It took me under a week to do - just in the evenings and here is the finished version ready to go off to my acquaintance's husband in Switzerland. My next one will be decidedly more feminine with pinks and purples and more flowery things for my best friend's mother.  The website where I got the pattern has an address where, if you wish, you can send the finished versions, because they pass them on to dementia wards in hospitals and care homes.  I can see I am going to be busy twiddling for some time.

26 January 2020

Miracles do happen

Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Or aunt. For the last two months, I have had a penpal relationship with Opodo, the company who in September sold me the flights to and from Prague. Of course, the return flight was non-existent, as I discovered to my horror when I went to check-in online a week before in November. Opodo had sold me a non-existent flight. Opodo refunded me the return leg of the fare, but, because so much time had passed between originally booking in September and having to buy a replacement flight in November, the cost of the replacement flight had soared by three times as much.  I argued they should pay the difference, as it was Opodo's fault that they had sold me a non-existent flight and then put me in a position of having to buy a replacement flight at such short notice.

I say I had a penpal relationship, but in all honesty, it was mainly one-sided. I would send off a detailed email to customer care, then three weeks later they would reply with a one-liner wanting more information. I would reply within 24 hours and then have to wait another three weeks for their reply, again wanting more information. However, eventually,  they accepted my expensive outlay was their fault and said they would pay out the amount I had requested. It took five days to reach my bank account, but, yesterday, when I checked, it had been paid in. So it is possible to take on a faceless organisation and get your fair dues. Miracles do happen.

08 January 2020

New Year, New Decade

Well, we're already one week into The Roaring Twenties. The Christmas decorations have been taken down, dusted and wrapped back in their boxes in the cellar. The house looks very bare. The excesses of the festive season have managed to pile three pounds on to my waistline, so that I must work extra hard to lose them, and there is talk of a war with Iran. Gosh, what a difference a few weeks can make.

Kay and I had a lovely Christmas - just the two of us - relaxing too much, eating too much and, yes, even drinking slightly too much. Kay's boyfriend's mother had bought Kay a delightfully addictive plum and cinnamon gin as a present and it came with a recipe label for mixing it with Prosecco, which we dutifully did on Christmas Day. And Boxing Day. And the day after that! We just happened to have some frozen black cherries in the freezer to complete the taste. Kay had a bad cold and said the cocktail worked miracles to calm that down. I didn't have a cold, but the cocktail worked miracles anyway!





Between Christmas and New Year we went up to Lincolnshire to visit Greg's sister and her family, swapping presents with them and having more Christmas food and even more drinks. On New Year's Eve, I waddled down to Brighton to spend New Year with my two best friends and ate and drank even more. Unfortunately, another guest from Switzerland brought the entire national product of chocolate from Switzerland. My friend doesn't like chocolate much, so we were sent home with supplies.  I am a self-confessed chocoholic. If it's in the house, it has to be eaten. What with what I received as presents too, I am surprised I have only put on three pounds. I don't drink much during the rest of the year (probably the odd glass of wine once every two months) but I make up for it in late December, it would seem. So now a fast from chocolate and anything fatty is on the cards, plus an exercise regime to get those pounds off. Of course, the drinking is no problem, as my next glass will probably be months away.


I have said before that normally I feel all discombobulated at the beginning of a new year. I compare the passing of a year to climbing a mountain.  In January, we start at the foothills  and slowly make the ascent into February, March, April and so on. By December, after a lot of hard effort, we finally get to the snowy peak and regard the world from on high. But come New Year's Eve, we fall off the cliff edge, falling falling falling..........until we reach the ground, there at the foothills once more to start the arduous climb into January. I don't know why it feels like that to me. I have spoken to others about it and they look at me as thought they should fetch the men in white coats. May be the long nights and gloomy days have something to do with it and the anti-climax after celebrations at Christmas and New Year. It is not helped by Trump's gun-swaggering at the start of a new decade and I do wonder what the coming weeks and months will bring. Iran is already retaliating, as I write

On that note, peace, happiness, hard work at the gym and a happy new year to you all. Not necessarily in that order.

20 December 2019

Tidings of great joy - well, almost

I was waiting to send you an uplifting ending to my holiday in Prague, but, sadly, the uplifting has turned into anticipated despair.

I hinted in my last post that the return flight from Prague was a problem. Too darn right. It didn't exist. When I had originally booked the flights for my daughter and me in September, I had booked online through Opodo. I had chosen return flights from Gatwick to Prague, flying out on EasyJet and coming back with Smartwings. I received an email from Opodo on the same day confirming my flights were booked and instructions on how to check-in nearer the time. I continued to receive more emails from them about taxi transfers from Prague and Gatwick airports , as well as prompts to book hotels (although I had booked my hotel through booking.com so didn't need them).

A month before departure from Gatwick to Prague, I checked-in online with Easyjet and printed boarding passes, but could not check-in for the return flight with Smartwings, as that is only possible a week before departure. So a week before departure from Prague, I checked-in to the Smartwings flight, only to discover the flight did not exist. After some digging around on the Smartwings website, I discovered Smartwings don't appear to operate any flights at all to or from Prague during the winter period of end October to end March. I had been sold a non-existent flight. Not only that but Opodo had failed to see their error and not told me. Yet, they'd been quick enough to cash my money for both flights.

In panic, I rang Opodo and told them. The telephone operator was far from sympathetic and said she would get me on an alternative Smartwings flight. Good luck with that, I thought! After a few minutes, she came back on the phone and said there was no alternative (surprise, surprise),  so she would refund me the £119 return leg of the flight. The refund would take 30-90 days to reach me and I would have to supply my High Street bank account details as she could not refund the money to the Paypal or associated Barclay credit card account I paid with. I was more than suspicious so asked to speak to her manager to which I was told there wasn't one. She kept repeating she had initiated the refund and I would just have to be patient. In reality the refund came through within two days and NOT to my bank count but the Barclaycard credit account so I am more than perplexed as to why she needed my bank details. So far so good.

Of course, that did not solve my problem of how we would get back from Prague. With only a week to go before I needed it, I set about looking up flights from Prague to Gatwick, but to my horror the prices had escalated since September and the £119 non-existent return flight was now going to cost me nearly £500 if I flew in to Gatwick or £322 if I flew to Luton at 10pm, which might as well be on the other side of the moon from where I live and certainly at that time of night, when public transport is less frequent. With little choice, I paid the £322 to Luton and organised train tickets for the last train to get me home from Luton.  All in all, because of Opodo's error in mis-selling me a non-existent flight and secondly failing to alert me to this until I was about to check-in, I paid over £230 extra to get us home.  Not to mention the nail-biting  about whether we would miss that last train home from Luton, if the flight was delayed. I have applied to Opodo for compensation as the error is theirs not mine, but, several weeks later, I am still whistling for a reply, although I shall pursue it - probably into my old age. My advice is not to use Opodo ever again. I certainly shan't.

Not glad tidings at all, bah humbug to Opodo. Nevertheless, the season of goodwill is upon us and I want to wish everyone else, who doesn't work for Opodo, a lovely Christmas and a happy, healthy start to the New year. I leave you with my Christmas Tree and Rudolph gracing our stairs.....