28 January 2010

In memory of my Dad

I am off for two weeks to be with my mum again. You'll be pleased to know that I am taking Snoopy with me this time, as I am going by car. Now I have a laptop at long last, I can take it with me too and hope to keep in touch with the blogging world and emails rather than having to wait till I get back and plough through what I have missed. I hope to set up broadband at my mother's, so it will be a bit of a luxury for me. I am going for a number of reasons: to do a lot of household chores for my mum; to take her out and about; to get away from the alcoholic daze madhouse; to spend some time with my two bestest friends (we are having a long-needed reunion weekend nearby); and to be with my mum for "a very important reason".

The 1st February is a very important date in our family calendar. It is the date my dearly loved father was ripped from our midst nine years ago. I have not always been able to be with my mother at this time, as in the past I had other commitments, but this year, thankfully, I have the freedom to do as I choose. My father was (to me) a very special man who almost didn't make it past the age of 14 let alone the age he reached. His life was remarkable. I wrote about him before here. Not a day goes by when I don't look at a huge photo of him by my bedside. He is sorely missed by me and my mother who still sheds bucketloads of tears for him - they were soulmates. Dad was instrumental in giving Kay her love for medicine (see here). He would be so proud of her and so upset to see what has become of Greg and me. I sometimes "talk" to him and ask him for his advice. I like to think he is listening. I still miss him so very much. It does not seem possible that it is already the ninth anniversary.

23 January 2010

Bacherlor daze

I have just returned from a few days away at my mother's as she had a few hospital/optician's appointments to attend. I did not take the car with me this time, as the weather forecasts had predicted more snow and ice. I did not want to be stranded anywhere en route, so I took the train instead. Because of that, Snoopy could not come with me as I could not lug all his belongings (bed/bowls etc) as well as mine.

Number of days away from home to help my mother: 4
Number of days enjoying myself : 4
Number of days Greg and the animals were left to fend for themselves: 4
Number of essential medical pills consumed by Greg: 0
Amount of food taken from the fridge/freezer in my absence: 0
Number of times Greg got dressed in my absence: 0
Amount of walks Snoopy had in my absence : 0
Number of times Snoopy and the cat were fed: not known
Tax forms which he insisted he was going to complete this week: 0
Number of bottles of whisky consumed: 5*

* hidden around the house before my departure as Greg is clinically dependent on them, but cannot drive or walk to get them himself! Once a day he rang me to ask where the next bottle could be found.

15 January 2010

more photos

Is supper ready yet?

Someone tell Mum that Twelfth Night is over.

Did you want something........?

...otherwise I'll go back to sleep.

11 January 2010

My favourite picture

Dulwich Divorcee has kindly nominated me for a meme to display my favourite photo and say why. It has certainly challenged me because there are any number of different types of photo I could put up, but to chose one to be the all-time favourite is another matter.

If sheer quantity of photos were the deciding factor, it would have to be one of Kay. I have thousands of photos of Kay. Her godfather once joked that when his own daughter was a baby, he took thousands of photos in the first few weeks and had them developed in the one-hour processing service. Then when the child was a toddler, he took hundreds of photos and had them developed in the 24-hour service. By the time the child was a teenager, there were only a few photos here and there which were sent off annually to the developers and returned a week or so later. We found this story amusing at the time, but oh so true now. There are several albums of when Kay was a small baby and perhaps one as a toddler and one to cover the entire teenage years. However, it is not to Kay that I look for the source of my photo, as our anonymity is paramount to my blog story.

I then look through all my holiday snaps and there are indeed places which have delighted me and conjured up all sorts of memories when I look at them. Some are of the places where I lived abroad and others where I just passed through. But trying to choose one over the other is difficult. They are all special in their own different ways.

The one I have finally chosen is of Snoopy, our loveable dog, as much a member of our family as any human. Let me tell you why I love this photo and the background to it.........

When Kay was a toddler, we decided to go on a camping trip. She loved it so much, we went lots of times after that. Our favourite place for a weekend escape was in the New Forest and, if you have never stayed there, it is well worth a visit as the wild horses roam all over the roads and forests and even in and out of the designated campsites. We have seen many a pony stick its head inside a tent if it smells food. But one year, when Kay was about three, we camped on a sheep farm up in Yorkshire for a change. During our summer evening stroll round the farmyard, Kay was attacked by one of the farmer's border collie sheepdogs. It wasn't a vicious attack, thank goodness, as the dog was chained up and could only reach so far, but it did manage to grab Kay by her trouser leg. It was a close call. Fortunately Greg was able to give the dog a hefty kick and it released its grip. We were later told by the farmer that the dog had been taunted by the farmer's grandchildren earlier that day and the dog was obviously getting its own back on the nearest child to come near it, which just happened to be Kay.

