If ever there was a day designed for staying at home and clearing out the cupboards it was yesterday in London. The tail end of Hurricane Miguel caught us and was less Flaming June, more bloody hell as temperatures dropped and rain poured out of the sky with grim determination. Visitors to england have strange ideas about the weather. They often seem to think it rains almost constantly and heavily. The reality is that our rain is generally light, frequent, and short lived. Or it used to be. Climate crisis has introduced even these islands known for their temperate (some would say unexciting) weather to bizarre swings and abrupt changes, and flooding in parts of the country has become the annual norm.
So I knew rain was forecast but as I had spent Sunday in my shirt sleeves, and Octavia and I had eaten supper outside in her garden as the grey Ninja swarmed up the trellis onto the walls and posed beautifully against a blue sky, I foolishly thought it would still be quite warm. It wasn’t. I had the misfortune to be working outside all morning. My hands got colder and colder and Raynaud’s Disease soon drove the blood from my fingers. On the bus journey at lunchtime I sat with my hands clasped between my knees waiting for warmth to return. To add to the misery, my erstwhile trusty waterproof shoes leaked. My socks were damp and unpleasant. Thank goodness the company was good.
In the evening the Young Relative who is going to look after MasterB when I am with Cousin in NI came round. We had a lovely evening. MasterB honed his technique for keeping her under his paw. We ate, drank, talked family stuff. Before she went home I took her to the local Turkish deli. The original plan had been to show her around the area, but the rain rather dampened that one. At the deli we met J. He is the son of Celia’s good friend Lata, who is visiting from Australia, and J should have been flying home to the US today. However, as Robbie Burns so eloquently put it, The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley. Continue reading
More by luck than judgement I left London as summer suddenly reached for the high temperatures. “It's too hot, ” said Celia in an email earlier today. Here, in the depths of the Derry countryside it's warm and sunny, and just the right side of comfortable. There's a breeze this evening, and I am sitting at the back of the house, in the shade, planning to make a soup from Cousin's abundant parsley crop. She also has an abundant broccoli crop, and we have been looking at ways to cook the leaves. The three dogs are trotting in and out of the houses. Cousin's son and daughter-in-law are still resident in the granny annexe next door while they build a mansion up the road. If they were to add another storey it would be as big as the whole block of flats where I live in London.
For the first time ever there are no cats. The Big Cat succumbed to old age one day at the edge of winter; Fido, the ginger and white cat, still youthful, died in his sleep in a favourite spot on top of the tumble dryer. His death was a shock and a mystery. Fido dealt with Pip, but Cousin is reluctant to bring a new feline into the household while Pip and his issues are still next door neighbours.
Cousin's friend, with whom I have enjoyed jaunts to the John Hewitt Summer School, swapped books and spent many happy hours, is in hospital in Antrim, so that's where we were last night. She has had treatment for cancer since the start of the year, hopefully this is now the end of it and she'll make a good recovery. We talked about Aunt, the Earl Bishop, and looked at an anthology of Irish poetry she had in her room. Nurses came and went, Cousin's friend had her meds which included a sleeping pill, and gradually her conversation became more slurred until she stopped talking altogether and fell asleep. We tiptoed out and Cousin drove us home under skies that were mauve and cloud streaked, lit by a full and shining moon.
The motto of Guy’s Hospital near London Bridge is Dare Quam Accipere – It is Better to Give than to Receive. At a future date I might get around to explaining how Guy’s, and that motto, came about, but right now I want to talk about how, the other day, I had the chance to put the motto into sort of practice at another hospital in the trust – St Thomas’.
I was discharged from Tommy’s a while back. It started with my broken wrist, and the wonderful folk in A&E; post surgery, I met the equally wonderful team at the fracture clinic; when they were done with me, I moved on to hand therapy.
My wrist continues to improve, though the cold weather, as the physiotherapist warned me, has brought new aches. Still, it’s an amazing outcome when you look at my x-rays.
So I wrote cards and bought fancy biscuits and headed back to the hospital. At A&E, I was hardly through the door before someone looked up and asked if they could help me. When I explained my mission and handed over card and biscuits, her stunned expression told me how rarely patients make that return journey to this department to thank the staff for their care at a critical moment.
It was a similar story in the fracture clinic. Hand therapy seemed more familiar with the idea, which made me reflect on how that was the only department of the three where I had an idea of when I would be discharged.
