Monthly Archives: March 2005

Who needs sleep anyway?

When one of the kids in my maths class this morning yawned and informed me he was too tired to be bothered with Maths because he’d been playing football all weekend, I was not best amused. In fact, I don’t think he was too amused by the time I’d shared my feelings with him, either. After all, I knew a thing or two about being tired.

The thing I hadn’t thought about when setting my alarm to ring every three hours during the night was that, not only was I going to have to get up and apply the cold compress, I was going to have to stay awake for twenty minutes in order to remove it and stick it back in the freezer ready for next time. It was a long night! Made even longer by another annoying coincidence. Being half way through decluttering my bedroom for the Wightmeet, I didn’t have a bed to sleep on and was planning to kip on the sofa. But so’s not to wake Smudgelet through our nighttime vigil, I had to put Tiddles to sleep on the sofa. And me? Where did I sleep? Yes, you’ve guessed it… a nice cosy stretch of floor, to the accompaniment of a puzzled but delighted Charlie purring in my ear’ole!

Oh, and just to make sure I didn’t go to school toooooooo refreshed, I had to get up extra early because Tiddles was unable to wash and dress himself!!!

I was not best amused, after all this nursing care, to discover that his school (normally really caring) had refused to let him use a cold compress during the day, had disapproved of him taking a Nurofen in school and suggested if he was in pain he should be sent home, and had insisted it would help his hand get better if he were to write with it. Of course, I only have his word for it that this was what they said, but I think I shall be ringing up tomorrow to clarify the situation as it makes a bit of a mockery of the nurse’s instructions and he certainly wasn’t ill enough to miss even more school. Luckily the ministrations of the night seem to have had a positive result and he’s in far less pain now, although there’s an interesting looking dent across the back of his finger.

Things went from bad to worse when I discovered, somewhat accidentally, that I have been driving without insurance. I have always paid by direct debit and it has always just run straight into the next year, but somehow that hadn’t quite happened last time round. Panic stations while I made frantic phone calls to get the car insured with immediate effect. With my road tax due too, also rather urgently, I am praying my insurance paperwork arrives pretty promptly or we could be walking the Island for the Wightmeet. AGggggh… why is nothing ever simple?

Still, it was all made worthwhile in the form of a surprise present through the post. A friend had seen a book in the bookshop and immediately thought of me. Goodness knows why….

The title of the book? “Smudge’s Grumpy Day” 😀 😀 😀

Two birds with…

And to think I sent the pair of them to respite so I could have a day to myself while Dad was at the home.
I was stood there, calmly listening to Dad’s dismal tales of his terrible day, when the Smudgelet returned home.
By ambulance.
Well, by minibus actually.
But both injured…. during the last half hour of the day.

I’ve always said Football is a dangerous sport. Tiddles was in goal, apparently. But what he forgot is that it’s not a good idea to reach out with your hands towards the ball when someone else’s foot is headed in the same direction. We think the finger is fractured slightly, judging by the interesting colour and impressive swelling, not to mention the “ouch” factor of my brave little soldier. SO it’s cold compresses and Nurofen every three hours through the night, apparently. Oh bliss.

Smudgelet feels a little robbed of attention, of course. After all, his injury is just as impressive but less needful of nursing care. He was most indignant that I wouldn’t tell the NHS Direct nurse about it. He had a run in, not with a football boot but with a carrier bag. A carrier bag containing a bottle of Dr Pepper’s which has contributed a lovely black-eye-to-be and a small plastic container of sour fruits which has managed to inflict a nasty cut right on his eyelid. While I was trying to bath Tiddles, he came out of his bed five times at thirty second intervals to complain that his eye stings. I informed him that if he came out a sixth time, his bottom stinging might take his mind off it … and miraculously he recovered and fell instantly asleep! You know, I should have been a nurse 😀

Who’d’ve thunk it?

I’m quite chuffed with how industrious I’ve been this morning. Oh for more time without Dad or the kids to distract me, I could possibly make some sort of impact on this place. I’ve filled five massive storage boxes with assorted junk and deposited them in the garage as my task for the Easter Holidays. The disconcerting fact resulting from this is that the contents of my home look no less overwhelmingly junk-laden and cluttered, but at least some of it is a little more contained now. Only trouble is, I twisted my hip carrying the fifth box to the garage so at the moment, although the spirit is willing, the body has given up. A soak in the bath will probably make the difference so I just have to wait until M’s been round for her afternoon cuppa before I closet myself away in there to recover in preparation for phase two.

Meanwhile I’ve been hard at work arranging accommodation for the wedding. Did I tell you my nephew is finally getting married up at Culzean Castle in the summer? It’s a source of great excitement. We’ll stay with my brother beforehand, but the night of the wedding we’ll need somewhere closer to stay and, if we want to spend time with the Caribbean side of the family – not yet met – then we’ll want to be there a little longer too.

