Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spontaneous combustion uncovered

Apparently SB was told last week that if he continues to progress as he has, he might just be able to swim for his country. Downside is that it is butterfly. Bummer. Now we have to find something that SSB can do especially well and I'm not sure that dancing the tango with his mother counts.

Daisies are our silver
Buttercups our gold
This is all the treasure we can have or hold.

Raindrops are our diamonds
And the morning dew

I wonder if anyone else remembers that.

My stepmother has apparently sold the house and now wonders where she might move to. She is to rent one of the houses that have been refurbished by her daughter. Odd. Not sure I would charge my mother rent.

Also odd: an Australian newspaper yesterday reported that a man had set fire to a building with his clothes! The build of static between his jacket and his trousers was sufficient to scorch the carpet. The poor man had some 40,000 volts rampaging about his body. A real case, of "Liar, liar, yer bum's on fire..."

Must get down to some work. Airhead.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New York & back

New York was wonderful. Blue skies and sunny - while Katrina threatens Galveston and ravages Louisiana and the levees of the Big Easy. The long wind of cars out of Texan coastal ports takes on Biblical proportions. Meanwhile I get my $2 ride on the Central Park carousel! As good a bargain as a night ride on Star Ferry in Hong Kong. Now Starbucked and topped up with Tylenol, I am back with the beat, Baggy.

First night back, and I managed to collect someone else's luggage from the airport! In how many years of travelling? How dumb can you be? I really don't want a Day-Glo suitcase but...On the bus to the hotel, I look at the case and say to the bus driver: "That's not my case"! He must have heard it a hundred times before. "Well, it's the one that you got on board with". Oh Lord. It belongs to someone in Nottingham & feels incredibly heavy. Hope it's not got her wedding dress. Fling other bags at kindly concierge, jump back on the bus to the airport - but the bird has flown. So too, have all the airline's last flights.

Corner friendly PC who offers to arrest me, but only after we retrieve my bag. PC takes pity and we dash along back corridors to sort out muddle of cases. I am reunited with mine, the airline promises to deliver to Nottingham, and all is well.

Back out again to the Hoppas and finally back to the hotel. Fly home the next day, drop bags, out again to see Mum. Thankfully, she doesn't look too dishevelled at all though she is still wearing the same clothes that I helped her dress in last week. But with bright pink night socks. They look like two enormous and oddly luminescent pink pigs.

It's wonderful to see the SBs.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pots of gold

Two rainbows tonight. Great big, luscious arching rainbows, real as real, each with a pot of gold buried in a bale of September hay. Today the kind and endlessly patient GP signed and witnessed the confirmation of my Power of Attorney. Mum signed without the slightest hesitation - her trust is implicit, like the children. I can do no wrong. I am, and will be, her beloved daughter and her protector.

And tomorrow I have to leave for New York. Mum tries but doesn't quite understand. So I tuck her up in bed and smile back: "See you tomorrow Mum" - knowing that tomorrow will be next Sunday and it's a small lifetime for her.

The boys are full of excitement. VSB has learned a poem for next week: SB is travelling north tomorrow to play another rugby match. Big smiles. They will tell me the score when I arrive in New York. Sure? "Sure. I love you Mama." "God Bless my brother and help him score a try and God Bless all the children who don't have mummies and daddies and who don't play rugby".

My suitcase is nearly packed.

I called my stepmother last week. No answer. It's now almost a year since my father died but there will be flowers for him even though there is no grave.

Sometimes my heart is heavy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


SB played in his first proper rugby match today. Great success - he managed to keep going the same way as the rest of his team for the whole match! I thought I spotted blood on his shorts when I put them to wash but it was probably Ribena. Not bad at all. .

SB's sibling struggled with his last bit of prep tonight. But we managed to end on a high note: "Horrid Henry put the cat in the washing machine but found that it shrank." "I like that", said VSB. "It's evil". Better not mention to Grandma, I said. She'll only worry which is the cat programme on her washing machine....