I left and walked onto Westminster Bridge filled with a warm fuzzy glow. On the bridge, I met these folk:
You know what it’s like, there you are, stuck in a waiting room with nothing to read. Fortunately you have a mobile phone, so after calling the people who are expecting you so where you are definitely not going to be, you text a couple of friends.
I needed to thank Octavia for the gift of rhubarb I found through the letter box this morning, but knowing she was at work, I didn’t expect a reply before this evening at the earliest. Then I texted Celia who promptly pulled on her Superwoman tights, and found me in A&E.
I had nearly completed my cycle ride to work this morning and was passing St Thomas’ Hospital, when, just ahead of me, I saw a white car crossing through the lane of traffic to my right. I didn’t think the driver had seen me and I didn’t want to slam into the side of the car, so I applied my brakes, hard.
The good news is my brakes are very good; much better than I expected. Impressively effective, I should say. I came to an immediate halt, and fell off my bike in an undignified sprawl on the road. Kind people asked me how I was, picked up my bike, and I got to my feet. My arm felt bruised and instinctively I raised it and held it across my chest. I was pleased to find no holes in my trousers, and although I felt it was nothing serious, allowed myself to be led to A&E by the young woman who had rescued my bike. I am ashamed now that I did not ask her name.
Probably a stress fracture, said the nurse. They often don’t show up on x-rays.
I spent a dull afternoon in Minor Injuries. There were only two members of staff on duty. The television was on. That mindless daytime diet that atrophies the mind. I found I could not read. Two of my fellow waitees struck up a conversation. It was mainly about footwear; heels versus flat shoes.
I kept quiet and tried to stop my eyes from closing. Continue reading
Originally posted on MyT
MARCH 14TH, 2009 21:59
Boating grows up
Last week’s journey East was unplanned.
My mother was ill and in hospital. Everyone said she needed surgery but they weren’t sure she was fit for a general anaesthetic. No one was able to say what an alternative solution might be. Medical staff said she would be made comfortable, but under questioning, comfortable seemed more of an aspiration than a plan. So I scooped up the Cat and made for das Boot. It was great to have it there, my floating home from home, a familiar, welcoming refuge. Continue reading
Mother has been offered a room at our first choice nursing home from the middle of next week.
Mixed feelings? You bet.
Naturally, I am pleased that Mother will now leave hospital. But it’s a big difference from returning to her flat.
I like what I’ve seen of the home. It’s just a bit difficult to adapt. And if it’s difficult for me, how will it be for Mother? Continue reading
A day of silver linings as we search for Mother’s new home.
Firstly, we were at the hospital when a nurse from the tissue viabilty team came around, so we know Mother’s latest pressure sore is granulating nicely.
Secondly, we went to see a care home with nursing that we liked, though the location makes my heart sink.
Thirdly, I cooked us omelettes for lunch with our fresh eggs and vegetables, then peaches and melon for pud. Yum!
Fourthly, Not Cat is increasingly comfortable with and welcoming to Aunt.
Fifthly, we went to Ely to look at at another home and the skyline was magnificent, and the colours magical. We rejected the home as not suitable for Mother, but the staff were a delight.
Sixthly, our good family friend has promised to take aunt to visit Mother while I am working next week, and on a course the week after.
Seventhly, I’ve just made a mean ratatouille for tomorrow. Continue reading
Made it across with water with a borrowed i-pad reaching Belfast in the sun.
It’s been a gorgeous day. Earlier I was looking out of the kitchen window at stripes of White cloud across a still blue sky. Being that little bit further north, the days are a bit longer, giving the illusion of more time.
Ah, time. That’s what it all boils down to. I found a message on my mobile from the hospital, and called back. It was to find out how we are doing with our looking at nursing homes. I mentioned one I’d found online and asked if she knew it.
Have you visited it? I was asked.
Another evening in the garden. It’s very windy tonight and Not Cat is chasing unseasonably brown and fallen leaves instead of insects.
I’m not crying.
I’ve cried a lot today. Every time I’ve thought of Mother. Every time I’ve thought of the impossible choices to be made. Every time I’ve thought of the colleague who said “Well, she’s old. Her life is over. It’s the young ones I care about,” yet who described herself today as empathetic, a person who knows when someone is low and gives them a hug. Continue reading