Serendipitous Boat

So much in life seems to be down to luck, to chance, to random and quite unpredictable circumstances and encounters.

If Cat hadn’t had died when he did, I shouldn’t have been looking at sites with cats needing homes, and looking at them with my friend Sue across the pond. My search was restricted to London. Sue, in Houston was looking at a larger canvas. It was she who spotted MasterB.

Oh Happy Day!

The Director

The Director


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Lost Childhoods

On the tarmac

On the tarmac

Maybe this was my ‘plane. Maybe not.

My head is still partly in NI. Talking to Aunt this evening, telling her who I had seen, what I had done, I mentioned that I have obtained a copy of my mother’s birth certificate, and was surprised to see that it was my grandmother who had registered the birth, almost a month after that auspicious event, and just two days before Christmas.

I have said before that Mother and her siblings had a hard childhood. Aunt had a particularly tough time. Both she and Mother were taken to live with a couple who treated them very badly.

Mother ran away.

Twice.

The first time she took Aunt, and they each carried their meagre possessions. As Aunt said tonight, that made their progress through hedges and across fields difficult.

They didn’t get very far before they were caught and taken back. Mother was beaten to within an inch of her life with a stick cut from the hedge. Her vest stuck to her back with blood. Aunt could do nothing but howl. Then Mother was sent to bed in a loft, told the police would come for her in the morning because of her wickedness, and Aunt was forbidden to speak to her.

The sisters were seven and four at the time.
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Dementia Revisited

Home from book club and I am tired, but my mind is alert and I know if I go to bed now, I am going to be wakeful, eyes shut against the darkness while my thoughts rebel against sleep.

The book we discussed was Elizabeth is Missing. A remarkable first novel from a a young women who seems to have garnered uncanny insights into the minds of those living with dementia.

Obviously it triggered lots of personal responses. I am not the only member of the book club who has (had) a close and dear relative with dementia. Without Michèle to keep us on the straight and narrow and keep the discussion to the literary merit of the book, the conversation was wide ranging, anecdotal and personal.

Initially, I didn’t think I could read this book. The first few pages brought back clearly and painfully the dealings with outside bodies when we were trying to manage Mother’s dementia. So I bought an audio version and largely listened to it. That seemed to give the words space, and allow my thoughts to range freely.

It reminded me of things I had forgotten; how Mother, the world’s biggest declutterer and tidyupper – you only had to leave a cup of coffee on a coaster for a moment for it to be whisked away, so that when you went to take another sip the cup was already washed up and restored to its place in the cupboard – turned hoarder and lax washerupper; how she wrapped odd items in tissues, napkins; how she disappeared her glasses and other objects – we once realised she was walking about with a knife up her sleeve; how none of these things made her stupid. She was often confused, lost and frightened; trying to make sense of a world which had suddenly and inexplicably become alien, but she could still have moments of startling clarity, moments when I would look into her eyes and see the woman who was my competent, industrious, capable mother. Continue reading

The Pictures Unposted

When I first started blogging my strap line was Landlubber Afloat. That was in the DT days. But it underlines how I thought being on das Boot was going to be a main reason for writing. And even now, when I am afloat, my urge to record the days is far greater than when I am home. Blogging became about other things, but Mother, Cat and das Boot were by far and away the most important parts of my online journal.

Now Aunt is looking at her life to come in terms of months, and taking her to the places she wants to go, helping her to see the flowers and landscapes she wants to see has brought a new focus to my visits East and to my posts.

In time to come these pictures, these words will remind me of the strange path we tread now. I say that with some confidence, as when I reread the posts about Mother they take me back to feelings, good and bad, I now often find difficult to recall. Some people say that photographs disrupt the process of memory. I can see that that is possible, but photographs also capture a moment and can bring back a time and its attendant emotions with startling clarity.

Slow evenings like tonight (though I have little hope that there is even the slightest chance of uploading this post until I am back at home) watching the sun go down on the river, listening to the birdsong, watching MasterB, take me back to Mother dying and after.

They don't make me particularly sad, though understandably there are moments. Rather, I feel a closeness to her that is precious. Maybe driving around an East Anglia in its spring clothes will in the future bring Aunt back too.

Our memories work in strange ways.

So you may enjoy these photos, and I hope you shall, but they will doubtless have an entirely different resonance for me.

 

 

 

One Enchanted Evening

The Camembert I bought was so ripe I am surprised it didn't board das Boot on its own. A lucky and completely chance find at the local Co-op. It made a very good dessert. So good I ate rather more of it than I intended, and am only now catching up with the red wine.

I only had one excursion away from das Boot and the marina today. I needed eggs and bread, so set off for the organic farm where the plants made me salivate. Celia hoped to come here on Sunday, but has been struck down by a vicious lurgy, so may have to postpone her visit. I took these pictures to tempt her, now they may serve for her to tell me what she wants me to bring back for her.

 

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Of Banking Mysteries, Swotting for Work, Memories of Mother, and a Happy Aunt

Back in London my local bank is being decommissioned. The letter I received explained that more and more people are turning to internet and telephone banking with the result that the footfall in branches has fallen. It suggested we could use the Post Office instead, or go to another branch some two miles away.

Goodbye NatWest

Goodbye NatWest

There are obviously a couple or three things wrong with that. A bank two miles away is a lot less convenient than one round the corner from where I live. But it also ignores the fact that this was the busiest branch of NatWest I have ever used. Absolutely no sign of reduced footfall there.

Bizarrely, other branches where there are acres of floor space and no queues stay open. I would guess that the author of the letter has never been in our local Post Office, where the queue often snakes out of the door.

I suspect it will be turned into a luxury block of flats. Everything else is.