To say Kay was traumatised by that event is an understatement. She would cower whenever she saw a dog coming towards her and refuse to pat a dog despite our reassurances or those of the owner that no harm would come to her. By the time she was seven, it was beginning to take on phobia proportions and, because Greg and I love dogs and had both had dogs as family pets when we were children, we decided it was important to get Kay over this fear as soon as possible. We were going to get Kay a dog.

Kay was OK about the idea but less so about the practical reality. On our first visit to Battersea Dogs Home, she was fine looking at the dogs as long as they were behind the bars of their cages, but when she excitedly chose a black labrador cross breed called Charlie to inspect more intimately, she later backed in utter terror against a wall of the room we had been shown to, as soon as the dog was brought in to get to know us. Sadly we did not take Charlie home that day and even had a complete rethink about getting a dog at all. We returned to Battersea several times after that, as well as other rescue centres in the area, but always with the same result. Kay was terrified close up to any dog. Eventually we accepted that Kay would only be happy with anything with a leg at each corner, as long as it was a cat or a hamster or a gerbil. I remember Greg saying with vehemence that we were not having a rodent in OUR house, as the little critter might get loose and we would never find it again in our house with all the stairs and hiding places. So we settled on cats and ended up chosing two kittens at a rescue centre not far from us. As they were not ready to leave their mother yet, we had to wait a while and visited them once or twice to see their progress before the handover. On one such visit, I mentioned that we would have really liked to get a dog and the kennel maid didn't need telling twice. She dragged Kay and me over to an enclosure where there were two puppies remaining from a litter of six. They were a cross between a Manchester Terrier and a German Shepherd. The Manchester Terrier gave them the colouring; the German Shepherd contributed to their size. Of the two puppies, Snoopy was the runt of the litter, very submissive and therefore much more suitable for a little girl, particularly one who was nervous of dogs. Snoopy also needed some tender loving care and therefore a quiet home with a little girl and lots of love was a perfect match for him too. We went into his enclosure and he rolled on his back and widdled in the air. It was love at first sight.....for him, for Kay, for Greg and for me. We signed on the dotted line straight away.

A week later, once all the innoculations and paperwork had been done, we were the proud owners of two kittens and a puppy. It was bedlem toilet-training all three of them, working out the general care for them and coping with their anxieties at being abandoned overnight. I can remember Greg sleeping on the kitchen floor in a sleeping bag to keep all three company for the first few nights. (They were the happy days before Greg became an alcoholic.) Kay was delighted with this new menagerie and would invite all her friends over to see them and pet them.

To cut a very long story short, Snoopy did the trick. He got Kay over her fear in a flash. As she grew, so did he, so she was not at all afraid by the time he reached full adult height. Because of his size and colouring, many people think he is a doberman. If I had a pound for every time I have been asked if he is a doberman, I would be a millionairess, but his head is a different shape for a start. He looks as if he ought to tear your arm out and he can be quite an alarming sight when he rushes to greet callers at the front door, but in reality he is such a soft, gentle animal who would more than likely lick you to death. He has his own pet passport and has travelled abroad many times in the car with us. Because of his sensitive nature, he does not like to be left alone, so we always make a point of taking him with us, where at all possible, rather than leave him on his own in the house. He still does not like to be left alone at night and because we are rather soft in that department, we have allowed him to sleep with us in the bedrooms and (shock, horror) even on our beds. Fortunately he is not a smelly dog, in fact he has the most amazingly comforting aroma about him, which makes you want to nuzzle into him, and he does not drool either like some dogs do.

And so to THE PHOTO...... I have chosen this particular one of Snoopy because it shows such detail. If you click on it, you will even see his lips. I love all the little whiskers round his mouth too. Those lovely brown eyes can just make you melt and give in to him. They follow you around until you are forced to put on your boots and take him for a long walk in the park. I have this photo on my laptop desktop. We shall certainly miss him when he goes to that big kennel in the sky: not something we like to think about too often, particularly as he is nearly eleven. He has not only served his original purpose but has enriched our lives with his love and devotion.

Rather than nominate anyone to do this meme, I shall open it up to the first five to comment. Meanwhile, here is that picture of Snoopy..........................

04 January 2010

New year, same old stuff

A new year always makes us feel full of expectation that things will change for the better. As you progress through the previous year and get towards the end, there is a mental and physical countdown towards the Christmas festivities: buying in food, presents, decorating the tree etc and after that another countdown to the very end of the year. Then, one minute you are at 11.59pm on 31 December, awaiting that stroke of midnight, raising glasses to the future, hugging friends and family and the next you are jettisoned into a new year and it is 00.01 am on 1 January: a whole new year ahead of you. Like a Time Lord, that minute between being at the end of one year and the beginning of the next is very disorientating and makes you feel that you ought to embrace the new year with a new you. I am sure that is why people make new year resolutions, otherwise they could surely try to give up smoking/start a diet/exercise more/donate more to charity (or whatever people resolve to do) in June or in October or on the May Day bank holiday.

