Friday, 27 March 2020

Staying as Positive as Possible..

Unfortunately I've had the official document informing me I'm in the top risk category for being very ill indeed if I contact the corona virus. I thought I'd escaped that level and although being self-isolated I have been enjoying daily walks in the sunshine, Now I can't leave home for twelve weeks at least.
So I think 'thank goodness for my garden'. I can go out there to exercise, to read, to sit and make phone calls, to pull up weeds, to sit and stare into space, to listen to the birds. Thank goodness for a safe isolated space.

Thank goodness for the technology that enables me to be in contact with my family. Yesterday we managed a three-way Skype between Austria, Bristol and here, so that we could all see children and adults and hills and mountains and Austrian goats and a naked three year old Grandson leaping about in his paddling pool. (Yes, it's been as warm as that in England.)
My Grand-daughter and I can set each other daily challenges and tasks, and I can read stories to the
three year-old when he is not in his pool. (He won't be after today. The weather is about to change).
My new Grandson will probably be crawling before we meet, and this is a considerable sadness. But I must not let it be that. All that matters, for all of us, is that we can stay safe in the hope that we will meet again eventually.
Thank goodness for my friends and neighbours who so kindly think of me and offer so much support with shopping. Community, friends, neighbourhoods are the building blocks of life. I realise it more every day.
I realise I appreciate everything more. There's so much more time to think. My natural inclination has always been to work from silence, and now I have an abundance of it. I turn back to writing - not that I've ever turned away from it, but the silence feeds creativity.

So my garden sits here, in today's sunshine. Always I find something to do. I go out there with a cup of coffee, notice a weed and before I know it an hour has passed enjoyably and beneficially. If it's raining there's the summerhouse with comfortable chairs and still more reading material. In the house there's  a modicum of housework, both by inclination and because there's only me in it. There's cooking which I normally enjoy, and must try to do so. There's music, there's excellent service by BBC radio. Oh, yes, there's television too.

In addition to this I have offered to return to do support work for the local Hospice. I retired from there last summer, but I want to do whatever I can from home by telephone to help again. They are struggling and the struggle will get worse.

Coping with such severe restriction is a challenge, but so is the whole of life for almost all of us in these unexpected and frightening times.
I am following the rather daunting NHS document fully, including the instruction to pack a hospital bag and have it ready to go. This form of isolation is the most positive thing I can do, not for self-preservation as is so often thought, but to prevent an eighty-year old from needing equipment that a much younger person might need.

The motto throughout the country is to stay at home, support the National Health Service, save a life.
We must all do it.
And stay positive.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Under the Quilt.

Here is my very new grandson; four days old, newly arrived home in Berlin and tucked up under the quilt. It seems to be working well, as is he. I like to think he's smiling, but my son doesn't think so, not just yet. Many other people are though, in several continents.

This little one is half Canadian, with a Canadian mother and a whole family of grand-parents, aunts, uncles and a  baby cousin in parts of Canada, including Alaska. He has a British family, an uncle, aunt and two cousins, plus a Granny who might turn out to be an Oma because he'll be mostly living in  Austria and will be bilingual. He has lots of relatives in New Zealand too because his father has dual nationality.
I am deeply grateful for Skype and e-mail, because he will be a widely travelling infant; a citizen of the world already. Apparently his passport is on its way.

A digression - what about those infant passports, issued before teeth emerge and valid for so many years? I remember airport officials being bemused by grand-daughter a couple of years ago, receiving a passport showing a glumly suspicious, wispy-haired baby and being confronted by an all-singing all-dancing little girl with a cascade of golden curls. Confusing for the authorities?

Three grand-children, how amazing. What a wonderful bonus in the life of an eighty year old.
Some time ago I almost arranged to have a tattoo reading (DNR - Do Not Resuscitate) in a conspicuous place. (Possibly also PTO on the reverse in case I was found the wrong way up). I didn't do that, but I did wear a bracelet with the same message when I was driving on my own. I had some medical issues and an absolute dread of being a nuisance to the family.

I don't wear it any more. I don't even know where it is.
I'd rather like to stick around a bit longer and see what happens next.
Thank you, grand-children for giving me a whole new reason for living.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Let there be Light!


