The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Lions and Lambs

I have just re-read my blog for 1 March 2011. Our Ma was refusing to co-operate and wait quietly with the carer who had found her on the living room floor so had (as per regulations) called an ambulance for expert lifting and a check over by the paramedic. She wanted to be dragged to her feet and left alone, roaring at the top of her little old lady lungs, "I can MANAGE perfectly WELL!"

Today, 31 March, she sits quietly at home, unaware - despite being repeatedly told - she is going to a residential home "for a week" on Monday. In like a lion, out like a lamb (I hope), unlike March which was quiet on the first and is leaving us full of bluster, shaking the darling buds of everything summat chronic and howling in the chimney.

Here she is up a tree on holiday in Portugal in the 1980s
I think I can safely claim she's now mostly 
out of her tree, but none the worse for that

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Husband's New Toy

The Husband has just today received off eBay a secondhand LCD projector that came with no manual.  As he's never daunted by the lack of anything as puny as mere "Destructions" or a pesky non-functioning remote control, he's got it going lickety spit, so can show anything off his pooter (DVDs, iPlayer, interweb, etc) and shine it onto a wall so it’s huge.  It's a bit fuzzy still, so I think the lenses need a damn good clean, but nevertheless our study is now his very own fleapit cinema. I’m going to have to get him some velveteen tip-up seats with drink holders and a sackful of microwave popcorn, I can see that.  And sell him cartons of orange juice from a tray tied around my neck.

It’s the first time he’s been childishly happy and excited for over a week, so even at a hundred smackers including shipping it’s paid for itself already as far as I’m concerned.

I've been so worried about him and all the Our Ma stuff.  I was wondering how grown up is it to have a daughter of 30 only a couple of weeks ago.  Now I'm thinking, how mature and terribly responsible does a chap feel when he puts his mum in a home?  

Too grown up, for sure...

Love's Young Dream

Our Ma was married in 1941 and widowed in 1995 (I think).  The children were born late on, after a bit of pioneering 1950s hormone treatment. 

After she’d been on her own a year or two, she started going out a bit to senior clubs etc, and met Toy Boy, who was about fifteen years younger.  They were a couple (trips out in his car, holidays, meals out, staying over at one another’s houses, lots of mutual support) for over a decade until 2006, when he decided to put his house up for sale to move out of the area to be nearer his family and then they were “just friends”.  Dumped at 89.  Can you believe it?  She took to brandy for a while to nurse her broken heart.  The transient ischaemic attacks started at the same time.  Toy Boy moved away the following year, and “joined another bowls club – I think he’s met someone new” as Our Ma surmised at the time.

We have decided we are not going to inform him of her change of address.  Or take his silver-framed photo with her to the home.  The Husband was polite to him when he was his mum’s b/f, but His Sister couldn’t abide him at any price.  The nicest thing for me about his going away was I got to know Our Ma properly for the first time, without her rather bumptious man friend there answering all her questions for her.

I asked the Home Manager if there are any romances there at the moment.  She said yes, there’s one.  Who knows, Our Ma might get herself another beau when she smells a bit less of poo!

In Which We Have to "Go Private"

We had to sign a private-only funding contract to get the bed we wanted in the home we all agreed on, as it is a privately -funded bed. The Manager tried all sorts of routes to try to help us, and spoke to her senior managers whilst we were in the room, to attempt to get us partial County Council funding for twelve weeks, but this county doesn’t have an agreement with them to have Social Services partially-funded long-term places.  She even offered us a “cheaper “ bed in another town nearby to tide us over and then bring Our Ma back here later, once the house is sold,  but we said NO it has to be this one and if necessary The Husband and I will take out second mortgages on our two houses to tide us over until Our Ma’s house is sold.  She was stunned by our devotion.

Had we gone for CC funding all they would be able to offer us is something like Home No 2,  where we were made most unwelcome and a man ranted at a lady in the sitting room all the time we were there.

When we visited Our Ma later afterwards she had taken off the shitty socks from yesterday (which her expletive deleted carer let her dress in this morning)  herself and loved her new slippers but had no recollection I’d given them to her this afternoon, to remove her Xmas pair for washing.

