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The Start

This is the post excerpt.

Six years ago we made a decision that was to change our lives completely. We suggested to my then 96 year old mother that she comes to live with us. There were sound reasons behind our decision as she was not looking after herself very well and was looking very weak and wobbly. We also felt that her relationship with us was good and vice versa and we would make this work. We really had no idea what we were doing; what we were taking on or how it would affect us.

Big skies.

We woke up this morning to a truly magical sight, fog coloured by the sun to a glorious naples yellow with hints of pink and gold. Living where we are the big skies are incredible and they are an ever changing vista that bring such joy.

Most of us are all living a strange straight-jacketed existence that seems so un-natural. I was speaking to a friend the other day, and inevitably the conversation came around to the current situation. well it does sort of dominate everything and, yes, it is difficult, it’s boring, and seemingly pointless because after all the hard work and social distancing there is to be a five day party. Come the new year we will be back in lockdown, facing further restrictions as the number of infections rises again. It’s not a very happy merry-go-round to be on.

She agreed that the idea of freedom for five days over Christmas will be a recipe for disaster for some but said she takes great care and makes sure that she wakes up every morning and says ‘this is a good day and I shall enjoy every minute as much as I can, things could be much worse’. Great philosophy and certainly food for thought.

In truth the LSO and I are lucky in many ways, we have a lovely home, a lovely family and generally a pleasant life now that we have it back. There is never a good time for a virus like Covid-19 to appear and it is heartbreaking to see how many have died, not just here but around the world. Sadly it is with us, unseen and for some deadly and no-one really knows when it will be less of a problem.

But thank goodness for our big skies; they can lift the spirits and even the grey days have a beauty of their own especially when the will-o-the -wisps appear.

Another day……..

…….. and another with each day slipping seamlessly into the next with little to distinguish one from the other. I fight some mornings to even remember what day it is because apart from having to eat, there is no structure to our time. The LSO and I have slipped into a routine that revolves around mealtimes with the inevitable question after breakfast of ‘what will we eat tonight’? I am sure this is echoed in many homes around the country.

We are both feeling rather demotivated which, I guess is inevitable. At least we don’t have the AP living with us anymore so the stress factors are minimal and I really do think it is just a case of getting on and ‘doing’. I still have the weekly telephone call to the AP which can vary from being quite pleasantly normal to demanding and difficult. I cannot believe that we put up with over five years of utter misery; life with the AP was dreadful starting from day one. We spoke to a friend from Surrey whom we hadn’t heard from for a long time, who had decided to bring his mother to live with him and his wife. They lasted twelve weeks until they were forced to put her in a home and could not believe that we had put up with the AP for so long.

I know that we shouldn’t dwell too much on the past but it’s impossible to completely forget the daily stresses and strains we endured on a daily basis and how desperate we became. I was the punch bag, focal point of all my mother’s nastiness which was unbelievably hurtful and damaging and when she couldn’t get the reaction she wanted from me she turned on the LSO. Lockdown has, in a strange way, brought a great deal of it back. We were trapped in our own home then but with an old woman who was rude, inconsiderate, unkind, controlling and utterly divisive and that’s being quite mild about the situation. She certainly bore little resemblance to the person I thought of as my mother.

They say time is a great healer and perhaps it is, but the LSO and I have more years behind us than ahead of us. I just hope that this virus runs its course and we can have some semblance of a normal life back. I do find it hard to be motivated at the moment. Before the arrival of the AP it was never a problem; life was delightfully busy and interesting.

Now I just fight feelings of negativity telling myself to just get on with it, make the best of the situation and look on the bright side, at least the AP is in a care home and no longer living with us.

Sometimes I sits and thinks.

Well, here we are again, back in lockdown. It was looking pretty inevitable a couple of weeks ago when the number of people testing positive was beginning to rise quite alarmingly but you just hope it won’t happen.

