Sunday, 14 June 2020

Back in the Saddle?

 After so many, many weeks of being a virtual Granny there is at last some chance of being  a real one: a Granny with hair like a gone-to-seed dandelion, but one who can still cook and read stories and make people laugh. One who can also hide miniature picnics in unexpected places, find (and possibly even write) notes from fairies and, more importantly, keep the house and garden entirely familiar for children who haven't seen the place for a long time.

Cheerful, noisy, happy life returned just for the day yesterday. In no time at all the garden buildings had become a den, a shop and a stable. The whole garden became a village, a farm, a jungle, a road down to a different village and a pond-side exploration place.
"The sound of this little fountain is so relaxing", said Grand-Daughter as she scampered past. Towards the end of a long play session the rockery, now a carpet of wonderfully scented English Pinks, was also discovered to be somewhere you could relax for a few seconds and think about anything you liked. Secret paths, hiding places, concealed doors leading to even more secrets were rediscovered and invented.
Grandson Senior remembered his plastic motor-bike and roared down an adrenaline-boosting slope with his knees under his chin. He has grown a lot in recent weeks. Then he mastered my sound-system in order to play his nursery rhyme CD, and had more fun than seemed possible, washing his hands with extremely slippery soap.

 All the work of maintaining this time-consuming place becomes so wonderfully worthwhile. What else has there been to do in the last three months, and how incredibly fortunate I am to have such a place. Even more fortunate to have the grandchildren to let loose in it.
Some day Grandson Junior will come and have a go too, but at the moment he's having his first holiday beside a lake in Austria, where hotels are open and people have much more freedom to move about.

Some things I didn't get right. The rabbit who unexpectedly came for her birthday party was not provided with a carrot cake. I didn't know it was the rabbit's birthday. How un-Granny-like is that? But surely even a toy rabbit should be able to understand that I can't just go shopping, that I haven't been shopping for three months, that I wouldn't even know what you're supposed to do in a shop these days.
 Have I got carrots in the garden? No, I've got raspberries though. Rabbits like raspberries. Have a bowl and pick some raspberries. Oh, your brother has eaten them, and your Mummy has scoffed a few as well? Oh dear. But as a special treat in warm weather have some frozen peas in your bowl. Yummy!

I'm still not getting it quite right. The horse who has been left in my care came with a list of feeding, grooming and exercise instructions.  You can see it lounging about over the stable door. I haven't fulfilled all the requirements, but the horse hasn't either. I needed the manure for the garden.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Letter to a (nearly) Three Month Old.

Dear New Grandson,
Not quite so new, but we haven't met, and it will be some time before we manage it.
You are a long way away, but it doesn't seem like it because your parents are so good at keeping in touch by e-mail, Skype and telephone. So I saw you a few minutes after you were born and I saw you having your first cuddles with your parents.
Your Canadian Granny came to meet you and was able to go with you to your new home in Austria, but then this pandemic (which I hope you'll never need to know about) also arrived and changed all our lives. Canadian Granny had a complex and stressful journey back to Canada to rejoin the rest of your family there. And I, who should have been walking in Alpine pastures with you now, can't go anywhere.
All that matters is that you are safe and well, amid blue skies and snow-capped mountains and both parents with you. An especial bonus for you is that your Daddy, who normally spends a big part of his life in extensive business travel, isn't able to go anywhere either, so the three of you can spend lots of time together.

It's Mothers' Day in Austria today, so guess what? Your're going on a sunny walk in your sling, and you'll all have a picnic somewhere beautiful. You'll be so full of clean mountain air that you'll sleep well all night - and that's an excellent Mother's Day gift. What a good job you've got your new sunglasses. The light is strong and clear up in those mountains, and those splendid specs can be used when you start skiing, which will probably be as soon as you start walking.

All your  English family will meet you as soon as it's safe to do so. Your three-year-old cousin will be so pleased to have another boy in the family. He looks at your photos and says you are just so cute. I wonder if he's seen this one, taken yesterday? He's going to want sun-glasses just like yours, and I think he'll be keen to ski, too. There will be a time you can do it together. For good measure you can teach both your cousins here to speak German, because you'll be doing that as well. You can bet they'll come and see you as soon as they can.

You'll be off to Canada. You'll be travelling all over the place,
So much to learn, so much to do, so much adventure and happiness in store for you. In the meantime stay safe and content in your peaceful little life.

I'll really see you one of these days.
With love from Granny.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Challenges and The Joy of Paper-Shredding

Here I am, at the start of the seventh week of  a total isolation from the world outside my house and garden,  I thought I knew these places better than I have ever known anything - every unfurling leaf of ground elder, every uneven stone slab, every bit of chipped paint. Then I find a lost world in the back of a very roomy wardrobe, hidden beneath the flowing skirts of evening dresses. Evening dresses? Will there ever be a world in which one dresses up to go out in an evening? Was there ever such a world?

Yes, there was once such a world where people dressed up and went out, really went out beyond the front gate. Went out into the road, round the corner, under the bridge, up the hill, into the town. How  intimidating is that? When you are put into a category labelled as 'elderly vulnerable' perhaps you start to believe it. You can believe it or you can go out and spend a couple of hours heaving compost from one bin into another and then get out the step-ladder and start pruning.
I choose the latter option.
I also move some furniture and explore the four big metal document cases in the back of the
wardrobe. It's a struggle getting them out. And then I remember why they are there. If I don't sort them now, who will?

Many years ago, shortly after my husband died, I attempted to sort the many, many documents in these cases. I couldn't face it at the time and so I put them well out of sight, underneath the long dresses and waxed coats and even one of my husband's suits.
Last week the prolonged spell of glorious weather gave way to cool and welcome rain, so I spent the greater part of three days sorting, classifying and shredding huge quantities of paper, hand-written, printed, drawn on, formal, informal. Records of lives that are over and cannot now be revived, but also some things that should be preserved for family, near and far.
We will all change during this strange period. I will have a different sort of garden, a tidier house, a clearer mind, however tough it may be to achieve. So many challenges.

My grand-daughter and I set each other challenges via Skype. A couple of days ago we played a new board game. One of us was a virus, the other a bar of soap. I was the soap. I won. Thank goodness for that!
We played Hangman, which was not easy as one of us is not very good at spelling more complex words, and that's really tricky with Hangman, ("Are you sure you've got seven letters with only one vowel?" "Oh, wait a minute I'll ask Mum......actually there's an 'A' there and an 'E' at the end." "That makes a bit of a difference!") Then we tried some Origami. Skype is not ideal for Origami, at least not when you're seven (and a half).
My three (and a half) year old grandson sets me challenges to read Postman Pat books via Skype until my voice gives out. He lies back on the sofa, a nice soft blanket to hand in case he fancies a nap, a snack also to hand and says, "Go on Granny. Read Postman Pat's Messy Day next." I set him a challenge not to simply switch me off when he's had enough, but to say goodbye first. Switching off Granny is a powerful thing!
And now eleven-week old grandson sets me a challenge to ensure that I remain well enough to meet him, hopefully before he's walking, and certainly before he starts school. At the moment he can smile and possibly wave at a snowy haired blob on the screen, which is a great achievement.

Change for us all, with special thanks to Skype, Zoom, family and friends, and paper-shredders everywhere.

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.