30 April 2009


Three things in one post today!!

First I just wanted to report that we DID go out last night, despite Greg having drunk two glasses of wine and a half-bottle of whisky between lunch and supper. My heart was in my mouth all the time, as his speech was very slurred, he was walking with a deliberate slow gait and was coming out with all sorts of embarrassing comments within earshot of people. When I get anxious, my throat closes up, gets very dry and my old phobia (of not feeling comfortable eating in public) raises its head. Still, Kay and I were determined to see it through and we just nodded to all his comments and tried not to get embarrassed or start any arguments. Once home again, he proceeded to doze off on the sofa and Kay and I heaved a sigh of relief.


Secondly, I have been tagged by the lovely Nunhead Mum of One and will do my best to answer all the questions.

Rules of the meme
Respond and rework
Answer questions on your own blog
Replace one question
Add one question
Tag 8 people

1. What are your current obsessions? Trying to reduce my cholesterol levels. I also want to go on and lose one more stone to return to the weight I was when I was a young slip of a girl.

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often? Scruffy jeans for walking the dog.

3. What's for dinner? Tonight there will be chicken casserole, rhubarb crumble and custard (a friend gave me some rhubarb from their allotment and I just have to make a crumble, but normally I avoid this for cholesterol reasons - see, I told you I am obsessed with this!)

4. Last thing you bought? A salad spinner (Last of the big spenders!)

5. What are you listening to? The tinnitus in my ears. I've had it for a number of years and it drives me insane. It sounds like the whine of the test card they used to show on TV. Listen here. You only got 6 seconds of it. I have it all the time!

6. What five items could you not leave the house with? Keys, mobile, extra strong mints, lippie, money.

7. Favourite holiday spots? Greece, Greece, Greece

8. Reading right now? Al-anon (for families of alcoholics) literature.

9. Four words to describe yourself: shy, anxious, sexy(??), practical.

10. Guilty pleasure? Baileys, chocolate

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak? My daughter. We can get very silly sometimes and have lots of therapeutic girlie giggles. It's a good antidote for stress - try it.

12. First spring thing? Snowdrops by our front door

13. Planning to travel to next? Regular visit to my mother, who is housebound.

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately? A bar of chocolate - the first I had had since my cholesterol-reducing diet started 12 weeks ago (see I mentioned it again!) An expensive bottle of red wine the neighbours gave me for looking after their cat while they were on holiday. I kept this hidden from Greg and had it all to myself over a few days!! (A very rare treat !!)

15. When did you last get tipsy? At a millennium party!!

16. Favourite ever film? Difficult, I love so many for different reasons, but one that really affected me was Sophie's Choice. I also adore Far from the Madding Crowd, as I am a Thomas Hardy fan.

17. Care to share some wisdom? Life is not a rehearsal. Don't let it pass you by.

18. If you could be someone famous, who would you be and why? Joan Collins. If I'm looking that good at 76, I shall be happy.

19. What did your last text say and who was it from? "Where r u? "- Greg texting me on my return journey from Yorkshire.

20. What is your favourite animal? All dogs and especially my dog, Snoopy. He is the most intelligent dog I have ever known and can understand about 100 different sentences (not just one-word commands but whole sentences.)

The eight people I am tagging (getting more difficult to find ones who haven't already been tagged!!) are:

Fat Frumpy and Fifty

Don't Panic

Kit Courteney

Dulwich Divorcee

Working mum on the Verge

Crystal Jigsaw

Forever Anxious

My Wife has Agoraphobia


Finally, my garden is full of beautiful blossom at the moment. It is arguably the best time of year for colour. Here are some pictures I took last week.

ceanothus (californian lilac)


All together

29 April 2009

Officially retired

Greg is 60 today. How do you celebrate and what do you buy a man who is an alcoholic and not in the best of health? I have resorted to buying him lots of books, as he has always been an avid reader and hungry for knowledge, so that is always a safe bet. I even have to delicately sift through birthday cards, when buying them for him, as they tend to have pictures of beer glasses and champagne bottles on them.

But how to celebrate?
I thought long and hard about whether to put on a surprise party, but then decided against it. The majority of friends and colleagues know nothing at all about his problem, as it only developed after he took early retirement and he barely sees any of them any more. A party would therefore bring it to their attention. They would also find it very strange to have a party with no alcohol whatsoever, particularly for such a special event. I asked Greg what he would prefer and he took weeks mulling it over, but decided he did not really want a big fuss. He, Kay and I hope to go out for a special meal tonight, but I fear he will already be drunk well before then, as he is meeting a few old media work colleagues for a lunchtime drink. As they do not know of his problem, they will probably ply him with drinks to celebrate and he will not be able to refuse the many rounds that will ensue. In fact he will have a field day. I shall then get nervous about whether he will behave himself in the restaurant tonight. That's if he is upright enough to get there in the first place! On the other hand, it is his sixtieth, so he deserves a special day.