As usual the same old comments were bandied around and the blame game started all over again, echoing and creating a definite ‘groundhog day’ feeling. Whatever happened to kindness, consideration, caring, friendship and tolerance? Maybe they were never there in the first place and just to add to the general air of doom and gloom we have the merry-go-round that is the American Presidential Election.

The news only seems to centre on those two issues, obviously the rest of the world no longer exists. Stop the world I want to get off has become a muted cry from many as we all witness the chaos and madness that is happening beyond our walls. The muffled world indoors has once again become the centre of many people’s universe while we try to fill our time and thoughts with something worthwhile. It’s not a good plan to dwell too much on what should, could or might of been because therein lies madness.

I am firmly integrated back into my little wooden studio and planning my next project, having just completed a request from a friend for a picture of her dog. This was definitely a first for me. I used pastels which again I haven’t used for years and years but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now I have to self- motivate and that is a slow process for me having wound right down to rock bottom during the five years the AP was living with us. But there is no rush so I am doing a little each day which sometimes just amounts to thinking. That brings to mind the old saying, ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.’ I’ve no idea where it came from but it certainly sums up my feelings at the moment.

I guess the next thing on the horizon is Christmas which is shaping up to be a strange affair this year. The family are all staying within their areas and we will be spending the first ever Christmas in fifty years of marriage, on our own.

I feel a bit like a rudderless ship!

Moving forward.

It has been a strange couple of weeks, I am still sorting out the AP’s deferred payment scheme with NCC; I have had one injection in my left eye which was a bit traumatic and I keep wondering if what we are living with now is going to be a permanent situation for us.

The LSO and I are at an age when we have far less in front of us in terms of living but we never dreamt, fifteen years ago, that we would be so very limited in how we would be spending that time. I guess we are luckier than most because we are, touch wood, pretty healthy although there are improvements to be made and we both have creative hobbies to occupy us as well as a fine space around us.

I am really enjoying having my studio space back. I had forgotten how peaceful the space is and how good it is to think creatively. It really does help to clear the mind and put other situations into perspective.

There is much to said for having a desire to create and it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it involves creative cooking, knitting, embroidery, sewing, drawing, painting, print making, collage, pottery, photography, gardening, programming, writing or construction using 3 D materials. The list is endless, in fact anything that adds another dimension to your life and thoughts, can add depth in so many ways and produce a sense of achievement and pleasure.

Everyone is capable of being creative and it isn’t anything to do with the ability to draw. Artists just take their special talents in a different direction as does anyone with a specific ability, creativity is the use of imagination and inventiveness and everyone has that ability tucked away inside themselves. It just needs a bit of encouragement to help it to emerge.

Never worry what others think either, this is something that you do for yourself. Its a lesson in life that takes courage to pursue but worth every minute of the effort.

Omming for England.

I’ve been doing a lot of ‘omming’ lately to try and keep my BP under control whilst trying to adopt a zen-like approach to life in general and failing miserably.

I actually thought I had finally sorted out all the AP’s affairs concerning her provision of care. How wrong could I be? A couple of days ago I received another invoice from the County Council asking my mother to pay a further £1050.00 covering the first two weeks of September. Having already paid what I thought was her first contribution during this Property Disregard twelve weeks, a system where part of her fees are paid by the council after a financial assessment has been done and which I had understood she was entitled too; I now find that she does not qualify for it . How did I get it so wrong?

When I added up the sums of money concerned I discovered they came to the exact same amount as the Care Home costs. Well that works…….not! The whole point in me contacting NCC in the first place was because her money was running out and I couldn’t sell her property to fund the rest of her care, because of Covid 19. This was then to be followed by a deferred payment which is basically a loan with interest added and once the property has sold, will be paid off.

Well after a couple of days of many emails and phone calls I discovered that the current situation we find ourselves in, is not considered a crisis by NCC standards so the AP is not entitled to a Disregard and she will have to continue paying the full cost of her care home fees. The Property Disregard is a very grey area and like so much the government sets in place, it is confusing with everything being at the discretion of the Council concerned.

