Reflections.

Not reflections in a mirror, more about taking a step back and reflecting on the progress I have made in the last five months. This is not just about weight loss which has been slow but steady but it is also looking at the place I find myself in now.

My studio has been de-spidered by the LSO and is ready for action and after much thought I have decided to approach the whole experience as an extension of this new place I have reached. I will go with the flow.

I have lost 33lbs to date and a further 25 lbs will put me in a truly healthier zone but it is what I have realised about myself that is most surprising. I have yo-yo dieted for years, lost weight, gained weight, wallowed in self pity as the pounds plus rolled back on but never achieved how I feel now. I am actually at peace with the need to lose weight, less frantic and definitely more in control and more accepting that it will happen but not in the short term. It will take time and during that time I will enjoy life, inevitably taking the occasional step backwards but I now understand it’s all part of the journey.

I have positioned the easel, put a fresh canvas on it and am ready to paint but what? After much deliberation I decided to look through the photographs of skies that the LSO has taken. There are hundreds of them so I was definitely spoilt for choice but I found a sunset in soft purples, pinks and gold which resonated with the way I feel at the moment.

Can this new sense of emotional freedom last?

We have an outdoor visit on Friday to see the AP.

Will I remain calm cool and zen-like?

I’ll let you know.

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.

Resolutions.

This time last year we were facing the joy of a New Year with thoughts drifting towards Spring and even holidays. Now, after a pretty dismal, at times boring and definitely worrying ten months we are facing further weeks, possibly even months of lockdown. It was certainly easier to cope with in the beginning but then we were coming into Spring and Summer with lots to do and a determination to not let it all get us down. It was so much easier to cope with during those months but after weeks of dull and mostly wet and cold weather, a Christmas that was a family free zone for us, we are feeling the pressure of having no freedom. I am sure there are many people who feel the same.

Yet, still we hear of those who don’t care about others, who are unaffected by the rising infection rates and continue as if the whole situation is a spoof. How many people have to die or become permanently affected by this virus before the hedonistic and self centred members of our society will listen to the pleas for sensibility and common sense.

The LSO and I have almost given up reading or watching the news because so much of it is either inaccurate or full of doom, gloom and what may happen not what will happen. So much speculation that seldom leans towards positivity just makes me feel more beaten down than ever. The general desire to hear bad news rather than anything good seems to be endemic to all and I always thought it was something the aged tended to enjoy.

Certainly with the AP, bad news was received in a very positive way and repeated to absolutely everyone becoming a little more disastrous and inaccurate each time it was mentioned. Talking about the AP did actually make me smile which is a rare occurrence. There she is, firmly locked down in the care home and seemingly doing really well. She has avoided even a cold so far and this is a real problem to her because the AP would love to have something wrong. Nothing of course that causes any real problems just enough to be a point of discussion and elicit sympathy. At a 102 years of age she is remarkably well and of course, in the home, well protected which makes me realise just how vunerable we all are.

Resolutions have got a bit lost in all this boredom but I really must turn my thoughts to weight loss in lockdown. Well maybe after the Christmas cake is finished.

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.

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?

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.

Such strange times.

It does seem that everything is a little out of kilter at the moment even the weather is strange, we are either swelteringly hot or being deluged by rain. It does make me feel a sense of discomfort that I cannot pin down. Perhaps this is the same for everyone and just a result of having been trapped in our homes for so long. We still cannot do much and are being told to continue socially distancing and not to go out too often, avoiding any crowded places so any ideas we may have had to head up to the coast or visit a market town are firmly knocked on the head. Not just because of crowd avoidance but what do we do if nature calls and we need to stop. There is nowhere open, we can’t just nip into a pub or cafe, even shops are loath to open their facilities for the public and if they did would I want to use them?

I’m seriously thinking that the only way to venture out is to purchase a full Harwell protection suit and a portable loo!

I still find myself planning baking days as a diversion to relieve the boredom of being trapped which isn’t helping my weight loss one tiny bit and food is just so comforting as long as it is laden with carbs and fat. Somehow a poached fish or grilled meat, a salad and new potatoes without butter doesn’t have the same impact or satisfaction and certainly not on a regular basis. I guess that’s why the HFLC diet with moderate protein is so good, added fat certainly does have the knack of creating much richer dishes with depth of flavour.