First of all I phoned the hotel where my nephew’s made a block booking in anticipation of the family wanting to stay there. Ouch! I reckon it must be a lovely hotel! Actually, for me and the kids it’s not bad as you don’t pay for children sleeping in their parents’ room. But I can’t see Dad smiling sweetly at the thought of paying £50 a night bed and breakfast. The brainwave was to seek out self catering accommodation for a week up there, so I spent a while on the phone calling various places to seek somewhere suitable. Finally I found the perfect cottage – right within view of the castle and at a reasonable price for the week, with a lovely landlady who was only too happy to oblige. I booked it there and then, and then rang my sister to share the good news. As her phone was engaged, I left a message and went back to the grindstone, only to be called back to answer the phone.

Would you believe it – my sister was not as delighted with the news at all. She’d phoned the same landlady earlier in the day to enquire about the two cottages she owned and, having discovered they were vacant, said she’d check with other members of the family who were travelling with her (my other two nephews and their families) and get back to her to book them, but hadn’t actually made a provisional booking. She’d just been about to phone her and confirm when my message had arrived.

It makes sense, obviously, for the three families (complete with two babies) to have the two linked cottages. Anyone know of any self-catering accommodation in the vicinity of Culzean Castle?


It was disgracefully early for a holiday morning. Actually, it wasn’t. 7am was really quite a respectable time, even taking the hour’s difference into account, seeing as we didn’t have to organise breakfast and I didn’t have to get Dad up, but it was still rather special to feel that the alarm was ringing disgracefully early when it resounded – somewhat muffled resounding, I have to admit as it was still shoved under my pillow in disgust from the previous morning. I woke my sleeping babes, all snuffly under the duvets in their rather aromatic room, and we dressed ourselves in several layers of clothing (most of Smudgelet’s being inside out and back to front as he’s not all that good in the mornings!)

To my amazement, Dad was up and dressed and ready to go too. It seemed a bit lazy going up the road in the car, but I did have a rather heavy accordion to carry, and a huge music stand, and I knew I’d be transporting things home from church afterwards too. Not quite dark, not quite light, disappointingly cloudy but with a few rays just about strong enough to burn their way feebly through, and a good crowd of people assembled on the Rec whose welcome was as warm as any sunshine as we gathered to sing Easter praises in the beauty of our new “Village Doorstep Garden” as the Rec is now.. quite rightly… called.

Playing the music was a bit of a challenge, I must admit, as there was the most bitter of cold winds whipping its way across the lawns and, it seemed, focussing in particular on my fingers. The accordion is, of course, played almost entirely by touch – not good when you have icicles for fingers! I ended up borrowing a Smudgelet and burying my fingers in him 😀 But the singing was rousing enough to cover up for my wrong notes. And I was incredibly proud of my Tiddles who was invited, at short notice, to start off the prayers of thanksgiving. “Dear God, we thank you for the sun, for flowers, for nature. And especially we thank you for your son Jesus rising from the dead. Amen”. And here was his untrusting mother thinking a jumble of made up words would come tumbling out which didn’t make any sense at all (as sometimes happens when he tries to pray “formally”) He was delighted to have been asked.

Breakfast was.. well, as always breakfast was delicious and far far too much – enough to keep us going all day. In the “new” church the kitchen facilities are superb and it made a usually fantastic breakfast into something even more special. It’s hard to believe how few people actually turned up for it and a shame that so much had to go to waste. First a choice of a dozen cereals (now adorning our cereal cupboard as we offered the left overs a good home!) and fresh baked rolls with honey or marmalade, accompanied by fresh juice. Then a full breakfast with two sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and beans. And finally hard boiled eggs and toast, an Easter egg and tea or coffee. Mmmmmmm….. we could hardly move afterwards, but the exercise of washing up all those pans helped burn a bit of it off. And Jack.. that first little Easter egg was for you – and lovely it was to feel the soft silky chocolate melting on my tastebuds!

It was a quick turnaround, then, to get back to church in time for the morning service. The service was less than I might have expected – a lovely chap leading worship, but so incredibly nervous that he was at a loss to keep things together. And not helped by the congregation. I ask you – forty people who were, for the most part, long-standing church attenders, not knowing the response to “Alleluia, He is Risen!” Three times the preacher tried it, and three times it fell apart in a total rabble of random noises. I felt as though I was the only one there actually saying “He is risen indeed, Alleluia”. A fantastic children’s address, focussing on the story of Barrabas which was, for me, something totally new… and for once Smudgelet came out with a well-thought-out answer (although he blotted his copybook by immediately losing interest in the whole children’s address and using his finger to mirror the movements of the second hand of the clock – which rather disconcerted the poor preacher further!)