She will be CLEAN, given constant help with toileting, and round-the-clock company.  We even got to choose the colours of her re-painted walls, the new carpet and curtains.  She has a view over the garden and the pond, and from her window she can see the huge goldfish in the pond, and the manager is thrilled we will visit with our dog and she says the entire floor will adopt him as their own.

She will get a manicure and hand massage most weeks, all included.  I said she used to like a bit of lippy.  She will get it, every day.

When we arrived at 4.30pm The Husband paced back and forth and wouldn’t - couldn't - sit down while we waited for the staff meeting to finish so we could go in.  By the end of our meeting, an hour and a half later, he exhaled hugely and a immense weight lifted off his magnificent shoulders. 

She going to be HAPPY there.  It will cost HER (not us, her) approximately £3000 a month.  Swallow hard, Dear Reader.  We did.

The lady I noticed was crying on Sunday as we were shown round was the lady who died that night, in her sleep.  Her name was Lily and she was 93.  I said Thank you, Lily and blessed her soul.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

At The Hub of The Wheel of Life

I have news to impart.  Momentous to us, and yet an everyday occurrence looked at nationally or internationally.  A thousand old ladies or old gentlemen a day in the UK alone must be having these sorts of decisions made for them and about them.  Our Ma is going into a Home.

The need for residential care eventually has been long acknowledged, but the need has widened and grown and enlarged rapidly in the space of less than a week.  I said to The Husband, whose beloved mother Our Ma is, on Wednesday night last week after the mother and father of all days with her, that the time had come.  There was a splutter of oh buts, and surelies...? and then I said I am e-mailing your sister tomorrow.  We need another family conflab.

The meeting was set for Sunday at 1.00pm.  By 1.50pm we'd done our short list of local homes, drawn up by a combination of word-of-mouth recommendation and looking at websites and seeing how coy they were about visits without prior appointment when we phoned them.  Only one said, yes, come any time this afternoon.  So we went there first.  The others were more chary and asked we turn up at certain times or within certain hours, so they were put second and third.

What strikes a person as being a nice home must vary.  A hierarchy of criteria depends on each individual, I suppose, and many aspects need to be considered, condition of buildings, safety, security, aesthetics, atmosphere, staffing levels, general cheerfulness of staff, the size and design of building, the views from the building, the number of windows, etc, etc.  Bizarrely, all three decision-makers shuffled their criteria around privately in their own heads and came up with exactly the same positive or negative reaction to each place. The Husband and I agreed yesterday evening that as soon as we saw Number One we felt we'd found the right one already and had almost mooted calling off the search right there, but of course we had our sensible heads on as well as the hearts in our chests and so we agreed with His Sister when she said, well, we'll use that as the benchmark, as I logged the next Post Code into the SatNav.

No 2 felt shambolic and security was most peculiar.  We walked right in off the street as someone with the key code held the door open for us.  But at the end of the brief visit we needed the key code to get out.  The lady in charge that afternoon trenchantly disputed that we had come at the right time.  We thought she'd said before 4.45pm, she said she'd said after 4.45pm and to come back.  We didn't bother, the narrow corridors and general atmosphere hadn't grabbed us.

No 3 was a large brand-new purpose-built residential and nursing home on four floors.  Three rooms were empty on the privately-funded dementia (ground) floor.  Two had views of brick walls, one had a view of the internal courtyard garden (with no spring flowers!), but the corridors were wide and featureless and had NO windows.  Even we felt instantly lost and none of us have dementia - yet.  The whole place felt exactly as the though the architect and builders had just left, even though it had been open two years.  All the staff were uniformed.  It was bland, efficient, institutional and more like a hospital than any sort of home-from-home.  We were handed forms and a pen to apply for the third (less grimly bleak) room, but put them down and walked out, as a man, with hardly a word said between us.  I think we might have shuddered simultaneously.

So, at some speed, back to Home No 1.  We are definitely interested, I said, either in a temporary respite room or a long-stay continuing care room.  The same lady who'd showed us round the ground floor said, the long stay rooms are all upstairs.  We hesitated - we haven't seen upstairs...  Oh, c'mon, I'll show you now.

Even though this was a little sadder than downstairs, as the clients were further along in their different types of dementia and more lost inside them, and two poor souls were even on permanent bed care and quite evidently close to death, all the rooms had their doors open and were full of homely touches and it was a busy and friendly community.  We were even more convinced that Our Ma needed to be in a place just like this, and SOON.

