31 March 2011

Workmen, anniversaries and alcohol

The painter I mentioned in my last post has stood me up. He has been stringing me along since November promising he would come to paint my kitchen ceiling when he had a spare minute and now he has admitted he has too many big jobs on (he is subcontracted to someone else to fit kitchens, bathrooms and conservatories) and just cannot squeeze me in. So Tuesday saw me high and dry searching for someone else. I only stuck with him, because he came recommended by a neighbour, but really how much damage can someone do painting a ceiling? (I may regret saying that). So I have been searching through the local paper, local telephone directory ,Which Local and also something called mybuilder.com. I didn't have much expectation from the latter but within a few hours of my posting my project on the site, I had about 7 replies and they are still coming in, so well worth a try! I phoned quite few of those selected from the four sources above and one pleasant chap came to look at the job yesterday. I was very impressed and I may well hire him, as he can fit the job in next week. His prices were very reasonable too for an oil-based undercoat to cover the nicotine stains and three coats of emulsion over that. He does a lot of work for Harley Street and The University of London (apparently) so hopefully I have picked a good'un. Another painter quoted three times what he was asking.It pays to get several quotes.I've got another one turning up in a few minutes.

This week saw another painful first anniverary - that of Greg's funeral - so that is all the firsts out of the way now and I can get on with real life and hopefully more positive thoughts now. As time goes by, I find I am less angry about the whole situation and more saddened that Greg is missing out on Kay's successes and even major world news events such as in Japan and Libya (which of course was his job). I can often be heard muttering under my breath "Oh Greg, if only you could see this or hear that". I see others in my Al-Anon group a year or so in time behind what I was going though and I despair for what lies ahead for them too. But I am appreciating more and more that alcoholism is a mental illness, just like anorexia, where the sufferer has little or no control over it and where only a few can manage to pull away from it.

I feel I want to do something to make a difference, but I don't know yet what and how. I don't think higher alcohol prices are the answer. In Greg's case, he was clinically dependent on alcohol, so would buy it whatever the price. That is why he took out such huge loans before he died to fund it. Prohibition is not the answer, as real addicts would still find a way of obtaining it and it would not be fair on the majority who can sensibly limit their drinking. What about the idea of ID cards which you would need to show to buy a drink in a pub or a bottle in a shop. These could be removed and cancelled if alcohol got you into trouble with the police or you ended up in hospital with an obvious drink addiction, much like a driving licence if you transgress the law of the road or a doctor thinks you unfit to drive. But I suppose there would soon be people out there who would fake these documents. Possibly lobbying government to return to set licensing hours and stopping supermarkets selling alcohol might help, as I am sure the ease of obtaining alcohol is a major factor in the rise of alcoholism these days............ certainly in the case of younger people who go out on the lash till 4am or later.

What do you think?

20 March 2011

Changes for the better and worst

Following on from my last "poor me" post, I decided to keep busy by making headway with the decorating. My next job was to be the kitchen/diner which is at the very base of my Jacob's ladder of a staircase. The problem is, I have been waiting months for a painter to get the kitchen ceiling painted, before I paint the rest of the room. I hate painting ceilings with a passion. I think it has to do with putting your arms above your head and cricking your neck to see what you are doing. I love painting walls..... and woodwork...... all very therapeutic. But ceilings..........no, no, no. One of my neighbours recommended two fabulous painters who had done work for her. I approached them both back in September. One, a reputable family firm, took a month to send me a quote and when I said he could go ahead with the work, he then avoided all my calls and wouldn't give me a start date. I tried his mobile and home number several times over a period of two weeks and each time his wife insisted he would call or had called, but he never did get back to me and I decided I didn't want to play cat and mouse games with him any more. The second painter is a very nice chap - a bit of an odd jobs man who is good at many things. He painted the top landing with the long wall drops for me back in November. He also quoted me for the kitchen ceiling and some other carpentry jobs too. But he is also heavily subcontracted to put in kitchens, bathrooms, conservatories and double glazing for someone else, so his time for other "smaller jobs" is limited. He even works evenings and weekends too, so it is not that he is shirking work. He told me in December he would be back soon to do my kitchen ceiling. Of course, I am still waiting. I could get someone out of Yellow Pages or the local paper, but I prefer to get someone recommended rather than a cowboy.

As I could not yet proceed with the kitchen, I thought I would turn my thoughts to the lounge. The lounge is open-plan (has no door) and has a staircase going through it - a flight up and onwards to the bedrooms and a flight down and onwards to the front door and the kitchen beneath that. In decorating the stairway recently, I had passed through the lounge, keeping only to the stairs. The lounge now looked a little "sad" in comparison to the bright stairway paint. I fathomed that the ceiling still looked in good nick and I could get away with not painting that, so I pulled all the furniture into the middle of the room and set about mending any nail holes in the walls, then painting walls and woodwork. It only took two days - I started on Friday morning and finished last night. It looks good, even though I say so myself, and today I even cleaned the window glass and PVC frames to finish off the effect. Another room freshened up in my master plan of projects. Five more rooms to go!