No Easter Eggs for the Smudgelets this year.. well, not at first. They’d been warned that the Easter Bunny, who usually delivers to a tent they build and decorate in their bedroom, would not actually be able to get in the room at all unless they made some effort to tidy it. Smudgelet declared that he couldn’t be bothered and left Tiddles to do it. Tiddles in turn got distracted by Smudgelet’s determined playing and wandered off to join him. Three warnings, three times ignored….. and the Easter eggs ended up waiting until I actually saw them doing something helpful of their own accord. Tiddles earned his immediately by offering (and doing) the washing up at church – even the greasy pans! – and by helping with the dinner. Smudgelet needed the prompting of seeing Tiddles get his basket – whereupon tidying the bedroom suddenly developed a rather unexpected appeal 😉

The afternoon was spent having our first experience of making trifle – a favour for M who was exhausted from cooking all those breakfasts and had a dessert to make for the lunches being served at the church today. I thought it was the least we could do. And great fun it was too.

The Lord is risen – He is risen indeed – Yippeeeeeeeeee 😀


Why is my home such a mess? It’s because whenever I settle myself to do something, I get the command from next door and, if I want any peace, I have to go running. I made him wait while I hung the washing out, put another load in, and spend five minutes bug-hunting with the boys and their microscope (brilliant fun – pill bugs, a long thin centipede – although we couldn’t see his hundred stripy socks – a very well fed caterpillar obviously on the verge of popping, a multitude of woodlice and some amazing little springy things that perdoinnnng all over the place like Zebedee) but then I went over to help him sort out a blockage in his spare vacuum cleaner and to make him a cup of coffee.

We had coffee on the patio… first time this year.. and lovely it was too, even if the garden chairs did need a bit of a spring clean before we made physical contact with them! Charlie-cat came and lounged at our feet, the birds were singing, and all was right with the world. We chatted in our old father-daughter way, enjoying the relaxation and a shared joke or three and just relaxed in each others’ company, the moments that make it all worthwhile.

Then, as I was leaving to get on with the housework he told me of his plan for the Easter holidays. As we have a fortnight off, apparently that time should be just about adequate for the boys and me to sort his garden out for him. He’ll plan for us to do it then and make sure he’s got the tools ready.

Oh for the ability to say “No, Dad… I have plans for the Easter holidays. We’ll do a bit, but you’re just going to have to pay a gardener”. I don’t even have time to do my own garden, let alone his. And actually, I am looking forward to a bit of doing absolutely nothing but sit in the garden and watch the boys play. Yes, Arti, you’re right. He is Mr Manipulative and he has it off to a fine art… even to the extent that nobody who knows him outside the family sees it, they just see a lovely old man who is delightful company. I have, however, warned my sisters what to expect if they fall into the trap of saying they’ll do all the respite care. How do I teach him that he can’t just click his fingers and the boys or I’ll come running, apart from simply walking away from him and leaving him to die alone because there’s no halfway house where he’s concerned.

Ho hum. Here’s me complaining that I can’t get on and yet sitting at the computer instead of tidying this lounge. I’ll feel brighter when I’ve a room which is a pleasure to be in, I know I will. Now, where’s that cobweb brush, let’s clear a cobweb or two… (and he can wait for his lunch until I am ready 😉 )


My first tenebrae service.

It was the first time it had ever really occured to me and sunk in how the disciples and friends and family of Jesus didn’t know the end of the story. Oh yes, I know they’d been told, but how many of us really listen to what we’re told? The desolation of the events of that Friday and the darkness of the soul in experiencing that terrible loss -watching your friend die the most brutal of deaths, knowing this is the end of all your hopes and dreams, seeing no future. It hit home to me following a visual meditation provided by someone at Church of Fools which simply ended “He is Dead” to which I found myself thinking almost in a panic “No, it can’t end there… you have to mention the resurrection…” But for the disciples there wasn’t that reassurance, was there?

The Tenebrae service was amazing. Thanks to Ian I knew roughly what to expect. It was held in out beautiful little 10th century church, although the middle of the afternoon meant the sun was blazing through the old stained glass windows and falling on the cross, where I’d sort of expected darkness. With a combination of readings by just two voices, and the most amazing meditative music, I found myself becoming stilled. Deep down. There was just me and God there, and an incredible stillness of spirit, and a single tear escaped and ran down my cheek almost unnoticed. Amazing – I felt as though I never wanted to break that moment.