What a good job I finished this quilt for my new grandchild while I was still very, very short-sighted.
I used my shortsightedness to the maximum, sitting with the needle and thread almost touching my nose. It kept me occupied while I couldn't drive. I couldn't see in glare or low light levels, couldn't  see as far as my feet (I'm tall) so that I fell over quite a bit, couldn't see unless there was really sharp contrast, couldn't distinguish colours.
 This had been happening slowly over a long time, so I didn't realise how bad my sight had become until a few months ago when it suddenly deteriorated a great deal, leaving me in the gloom of an English winter.
Cataracts, slowly creeping and clouding both eyes, cutting out the light, distorting the vision.
But so insidiously.

Three days ago I had the first surgery on my worst eye. My optician referred me to a new Eye Hospital in Birmingham - this one . It does work for both the National Health Service and private patients, and there are several SpaMedica hospitals in the UK.
I was very squeamish about anything to do with eyes, especially my own. I couldn't talk about what was happening, what was likely to happen. I couldn't even think about it.
 Please note the past tense

Had I been referred to a local hospital there would have been several months to wait for the assessment, and a great deal longer to wait for surgery, by which time I think I would have had little sight left. SpaMedica gave me appointments for an assessment in three weeks, and surgery six weeks after that.
 Everything was explained so clearly and carefully, the web-site and booklets they produce were so informative, the people I met during assessment so friendly and positive that I was no longer gibbering about eye-balls
I came home and finished the quilt in semi-darkness. I fell over again in the garden, and tripped on an invisible obstruction on a busy pavement. The car was immobilised and my son came and took it for a ride the top up the battery. I told people what was happening and was able to describe the surgery to interested Granddaughter. The time went quickly.

Just three days ago I returned to SpaMedica. I was there for about four hours, much of the time being taken up with eye-drops. Then I had surgery which lasted fifteen minutes .I felt a very small amount of pressure, but  nothing more than that. I saw bright light and a bit of swirling colour from under the plastic shroud over my face. Then I had a cup of tea and was brought back home with a party bag of eye-drops and sterile gauze.

Next morning my vision was blurred. By the next day it was blurred but brighter. On the third day.....WOW! My bedroom walls are bluish-white, not the sort of yellowish-beige I've lived with for a while. I had no idea my dressing gown was that colour. I could see the floor. I could see birds in the trees, neighbours in their gardens.
 Outside I could see where the pavement ended and the road began - always a useful thing to know, but something that had eluded me in recent weeks. I could read car number plates.
I walked to the optician and had one lens removed from my spectacles. I have to keep the other lens for the untreated sepia eye. I booked my post-op examination, and I'm hoping for referral for the second eye as soon as possible.

Years ago patients were immobilised after cataract surgery, their heads fixed by sand-bags for weeks.
Today this procedure is one of the miracles of modern surgery, changing lives, restoring dignity and independence to those who could so easily lose it.
My most grateful thanks to all those involved in this process.

And I'm just waiting for someone to go under the quilt now.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy New Year.

The party's over!
Not just Christmas, but a three-day event to mark a milestone for me - an 80th birthday. To have a separate birthday celebration is a wonderful thing. Those born just before or just after or even exactly at Christmas will know what I mean - the combined Christmas and birthday presents, the excuses of the shops being too full or empty or closed. Galling for a child, understandable (of course) to an adult, but how lovely to have a special day for oneself. Even tougher for me as a child because no less than four generations in my family shared the same birthday, Great Grandfather, Grandfather, Uncle and me. Whatever was going on nine months earlier in this family?

Both my sons were born in January, both in the midst of severe and prolonged snow storms, so we tried to ensure that they had mid-summer celebrations with half a birthday cake each.The midsummer celebration was reintroduced this year by my elder son, and may be continued in 2020. However, the  January birthdays remain an excellent example of family planning as the things they had hoped for at Christmas were so often half-price in the January sales.

I had a very happy gathering of friends and family for my 70th birthday, which seems only a couple of years ago. The one thing I never appreciated until now is that how ever crumbling the external body appears the inner person remains at an optimum age. My optimum age is 28 and I'm still there inside, even when I struggle to get out of a chair or fall over in the garden.

My grandchildren know my true inner age and give me huge encouragement in being silly, making up ridiculous songs and poems, telling nonsensicle stories and generally acting as if I'm closer to their age than my own. This birthday was with family, coming from far and wide, including a soon-to-be born grandchild  whose rest was disturbed quite a bit by cousins wanting to feel a kick and to invite him/her to come out soon. In beautiful weather we all went up on the hills here, and I haven't done that for a long time. Back at home I did no washing up at all  Three-year old Grandson entertained us (and probably a few neighbours) on his drum kit (thanks to Uncle) and some of us might have snoozed slightly in front of a log fire.