I suppose I always hope that Greg is miraculously going to stop drinking overnight, which, I know, is a physical impossibilty as he is clinically dependent on drinking and cannot suddenly go without alcohol without serious medical implications. He would have to be weaned off it slowly with drugs, as has happened several times before in the past when he has been hospitalised. And so I start a new year with much looking the same, if not worse than before.

At Christmas, I tried to keep things jolly for Kay's and my Mum's sakes. Kay and I decorated the hall, the stairs, the lounge and the kitchen with tinsel and baubles and trees. Everything sparkled in the glow of the house and contrasted with the frosty, snowy weather outside. I bought copious amounts of food (estimating the feeding of the five thousand) and we chomped our way though turkey and five vegetables on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and several days thereafter. There were platters of chocolates, nuts, dates, more chocolates. We groaned and ate, ate and groaned. (I've put on a good half-stone to prove it!) We watched films on TV and tried to be jolly.

But Greg had other plans. He continued his drinking regime, seemingly not impressed that it was Chrismas or that Kay and my mother (or, God forbid, me)might want something different of him just for once. He spent most of the Christmas days, dressed in a dressing gown, his legs bare and covered in sores or yesterday's spilled tomato soup that he had heated up for himself. He made no effort to wash or comb his hair. On Christmas Day morning he opened his presents with us all in the lounge and then passed out on the sofa where he stayed until lunchtime. I meanwhile had been slaving away cooking the turkey, the five vegetables, the starter, the dessert and all the trimmings. I woke him about 20 minutes before lunch and suggested he might get freshened up (euphemism for "have a wash for once in your life") and dressed. Just as I was about to serve up the starter he sat down at the table - in his dressing gown, bare sore legs and clearly he had not washed either. I asked him to please make an effort, just for Christmas lunch and you would have thought I had asked him to recite the 17 x multiplication table naked in Trafalgar Square. He shouted and ranted that I was being unreasonable and he continued to shout and rant all though the starter and into the main course. He had no appetite and most of his meals ended up in the bin. He flaked out asleep on the sofa for most of the rest of the day, only participating to rant and rage when I asked him if he wanted any supper. Apparently I was making a fuss in asking him that simple question and he did not want a fuss. The remainder of the Christmas days followed a similar pattern, so that Kay, my mother and I tried not to engage in any conversation with him for fear of setting him off. My mother would even ostensibly steer the conversation away from any controversial subjects when she saw Greg's temper rising and sometimes it worked.

I tried to be the all-singing, all-dancing act to make things good for Kay and my mother. Kay is an owl and likes to stay up late to watch films on TV; my mother on the other hand is a lark and wakes at the crack of dawn, so I found myself forcing myself out of bed to bring my mother her early morning tea in bed (despite her entreaties for me to have a lie-in) and I stayed up long after the call of duty (on one occasion until 3am) to keep Kay company in the late evenings. One night, however,I was so exhausted, I promised myself a lie-in, took a tablet to help me sleep and withdrew at midnight to the spare bedroom with the dog. At around 6am, Snoopy nudged me awake. I groaned and told him to lie back on his bed. Thankfully, he did and I went off to sleep again. At 6.45am he nudged me awake again. Drowsily I invited him to jump up on the bed beside me. As he settled down alongside me, I was vaguely aware that he was trembling. In my half-sleep, I imagined he must be cold, so I reached for his blanket on the floor and covered him over. But still he trembled and at some point in my subconsciousnes, I realised this was not right and sat bolt upright in bed. As I went to open the bedroom door, he made a noise and ejected the entire liquid contents of his bowels onto my cream-coloured bedroom carpet. As we went down the four flights of stairs to the kitchen he offloaded another two dollops of liquid mush all over the floor and yet another lot in the garden. I was awake by that point and far from thoughts of making the first cup of tea, I was up to my armpits in disinfectant, carpet shampoo, soapy suds and kitchen towel. Not the best job to wake up to or at any other time for that matter. I was just feeling pleased with myself a good half an hour later when I had cleaned all that up, when Snoopy decided to vomit in two different places as well. Poor thing had obviously eaten something dodgy to be emptying out from both ends. I am pleased to say that, after that, he made a quick recovery and has been fine since. Not so my carpet unfortunately: I shall have to get in an industrial carpet cleaner at some stage in the next few days.

So now it is a new year - the end of a decade - twenty ten or two thousand and ten (however you prefer to say it). The expectation of new life, changes, sweep-clean. Out with the old; in with the new. My hopes soar, as always, to hope for better things, good health, wealth and success, but looking at Greg, I see an old man, wizened by the alcohol, in physical agony, too apathetic to eat, wash or take medication, on the brink of another medical crisis. His sole drive is to maintain the level of alcohol in his system for fear of withdrawal symptoms. His consumption now teeters on about 1.5 bottles a day (about a litre) of whisky despite his promises a few weeks ago to reduce from the one bottle he was on). So he is moving in the wrong direction ever further away from abstinence and from good health and ultimately from me. And somehow already on this fourth day into the new year, I just know this year is going to be tough.