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Summer sands Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Locks & other things

To BackMan to get back destressed, and he tells me about his sister-in-law who teaches walking on fire! All of his children have stepped on coals with not a burn to their name. His oldest, when he was just 8, knelt on the coals in grey school trousers, rubbed coals on his face and came away with only one tiny blister on his toe. Not a mark on the trousers. BM says that the only explanation he could offer was that the combined energy of the group was greater than the energy of the fire and therefore the fire could not harm the firewalkers' feet. Maybe that's what I need. To empower my feet.

Destressed shoulders immediately rise a notch. The (second, recently installed) KeySafe is now jammed, and this time Mum is locked inside the house, without breakfast, without tablets! Drive back to the house again, de-jam the KeySafe, reset the lock, unlock the door. Mum is back in bed and tries to tell me about some lovely people who talk each day through the letterbox. Tablets, make lunch, tea and sing the Pooh song to her. Big smile.

SB has made the swimming team, and both boys make a bold attempt to eat lamb's liver. Not bad at all!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The thing about sunbeams is that they are supposed to shine. Throughout the day. That's quite a tall order, even for a 40-something, well-practised, full-on beam. But today is off to a running start. It's 8.30am, and Mum hasn't yet called to say that there is a strange woman on the end of the phone telling her to try again later. The boys are on their way to school with only a 5 minute argument about why boring parents confiscate aggressive, unfunny PS2 games. We compromise. Promise to find the game and SB will observe the Not To Be Played rule. No wonder Britain doesn't have a written constitution.

Mum is washed and spruced and ready for the day, and the lovely young girl who has come to help out has offered to play the cello for her. Mum would love it. Also discover that her regular cassette of tablets have not been picked up this week and so she has been without medication for three days. The lovely cellist leaves, and leaves the electric plate on full heat. Lucky I was here, and lucky I noticed. Lucky, lucky.

Five phone calls and I get to speak to the District Manager in charge of home care. Sounds very sympathetic. I assure her that my criticism is directed at the new rota system, and not at any of the ladies who attend Mum. She, we, I, really am lucky. Thanks to the ladies here, Mum is saved from the institutional care that she so fears. But since the rota changed, all the keys to the house have been lost, the keysafe broken, and like buses, the worthy ladies arrive either not at all, or in convoy. Still, they are caring and compassionate for the most part, and are careful to respect Mum's dignity. Even if she reminds "staff" to "wipe their feet".

When I was at university, I boosted my meagre stipend as a mopper and marmelade spreader in a care home in England. The home looked like the sort of place, that if you had to make the difficult choice of putting a relative in care, this would be first choice.

But Matron was all profit margin before patients. Ladies were dressed, but sat in wheelchairs without underwear "to cut down laundry bills". Elizabeth, a bright 24 year old, cruelly struck with MS, had to wait over the weekend before Matron would sanction the buying of cream to ease her muscle spasms. When I brought some to her after I went off-duty, Elizabeth broke down in tears. It was such a little thing. The young policeman,also with MS who soiled his sheets every night, turned his face to the wall while I cheerfully cleaned up the mess. A tall, blue-eyed and pretty 20-year old sunbeam was too painful a reminder of all he had lost.

My brother sees homes and sees the freedom from the day-to-day grind of mopping, reminding and not minding the querulous complaints. But while I am self cast in the role of Guardian Angel, residential care even with its glossy Homes and Gardens brochures must remain our last and final choice

Monday, September 05, 2005


The Dandelion Clock is a testament to my mother.

The Dandelion's puffball can tell you the time, but it is a fickle instrument. Time is dependent on how hard you puff and how quickly the seedlings fly away. The one thing that is constant, is that in the end, all the seedlings are gone. Dents de lion and pissenlit - it's all the same in dementia.

Born on the South Wales/ English border to a mother who died only a few hours later, Mum has lived her life, not especially happily, but with dogged determination. Devoted to my father who walked out when I was 15, my mother lived off Marmite and Ryvita and brought up my brother, me and our dog. Now in her 80s and suffering from dementia, her prodigious memory, that has the unfortunate ability to recall the slightest slight, is slipping away.

We four, two rats and a cat, are coping pretty well and life is still not without joy. We are blessed with the good-nature and love of two small boys who have two slightly wonky grandmothers, a loving but irascible father and me, their globe-trotting mother who knew very early on that Jesus wanted her for a Sunbeam.