Reflections on the Visit

I think it was a good visit. Aunt looked better than I had dared hope, and she ate and drank everything I put in front of her, even the Greek yoghurt and honey which she did not think she wanted, but the bowl was quite clean in a short while.

Also useful was establishing that MasterB can stay in the guest room; that I can buy my own fob to the front door; talking to the specialist nurse who Aunt saw the other day; meeting the part-time warden and being able to tell her some of my concerns.

There was no hospital appointment today after all. The specialist nurse was very helpful when I ‘phoned, and Aunt willingly gave permission for me to be told her medical details. Being at a distance, that is very reassuring. So if I don’t get the picture from Aunt, I know I can call the nurse.

The sun shone and it was a beautiful day. I left rather later than I had intended and so didn’t have time to go via the marina to check the ropes at the boat as I had hoped. Next time.


Ulcerated Aunt

I heard an owl when I went outside earlier, and then again a few minutes ago. Otherwise the silence seems intense. If I listen hard I can hear cars faintly. They are swishing through the dark streets of an East Anglian night.

Aunt was worried I might be cold. In her flat the heat was like a wall. She had at least five layers on that I could make out, and thermal leggings under her warm trousers. How the elderly must have suffered in the old days, and how some must suffer now when they economise on heating to be able to pay the bills.The guest room is what estate agents describe as cosy; but it will do. The first thing I did was open the window and turn off the heater. That was hours and hours ago. It’s still very warm here. Hot air rises, but I am on the ground floor.

Taking the various bits of recycling out to the bins the cold felt delicious, like when you go clubbing and outside the cool air on your skin is like a welcome friend.

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It wasn’t a grand funeral; half an hour in a crematorium chapel doesn’t really allow grandeur. But it was a good one. My cousin Tom took the service, and there was a warm and humorous tribute from two family members.

I was pleased that her beloved cat Jan got a mention, but sorry he didn’t get his picture in the order of service. I think she would have liked that. His handsome face on the back; she in her graduation gown on the front.

I knew she had studied English literature at Queen’s, but it was news to me that her degree was also in classics and philosophy. She was the only one of Mother’s siblings to be allowed to stay on at school after the age of fourteen, let alone contemplate continuing to higher education.

Small compensation perhaps for the fact that her father never bothered to see her. My grandmother died shortly after she was born. Just days old, she was taken from the hospital by a maternal aunt to be brought up with her cousins. Her father never laid eyes on her, never visited, never made contact. 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.



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.


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

Break Away

Paw Action

Paw Action

So this is the plan: get up and have breakfast; shower, dress and head for the bank to pay my overdue credit card bill. Put bags (clothes, food) into car. Allow coffee to work its way through my system. Head east. Stay overnight on das Boot.

The warm weather has returned. But we have had our warning. These days are numbered. Aunt tells me it will stay mild until November. I do hope she’s right. If she is, I should be able to get to see her a few more times before winter closes in. She accepts I may not see her this time as it will be a twenty-four hour visit where I hope to make das Boot a bit more presentable. Continue reading

The Evening Before the Morning After

I was standing in a stiff breeze, bare armed, trying to get a good enough signal to upload some pictures of last night. It wasn’t working, which I don’t understand as if had the full five dots showing. But there’s no reasoning with an Internet connection that doesn’t do as you ask. I shall be home tomorrow, so they will have to wait until then.

Today has been bright and sunny. What a contrast with yesterday’s rain in London. A sunny breakfast followed by some sunny cleaning, then a sunny drive over to Aunt’s to take her to the pub we had decided on. More sunshine, so we sat outside in it. Pictures, and I have a few, show blue skies and bright flowers. They don’t show the farm smells that wafted over us, or the chat of the builders nearby. But we had no complaints. We sat on after we had finished our meal, watching people and chatting. Continue reading

Within Reach

A tranquil evening on das Boot. MasterB, a hot cat, is stretched out on the floor; mischief far from his mind. The swans are nibbling and seeking out weedy morsels below the water’s surface; they look like icebergs, or, sometimes, synchronised swimmers.
The Shouty Man is here and I am unsuccessfully blocking out his voice. Somewhere nearby a boy is shouting, and someone else up river is sharing tinny music with us. The sounds carry on the still air. I admit I’d be happier without the Shouty Man or the tinny music. A water tank has just boomed and MasterB has growled and got to his feet. A little while ago a bare chested man paddled by energetically in his canoe.
Although it is just half past eight, I should be happy to call it a day and go to bed soon. Maybe the Shouty Man and his remarkably silent companions will head for the pub.
It’s Mrs Grebe’s turn on the nest. Her two hatched babies have just tucked themselves among her feathers.
Aunt was charmed. I picked her up late morning and we drove through the back roads. She hasn’t been out and about much recently so we made a day of it and the greenery and the fields brought a smile to her face. She exclaimed repeatedly at the beauty of the countryside; the comforting chill of the car. At Reach, I suggested sitting in the pub garden, and we found a table in the shade of a tree by a mass of lavender in flower. There was a light breeze. She pronounced it perfect even before we had established if the pub could meet her gluten free requirements.
I tempted her with a white wine spritzer. Aunt was tea total until Mother and I corrupted her and she discovered a taste for Vinho Verde. However, she settled on an orange and soda and I had a grapefruit and soda. Long, cool and wonderfully refreshing.

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Technological Nonagenarian

It was good to see Aunt. She was looking very natty in a pretty lilac blouse under a beaded wine purple cardigan. Her was freshly done in soft white waves and there were roses in her cheeks. She showed me the new lights in her flat she has had installed to help with her AMD. They are most effective, and the ceiling ones in the sitting room are attractive too. Next she wanted to practise her Samsung tablet skills. She turned it on, swiped the screen until she found the email icon while I watched, impressed.
I’m not very good at this, she said, in direct contrast to what I was thinking. She is very hard on herself.
But things really took off a while later when she was talking about a book she wanted but thought was out of print. We found it on Amazon, the ebook version, and I bought it for her as an early Christmas gift. When she opened the Kindle app on her tablet and saw it there, her face was a picture if wonderment. I wish I had a photograph. It’s a new way of living, she said, round-eyed.

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Aunt’s Story at the William Quarrier Home

Aunt used to work in residential children’s homes. We would visit when we little and for a day be part of the daily routine. I knew her career had begun in Scotland, but beyond that, very little.

It was time to ask.

She told me she had worked in the William Quarrier Home, but that it no longer existed. Back home, I had a quick surf and found it has a web page. A few emails were exchanged. Aunt was sent a copy of the history leaflet about the home, and I agreed to ask her more about her time there.

This is the result of our first chat:

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I have been feeling quite zen most of the day, despite the odd shooting pain through my foot, imagining Mother cocooned in her new room.

I tried to ‘phone. No answer. Over several hours I tried again. Still no answer.

Eventually I got through to someone who told me Mother was ‘fine’. English obviously wasn’t her first language, so I kept calm and began an interrogation. I didn’t get very far. ‘Yeah,’ she kept saying, ‘she’s fine.’ Continue reading