The next day - just yesterday - two miracles happened.  I got a call from our No 1 Home, to say a room had become available "in the night" and we could have it in a week's time, after it had been redecorated, Then, even more astonishingly, Social Services rang me back and the lovely social worker who'd last seen Our Ma in the autumn spoke to me and said she could see us all that very afternoon to do an emergency assessment of Our Ma's needs and would also try to get the financial assessment done in time for her to move into the home on Monday 4 April.  "In record time" were her exact words.

These two things just don't happen on one day, within the space of minutes.  These things usually take week upon frustrating week, months even.  His Sister, when told, said somebody up there likes us.  I said the planets must be in a special alignment.  The Husband said that it just proved we were doing the right thing at the right time.

It was like pushing at an open door.

No, it hasn't escaped any of us that UK Mother's Day 2011 is the last full day Our Ma will ever spend in her own home, the house she has lived in for fifty-five years, near as dammit.  Although poignant to the point of painfulness to The Husband and His Sister, I see this as the third miracle, as we have the perfect excuse for a good send off on Sunday evening, with fizz and cards and cake and flowers. 

And a good send off she shall have, from her children, her pigeon pair, and their spouses.  We will wave her into the next - last - phase of her life happy in the knowledge that it is a Good Thing we do.

Our Ma and Her Babies 1956

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Puppies, Poodles and Pooches

The Daughter and I both call dogs "puppy poodles" irrespective of their age, size or breed.  We do it because we like the alliteration, and also because the word "puppy" is one of the most onomatopoeic we know.  It's soft like a kiss, it is warm like their tummies and sweet and small like their little souls.  All dogs keep the puppy that they were within them far longer than most adult humans manage to hang on to their childlike wonderment, and this recommends them above most humans in our mind.  We like the word "poodle" because it is idiotic, like the breed itself, (especially the standard version and larger), and yes, I KNOW they are very smart dogs, but their haircuts aren't and if you will persist with giving your poodles pompom tails the rest of the dogworld will always find them faintly risible.  All dogs have a touch of the idiotic clown about them, which is makes them the best company ever.  Hence the "poodle" in our favourite doggie phrase.

Pooch is another word with a kiss in it, and if one has a dog who needs professional grooming then in our family they have to have an appointment to be "pooched".  But best of all our dog-related words is "paw".  Of course other animals have paws, we realise that, but it's dogs that have left their paw prints on our heart, so it's a dog's paw we think of when we say it.

I decided a few years ago that the saddest two words (combined) in the English language aren't (as is often said)."if only...", but "sore paw".  Rehearse it to yourself, dear reader, and imagine the plaintively limping animal to whom the sore paw belongs.  There!  See?!  Am I right, or am I right?

The Daughter and Her Intended are going to be using all these wonderful words starting with P a lot more in their active vocabularies now, as yesterday they went to an animal rescue charity, filled out the forms and had their interview and were introduced to the dog the workers there assessed would suit them best, and whom they could offer the most appropriate help and home.  I don't believe in counting unhatched chickens, or unadopted dogs, so i am going to hold back from typing any more about this, except to say that, subject to acceptable references and succesful home check, they may be able to bring this particular puppy poodle home with them as soon as next weekend.

All I will do is cross my fingers, get The Dog to cross his paws neatly when lying down, and send up a brief prayer to the god of dogs that nothing happens to disappoint any of the three beautiful creatures involved in this adoption. 

Woof, arf, arf, ar-men.

POST SCRIPTUM  21.54  Sunday 27 March

The adoption is set to proceed.  A Grand-Dog has been acquired for Goldenoldenlady to dote on.  The new parents will bring him home next weekend.  His blog name will be The Handful, as he promises to be at first.  He pulls on the lead summat fierce, so much pent up energy and enthusiasm, but The Daughter has the Dog Whisperer books and she is determined to lose him his bad habits and give him the good life he deserves.

Friday, 25 March 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding

Hello.  It's me again, seeing what I can knock out in the last half hour of The Husband's working week before he gets in the and weekend begins.  He had a day off yesterday, and oh! how the sun poured down on our garden like pale liquid gold.  The Lodger took the afternoon off as well, all of a coincidence, and we sat on garden chairs on the lawn and shared a bottle of wine, a gentle leisurely sipping and chatting all overlaid with a joyful astonishment that March could be quite this warm.  So I am touch thrown out, temporally, by the day off, and feel like the weekend has been well underway since about Wednesday.  Not NOT the weekend.  A short holiday.

