30 January 2012

Let them Eat Cake

This afternoon, I popped into Sainsburys and Lidl to do my weekly shop. (I often make a point of doing a separate Lidl shop because I can fill up with all the things I miss from living in Germany and browse round their tempting non-food bargains too.) In both shops, the person in front of me at the till had difficulty paying.

In Sainsburys, it was a young woman with her child.The woman nervously fingered the change in her purse and then handed back a tin of baked beans as she did not have the full amount to cover the bill. In Lidl, there was a man in front of me. The cashier was quickly scanning the items through for the man to pack, but he was too busy searching in all his pockets for his debit card. More items went through, still he frantically searched through jacket pockets, then trousers, then even shirt pockets. With nearly all the goods scanned through, he then announced to the cashier that he could not find his card and would have to pay by cash. The trouble was, he did not have much cash either. The next 10 minutes was spent with him sorting out from the scanned and unscanned items, what was essential and what not. He kept the bread and cheese, but returned the fruit juice and sausage rolls. Then he swapped the cheese for some meat. Later he added the cheese back in. The poor cashier was furiously cancelling items on the scanner, then scanning new items, then even rescanning some of the items earlier rejected!

It got me thinking..........Here were two people in the space of an hour, both happened to be in front of me, both having trouble paying their bills and then there is Mr Hester at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Spot the deliberate mistake!

20 January 2012

A record

( picture from dooyoo.co.uk)

I went to my local Al-Anon meeting this week and it was a record turn-out - twice the usual number of attendees. Extra chairs were needed and the usually perfect circle became a somewhat bulging oval. There were a few newcomers, a few others I had not met before [I attend meetings irregularly, particularly when I am away for a week visiting my mother]. Proof positive that alcoholism is on the increase.

Newcomers invariably ask the same question that us old hands have once asked ourselves at our first meeting - what are the ways to help the alcoholic to stop drinking? Ha. If someone could bottle that answer (to pardon the pun), they would be a millionaire. The sad fact remains that there is nothing anyone can do to stop the alcoholic from drinking. Only the alcoholic him/herself can bring that about. If the alcoholic does not WANT to stop and will not TRY WITH ALL THEIR MIGHT to stop, there is no magic wand available in the cupboard. No amount of money, detox, rehab or medical intervention is going to bring that happy ending about. It can only come from intense effort by the alcoholic themselves to avoid the demon drop. I was once told that for every ten alcoholics, only one will succeed in becoming sober and staying sober: the other nine simply don't make it through and will lapse and relapse time after sober time into drinking or will kill themselves. It's a disease in all senses of the word.... one that neither the professionals, the alcoholic, nor certainly their loved ones can always cure. A lot of newcomers are also befuddled by their first Al-Anon meeting - I was. It's not about helping the alcoholic to stop drinking, but about the long climb to sanity for someone who has had to live with an alcoholic. It's about looking after ourselves not the alcoholic. It's a spiritual programme to heal ourselves and make us stronger to cope with the alcoholic. It's also knowing there are others out there like me, who have gone or are going through what I went through. To know you are not alone is a tremendous support. That doesn't always come across in the Al-Anon literature.

Earlier in the month a study said that people should have two alcohol-free days a week. That surprised me. My view is, we should rather be thinking more in terms of having only two alcohol-drinking days a week. Are we all drinking that much that we need to limit it to just two alcohol-free days? I grew up in a family where alcohol was only available at very special occasions like Christmas or birthdays with a zero in it. We couldn't afford it for one thing. No wonder people nowadays need benefits and large salaries to cope with their drinking habit, if they're downing alcohol on a daily basis. This rant, by the way, isn't about sobriety and prohibition. (I have the occasional little drink about once a month). But, until you have lived with alcoholism and watched a loved-one die from it, you cannot possibly understand what damage it does - to relationships, to health and ultimately to life. But once you have witnessed that, believe me, you would never want to drink again.

04 January 2012

So far, 2012 is not good.

Happy New Year! Or is it? Not in this neck of the woods. It has not been the best of starts. Nothing catastrophic of truly major proportions, but not exactly hunky dory either. Here is a litany of my woes......