It’s a pity that the people I was dealing with at the County Council hadn’t realised all this from the beginning of the negotiations; I had never hidden the fact that the AP was in a care home and the home were as surprised as me at the outcome. Still, it’s what it is and I just have to live with the situation, sad though it may be, that having worked all her life, taken very little out of the system but put a great deal into it, that the AP at the end of her days cannot have a little help.

Whilst all this is happening I have also been ringing the hospital about the injections I now need to stop the wet AMD in my left eye getting worse and the build up of even more stress. It is not something to be left too long and I was beginning to feel a bit panicky about it all. Then suddenly the sun comes out, the phone rings and lo and behold it is the appointments at the hospital offering me a slot on 2oth October.

So although I am saddened but not surprised, by the attitude and lack of old age care in this country I at least feel more at peace, life is less fraught and the looming clouds have lifted. I just need to stay calm, get the BP down and some weight off. Not too much to ask, is it?

Watch this space.

After a strangely anxious week I am now coming down to earth having spiralled up into the clouds.

I had to visit an eye hospital for tests this week because my left eye is showing signs of wet macular degeneration. It’s fortunately in the early stages and hopefully I will respond to the treatment which should start next Tuesday.

The LSO ferried me there and had to sit in the car for the duration of the visits. I donned the inevitable mask, registered and set off up to the department. By the time I reached the top of the stairs I was almost hyperventilating and felt hugely nervous about the whole situation. Heaven knows why, this was just a consultation. The next day we had to return for more tests and by this time my blood pressure was through the ceiling much to the horror of the nurse who was looking after me. She was so lovely and helpful, explaining everything in detail and trying to keep me calm. I didn’t feel particularly uptight but a second reading wasn’t much better.

After the tests were over I had the pleasure of turning a sickly yellow, from the dye injected for the photographs and produced a nuclear wee for a couple of days but thankfully no other side effects.

I am now waiting to hear from the hospital but the high BP got me thinking about our lifestyle because it was too high to be just white coat syndrome.

During the last six months we have consumed alcohol almost everyday. Discussions on having alcohol free days hardly ever happened partly because some meals just have to be accompanied by a fine glass or two of wine and there was and still is, the inevitable boredom of life in general these days. Then there are the pre-dinner aperitifs which at times were almost post luncheon drinks on really bad weather days, beer for the LSO and sherry or gin and tonic for me. Sometimes if we haven’t had wine with the meal a measure of single malt whisky will be poured as a nightcap, of course.

This all led me to looking at units of alcohol and assessing what we actually are consuming on a regular daily basis. OMG, just too much, no wonder my blood pressure is so high.

So changes are afoot, two alcohol free days a week is the aim and a reduction in the amount we drink during the other five days. Can we do it? It’s simple really, we must do it, if we want to be healthy and maintain a good quality of life.

Watch this space, I might benefit from some weight loss too!

The importance of a hug.

Spontaneity and freedom are not the only things we have lost during this pandemic. I was just sitting and thinking about the situation in general when I remembered a conversation with a friend and neighbour some weeks ago. It was about the importance of a hug. Hugging comes naturally to me, being a gesture of true liking, a silent communication which signifies warmth, affection, comfort, friendship and love.

This all started another train of thought. Where did this come from for me? My father always hugged me, my brother did too, as did numerous aunts, uncles and cousins but I have no memory of my mother hugging me but I was hugged by my maternal grandparents. I did spend a great deal of time with them during my young formative years and until she died when I was fifteen, my grandmother lived opposite us. Because the AP worked and my father worked shifts, I usually went to my grandparents after school and during the holidays.

I do remember hugging the AP when I was younger and definitely in later life but I suddenly realised that she never instigated a hug for just the sake of it. She was the receiver of hugs but never a giver of hugs. Except, of course, when she had been particularly nasty she would play ‘the give me a hug’ card which in the end was studiously ignored. That is not what a hug is about .

Is it significant? It certainly explains a great deal about the AP’s character and attitude; she has always expected people to come to her. Her desire to be the centre of attention still continues even in the care home where the AP still tries to play her silly little games.