Lucky me, not being a wage slave, and having retired already in my fifties. Well you too can have my luck, but you have to have suffered from serious Bipolar I for two decades and had breast cancer in 2006 as well.  It's all part of the deal, I am afraid.  Still interested?

I have been e-mailing back-and-forth with the daughter about her July wedding.  She and her intended went to the Registrars with their passports this morning, and paid their fees (an eye-stretching amount for a 30-minute time slot) and tried to organise such music, readings and personal vows as they will have.  The registrar was stroppy about some of the words they wanted, saying some of it too closely resembled church vows (although there was a scrupulously studious avoidance of any mention of God) in including honouring and cherishing and staying faithful for life.  The Daughter asked me to help rephrase what she wanted, and I also downloaded part of a suggested humanist ceremony.  I came up with some acceptable synonyms for honour (value) and cherish (esteem or nurture) and added quite a few mentions of "always" to imply a determination to stay married for good and stay faithful one to the other.  She now feels their vows will have some dignity and solemnity, provided they are permitted.  I guess she has still to double check that.

As they are marrying on a summer Saturday in the centre of a city they are allowed only ONE reading.  Weekdays, they could have had three.  It's a conveyor belt, I tellya!  I suggested having the others at the lunch, but they might just let that go.  Her dad wants to say a few words about her at the lunch (that'll be jolly interesting.  We divorced in 1999 so I shan't be privy to what he wants to say until the words are out of his mouth).  The Husband (this one...) will be one of the witnesses and The Intended's dad will be the other, and his brother will be taking care of the ring.  Think that's it.  All done and dusted.

I have two best friends - one male and one female.  The male one is The Husband, for obvious reasons that should be plain to you if you have been following this blog with any degree of particular interest.  The other is The Daughter, my only child and all round Good Egg. To see her safely wed will be a Big Day indeed for this blogger.  Although all that is planned is a Small Wedding, the great love that will abound will enlarge it immensely.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A Quote from The Daughter

Today I want to offer and leave you with just this, a quote from The Daughter (possibly not original, but no less droll and wise for all that) who works for a world-renowned humanitarian organisation;

"I love mankind.  It's people I have a problem with..."

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

See-Saw, Marjorie Daw

I have had a request to blog about the weekend, the one just gone which promised perfection and delivered it in spades, but I am still waiting for a photo to illustrate it, so cannot fulfil the order just yet.

Meanwhile I have been researching Vascular Dementia to pass on some basic information to a niece, who has kindly agreed to Our Ma-sit so all the more junior members of the family can attend a wedding in Spain in early August, but still leaving the matriarch with someone she can call on by phone as well as the professional carers who attend to her needs.  I found an excellent site, which also had pages on other mental conditions, including Bipolar Disorder.  I have Bipolar Disorder I.  Twenty-one years ago this month I was admitted for the first time onto a psych ward, at the age of 33, to be given rest and respite (asylum, in other words, from a life that had become so impossible to endure that my deluded mind was in a state of manic psychosis) and for the staff to be able to achieve 24-hour monitoring, and eventually a diagnosis and the beginnings of life-long treatment.

Today I am not going to keep a dog and bark myself.  Instead of offering my critique of the article, or my lengthy observations about it, I am giving you a link to the site itself.

It is the best single page of information on this condition I have ever read; clear, free of jargon, positive and ultimately full of hope.  In the 21 years since I have been diagnosed as seriously Bipolar I,  I have felt the mystery and much of the stigma surrounding such mental conditions gradually lift, due in no small part to the educational potential of the internet.

I hope by publicising this link I can lighten the darkness yet more.

Friday, 18 March 2011


The Husband will be home from earning our daily crust in about half an hour.  It's 15.34 now as I begin to type and he usually comes through the door somewhere between  ten and fifteen minutes past four, having started work between 07.45 and 08.00 (depending whether he and The Boss - his manager and good friend who has given him a lift to work and back for years - go via Tesco for doughnuts or other breakfastings).   I am sitting here with slightly damp hair (but dressed and shod) so in the time it will take to dry fully of its own accord I aim to have blogged and posted.  And be fit and filthy and ready to rock.  Because at 16.15 The Weekend Starts.  Thank Fortitude it's Friday.

