A Ticket to Aunt

How are you today? I asked.

Weak, said Aunt. I never thought I’d feel this way; just raising my arm wears me out.

So we talked about changing priorities; about how the main goal is for her to stay at home and for the first time she seemed to welcome the idea of carers.

I promised to call the Specialist Nurse tomorrow to see what we could do.

Thank-you, said Aunt. Continue reading

Of Christmas and the Neighbours, Cats, Uncle Bill’s Antibiotics, and Books

So how has Christmas been for you so far? Grand, I hope.

Mine has surpassed my expectations. I had expected to enjoy myself, but I have been having a simply lovely time, far more social and far more fun than anticipated.

Drinks with neighbours; meals with neighbours; walks with neighbours; Carols with neighbours. This has been a very local Christmas.

MasterB and I still have our house guest, Cookie Cat, though MasterB seems to have decided that like fish, three days is more than long enough to have this guest staying. We are now at day four, and the cracks are starting to show. However, we have her for about another three, and I hope there will be some rapprochement and no repeat of MasterB’s growling of last night.

It works best when they occupy the flat in shifts; one in, one out. Both are out at the moment. I hope when I go to fetch MasterB shortly that Cookie will come in too and there’ll be none of that Who-Do-You-Think-You’re-Following? attitude from MasterB.
Basket Boy Continue reading

Being Mortal

I seem to be spending a lot of my time thinking about death at the moment. It is probably the influence of several things:

Aunt had a suspected heart attack a few weeks ago; Aunt in Belfast died last Monday; there was the walk to remember Mike who died of pncreatic cancer; yesterday was Remembrance Sunday; it would be Mother’s 95th birthday 26th November; after hearing him interviewed by Will Self at Conway Hall last week, I bought a copy of Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Celia rang me as I was hurrying off to work this morning to say Gawande was on Radio 4’s Start the Week. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I have checked that it is available to listen to on the BBC On Demand online. 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

We Wait

Mother was awake when I arrived, just a few minutes after Aunt and Mother’s friend had left. She was quiet for a while, listening to the CD that was playing; Irish Gospel. It includes Lord the day thou gavest is ending, which coincidentally had come into a conversation on a radio programme this morning when I was driving about gathering more fruit juice and so on. I sang along and Mother woke up.
Maybe I am unnatural, but I found myself wondering about its suitability as a funeral hymn. It has a comforting feel. Our ability as humans to live in several planes at the same time is thrown into sharp relief at times like these. One minute I am browsing the aisles of Waitrose, looking in vain for small cartons of apple and mango juice, the next, tears are running down my face at the thought of Mother dying.

Continue reading

Alert Stand Down

When I arrived she didn’t look great. She was asleep, frowning, the ceiling light on above her. Today’s nurse-in-charge came to speak to me. A lovely woman, but as we talked, I again found myself in the shoot-the-messenger position. Things management hadn’t told her, things I need to know.
We went through Mother’s notes for the last twenty-four hours. Worryingly, she had only drunk 150mls of fluids in that time. My head would be thumping. Mother likes fruit juice, especially anything with mango. We have said countless times that she is not to have squash. A jug of weak orange squash stood on the dressing table.
Mother woke up. She pushed away a cup of tea offered by the nurse. Try hot chocolate I suggested. It smells good, she likes it. It often works. Slowly but steadily, she drank most of it. The nurse thanked me. Continue reading


First of all, thanks you to everyone who commented on my post Endings last night. There are moments when the blogosphere is wonderfully supportive and that was one of them. I finished work at lunchtime today and hurried over to Kings Cross, arriving just to late for the train that would get me to Cambridge for a neat connection with the branch line I need to use to get to spitting distance of Mother’s. The train I caught instead was half empty and wonderfully quiet; people were whispering into their ‘phones.
East Anglia is famously flat, think of Constable’s paintings of his home in East Bergholt, lots of sky, and fields where the hedgerows have been removed. I took some pix with the iPad through the train’s grubby window.


Continue reading

Teeth: The Final Frontier

I received a phone message this morning giving a glowing report of Mother’s progress. The only sticking point being her refusal to wear her teeth. So I suppose it’s not a sticking point so much as a loose end.

She can’t be the only elderly lady who’s had to be persuaded back to that Perfect Smile, so I guess we’ll have to do our research.

As you can imagine, I felt considerably more light-hearted and focused on my work once I’d listened to the message.

Then I spoke to Aunt.

She had managed to get through to the scheme on the ‘phone and had been told that after a good day yesterday, Mother was tired and less well today.

This is troublingly like her highs and lows of last week, when we swooped from optimism to near certainty she was dying from one day to the next.

I think she’s going to keep us guessing for a while yet.