I have quite a bit of work to do for jobs I accepted with gungho confidence, only to realise once committed that they are somewhat out of my sphere of knowledge. So some mega swotting required. The dusting will have to wait. Continue reading

Poems for My Mum, Heroic Women and a Brattish Cat

Celia came for coffee this morning and stayed for lunch. That was, I hasten to add, at my invitation and I was delighted she accepted.

She came to read poetry.

Today, Mother would have been 95. I have emailed people to ask them to celebrate her life by reading a poem aloud to someone else, to enjoy some shared reading, just as she and I did. I’ve had some lovely responses. Now it’s time to ask you.

It doesn’t have to be today; spin in out – make December the shared reading month, or 2015 the shared reading year – it may be decades since you sat back and listened to someone read to you, or maybe it’s something you do every day. For many of us, it’s something associated with childhood, something we don’t do with other adults. Yet for something so simple, it is immensely powerful and helps us to connect with each other.

I think this  photo is from the day I started taking reading aloud to my mother seriously. I flipped back through the posts on this blog, and found what I had written. If you are curious, click here, and you can read it too.

Mum 2nd June 2010

Mum 2nd June 2010


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Less Than Perfect, and All the More Loved

In films and books, characters connect the dots and have lightbulb moments in nano seconds. Maybe I am a bit slow, or maybe it’s just that my  life narrative doesn’t have to fit into a prescribed amount of time or pages, but my own joining the dots tends to take longer.

Last week I went to a talk which was, in part, to do with conservation. One of the challenges conservators face when restoring an object is deciding how close to new that conservation should bring that object.

The patina left by people’s hands; the dirt from the homes where it was kept; the general wear and tear that any object has in its life, is part of that object’s story. Yet look online and you’ll find objects in ‘mint’ condition, from coins to Matchbox toys, achieve the highest prices.

My home has many objects from my parents’ house. I moved to this flat at about the same time they downsized from a three bedroomed house to a two bedroomed bungalow, and as well as the furniture from my bedroom, they passed on a book table, my mother’s nursing trunk, a lady’s chair. Continue reading

Of Tea Cosies, Vet Visits, Ill Aunts, Insightful Books and a Bit of a Rant

Octavia has a new and gorgeous tea cosy. It is ragwork, and beautifully done. If I drank tea, I should be seriously covetous. As it was, I just turned it around so that the ginger cat side was on show, rather than the likeness of the grey ninja.

Thanks to drugs making him dozy, the ginger ninja has spent most of today asleep under a blanket. He had another trip to the vet yesterday afternoon after more trouble peeing. It was a different vet in a different practice. MasterB is now registered with two vet surgeries. This one is open on Saturday afternoons and even on Sundays.

P1170957

P1170958

The diagnosis is idiopathic cystitis, meaning the cause is unknown, but this vet, an antipodean like Ellie the Vet, was prepared to rule out cancer. Ellie, knowing me better, would have ruled it out without telling me she had done so. But suddenly I am wondering how short MasterB’s life could be. This vet agreed it might well be stress induced – ie Cookie – hence the opiates to keep MasterB zen. He was very zen at the surgery. Remarkably so. A lot less zen this morning before I had administered a dose of the Metacam, and pretty lively now, and outside swishing his tail. I offered him the chance to come in away from his rather over-assertive girlfriend, but he declined. He seems to prefer to watch her, an Outraged-of-SE17 expression on his whiskers. There may be letters to the feline equivalent of the Daily Mail.

However, I prefer lively to sick, but I can see the timing of the drugs, which he is on for five days, may have to be thought through. Tomorrow he is back at Ellie’s, though I think it is her day off, so he’ll probably see her partner.

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As it turns out, MasterB is not the only one close to me requiring medical attention. Aunt has had a suspected heart attack. She called her GP who called an ambulance; spent a day at the hsopital which she found exhausting; and much to her relief was allowed home. She has been told to rest, so I am resisting the temptation to call her every few hours to check up on her. She feels she has lost a lot of ground this year. When I see her next we are going to check out audio books to download to her tablet in case she has to go into hospital again. I have some spare head phones, so she should just be able to close her eyes, shut out all the busyness and bustle, and relax in her own sound bubble.

We had the chance of an extra hour in bed today as the clocks went back in the middle of the night. That’s the end of British Summertime until 2015, and it was dark so early this evening. Suddenly all the Christmas stuff in the shops doesn’t seem so out of place. But it is still mild, so I am hoping the heating will remain off for a few weeks yet.

Slowly catching up on yesterday’s Guardian today, and steadfastly ignoring all the mess and clutter around me, I reached the Review section. Last night I was clumsily trying to articulate how I felt hospitals and care homes put the needs of running the institution above the people in their care. Phrases like ‘care for the individual’ are well meaning claptrap. The individuals have to adapt to the institution; the institution is too inflexible to adapt to the individual. Continue reading

Postcards to Myself

I have been thinking for a while that so often when I am blogging it is about putting a post-it note on a thought, a place or an event, a memory alert: something that can take me back to a moment, a feeling or an observation I might otherwise forget. Post-it notes tend to be small, so postcards might be more appropriate, or, on occasion, letters.

I was making lunch, and while the lentils cooked with the onions and mushrooms, I thought to use the time to check out some poems for Tuesday’s poetry group meeting. I have a long list of tasks today, and this seemed a good way of maximising the time.

The theme this month is weather. There is a striking number of poems about snow, which doesn’t seem appropriate in August. I found one in a collection by Christopher Reid called Flowers in Wrong Weather, which I thought, to begin with, was about the unseasonal blooming of plants in winter, only to be caught in the last stanza when it became clear the poem is about loss and death. My heart lurched.

I turned the pages, pausing now and then to stir the saucepan’s contents. Continue reading