It was doubly amazing seeing as I ended up taking Dad and the two boys with me rather than, as I’d hoped, leaving them all at home. I felt bad for wanting an hour’s break from them, and to experience the service without the three of them shuffling about and whispering to each other. In fact, it’s a deep shame that I feel that way, but I can’t deny that’s how I felt when Dad announced he wanted to come and bring the boys. The funny thing was that I suddenly, half way through the service, remembered about the loud noise. How to get a warning to them to prevent Dad having a heart attack and the boys starting to giggle? I didn’t want to break the silence and the sense of solitariness which was so precious, but there was nothing for it. I had to warn them, so I tried to find a moment when it was least obtrusive to lean across and whisper the message to each of them. Then, would you believe it, the vicar didn’t do the loud noise bit. Maybe because the majority of the small congregation were extremely elderly, although M later said that she’d never heard of doing a loud noise at all in any of the tenebrae services she’d been to. Strange.

This morning I am dealing with frustration again over the whole respite business. I won’t go into detail about the “discussion” I had with Dad this morning other than to say at the moment that I wish I’d never got myself into this situation at all. I’m tempted to ask him if he’d like to pay me £400 to stay at home for the weekend, except that at the moment I’d give anything to pack a bag and disappear.


My other sister, the one who has experience of caring for elderly relatives, has saved the day… and her in the middle of a disaster too (Her husband had just accidentally sawn through a radiator pipe in the upstairs bathroom and caused an inadvertant downpour through the kitchen ceiling and all over the new carpets!). She is going to ring J and talk the whole situation through with her to set up an ongoing long-term agreement. Either that she and J between them can guarantee me regular breaks including my holidays away and times at home without having to worry about Dad, and including cover for emergencies (such as, if they’ve arranged for Dad to go there while I’m away because they’re working that week, that they can guarantee to be able to come here to him if something happens that he is unable to travel) – this being a long term situation and not just for this year alone. If they are unable to agree this as a definite way of working – and their husbands have to agree to it too – then we will proceed with the respite at the retirement home and Dad will have to lump the fact of spending the money. Whichever the situation, it should be arranged so that I don’t have to make all the arrangements and do all the running about.

I am so lucky that we’re such a close family and we can work things out together. They’re brilliant, my siblings. And we’re getting the chance of another family reunion in August when my nephew gets married in Scotland (his wedding in their home in the Caribbean was washed out in the hurricane and they have decided to relocate the venue to bonnie Scotland and bring the bride’s family with them. Hooray!)


The moving of the stone was done by tea-tray. The stone was too heavy to lift, but we managed to rock it onto the tray. The steps were just wide enough to hold the stone, though not the whole tray, so we kept the stone right at the back of the tray. I balanced the front of the tray (which was empty) on my knee while we slid the tray forwards and lifted it down onto the next step. M, of course, was stuck behind it and had to climb over the top of it and me to get at the right angle to help when it came to manoevring the whole thing round the corners in the staircase, but bit by bit we got it there with only one awkward moment where the only way I could hold it was to put my arm through the bannister rail but then was unable to move it forwards or backwards! I just let go and prayed..and yes, we were able to take the strain of it for a moment or two while I relocated my arm!

I just hope the people who see the Easter Garden get a lot out of it. It’s a very effective source of contemplation

What is it with me, that it never just goes smoothly?

Dad has decided that he resents giving any money to the residential home, simply because others are funded. He appreciates that it is right for Social Services to make the service available to those who cannot afford it for themselves, but still he resents it. One way to deal with this might be to bite the bullet and say “Well, it doesn’t seem fair but I enjoy it so I’ll just grin and bear it as I part with the money” but that’s not Dad’s way.

He’s decided he resents the money he’ll be paying to go there for a break while I go away. He said to my sister that he’d rather give her the money and her look after him for the week. (I bit back the point that I look after him full time for next to nothing – no point muddying the waters with my own little resentments!) Trouble is, she is actually free that week.

She feels that she’ll do anything to make Dad’s life happier and that the cost of care would be better kept within the family if he doesn’t want to go. Her view is that he could die next week and she’d regret having let him go into the home when she knew she could have had him there. My view is that it is better that he gets used to going in the home for short stays when I go away. I feel dreadful asking my sisters to have him if I want a break away as it means them giving up their limited holiday time. It’s OK when they can take him to stay with them, but that’s not always going to be possible. He could die next week, yes, but he could be around for a whole lot longer than that and he’s not going to get any more fit or mobile. Will they want to give up all their time off work to come and stay with him or will they, by then, be wanting him to be well settled into going to respite care? Now I feel horrible for thinking like that – guilty and mean-minded and uncaring – and I came away from my conversation with my sister feeling like that too, although neither of us wanted to fall out over it.

Why couldn’t she just have been busy that weekend? And why does it have to be me that makes the decision?