Now they are all back in their own places, or almost so for the long-distance ones, and the year slides into a misty end and into a future that is likely to be as messy as my kitchen.

Muddles can be cleaned, confusions can be clarified. For all of us apparently small things, encouragement to get up the hill and a hand wielding a tea-towel can mean a very great deal.

 Happy  New Year to all with the real hope for peace and goodwill.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Pirates in the Kitchen (also Mermaids).

(A bedtime story for grandchildren who are now three, about to be seven, and  getting ready to be born next year.)

Far away where the mermaids sing the pirates sailed their raft. It was made of clear glass, and it was round.
The pirates, three of them, shouted a lot and waved their weapons about and pushed each other and nearly fell off their little glass raft. They made a great deal of noise and fuss.
And deeper under the raft the mermaids saw an awful lot of agitation and heaving about and wafted themselves over to see what was happening. Mermaids swim slowly, wafting their tails up and down. They are not built for speed, like a shark, and they usually carry their hairdressing stuff and a small mirror so that they can be sure they are looking lovely all the time.  

When they (there were seven of them) got near to the churning whiteness and heard all the shouting  they said, 'Oh dear. Pirates again!' and they flopped themselves up on to the glass raft. They took out their combs and brushes and little mirrors from their vanity cases and sat there, combing their hair.

The pirates were shocked into silence, mostly because their raft was tilting heavily to one side, with all the mermaids sitting there.
Ivo, the pirate with the silver sword  cleared his throat.
"Ahem, ladies," he said. "Would you mind spreading out a bit? You're making our raft tilt, and we don't want to fall off ."
"Can't you swim?" said one mermaid. She had long fair hair, just as mermaids should.
"That's not important," Ivo said, and all the mermaids laughed. All seven of them.
"Not important?" said the  blonde mermaid. "Not important?  Not important? Are you mad? Fooling about on a little glass raft, pushing each other, shouting and fighting - and you can't swim?"
And all the mermaids combed their hair and tossed it about and laughed and laughed.

Now there's something that pirates really don't like, and that is being laughed at. Mermaids don't like it either. Well, no one does really.
"Swimming is not important," said Ivo. "What is important is not falling off the raft, because if you fall off....."
But he didn't have the chance to finish, because all the mermaids hooted with laughter and shouted, "You'll drown, you'll drown! The fish will eat you!"
"How can you drown on the kitchen work-top?" said Ivo, and this time all the pirates hooted and laughed. Peg-Leg the politically incorrect pirate laughed so much he lost his balance, fell off the raft and slid down the back of the storage jar on the kitchen work-top.
The mermaids.put down their combs and mirrors and looked around.
"Oh!" they said, all of them. "Oh, oh and oh! We didn't see this one coming!"
"It's ok" shouted Peg-Leg from behind the storage jar. "We're all going to a birthday tea. Two birthday teas actually. One for pirates, one for mermaids. It'll be fine."

Just then Granny came into the kitchen. "I'm sure I had three pirates for the top of the cake", she said. "Who's messing about now?"

And early next year there will be another birthday, a day of birth, and the eaters of this year's birthday cakes will have a new little cousin to join the celebrations, someone to teach about dinosaurs and stars and beetles, never mind pirates and mermaids.
Such a lot to look forward to, for all of us.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Letter to a Grandson

Dear Grandson,
You last appeared in this blog sitting in your high chair, waving a piece of asparagus around before eating it. You're still likely to be doing that, because the exploration of food in all its forms is one of your favourite activities. But you've done so many other things, of course, during the past two years. The rate at which you're racing along you'll soon be able to read this for yourself, so here's something for you. 
We had breakfast together yesterday, while your parents and big sister caught up on some sleep. You gave me your suggestions, "Hoops and milk, and strawberries? Yes, strawberries. On the Peter Rabbit plate. Yes. And milk in my cup. Yes?"
I said, "I haven't got Hoops. I've got other cereals, look".
You looked in the cupboard and said, "That one, and that one - oh, and that one".
"Choose just one", I said, so you chose with an air of disappointment, and scooted across to the fridge.
"Cheese!" you said, opening it. "Just a small snack. Cheese!"
We settled on cereal, strawberries, milk in a cup, with toast and marmalade for me.
"Granny, the same as Paddington Bear!" you said, while slurping cereal. "Ha, ha, ha. That's funny!"

