17 December 2011

Seasons Greetings

Kay is due back home tomorrow, I'm collecting my mum next Wednesday to bring her here and we are going to hunker down for a fortnight and eat, watch films, eat, chat, eat, sleep and eat. There may be the occasional foray into the cold outside to walk the dog or stock up on food or possibly even shop in the sales. I love the Christmas season and unashamedly fill the fridge and cupboards with all sorts of goodies. Our Christmas has always been a mixture of English and German tradition. We'll have turkey but with cooked red cabbage. Christmas cake AND stollen. There'll be Pfefferkuchen (chocolate gingerbread) and a box of Celebrations to graze on inbetween. This year I can even have a few drinks without feeling guilty that I am being hypocritical to Greg. I suspect I shall put on a few pounds, but hopefully not as much as I have lost in the last six months.

So, before I disappear to hibernate for the next few weeks, I should like to say to those reading this blog..... thank you very much for following me and putting up with me; for your advice and your concern.

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


12 December 2011

Don't get old, although the alternative doesn't bear thinking about

There's been a lot of talk recently about how the elderly are treated in hospital, in care homes or even in their own homes. The news tends to focus on the neglect or abuse of old people. Often the excuse is lack of staff and lack of money, but surely lack of compassion has to feature somewhere on the list. Kay has recently been doing a work placement on an elderly ward in a hospital and what she has sadly witnessed in a few weeks could fill volumes alone.

It's true that a large proportion of elderly people who need care are suffering from one form of dementia or another and that can make compassionate treatment or care difficult. They are confused, unsure of why they need help in the first place, where they are, cannot feed themelves, cannot get to a toilet in time and sometimes can be violent or depressed. But inside every old person is a young person trying to get out. They were once 16; they were once newly married; they may have been heroes fighting in France or captured in Burma; they were parents; maybe held down responsible jobs; won Nobel prizes; and maybe were the trendsetters in their professions. You wouldn't think so to look at them now, either curled up in a hospital bed or limping down the street, leaning on a stick or zimmerframe with their silent friend - arthritis; wearing a mismatch of genuine vintage clothes from their wardrobe because their meagre pensions barely cover their living costs let alone stretch to new clothes. They complete their look with hearing aids and thick glasses, yet not out of choice - over the years their eyes and ears have seen so much and heard more than you'll ever know, but cruel old age has robbed them of their efficiency. How often have you got annoyed with an old codger in the car in front pootling about at 15mp. But if you had a bad back or couldn't turn your head quickly because of arthritis, you'd be exactly the same. You don't elect to get aches and pains, they just turn up unannounced, more's the pity. Having a car is their only hope of independence, however slow that might be. It is so easy to see the outside shell of an old person, even if you bother to look at that, but not consider what lies within.

My mum (doubled up with arthritis and scoliosis) always says "don't get old, although the alternative doesn't bear thinking about". She jokingly means the alternative would be suicide to avoid getting old. Getting old, God willing, is something that will happen to each and every one of us. Do we want the younger generation to treat us like imbeciles and nuisances one day? I am sixty-one now, but feel just as energetic and young as I did when I was twenty-five. I feel twenty-five on the inside and suspect I always will. (Thankfully, people compliment me that I look ten years younger than I actually am, but even so, the day will come when I don't.)

I'm currently reading Any Human Heart by William Boyd. I had not seen the TV series and my friend, who evidently had seen it, had bought me the book as a birthday present to make up for my serious lapse. I won't give anything away about the story, other than to say it is the lifetime journal of a fictitious twentieth century author, starting in 1906 and finishing in 1991, but yesterday I read the following:

October 1955. To the passport office to collect my new passport, valid for another ten years. ................ These ten-year chunks that are doled out to you in passports are a cruel form of momento mori. How many more new passports will I have? One (1965)? Two (1975)? Such a long way off, 1975, yet your passport life seems all too brief. How long did he live? Well, he managed to renew six passports.

I had never thought of passport renewal in that way before. I have certainly shuddered when I have compared the photo on the last one with the photo on the new one (a few too many laughter lines here, a bit too much grey hair there), but I had never given a single thought about whether I'd need another one, two or three passports to see me out. Measured in passports, our whole life is really quite short. A bit scary, really.

06 December 2011

Baby, it's cold outside

The temperatures have dropped drastically this week. We have had an incredibly mild autumn and winter so far with plants and wildlife definitely confused into thinking it's possibly spring already, but this week has seen the appearance of snow in the north and icy frosts here down south. My breakfast-time walk in the park with Snoopy has been very chilly with a biting wind to boot. Even my thermal gloves have been struggling to cope. My dog-walking companion has been urging me to wear a woolly hat, but hats and I just don't go together. I end up looking a bit like Benny from Crossroads. However today, I decided health and safety should take precedence over vanity. The look was not good and I felt distinctly uncomfortable, wishing the frozen ground would crack, open up and swallow me! In retrospect, I think the hat looks far better on Snoopy.

01 December 2011

The difference

In the last few years before Greg died, I used to do a lot of things on my own. He was not interested in doing anything anymore that did not involve drinking himself into oblivion. We did not eat together, watch TV together, sleep together, go out together (in fact he never went out at all in the end, as he could barely put one foot in front of the other and dressed like a tramp, did not shower and was totally anti-social). So I would go Christmas shopping alone and usually come home to show him what I had bought for other people especially for his side of the family. Most of the time he barely took any notice.

Since he has died, I still do things on my own..... eat, watch TV, sleep and go out, but now it is very different. Today I was doing some Christmas shopping in Oxford Street. It was lovely to see all the Christmas trees, street decorations, the hotels all done up ready for the onslaught of office Christmas parties during the month of December. I was quite successful with my shopping too. But the difference was, I came home to an empty house and had nobody to share my booty with. I don't say that in a "poor me" sort of way. Simply fact. Even though Greg was usually comotose for most of the time, at least he was something living in the house to show things to, however disinterested. Somehow showing the dog is not quite the same!