Oh, and what a weekend it is shaping up to be.  It was already arranged that it would be our weekend with The Daughter and The Boyfriend, our turn to celebrate her 30th with them.  Only he has stolen a march on us all - in March, as well - and asked her to marry him.  So now  we are seeing The Daughter and Her Fiance for the weekend, and this is a very different matter altogether.  We had already decided to have tea in a world-renowned smart hotel near their house, but now the dithering about whether to go for the Champagne Option has kinda been decided for us.  As brand newly betrothed couples do not go to smart hotels and NOT drink Champagne, do they?  It would be unthinkable.

And then there is the showing off of The Husband's birthday present from his fond wife, your own Goldenoldenlady.  It's his birthday on 21 March, and has been in my mind for some weeks to get him a DVD camcorder, as in the summer we are going to see his niece married in Spain, and Our Ma will be quite unable to make the trip, so the occasion needs to be brought to her, digitally.  A recording of her granddaughter's wedding where she will ask who's that? and what's this? quite a bit (including possibly who are the bride and groom, again? as her vascular dementia means she forgets all about those people she doesn't see every day, or weekly at least). But then the betrothal bombshell landed and so a double reason for buying a nice bit of kit moved me to get a Full HD Memory camcorder, cos they are even better and smaller and have all sorts of bells and whistles, and anyhow I have only one child, one wonderful daughter and I feel it in my old bones and water that she will marry only once as well.  They just look set that way, this couple.

So The Husband and the Son-in-Law Apparent will have a nice shiny thing that goes ping and winks lights at them to play with on Saturday evening while The Daughter and I discuss flowers and shoes and 200-count cotton bed linen and who makes the fluffiest towels.  And The Dogs snores between us on the floor oblivious to the detail but very aware that all His Humans are exceedingly happy and isn't that nice.

Then Sunday we will rise, and walk the dog in the park, and have brunch before taking our leave.  If anyone else out there has a better weekend planned they must have won the lottery.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A Mother's Musings on Matrimony

The Daughter received a proposal of marriage on Saturday evening, in Rome, and not from some briefly-smitten ogler or bottom-pincher (actually she has reported a marked decline of personal interference on pretty ladies in Italy since I was last there in 1993) but from her partner of almost five years.  She sent me a brief e-mail with the news on Sunday morning.  After I read this my brain was as bubbly as the glasses of cava we swigged all afternoon to celebrate the news, and then I slumped early and needed a bit of a siesta.  All that evening I couldn't process the idea fully as I still hadn't heard their voices, and so I fell asleep that night feeling strangely cast adrift.

They travelled back to the UK on Monday, and by teatime I had my phone call.  Some more funny anecdotes to add to what she'd said in the e-mail, and the reassuring sound of a girl as happy as a girl can be, looking forward to picking out her engagement ring from one of those lovely old antique and secondhand jewellers on Oxford High.

Then, on Tuesday, came the vision to go with the sound.  A quck and slightly blurred photo attachment of her left hand wearing the vintage 1950s emerald cut diamond ring she had picked out.  It had to be vintage because she will not support the modern gold and diamond industries.  And because such items offer better value for money than what's available brand new.

Soon, within the hour, she will be arriving to collect the hamster (cf my last posting) and have a cup of tea before driving him back to his usual nest in their darling rented Victorian house in central Oxford. And I will be able to add touch to sound and vision and give her the biggest hug a mother can muster.

At some point I may offer her some words of advice about how to forge and sustain a good married relationship.  As I have had two marriages, one Bad, one Very Excellent, and have been married for a total of twenty-six years to two very different types of man, I might have a few good ideas that could be transferable to another couple.  But I doubt it somehow.  I was sagely advised by an elderly long-married neighbour as a first time bride never to let the sun go down on our anger, and yet huffily slept in separate rooms after rows, year-in, year-out, feeling that no other option could be possible.  It's good advice though, and worth trying to uphold as a practice, as we've managed to do, The Husband and I, in our second-time-around-for-both-of-us union.  

The only other thing I would suggest is "Don't eat all your meals in front of the TV".