January 1st - at about 11am- Kay and I take Snoopy for his first walk of the year around the block. See a middle-aged woman sitting on a wall outside our local vet, crying her eyes out. I ask if I can help. She tells me amid sobs and gulps with a mascara-streaked face that her dog is just being put down. Her husband is inside the vet's house, so she does not need any help, but thanks me anyway. I feel for her and spend the rest of the day thinking about her.

January 2nd - Kay wakes up with the beginnings of a cold and a huge ulcer in her cheek (her wisdom tooth had crumbled over Christmas. According to the dentist it was a naturally-weak and useless tooth) and had rubbed this huge hole in her cheek which was failing to heal.

January 3rd - Kay is due to get a train at 11 from Kings Cross back to uni up north. She wakes up feeling real awful with swollen neck glands, a swollen cheek, earache and a sore throat, not to mention pouring nose. She cannot swallow and feels sick. There follows a short debate as to whether she should go or stay, but I tell her that I have to get my mum back home (60 miles away) tomorrow, we have ordered a supermarket delivery for her on 4th and a new (digital) TV is being delivered to her on 6th. I therefore cannot be around to help Kay, if she decided to stay at home for any longer. Kay reluctantly agrees it is better for her to return north today.

We struggle on public transport and in heavy rain and winds with two heavy cases, a laptop and handbag to Kings Cross. We get there with half an hour to spare: things are looking good. Until we see the indicator board. Her 11:00 train has been cancelled along with her seat reservation. Great ! The next train is an hour later but with no guaranteed seat. In fact there will now be two train-loads of people trying to get the few random unreserved seats. There are hundreds of people in the station forecourt all in the same position, as several trains have been cancelled - not sure whether it is due to adverse weather, or signal failure somewhere in the midlands, or both. There is a film crew gleefully shoving a furry microphone on a pole thingymy in people's faces as they complain to the harrassed-looking station staff behind the information desk. Then we are told the 12:00 train has also been cancelled and we have to wait for the 13:00 one. THat's three train-loads all vying for non-reserved seats. Kay will only be guaranteed her passage (but still not the seat reservation on that one). If she fails to get that and wants to take a much later train (to guarantee a better chance of some more random free seats) she will have to pay £124. Kay breaks down in tears. Her neck glands and cheek are excruciatingly painful; she will doubtless miss the appointment with a doctor she had made to get some medication; she faces the prospect of a two-hour wait on the chilly station forecourt and (eventually, although who knows when) a three hour journey standing all the way with two suitcases. And a laptop. And a handbag. I relent. I tell her she can come home. I will cancel all the commitments. We stagger back in the opposite direction for home with the two suitcases, the laptop and the handbag. As we emerge from our local station, the heavens suddenly open. There are 60mph gales and a torrent of water that is like a wall of glass. We dash for my parked car and head the last half-mile home in a sea of water that even the fastest windscreen wipers cannot cope with. All I can see is oncoming headlights with no car attached to them - the wall of water has turned into a thick fog, the rain is so heavy. The road is covered in a 6-inch film of water, so driving at speed is out of the question. We get home and sit in the car for about 5 minutes as it is definitely too wet (and dangerous) to leave the safety of the car for the 6-foot walk to the front door at that moment).

Eventually we dash for the warmth and dry of the house and I set about frantically cancelling or rearranging all the deliveries to my mother over the next few days, or notifying everyone who I had told I was going to my mother's for a few days that I was now going to be home again after all. Then I take Kay to our local hospital walk-in clinic (as she is no longer registered with our local doctor). We wait nearly three hours to be seen and she has now thankfully been prescribed penicillin for her ulcer and throat pain. She has booked another train north for Saturday. I will take my mother home on Sunday and stay a few days with her, set up her new TV etc.

Tuesday 4th - I head off to the dentist to have a temporary filling as one of my large molar fillings fell out yesterday. When I get back, I discover Snoopy has somehow got hold of a packet of chocolate biscuits (Jaffa cakes) and eaten about 8 of them, smearing the melted chocolate on the cellophane wrapper all over the carpet. Watch this space.......Chocolate and dogs do not go together, so what comes out in due course will not be pleasant.

Happy New Year!!!