Things are indeed funny, and often cause robust, hooting mirth. You throw back your head and roar, ROAR with laughter. My ears ring with it. While we eat we attempt to watch the infant sparrows being fed by their parents on the bird table. When you see them land you shout, "BIRDS - out there!" and laugh as they take off. The infant sparrows have a meagre breakfast.

Other members of the family appear, and you shout to tell them what you're eating, what you might eat next, what you might do next. When you've finished the second and third courses of your breakfast you climb on your stool next to the sink for me to  more-or-less hose you down. I wash your tummy and your back for good measure. This is hilarious and you nearly fall off the stool. This is so funny, so uproariously funny that you can hardly stay upright.

You go off into another room, where the toys your sister played houses and families with are now marshalled into an army. The little people and even the dogs ride motor-bikes with enormously vocal engines. They are packed into the cars and boats that your sister used to take them for holidays, but now they are roaring around the floor, colliding and tipping.
Your sister joins you and makes a pet show on the roof of one of the houses, carefully arranging animals in size order. But the army helicopter takes off, one low swerve sending the animals spinning away. There are screams and tears and adult intervention.

Recently there was a dispute about whose Granny I am. You shouted, "MY Granny", and she said, "Actually, she's my Granny first because I was born first." "I'M first!" you said, and the argument went on for some time until I intervened and eventually we all went out into the garden.
Your relationship with your sister is wonderful for you both, although it may not always seem that way to you.  She encourages you in the sort of behaviour she finds hilarious, she teaches you so much, she occasionally puts boundaries in place for you, and of course, there are real disputes at times. You always want to know where she is, what she's doing, and are concerned if she's not available. It's mutual. You teach her how to share, how to understand differences, how to make allowances, how to weather the storms.

Luckily you love books and music almost as much as you love food. You can curl up with a good book by yourself, and you love to be read to, knowing many of your favourite books and joining in the key phrases. You know how to relax, and you love a dose of comfort. You spread yourself across my big bed, sinking into a pile of pillows, hands behind your head, legs crossed at the ankles. "Aaaah, comfy." you say. 
Your whole family does yoga.

So here you are in my garden, on top of Flower Mountain. Flowers are not really your sort of thing unless they have big fat bumble bees in them. Another bit of the garden that you call 'The Jungle' is your sort of place. It has been made like a jungle specially for you and your sister. There are tall bamboos and tropical looking plants and a tractor tyre which was going to be a sandpit, but you have decided it's a boat. Yesterday you rowed the boat in the jungle and told me you found monkeys and parrots and elephants and tigers. 

What a great world you inhabit, Small Grandson.
Enjoy it all,
With love from your AND your sister's Granny.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Not Always on the 25th.

We flouted convention yet again this year.
Christmas celebrations happened here at the weekend, with turkey (and vegetarian options) stuffings and sauces and sprouts, lots of puddings with brandy cream, smart crackers  (the sort you pull) full of good jokes and gold hats and really useful things like teeny screwdrivers and measuring spoons.  There were flashing lights and tinsel, clementines and good cheeses, mince pies, pigs-in-blankets and there is a Christmas cake that I had completely forgotten, still sitting there.

Father Christmas managed to deliver during the afternoon via the very small Victorian fireplace in my bedroom. The smaller members of the family had some great gifts, including a very surprising  toy lobster.  Older members played with the new toys, read the new books and  built a spectacular marble run.

In the evening half the family went back to their new home, having moved into it last week and needing to unpack a few dozen more big boxes. The other half, who had travelled huge distances to be here, stayed on, built an even bigger marble run and also ran themselves up the Malvern Hills. They left after another couple of days to help hose down elephants in Thailand - among other wonderful things.

My husband would not have been happy with this flouting of church routine. His life was largely controlled by such concerns and we all supported him in this. But this is another change in my life since his death that I totally accept. Life in widowhood presents so many changes, and my family members lead very different lives. I have also experienced different Christmas celebrations at different times, including a Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 6th. I try to stay flexible in every way.

So I am here, home largely alone, while so many others are panic-buying in the retail park. It's a warm and comforting feeling that I've done my best  for the family and if I fancy a cheese sandwich for Christmas dinner I can have exactly that.

Very happy, peaceful Christmas to you all, where ever and when ever you celebrate.