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.

Winter 2020.

The first snow of the year arrived last week. We woke up to an absolute blizzard with almost horizontal snow falling and a winter wonderland for a brief hour or two. I do love to look out on a snowy landscape; there is something quite magical about it all but for the past nine years we have had pretty mild, virtually snow free wet, grey winters. Even morning frosts were few and far between so it was all pretty monotonous; sadly it’s looking as if we will be repeating the great greyness again this year.

There is something hugely comforting about the changing seasons and I am particularly fond of Spring and Autumn. Spring, for all the new growth and wonderful fresh colours that lift the spirits and Autumn because it is the end of what have become of late, hot and humid summers. I am definitely not a fan of 100 C, 75 to 80C is fine, sleep is not affected in the cooler weather and sitting out especially if there’s a breeze, can be a pleasure.

It’s ironic how advertising and songs always emphasise a white Christmas and everything is distinctly old-fashioned and unreal, it almost makes me feel a teensy bit nostalgic and I smile when I see windows frosted from a spray can, what fun cleaning that off afterwards, and imitation icicles hanging, twinkling from eaves and porches. But the reality is often a very different story with many spending more than they can afford. Maybe this year it will be different, the advent of the coronavirus has changed much in our lives, perhaps out of the horror of it all something good however small, will emerge and Christmas can be something special.

The LSO and I had a brief nostalic moment at lunchtime today and brief it was. We both remember as children, the freezing cold winters in the North East and there is nothing at all christmassy about scraping the ice off the inside of the windows, thank goodness for triple glazing and central heating. Our wood-burning stove is a joy and does heat a great deal of the ground floor giving the radiators a well earned rest.

Like many this year we have put our Christmas lights up earlier than usual in an effort to bring some cheer to the great greyness. The snow lasted for less than 24 hours and once gone revealed wet, muddy roads and sad verges that are almost an echo of life in general these days. But negativity never gets anyone anywhere so it will be positive thinking even if we have to put the lights on in the daytime.

At least we are not having to scrape the ice of the inside of the windows!

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.