Another life.

After a spell of really warm weather, then some torrential rain, we are back to the great greyness and it is cold. Cold enough to tweak the central heating on which comes as a bit of a shock three-quarters of the way through June.

It doesn’t help with dieting either; I was enjoying the barbecued meals with lots of salads and vegetable kebabs which are spot on for a low carb diet. Now I find my mind lingerering, be it briefly, on more wintry casseroles and soups but no, I will not succumb to these thoughts and tonight it is a warm salad which I suppose is a bit of a compromise. I have now lost 30lbs, another 6 lbs off will put me about halfway to my target which I am hoping to reach before my 76th birthday.

My cousin and his wife came down from Scotland for a few days last week and although I was a bit concerned about how I would manage, especially as with so many of our friends and relatives we have developed a culture of ‘wining and dining’ but it was fine and I even lost some weight. The G&T’s were definitely off the menu replaced with fizzy water with a slice of lime and lemon.

But the recent visits of relatives and our children with their families has all been a challenge, be it a lovely one, to not slip into old habits and so far, so good.

I really do feel that I am finally throwing away the shackles that have seriously blighted not only my life but the life of the LSO. It is two years since the AP went into the care home and it has taken all that time to get my ducks in a row. I still speak to her every week and sort her affairs out but in truth lockdown has done us a favour because at the moment we don’t have to see her, well only infrequently, which is giving me the time I need to mentally and physically heal.

Mindfulness.

Well, here I am almost four weeks since my last post and the 16lb loss is now 24lbs off but I have reached a bit of a plateau which I refuse to be down about. I do need to move a bit more but I am back to swimming twice a week and I have resorted to doing some stretching exercises only intermittently and have bought some resistance bands. I just need to read the book and then remove them from the wallet they are in, they are way more effective that way!

Lockdown has done me no favours and I am sure many can equate to this feeling. I have definitely become a bit of a couch potato and the very word ‘exercise’ can reduce me to a jabbering wreck, full of endless excuses as to why I should avoid it.

Also whilst battling the little devil that sits on my shoulder I am trying not to look too far ahead because then I might just cave in due to the enormity of the task facing me. I need to lose a further 42 lbs to be in a true health zone and to become non-diabetic as well as fitter and just as importantly very much happier in my skin.

So I am taking small steps and enjoying my new mindful eating and the fact that I can now bend over and pick things off the floor, bonus.

It’s the word ‘mindful’ that intrigues me. Has anyone else noticed how often it creeps into so much literature. It’s obviously a new buzzword, an all encompassing word to take the place of others, such as meditation, stress busting, good old fashioned awareness among but a few. There is even a mindful chef!

But being serious it’s interesting how I have found that mindfulness when applied to eating can actually make a difference. Also I have never, until recently been quite so aware of how the past seven years have impacted on everything to do with our lives. How overwhelmed we have been by it all and how the circumstances that brought about a great deal of unhappiness, distress and in my case, illness could have been avoided if the LSO and myself had been more mindful and more fully present in our own lives. The AP would not have come to live with us and we would both have had fond memories of her. Sometimes it is not right to do what seems to be the right thing, the attempt to offer her warmth and kindness fell on stony ground. At some point we should have put our own needs first.

Now I am struggling to even ring her nevermind go and see her which is so sad; so it’s definitely a time to meditate before making the call. Will it work?

Hopefully.

An Update.

After a rather rickety start to my new weight loss programme I am finally losing pounds, twenty-one to date so I am feeling not only a lot better but more positive about everything.

It’s a calorie counting regime that verges slightly on low carbs but allows me to eat most of what I like within reason and doesn’t put me on a guilt trip. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? No, I’m not getting smug, therein lies disaster and the inevitable ruin of the weight loss and yes, it has it’s restrictions such as logging everything I eat and drink.

That’s another issue of course and I’m not talking about the gallons of water I am drinking, this time it’s the reduction of my alcohol intake. I have ditched the habit of decades which is the evening, pre-dinner G&T and the LSO and I only share a bottle of wine three days of the week. Astonishingly it hasn’t been such a miss and I feel almost saintly about it all but some may say that the wine will have to go eventually and the answer to that is, never. Life is too short, especially at our age to not have some pleasures in the week and a fine bottle of wine shared with a delicious meal is a joy.

I may just have to run up and down the stairs!

All hasn’t been completely fine and dandy though; I had a little blip last week when we went to visit the AP in the care home because she had reached the grand old age of 103 years. We booked the visiting pod but it was all a bit of a disaster because she was particularly vinegary and apparently couldn’t hear us or chose not to and said we had forgotten her birthday even though she was wearing the rather elegant top we had bought her. It’s difficult to really understand but she seems to save her nastiness and spleen to vent only on the LSO and myself which can be hard to take given how much we have done for her over many years and continue to do so despite her attitude. The visit also brought back some of the past and was a reminder of how thoroughly divisive she had been whilst living with us. This really saddened me because I had finally arrived at a good place regarding my mother; needless to say after about half an hour of a non-conversation that was mostly about her we departed, having had more than enough and headed home to sanity and the dogs. Fortunately the angst didn’t last too long but I did indulge in a G&T that evening. I think for the moment we’ll stick to the weekly telephone calls when she is generally nicer, although dotty.