In the meanwhile our neighbour’s delicious potatoes have just come to an end and I was quietly relieved thinking now is the time to seriously look at dieting when the LSO came into the kitchen carrying a bag of newly dug Maris Peer from our other farmer friend who had planted his later. Oh dear, weak-will prevailed and plans have been partially shelved until these are finished. Hopefully by then the first of the plums will be ready and I can divert myself with jam making.

That will certainly guarantee the return of the stifling hot weather.

A good man.

It’s Father’s Day soon and I found myself thinking of my own father who died quite suddenly at the age of eighty when I was only thirty six leaving me with a lot of unanswered questions. That is now thirty eight years ago and I still miss him. Our own children were very young, our daughter was six years old and her brother only two and life was pretty hectic. He would have loved seeing all his grandchildren grow up and would have been so very proud of them.

My father was born right at the beginning of the Edwardian era into a very Victorian family and he was the youngest of three children, his two older sisters were twins Betty and Maggie. There was almost eighteen years between my mother and father and I never knew my paternal Grandfather who died before I was born and only met his sisters and my grandmother for a very short time when I was young.

My father was a Merchant Seaman and worked as a Chief Engineer with the British India Steam Navigation Company from about 1917 to 1945 when he decided to leave the Navy for civilian life. I don’t think, looking back, that he was ever really comfortable with life away from the sea. He loved everthing about it and had a passion for Indian cuisine and became a good cook, introducing me to curries as a very small child. This was quite surprising given his background, as a child he’d been thoroughly spoilt and doted on by his mother and his sisters and in the Navy he even had a batman on board who did absolutely everything for him. But he loved India, it’s food and it’s culture and although he did sail to other countries that was his favourite destination.

How I wish he was here, I have much I want to ask him but sadly he is long gone and my questions must go unanswered but he left me a great legacy. He really was a good man not perfect by any means but he had a strong set of values. He taught me that it is important to treat all people with respect, that everyone has something to give no matter who they are.

I can’t say I have always followed his advice but I have tried and mostly succeeded in keeping my own council rather than being unpleasant and I really do believe that people come into your life for a reason, some stay and some pass through as not all encounters are positive or necessarily good but they all give you experience.

Turning the sound down.

During a video conversation with our family at the weekend we inevitably got around to how we were all coping with the current situation. For us it is an unwanted extension of the lifestyle we had to adopt looking after the AP and just as we had finally discovered some freedom. Our daughter was interesting about the effect the lockdown was having on her and the family. The grandchildren and the dog are fine, in fact Fizz has never been a more contented Jack Russell, loving having everyone there. Son-in-law would prefer to be at work and daughter says although she wants to get on with life again she is enjoying some aspects of it all, life is simpler despite having to home school the children but more importantly she says the white noise has gone.

Our son too has found much that is beneficial about working from home despite having a one year old child. He and his wife have found it extremely difficult at times but both say they would prefer to work more this way rather than return full time to the city.

Food for thought and interesting observations that I am sure will be affecting many others in this world. But she is right, the constant buzz that is the lot of a working mother is absolutely mind boggling from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to falling, exhausted into bed at the end of a long and busy day. White noise is an excellent description for it all.

When the children were younger and I too was a working mum, there was little time left to ponder and the pace was relentless. My only saving grace was being a teacher so I had the same holidays but for the LSO there was never that privilege. In fact holidays were a time when he would try to wind down during the first week then start to wind up again in the second, preparing to hurl himself back into the fray. I just felt I was constantly juggling a multitude of balls at any one time trying to catch the important ones and ignoring those that fell to the ground.

We have never had to live with anything like this before so maybe after all this is over or more settled there can be changes for the better to the way we all live our lives. It certainly would be good to have a choice.

For us, we have just got slower, in fact any slower and we would be in reverse and horizontal. It’s not unpleasant in truth but at our age we need a bit of white noise in our lives to keep us alive. I find myself definitely suffering from that good old manana syndrome, oh tomorrow will be fine, I’ll do whatever it is then!