Fortunately it no longer affects the LSO and myself; we are too removed from the situation now and because of the coronavirus cannot even visit her. A weekly phone call is endured by me rather than enjoyed but whatever the situation it has never affected the way I feel about hugging; there is no doubt the world is a better place after one.

A little is better than nothing.

There’s no doubt that these are strange times to be living through. The arrival of the coronavirus has drastically changed many people’s perspective on life and then just as some modicum of normality resumes, the number of infections begin to rise again, with the result that more restrictions are put in place. As usual these are only followed by those with a conscience or people who are vulnerable in one way or another. Sadly there are always those who feel they are bombproof or just don’t care if they get it or pass it on.

But in the midst of all this there are places where people work hard to do everything they can to make the environment as safe as possible but they seldom get a mention. Bad news always travels better and faster, drowning out anything positive or good and this seems to be a cornerstone of our lives in general. I do get tired of all the wingeing and carping that the newshounds seems to thrive on. Politicians are no better, single handedly they have raised the ‘blame game’ to dizzying heights.

Will we ever go back to our previously normal lives or is this new normal here to stay? Sadly I suspect this will be with us for some time to come and we will slowly adapt to a different life style. None of this does anything to help me alter my mindset in order to lose weight. I still bake occasionally to relieve the boredom but I have reduced portion sizes and cut down the carbs a little with a tiny positive result; I am no longer blowing up like a funfair balloon and there is even a very slight loss of about half a pound. A little weightloss is better than nothing at all so I will continue doing what I am doing and try to maintain a steady loss.

The situation with the AP is still on-going although I do have a better understanding of the situation. I have spoken to several people at the County Council who have all been extremely helpful and efficient as well as the Department of Work and Pensions which when I lived in Newcastle was always referred to as the ‘Ministry’. Things have changed since those days and the people I spoke to were in Blackpool and hopefully all finances will be in place in time. Unfortunately the AP refuses to understand or is unable to understand the need to sell her property and seems to think we can sell ours to fund her care! Apparently she also thinks that the fortune she has coming in with her pensions should be more than enough but sadly it isn’t, her savings have almost all gone and the massive pensions don’t even cover half a month of her Care Home fees. We will eventually be able to sell her property and then the whole ball game will start again.

In the meanwhile, we are having some work done on the exterior of our house before the winter arrives which involves the waterproofing of exterior brick work which is one hundred and seventy-six years old and the painting of the barge boarding under the eaves. The LSO has also re-painted our red shed and my studio and with the help of our daughter and the two grandsons has sorted it all out for me so I will, once the roof has been secured, have a place to work in again. That really is something to look forward to.

Life in a vacuum.

I actually feel that I can’t breathe properly at the moment. I am in a state of confusion. Why? Well the ‘why’ is because I just have too many grey areas of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ surrounding me.

First there is the coronavirus which has created a vacuum for most people, social distancing, mask wearing and the problems of going out. On it’s own, not so much of a problem that can’t be overcome but then I come to the AP and everything changes.

The home she is in is expensive and because of her total assets she has to be self-funding and her immediate savings are dwindling at a rate of knots despite her pensions going in every month. Although she is 102 years old, frail and definitely dotty she doesn’t fit into any nice little niche for claiming extra money so I am having to contact the County Council for assistance.

The government, in March, instructed all landlords and letting agents to leave tenants in their properties until September even if the tenancy has run out which the AP’s has. The rest of the AP’s care home funding is to come from the sale of her property but even if the rule is lifted in September the tenant has to be given three months notice. Who wants to move over Christmas, heaven only knows when the house can be sold?

In the meanwhile I wait, wait for the Council to come back to me for further details, then I wait, hopefully to hear they will help whilst also waiting to see if the embargo on landlords is lifted, it’s just the uncertainty of it all and it is all so very, very frustrating. When I spoke to the AP on the phone yesterday she came out with the startling revelation that she thought her care in the home was free, that the NHS were paying.