Apart from that, they're on their own...bless them.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Singing the (Not a) Baby Blues

My babe-in-arms visited at noon, my near-as-dammit 30-year-old baby girl, my one and only.  She arrived and left in a large modern car, which - inexplicably - she was driving herself.  A company car, which goes with the responsibilities and status of a manager for a major, globally well known, international humanitarian organisation.  Unaccountably, she didn't need cushions to see over the steering wheel or bricks on the pedals so her feet could work them.  

Several times I looked at her long and hard to check she hadn't got egg on her chin and that her knee sock (always the one, never both, like Just William) didn't need pulling up.  Her hair was brushed (it was well beyond brushed - it glowed slickly with a headful of expensive professional highlights), her jeans were clean at the knee, her boots unscuffed.  She'd brought cheesecake to go with coffee.  Cheesecake from Waitrose, bought with money she'd earned, without even being asked.

She and her b/f (actually he's her live-in partner of almost five years) are flying off to Rome tomorrow to celebrate her actual birthday which is on Saturday.  They aren't in a back-packers' hostel, like the student or young graduate she was a decade or less ago would have to be satisfied with, they have booked a suite at a small boutique hotel near the Spanish Steps, prosecco in room on arrival, car with driver from the airport, all arranged by e-mails in Italian which she wrote herself. 

A mother could feel wholly redundant, except for one thing, the main reason for her visit, which was to bring over their hamster to board with us whilst they are kicking up their heels in The Eternal City.

So, she may be all growed up, efficient and capable, and a startlingly stunning young woman, but I am again looking after her small pet for her whilst she does something else, just as though she's little again and staying with her grandparents for half term.  And I can push away the intervening quarter century, defiantly. If deludedly.

Because, you see, if our offspring really are 100% all growed up, what does that make us?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

I'm fine. And how are YOU?!

I think I am going to open a Finishing School. Not in Switzerland or Paris or Belgravia, all of which have been over-endowed with such establishments for decades.  Instead I will open it here in the Northern Home Counties, and it will be aimed not at young women (or more importantly the wallets of the parents of young women) fretting about how to get decorously in and out of sports cars, but at men of middle years (40+ in the most part) who really ought to know better but don't, and yet periodically or perpetually bemoan their lingering single status.

Or maybe I should write The Rules for men.  Heterosexual men, who nevertheless seem so mistrustful of and uninterested in women that they hold at arm's length the very girl they are trying to keep in their beds.  Or get into their beds. Or even persuade to go on a second date.  Because the appalling truth is that they will have ruined the first one by Never Getting Off The Subject Of Themselves. 

Has there been something in the water since about 1950?  Or was it the availability of The Pill to single women since the early 1970s?  Whichever it is something chemical seems to have deleteriously affected a certain type of man I know, or know of, who is living alone, (or, God forfend, still with his parents) well into his forties and fifties.  These men have no idea how to WOO.

They had parents who stayed married until death, insofar as i know, so they have witnessed a fully functioning, more or less successful heterosexual partnership at a formative age and yet cannot even get weeks - certainly not months (and years? Forget it!) - into one of their own.

When I look long and hard at these chaps i am left thinking, what IS it with you?  Are you part of the growing percentage of fellows on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum or is it just pure unbridled narcissism?  Have you become hopelessly self-absorbed because you live alone, or do you live alone because you have always been hopelessly self absorbed?

One of these characters (in his early 40s, never married, but then never lived away from his parents either, reasonably good-looking, employed, solvent) recently asked The Husband and their colleagues how much is reasonable to spend on a woman and on joint activities when one is an established relationship.

The two happily married ones answered him with A Real Poser.  

"EVERYTHING," they said.  "A real relationship costs us everything we earn, have and are with nothing held back.  OK, we might buy bits of kit that only we get full use of, but that is with the leftover spends when every other obligation has been met."

They may as well have been teaching Mandarin accounting with an abacus, I suspect, but we'll see.

That's just money.  What about the stuff that costs NOTHING? What is it with these men who, when you ask them how they are, or how work is going, TELL you at endless length and in meticulous detail, to the point of exhaustion?  Well, it must be exhaustion because when they eventually run out of steam they have no puff left to ask how we and our careers (or lack of them, in this recent age) or interests are in return...