But all in all, life looks brighter even if today is wet and cold.

No horizons.

We have woken up for several days lately surrounded by dense fog and on one particular day it never disappeared at all; it just kept becoming slightly more transparent then rolled back again. Apart from the occasional and refreshing sunny day, it has been cold, damp and grey. A bit like our lives in lockdown really only now we fight the brain fog that threatens to engulf us too. Conversations are punctuated with ‘thingymebobs and thingamajigs’ as we struggle to remember basic words.

When the AP came to live with us neither the LSO or myself expected the sudden change in her personality that caused us so much grief for so long. It was a relief when she finally went into a care home although that situation has its own set of problems and we did, for a short spell have our freedom back but the coronavirus and yet another lockdown have left us marooned in our home again.

I had, during our brief break for freedom, thought about changing the title of this blog. During those five and a half years not only did our horizons shrink but so did our energy levels. The whole situation seemed to suck the very life out of us both and in truth that is happening again now for differernt reasons and it must be the same for many people. So, I guess there is little point in changing the title. These are indeed worrying times and all we can do is take care, be kind to ourselves and others and have hope that the vaccine is eventually effective and we can all get back to some kind of normality.

I haven’t abandoned the weight loss programme; I am eating smaller meals, reducing the alcohol intake and I have stopped baking for a while although we are demolishing the Christmas cake. These little tweeks to our lifestyle seem to be having a positive affect for the time being.

I am now considering heading into the kitchen, in a most positive way of course, to bottle the Crab Apple gin I made two years ago.

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.

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?

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.

A brief return to the darkness.

It’s one of those days when I would just love to go to sleep and wake up to find everything is back to the way it was before this virus appeared. Sad really, I have no doubt many people feel the same way but it is a feeling that must be dealt with or it will take over. The LSO is experiencing much the same emotions so we need to help each other over this feeling of depression. We have managed really well with the lockdown until now but I know exactly what triggered all this off; I rang the AP yesterday and whereas the last few calls have been relatively pleasant, if not a little bizarre, yesterday it was a return to the old unpleasant, blackmailing, demanding and controlling person who almost destroyed us.

During this lockdown I had actually managed to feel a tiny element of liking for the AP which had surprised me after the hell she put us through for over five years. But as the LSO said, never let your guard down, she will never change and he’s right because all that happens is you set yourself up for a fall. I have in previous posts explained why I began writing this blog, to somehow cope with the immense emotional stress that she inflicted on me and it did make a difference. It was a bit like counselling, but I had hoped never to feel like this again nor to need to write about the black hole it put me in. Should I be surprised by this, probably not but I guess I live in hope that things might have changed but the LSO is right in what he said, a leopard never changes its spots although this one managed to disguise hers for decades.

Looking on the bright side, at least the AP doesn’t live with us anymore and I need only to telephone, thanks to the lockdown, so there is a plus point to the whole situation!

I did question yesterday why do I bother? Well I guess, simply put, I never, never want to be like the AP.

Keep on smiling.

There is no doubt that laughter is the best medicine and some hysterically funny jokes, videos and stories have emerged from this lockdown. They certainly take the mind off the seriousness of what is happening here and around the world.

We try not to watch too much news on TV but inevitably the late afternoon briefing has become compulsive viewing which is no doubt the same for many thousands of people. The AP is tucked up safely in the Care Home and can’t seem to get a handle on this pandemic and according to her no-one is taking it seriously anyway. When I spoke to her this week she asked why had I not been to see her so I explained again that no visitors are allowed. This elicited the response that she had heard me outside in the corridor on several occasions recently and she gets quite distressed and upset when I don’t go to see her. I explained that one of the Care Assistants must have a similar voice because I haven’t been to see her for over three weeks because of the lockdown.

The whole situation left me feeling a little bemused and then of course I realised that she was just reverting to type and it was the old ‘trying to control me’ bullying technique coming into play. Had I really forgotten the dreadful years the LSO and I suffered looking after her? Her utter determination to control and manipulate us whilst telling everyone how wonderful we were. No, I guess that will take many years and it may be that I will never have fond memories of my mother but lately has been easier in that we cannot visit so that dread has gone. Mind you it isn’t something to be thankful for since it is because of the coronavirus that I feel the way I do which is ironic to say the least.

It is interesting to note that for the LSO and myself being tied to the house is not too much of a problem. We had up until last August been forced to socially distance for over five years, unable to go anywhere or do anything for most of that time. So although we had begun to really enjoy our freedom, we equally have been able to settle back into a routine that had been a habit but at least we don’t have the AP causing us grief. She really was a huge black cloud hanging over us, definitely a large bat in the attic.

I am thoroughly enjoying cooking and baking again and have managed a couple of inches of my sweater while the LSO has produced some wonderful lino prints which is good to see again. The AP slowly ground us down, knocking any sense of creativity or love of life out of both of us as we fought to survive her vindictive and malevolent nature. This was something we never saw at all until she came to live with us but bit by bit our love and appreciation of life is returning along with a sense of humour which has always been a huge part of our relationship.

Although I am not lighter I feel lighter but just have to endeavour not to end up being rolled sideways out of the house when some form of normality eventually returns.