I wish! For over five years we looked after the AP with absolutely no help, in this country there is no place to go, no help given unless you are on the poverty line. It doesn’t matter that you have worked all your life, paid all your taxes, didn’t block beds in the NHS; but is there any recognition of this? No, not a thing, you just go on paying and people like the LSO and myself have to disappear down rabbit holes trying to sort everything out. Now just to put a lid on everything I am being made, by the government, to feel even more uncomfortable because I am overweight and all this just creates an even bigger vacuum. It will take me many, many months in an ideal situation to lose weight but this is not an ideal situation I find myself in.

Did I hear the LSO getting out the wine glasses…..that’ll be a large one for me please!

What went wrong?

I am experiencing a dreadful feeling of sadness and it has come over me quite suddenly. I think it is probably a by-product of the current situation that we find ourselves in although it is definitely not helped by the rantings of the press, the railing against the government by all and sundry, the shocking pictures of violence both here and around the world and the huge selfish attitudes of so many about so many different things, not just the effects and worries that are towed along by Covid-19.

I am, like many, quite shocked by the current news photographs around the world of packed beaches, all night raves, violence and large parties where social distancing is a thing of the past, that is if it ever existed for these people. I read articles where politicians are to blame for everything and that appears to exonerate the actions of the many who appear to have no regard for others or even for themselves and I feel sad, a deep, deep sadness because I wonder what has happened to the world.

The LSO and myself were born just after WW2 into the great greyness which was lightened occasionally by a smattering of bottle green and brown in all its various shades. Men had two suits, one for work and it was often the demob one and one for best which serviced everything from christenings to funerals. The Cooperative Society Dividend went towards winter coats and school shoes and food was still rationed so meals were basic and each day of the week was the same each week. Our diet was healthy enough because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit with the luckier ones being able to afford a greenhouse, those who didn’t have a garden could have an allotment for a few pence a week.

But it truly was a grey world, being in the North East it was wet a great deal of the time and definitely colder than the South but as children we were unaware that things could be different. Men back from the war years were glad to be alive although the physically disabled were in evidence on street corners trying to make a meagre living selling matches and other sundry items. Council houses were nothing to be ashamed of and only the really well off like doctors and lawyers could afford to own their own property. Gardens were maintained to a high standard and people took a pride in what they had, gathering at the Community Hut for regular events such as vegetable and flower competitions, cake shows and women took a huge pride in their jam making. There was even a section for children to display embroidery, simple sewing and my favourite was always the miniature garden on a tray with a mirror for the pond.

We didn’t have much and Christmas presents always featured mostly around things that were needed such as slippers and a dressing gown. An Annual was usually included along with a Cadbury’s selection box and I can remember being envious of my brother getting the Eagle Annual, I loved reading about Dan Dare and the Mekon. The stocking hanging usually over the fireguard, was always a sock of my dad’s with a few nuts and an orange but I didn’t feel deprived or wanted what others had because life was just what it was.

After leaving school I went to Art School and met the LSO, a mere fifty-six years ago and life was fun, the swinging sixties were just that for us and in 1970 we got married. We weren’t idealists but we wanted a better life for our children which in truth they got. I am sure much of what I have written will apply to the majority of people in our age group. I resent the comments made about the grey pound population being a drag on the market, we worked hard all our lives for what we have now and paid all our taxes but the difference between us and our own parents is that we had the opportunity.

So what went wrong? I can only put it down to greed in all its forms and sadly that is a hugely distructive element of human nature. It would appear that the majority of people in powerful positions in this world are the greediest, the more gently intelligent members of the human race are being squashed and shouted down.

The other day during a conversation with our daughter (K) who has just had her 45th birthday I asked if she had had a good day and some lovely presents. She said one of the best presents had come from a neighbour who had scoured the internet to find something that she would really like, it wasn’t expensive, just the right thing and K said that those are the most cherished and appreciated presents because someone had really thought about her as a person.

So true and I did feel that we hadn’t got it all wrong as parents but we just need a zillion more people with that attitude to make the world a better place.