26 April 2009


I am nursing aching limbs today. My back really hurts and my legs feel as if they are going to drop off. Have I been running today's London Marathon? I am ashamed to say I haven't, but it feels like it. Yesterday Kay and I went up to Yorkshire for an Open Day at her chosen university to look at the types of accommodation on offer to her in September, as she needs to put in her preferences soon . We left home at 6.30am, commuted to Central London, took the mainline train up to Yorkshire and arrived in glorious sunshine at 10.30am. From then on we tramped around the city streets on foot wandering first to the campus to collect relevant brochures and advice, then off to each of the Halls of Residence, climbing stairs, visiting show-bedrooms and show-kitchens, then on to the next Hall some distance away and so on. Hop-on, hop-off shuttle buses had been laid on specially by the university for the day, but there were long queues for these and and in any case, Kay and I wanted to test out the distance of the accommodation from campus to get a good idea of the daily walk she will need to do.

By lunchtime we had managed four Halls in as many miles and were flagging, so stopped off at a Costa's for a bite to eat, then managed three more Halls after that. We covered a fair area of the town and must have walked miles and miles - a lot of it on hills that seemed to have a steep gradient. At one point I actually welcomed a very short sharp rain-shower to cool me down, as the combination of hot sunshine and steep hills was not a good one. Apart from the 20-minute lunch, we were on our feet and walking for the whole day until 6.30pm when we were able to collapse into our reserved train seats and commence the 2½-hour journey back to London again. My legs throbbed all the way and are still doing so today. I am used to walking a lot with the dog, but this was something else! We got home to find Greg cuddled up with a half-bottle of whisky, but at least he was interested to ask how we got on. Kay and I fell into bed at midnight and I think I would be there still, if Snoopy had not nudged me at 9am to let him out into the garden.

23 April 2009

Fat chance

A while ago I wrote about the discovery that I have a high level of cholesterol. My doctor had prescribed statins to reduce the level but I was against taking them, as they can produce nasty side-effects and it is also recommended that once you start taking them, you have to stay on them for life. Instead, I decided to tackle the cholesterol reduction by diet alone and devised my own saturated-fat-free diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, grains, porridge, chicken, fish and extremely low-fat dairy options. Without even trying to lose weight (remember my sole aim was to reduce cholesterol) I lost half a stone in the first week and another half-stone in the following few weeks. My clothes fitted better than ever, my skin looked radiant, I felt much healthier. I continued this "diet" for ten weeks and had a fasting blood test at the local hospital to measure my new cholesterol levels. I got the results this morning. My cholesterol levels have drastically reduced and the doctor is very pleased with me. It was only then that I confessed to her that I had not started the statins at all, as I had been conscious of all the junk food I had previously resorted to as a comfort in times of stress and hoped that by eliminating the junk and lowering fat in general, I would solve the problem. She congratulated me and said I could now tear up the statin prescription.

As a rule, I normally take prescribed drugs without question, but this time for some strange reason, I decided to rebel and find an alternative solution. I am glad I did and that I have saved myself from possible adverse side-effects. It just goes to show that modern medicines are not always the only answer. Sometimes good old-fashioned common sense works just as well.

19 April 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - Again

My Easter week away has been one of mixed emotions.

First it was oh so nice to be with my dear old mum who never complains and, boy, does she have cause to. She is not very well at all at the moment. Apart from severe gastric pain which needs investigating (booked at the hospital for 13 May) and which causes her to almost double-up every time she eats something, she has severe arthritis in her spine and knees which means she can barely walk or stand. Despite all this, she almost apologises for her shadow and will thank and appreciate for any bit of kindness anyone shows her. We had a great time with me taking her out and about in the car to get a change of four walls from the ones she is imprisoned in most of the time. We had short walks, coffee sprees, car rides to watch gambolling lambs and blue sky, shopping trips, as well as me doing her garden, sorting out some space in a rather over-used junk room and fixing a few odd jobs.

Greg on the other hand was "supposed" to be in charge of things at home, enabling me to go away. Kay was with him at home, as she wanted to revise for her forthcoming exams, so all he needed to do was be the adult in charge, cook a few meals, be on standby to wipe her fevered brow and take her once or twice to meet up with friends when she felt like tunnelling an escape route. What happened was far from that. First he saw it as good practice for her to cook all the meals. Whilst I would agree that she should get a good run at independent living, now was not the time, as she really had a lot of study work to get through and he had nothing better to do than watch TV all day. But more to the point, as soon as my car had disappeared round the corner on its way to my mum's, Greg took up the whisky bottle and did not let off. I could hear it on the telephone in his slurred voice with its deliberate enunciation. I could almost smell it on his breath sixty miles away. Of course he denied it, too emphatically and too argumentatively. Kay on the other hand witnessed it at first hand and had to look after him rather than the other way round. By the end of the week, he was getting slurred much earlier in the day, forgetting things I had told him several times, even things I had written down in day-by-day notes to remind him. On one occasion Kay was distressed because she had to visit a friend some miles away and needed a lift to get home again late in the evening. He was incapable of collecting her and I was sixty miles away trying to sort out how to solve the problem.
And to think he had even put on a concerned look when I was originally leaving for my mum's and ordered me to have a good break and build in some relaxation time. But then he had dashed any hope of that by giving me cause for concern at a long distance over his stupid behaviour.The moment my back was turned. One evening, he kept ringing up to continue an argument long after we had gone to bed and he knew the phone on my mother's bedside would disturb her sleep. He just didn't care or think. My entreaties for him to stop ringing us fell on deaf ears. By the end of the week, I had to leave my mum a day earlier than anticipated as he was again incapable of driving Kay and a friend home at midnight from a party. Just when I needed him to be there for me, while I was there for my mum.

