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.

Confusion.

Had a few bad days lately. I just couldn’t motivate myself to do anything, even cooking so I just lounged around playing word games and endless scrabble in an attempt to turn my thoughts off. The LSO stoically ignored me and busied himself around the garden and his studio which was really the best thing to do, leaving me to mope.

After a full day of moping I decided that I need to address all the problems crowding in on me and maybe that way I can sort myself out. I spoke to the AP the other day and she is fine although very dotty and says she keeps falling over although the carers say she is fine. Apparently there is a man in the care home who she is making coats with and she knew him from Newcastle University days. She recognised him immediately but bearing in mind that she is a hundred and two years of age and virtually blind this is just another dream that seems real to her. Then she changed tack and announced that she was holding a black thing tightly in her hand and when I asked what it was the AP said I knew what it was, they were all in her bed. After this she rambled on asking how my spots were, what spots! This was followed by her asking after the LSO and didn’t he want to come into the home. I asked what she thought he would do and she said ‘well he’s so good looking he’d have to go to the lover’s room’. There really isn’t much to say to that. According to my mother we wouldn’t believe what went on at night and this all then led to her asking for mouthwash which she is convinced someone is stealing along with some rugs she had in there. I explained that the rugs were in the bottom of her wardrobe or certainly were last time we were able to visit. The final part of the conversation was that the care home were having more musical events but people keep spoiling them by climbing onto the veranda and she is having to keep her window locked. Well for a start there are no verandas or balconies and the musical events are usually held downstairs. These conversations leave me extremely bemused and exhausted because it would appear no-one else who rings her gets them. No wonder the gin bottle looks so attractive!

Still, I have to be thankful that she no longer lives with us.

On top of all that we have decided to change our holiday from the middle of September this year to the middle of September next year which is sensible because by then we will be living in the new normal. But it does seem such a long way away but also being serious, I have no desire to be seen in a full Harwell Hasmat suit pulling a portaloo behind us. We cannot even visit our children and their families but then I guess the portaloo might cause a few raised eyebrows in the South East nevermind the full nuclear protection gear.

On a more positive and practical note the LSO has suggested that we hire a skip. We really need to do some sorting out in his shed, the AP’s bedroom and my studio because both have so much junk in them. It’s a good plan.

I am sure these tasks will sort my head out that is until the next phone call with the AP!

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!

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.

A chimera.

A few days ago the LSO and I were sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and the coolness of the evening air, gazing at the clouds and the shapes they formed in the sky. One particular cloud bore a resemblance to a large ethereal dragon and this made me think of a chimera, a mythical dragon-like creature with the tail ending in the head of a dragon or snake. The appearance of a chimera was considered an ill omen and a sign of natural disasters to come. Can this virus be a natural disaster? It’s certainly cutting a swathe through the world and sadly looks as if could be with us for the foreseeable future.

I cannot imagine what it will be like to socially distance all the time especially with our own family because hugs were always the order of the day and a natural part of our relationships with each other that both the LSO and I miss so much at the moment. But the more I read about this Coronavirus the more obvious it becomes that it will become part of our daily lives.

It has made me think much harder about losing weight because for the past eight weeks I have endeavoured to make our diet as interesting and as comforting as possible which has inevitably meant an increase in baking and an overload of carbs. The time spent preparing and cooking passes the time too which is another negative aspect of endless lockdown for people of our age, boredom. I have really struggled this week with the days, never quite sure when I wake up in the morning just what day it is. The only point of reference is the weekly shopping delivery on a Wednesday. I feel a bit like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey who asked ‘What is a weekend’ and as for bank holidays, what on earth are they?

But I really do need to lose weight as I am beginning to feel and look like a Toby jug. So what is the answer apart from finding some will power because at the moment there is little to look forward to, just more of the same. It is always easier to diet if there is a goal, that is other than the loss of pounds at a weigh-in and at the moment life is pretty much lacking in that area.

One of the spin-offs from losing over five years of our lives looking after the AP was that we both lost interest in the activities and hobbies that had become part of our retirement. The LSO has done well to start his lino printing up again. I used to draw and paint, not particularly well but I enjoyed it and I am trying to get back to spending time sketching to begin with because my studio has become a storeroom and needs clearing out. Once some slightly cooler weather comes, next week, I must persuade the LSO to give me a hand. I will have to send him in as the advance guard because spiders have taken up residence in there and I have a real horror of these mostly harmless creatures.

So it is a case of watch this space, by the time I write again my studio should be up and running and perhaps the weight-loss will have begun.

Another week, another pound on.

Some things are just inevitable and no matter how much you hope something won’t happen it does and it will. The local practice has put out a letter of warning saying that we have been behind the the rest of the country up until now but finally the village has some cases of Covid-19 appearing in the community.

It was going to arrive but I think we all hoped in our hearts that we might have managed to avoid it. Certainly some of the younger members of the community have been ignoring social distancing probably because they think they are bomb-proof as well as some of the older locals. Inevitably the warm sunshine is difficult to ignore and many have chosen to sit out during the more balmy days on the banks of the river that runs through the village. Sadly it’s understandable but not sensible. It really will be a case of watch this space now.