That applies equally to women who've lived alone for a number of years, but they usually have magazines and friends and maybe even sisters to tell them where they are maybe going wrong in their social interactions.  Men as a rule don't intervene and nudge their mates or colleagues in the right direction when they are still wandering around the nursery slopes of the dating game like lost souls twenty or thirty years after they first strapped on skis.

So we need a Finishing School (aka The Last Chance Saloon) before these guys start pulling down their single person's pensions and scratching their grey, bald or thinning pates wondering where it all went wrong and how it was they never got to bestow upon another human all that capacity for joy, and love and sharing.

All those lost opportunities because they simply cannot talk to a girl, or a woman and especially not a lady who values good manners.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Old Age Ain't NO Place For Sissies

It's lovely and quiet just now.  The only sounds I can hear beyond the click of the laptop keys and the tiny thrum of its fan, is the gentle hiss from flames of the coal-effect gas fire and the metronomic tic tic tic of the second hand of the electric mantle clock as it jogs along neatly dividing up the minutes.  Of course, I'd much rather these two last sounds were the hiss and crackle of a log fire in a large open grate, and the steady sonorous tock of a long-cased clock in a slightly echoey Victorian hallway (my fantasy house), but for a 1950s New Town terrace this house we're in does more than OK for now.

A little while ago The Dog was adding some contented sound effects of his own as he crunched and ground up the last piece of some home-made naan bread The Husband baked on Friday evening.  We leave the leftovers to dry out to the texture of a baby's rusk and break off a chunk each day, as he loves it so, hiding it carefully under pillows or cushions or rugs to go back to later if he's not all that peckish at the time. Just now he lay in front of the hissing fake coals and ate today's piece all in one go, then got up and padded into the dining room to have a drink of water.  The wet rhythmic lapping of The Dog drinking water or having his last-thing-at-night saucer of milk is another sound I love.  It means The Dog is well, and all's right in the world.

A couple of hours ago things weren't quite so peaceful.  I had a call at 2.30pm from Our Ma's carer who'd arrived for her afternoon visit to find Our Ma sprawled on the sitting room floor.  As it's against regulations to lift or move a fallen client alone she'd called for an ambulance and was now ringing to let the family know.  I could hear the reassuring level tones of her slow Zimbabwean-accented English, so didn't panic, especially as in the background I could hear Our Ma's not at ALL querulous protestations that "I don't WANT an ambulance, I am perfectly all RIGHT, I can manage on my own!"  Which was not all true, not one iota, as she could have been on the floor quite some time, but at least suggested she wasn't concussed nor had cracked ribs as she was in good full voice.

I waited to hear an update.

The ambulance came and went, but Our Ma remained at home, her redoubtable self, utterly unshiftable, and as it happens as right as rain, just as she had claimed, once she was off the floor and in her chair.  She was checked over found to be ostensibly fine, lifted expertly into her armchair and refused a trip to the hospital for a closer check-up, the carer reported.  The exact same thing happened on the run up to Christmas when she must have come down heavily on her side as she had a splendid black eye for a couple of weeks, and bruised ribs.  This afternoon has just been another of those tragi-comic interludes we are now well used to with Our Ma, little incidents and events that have the potential to be more serious but never quite are.  Of course we realise that they are just little training modules for The Big One, when she will either take a calamitous tumble, or have a medical emergency, from which there will be no hope of recovery, recuperation and renewal.

She's 94 in October.  She is firmly ensconced in her favourite chair in God's Waiting Room. with plenty of biscuits and milky coffee, meals brought to her on a tray, and a steady supply of books which she "reads" and crosswords that she "completes" (with her vascular dementia I have to employ ironical quotation marks as anyone who knows the condition will understand) whilst her family prepares itself for the eventual crisis that will be the last.

Meanwhile, The Husband has just rung her from his workplace and she's asked for some nice sweets, something chewy and minty.  As she has precisely one whole tooth and stump of one tooth (and will not countenance dentures) to enjoy such toffees must take some doing.  These toffees, to me, are a symbol, a pars pro toto, the small section that can denote the whole of the bigger picture.  It isn't as melodramatic or urgent as holding on to life by the skin of her teeth, they way she is hanging on, but she sure as hell has it clasped firmly between her recalcitrant gums.