He admits he is drinking again, but only "one or two a day and certainly nowhere near as much as before". He maintains he is in control and promises it will not get any worse. But he said that a year ago and a year before that and a year before that. I have heard it all before. The only person he is deceiving is himself. I can see right through it. In fact I discovered a half-bottle in his jacket pocket yesterday afternoon and it was empty by mid-evening. I just hope he holds off his imminent decline long enough for Kay to do these very important exams in June. The university course she wants requires superhuman grades. She cannot afford his drunken distractions.

After that Greg can please himself and go to hell.

My 22-year-old niece had a bad car accident last week. She was driving back from university on Easter Saturday to spend the rest of the Easter weekend with her mother, when two miles from home she skidded on a patch of grease on the road, bashed into three trees, one after the other and ended up in the middle of the road. Fortunately no other cars were involved and she was able to get out of the car and walk away from it. But here's the rub..... the car was a complete write-off. A passing car stopped and called the police, an ambulance and my niece's mother, who was close enough to get there before the emergency services. My niece was taken to accident and emergency at the local hospital. Apart from cuts and emerging bruises she was allowed home soon after, although it now seems she has belated concussion. There is some suggestion the car may have somersaulted as there were dents on the car roof and my niece cannot recall some of what happened. Her car was full of stuff she was returning home after three years away and was spewed all over the roadside and some of it even landed up in the trees. Most irritating of all, her laptop was thrown into undergrowth and badly damaged, so that the final draft of her dissertation for her university degree may have to be retyped and will miss the deadline she was set.

The terrifying thought of it made me drive like a granny on the way to my mother - much to the annoyance of the car behind me!

07 April 2009


We have a little custom in this household which I picked up from our time in Germany. They do it a lot there, but I have not come across anyone else doing it here in England, unless I am mistaken. Just as the Germans introduced the Christmas tree into Victorian England, so they have introduce the Easter tree into our generation in my household. The idea is to put a few twigs into a vase and decorate them with Easter bunnies, chicks and eggs. Here is our version decorated this morning by Kay and me.

The finished tree

One of the egg decorations

One of the chick decorations

One of the bunny decorations

I shall be off to spend a week with my mother, so wish you a Happy Easter and hope you have a lovely chocolatey one!

02 April 2009

Little Miss Organised

Anyone who knows me really well knows that I cannot function without lists. I have to write them for just about everything and, if I have too many lists, I make a list of lists or stick post-it notes on things as reminders. I suppose it comes from my days in the Civil Service where I had to be extremely organised in my job. I like law and order in my life. I cannot stand chaos. I can usually put my finger on anything that is needed from a receipt for something purchased the day before to a champagne cork kept from our wedding 33 years ago. I know where to find the list of vaccinations Kay has had throughout her life or the parking fine Greg got seven years ago.

By way of contrast, Greg is totally disorganised and a great procrastinator. He cannot find the lighter he used to light a cigarette five minutes ago and yesterday he mislaid his cheque book which resulted in him turning the house upside down and inside out. He even accused me of having snatched it to annoy him, but then hours later he found it in the back pocket of some jeans he was wearing at the weekend. Each day he will say he is going to do a particular repair job (say, weather-proofing the fence). For every dry day, he will make all manner of excuses or be rapt in some television programme and end up not doing the job. He then waits for a day when it is pouring with rain and then says he was definitely going to do it that day but now of course it is too wet (and he says in a grave tone
that it will take quite a few days for the fence to dry out so there's no point doing it for at least another two weeks!!) He will spend all day looking out at the sunny weather saying HE will walk the dog for a change, but when by 3pm he hasn't gone out, it seems he is waiting for the weather forecast on TV. I am often so bold as to comment that he only needs to look out the window, but he needs to hear it from the professionals! Of course by the time he sees the weather forecast, it has clouded over and started to rain and he then says it is too wet to go out with the dog!! It's the same pattern every time and of course nothing ever gets done. Then he forgets these chores need doing altogether and I have to make a list to remind him about them!

If I have a pile of different jobs - some manual (such as repairing clothes, housework, washing, ironing or gardening), some requiring mental input (such as bills/letters etc) or some requiring special action (eg. booking train tickets North or researching something before I make a decision etc), I write all the things I need to do in a list. That way I have a handy overview of what needs doing and the amount of effort I need to put in. Sometimes, if the list is long, I will put a day of the week against the item so that the load is evenly distributed on each day. There is nothing nicer than making a list and getting immense satisfaction as the items are gradually ticked off and I have completed action on the last remaining one. It also makes sure that things get done - in time.

Is that sad, or what?

Not one of my lists - just a Google image!!