The village is close knit and there are many extended families. Most of the local people tend to live and work close to where they were born and brought up which I guess is quite common in a farming community. The village community is pretty well divided evenly between locals and newcomers and generally it works. But the village people are sub-divided into the farmers and those who work in other industries many of which have a connection to farming. Very few of the young people move on or go into higher education preferring to just follow in the family footsteps.

This does make them a bit insular and they really do believe it will never happen to them but we now have patches of the virus springing up all over the area. The lovely sunny weather does make this lockdown more difficult to endure for a great many people who have been used to heading for the coast or out to restaurants and pubs at weekends and Bank Holidays. But we just have to hope that common sense rules.

In the meanwhile I am beginning to look like a cross between Worsel Gummidge and the Weebles. My hair is getting longer by the day and the cooking regime is definitely not Keto or low carb with my willpower firmly out the window but I have enjoyed resurrecting recipes I cooked when the children were small such as quiches, cheese scones and the good old Victoria sandwich cake. We even ate homemade scampi in a light, crisp tempura batter the other evening and it was delicious with a side of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and baked in the oven and small new potatoes.

But I know I must get my head around losing some weight so after a very short discussion with the LSO we decided to reduce portion sizes for starters. No sudden moves, its bad enough waking up wondering what day it is without adding to the stress of worrying about what is right to eat. One of the problems with this lockdown is the need to have a focus in the day and for us it is the morning coffee with a slice of cake or a biscuit, a lunch that is not too demanding then the evening meal preceded by a G&T or two for me and a beer or two for the LSO and then wine with the food.

I managed to forget the afternoon cup of tea with a scone or a piece of fruit cake. Oh dear no wonder I am expanding.

It’s truly biblical.

Today I found myself standing in the hallway looking intently at nothing in particular and humming that banal little ditty ‘I want to go a-wandering among the hills so green’. Now that is worrying and obviously deeply psychological. What shall I do? First things first, decide what to have for lunch since the decision has already been made for dinner tonight. At the moment I don’t feel like cooking so it’ll be pasta with tomato and chilli sauce. Well that’s another decision made but lunch isn’t for another two hours or so, how shall I fill the space before then?

How many of us around the world are feeling the same? Thousands possibly even millions of people I would imagine trapped in this strange limbo land.

For the LSO and myself this will be a long haul because of our age whilst those younger and less at risk will eventually be able to go out as long as they keep socially distancing. It’s going to be a slow process and I wonder how much will actually change hopefully for the better. I am not so much bored as feeling trapped. Having been trapped for over five years whilst looking after the AP we really had found our freedom only to have it taken away again.

The LSO would like to be sitting on a riverbank watching a small red float drifting past lily pads but I just would like to feel that I can go out at a whim. Perhaps shopping or to lunch or meet up with a group of friends, see the family. Now that really is a miss. The grandchildren are all growing up, our own children are growing older as we are and we can’t visit them or them us. Then just to rub salt into the wound when eventually we can meet up we can’t even cuddle or hug any of them. Cruel world indeed.

I had an email from a friend in Australia who has survived the drought, the terrifying fires, then the floods and now this. It is all truly biblical and I keep looking out to see if we have a plague of locusts approaching. That reminded me of an occasion when the LSO and myself were visiting friends in North Norfolk in 2011 and we heard something like hailstones hitting the car. They were in fact Ladybirds and there were thousands of them. People were rushing around trying to brush them out of their hair and there were piles of these insects lying in the gutters. When we reached our friend’s house we scurried indoors to find the lights on because the windows were black with these invaders, apparently the swarms had been blown across the Channel from Europe.

I have since discovered that these foreign insects are responsible for the demise of our own native species.

All food for thought.

This strange existence.

Nobody has experienced anything like the present situation but it has been most interesting noting peoples’s responses to this lockdown. Most are intelligent enough to understand the need and the importance of it all but there are always the selfish ones who just don’t care about others and think they are bombproof. I suppose they are always there no matter what the situation is. They are the ones who play their music at a volume that assumes everyone wants to hear it, who jump queues, who drive like idiots, park inconsiderately, consider they know it all and generally are obnoxious, self centred, arrogant and selfish. The Me-Me ones who just don’t care until something goes wrong. It’s not even a generation thing because they come in all shapes, sizes and age ranges.

But in the midst of everything there are those who are caring, kind and considerate who go out of their way to help others. They don’t do it for themselves and don’t expect thanks but are just genuinely good people; in a way they are another group of the unsung heroes. They too, come in all shapes and sizes and from different generations but all have one thing in common, they genuinely care about others and are prepared to give help when it is needed.

It would be great to think that when this pandemic is all over there could be a better world for us all to live in. Sadly the doomsayers always shout the loudest but we do have a chance to reshape our lives, even change the world and those who have the power to do this need to wake up to the fact that governments should serve the people who put them where they are. Really serve them, really care for them, ensure that there is adequate transport, proper healthcare, jobs available for all and many, many other things that make life better for everyone because that is what a government should be doing. They need to stop the back biting, the one-upmanship, the general in fighting and constant blaming and shaming and instead to the very best of their ability serve the people in this whole country well.

Well, that’s that rant over. It won’t make any difference, the fact that air quality around the world has improved dramatically will be ignored and we will return to the same old situation of the powers that be thinking only beyond their very short noses.

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.