This morning I rang my dog-walking companion (the one I mentioned here) to see how her dog is. We have been walking our dogs together in the park every morning for about the last eleven years. We have become firm friends and although our ages differ (she is at least 15 years older than me) we have a lot to talk about. Her dog took ill two weeks ago, the same time as Snoopy, and was displaying very similar symptoms- back legs not functioning, in pain, shaking. The only difference was her dog kept vomiting. We did wonder whether they had both eaten something poisonous in the park, but our respective vets discounted that. In the end, my vet thought Snoopy may have a combination of spinal arthritis mixed with a damaged liver (possibly tumour or fibrosis) and my friend's dog was diagnosed a few days ago with tumour of the spleen. Because both our dogs have been ill over the last few weeks, neither of us has been going to the park at all and so have been communicating by phone. I called at her house last Thursday to take a bunch of cheerful daffoldils for her and to give her dog some soothing pats. This morning my friend told me that the dog worsened over the last few days and was put down yesterday. My friend is naturally very upset. She has always had a dog (she even, in less politically-correct days gone by, used to take her dogs with her into the classroom all day when she was a primary school teacher and before the governors made her stop doing that). Instictively she feels she would like another dog straight away, but a lot of the local rescue homes now ban rehoming dogs to people over 70. The fact that she is fit, energetic and would give the dog a fantastic life (two long walks a day and agility classes once a week) is by the by. It seems our morning walks in the park may have come abruptly to an end. Snoopy meanwhile continues to chug along, although is definitely not 100%, and will need further blood tests in a few weeks to see if his liver is deteriorating.

17 March 2011


I've been away at my mother's for a few days, trying to recharge my batteries and at the same time doing chores for her, but am now back home again. I am pleased to say Kay is recovered from her tonsillitis; Snoopy is a little better thanks to the painkillers and antibiotics prescribed by the vet; and we got through Greg's first anniversary intact although, now that first year's milestone has been reached, Greg slips ever more from my reach. It was one thing to say he died a few months ago. Quite another to say it was a year ago. Soon it will be two years ago and so on. It is as if he were being consistently pulled away by a long rope and the gap between us getting greater and greater. I try hard with eyes shut tight to recall the sound of his voice, the contours of his face.

Because Snoopy has been ill, and at times very weak, I have stopped the early morning walks in the park where I usually meet up with other dogwalkers and have a good chat. The last two weeks,except for when I was at my mother's, I have taken him on short walks up and down our road and, although he trots on the outward run, he plods very slowly on the return. As a result, I have hardly seen a soul and certainly not spoken to anyone, so I am feeling a right recluse and a tad lonely. Somehow, I just wish Greg would join me in a detoxed form and all would be well again. I'm sure I'll bounce back. As an only child, I am used to my own company but right now I'm tired of the sound of my own voice!

04 March 2011

Kick me when I'm down, why don't you?

I have not been looking forward to this week: it is one year since Greg died. Each day of this last week I have been thinking...... a year ago he went into hospital, or was moved to intensive care, was intubated, extubated, intubated again and then died. I feel compelled to savour each detail, roll it around in my mind as a sort of morbid memorial, to make sense of it, otherwise it still does not seem real -almost as if this last year has been a dream.

As if this was not enough, this week has not been kind to me at all. Kay is ill with tonsillitis and, as often is the case when she is very ill, she has been very weepy when she calls me, overtired and inconsolable. With two hundred miles between us, my mothering instinct to nurse her has been impossible except for advice over the telephone. Thank goodness for penicillin and paracetamol. She is coming home for the weekend tonight (a long-standing arrangement and entirely her choice, as she insists on being with me on Sunday 6 March for the actual anniversary of Greg's death).

To put the icing on the cake of all that, Snoopy has not been well this week. No, that is an understatement - he has been seriously ill. It started on Sunday when I was woken at 5am to what seemed like an earthquake - the bed was shaking and the cause of it was Snoopy - lying on the foot of my bed shaking uncontrollably. The tremors went on for some while and in my half-sleep/half-wakefulness I felt him writhing in circles trying to get comfortable. I must admit to thinking it might be something dodgy he had eaten and snapped awake to the thought he might just empty the contents of his bowels over my bed, so I quickly ushered him onto his bed at the foot of mine. It was then that I realised he could not use his back legs at all - he was completely paralysed from the waist down. I immediately thought "stroke" and started to panic. In the wee small hours of the night, when I am alone and a problem manifests itself, it is all too easy to panic. I got a doggie painkiller and forced it down him. After two hours there seemed to be no change. Moreover he did not want to get off his bed (could not get off his bed), and no amount of biscuit inducements or bribes of "walkies" (that usually do the trick) would get him to stir. By 7am I was panicking more. There was no way I could get a large, heavy and lifeless Snoopy down three flights of stairs into my car to find an emergency vet open on a Sunday. My own vet had given me his mobile number some time ago in case I ever needed him in an emergency but so far I had never needed to use it, but weighed up the pros and cons of contacting him now. It was Sunday morning and still quite early. I did not want to disturb his one chance of a lie-in and I was also dreading what he might charge for a Sunday call out to my house.

I managed to hold out another hour until 8am but Snoopy was still clearly not well. I rang the vet and a sleepy voice answered at the other end. He told me he would come round. When he arrived, he thought it might be arthritis in the spine and gave a painkiller injection and asked me to ring him again if Snoopy showed no signs of getting better

To cut a very long story short, Snoopy did improve slightly and could at least use his legs again,but was producing weird coloured things from his back end and looked very morose. I ended up during the week having to take a urine sample (I bet the neighbours had a field day seeing me running behind the dog in the garden with a bowl) and Snoopy rather reluctantly provided a blood sample at the vet's surgery the following day.

The results came back yesterday and were not good. It would appear Snoopy's liver function tests show a damaged liver or pancreas. This could be caused by a tumour or fibrosis. The only way to tell what is causing it would be to do an ultrasound scan (which means shaving off his fur to put the scanner on the skin and this traumatises the dog)or open him up (ditto). That would show the cause of his pain but would not necessarily solve the problem as both cases would be advanced and for a 12-year-old dog that would be too much trauma for little gain. So it is bad news really. Poor old Snoops is old and wearing out. To get this news this week of all weeks is not on. We are in for a rocky ride.