Whirring

I love my new washing machine.
I do.
It’s white and shiny. It fits into the hole just perfectly. It holds almost a teenager’s-bedroom-floor-ful of dirty clothes and washes them with barely a sound. Best of all, I don’t have to wear wellies to go in the kitchen when it’s working.
I can almost forgive Currys for a) delivering a day later than promised, thus leaving us stuck indoors for a whole day unnecessarily) and b) delivering at the end of the day instead of first thing in the morning as promised, thus leaving us stuck indoors for a whole day unnecessarily. Typical that these two days happened to be the only decent weather we’ve had all week.

Friday was nerveracking enough as we waited to hear from my brother’s consultant. (I realise now how long it is since last I blogged). We were half expecting a phone call to say “Hop in the car and come along for a squeezed-in appointment” as there’d been a tiny breakdown in communication at the hospital between the radiographery types and the consultant – he’d wanted to see my brother straight after the tests but nobody told him that the tests had been done! As it is, he phoned and made an appointment for my brother and me to go in on Wednesday to see him because he actually wants another specialist there with him and that is the first time that both can fit us in. He wants me there too, as “rear gunner”.

If you’re not aware, my brother managed to have a cerebral bleed in July. Caught us totally unawares as the boy and I were on the Isle of Wight on holiday and my big brother was staying in my flat doing a couple of jobs. The boy happened to ring him at 10pm on the Saturday before we came home – he wanted to have a bit of a rant to someone about what a mean mother I am and how little I understand him 😉 – but my brother just said “I’m not well” and hung up on him. The boy was a bit shocked that I didn’t allow myself to get worried and keep ringing, that I went to sleep and started ringing next morning, but I knew there was nothing I could do, whatever the problem, as it had sounded as though he was in the hospital and I knew his phone was switched off. But next morning I started trying to contact him, all with no reply.

I rang a friend who lives locally and got her to try the hospital, see if he was there. No, they said. He’d been there the previous night but had been discharged about 11pm. I rang another friend who lives locally and got her to go round to the flat. No sign of life, and no flashy car parked nearby. This was the moment to start worrying. Where. Was. He?

We went to church. We came out. No missed call or text message on my mobile.
We went to my friend’s as arranged for lunch. No call or text message on my mobile.
I couldn’t decide – should we try for an earlier ferry (we were going back that evening) or should we wait?

Then the phone rang. “Hello. Is that Smudgie I’m speaking to?”
“Yes, who is this?
“Can I just confirm your relationship to “MrSmudgie’sbrother”? ”
“I’m his sister” (I missed out the “much younger and more beautiful” bit)
“Oh good. I don’t want to worry you. This is St George’s Hospital in Tooting. We have your brother here. I found your number as a series of missed calls on his mobile and thought you might be his next of kin….”

To cut a long story short, he’d had a cerebral bleed (one of the less-frequent kinds of stroke”. He’d developed a headache and had realised he wasn’t thinking straight, that his language was a little odd, and he felt a bit strange so, thinking that it might possibly be a stroke, he thought it would be wise to be on the safe side and DRIVE HIMSELF to A&E!!!!! He arrived and immediately had a prolonged epileptic seizure, ended up on a ventilator, and was NOT actually discharged from the local hospital in the way that we had understood it, he was TRANSFERRED to the specialist neurological unit at St George’s.

God is good. Tests showed that my brother had a faulty connection in the blood vessels of the brain since birth – this bleed could have happened at any time,… while he was at sea, while he was up the mast, while he was at his house which is 60 miles from the nearest hospital…. but it happened while he was in my flat which is very close to A&E and near to one of the best neurological centres in the world. He managed to drive without incident to the hospital whilst in the throes of a cerebral bleed, and recognised instantly what was happening so was treated extremely promptly. The bleed was large but localised on one area of his brain and seems to have done minimal lasting damage, which is totally miraculous considering that the mass of blood was the size of a satsuma. He’s doing really well, but does need some sort of intervention now as the cranial angiogram he had last week shows that the weakness is still there. I always said he was weak in the head!

The area of the brain affected was the language centre. He’s a very active and physical man so it was a real relief that it did not affect him physically. He’s also an intelligent man (don’t tell him I said that) but his intellect remained intact. Initially his talk was mostly unintelligible. By the second day he was starting to make more sense, but the words just came out wrong. I think our family will now always refer to a portable computer as a FLABLOB as it is the most perfect of words. I arrived to visit and the allocated nurse called me on one side to ask me some questions, one of which was to ask me what his occupation was. “So he isn’t, and has never been, a chartered accountant?” The word is so similar to “master mariner”, isn’t it?

The best conversation was when he asked me to bring him some water on my next visit. “You don’t mean water, do you?” He knew the word was wrong and tried again, but the sentence still came out the same. I tried doing twenty questions – was it something to drink? No. Was it something to eat? No. Each time he started the sentence again to see if the right word would come and each time it came out “Can you bring me some… er… water”. But we both remained patient. He knew it was wrong, but we were both confident we’d get there eventually. And eventually get there we did. “Can you bring me some pyjamas” !!!

Each day has seen a marked improvement. Words came quicker than numbers. Nouns came quicker than pronouns. Patience, patience, practise, practise. Now, four months later, the pressure of blood has reduced (though not completely shifted) and his language is almost back to normal, except when he is tired or under stress.

So now we wait to see what Wednesday brings. A bit nerve-racking, we know that whatever intervention they choose will carry a significant risk, but the risk of having nothing done is greater (40% likelihood of a recurrence from the same site) . But at least once something is done there is a chance he’ll be allowed to drive again next year ( six months of no driving is a challenge for a man who loves to drive and who lives in a very remote little village), he’ll be able to have the occasional drink (four months of no alcohol has been a real life-change for a man whose social life revolved around a glass of guinness or a bottle of Merlot), he’ll be able to lift heavy things and climb up ladders (he works as a handyman now) and walk up hills (he lives in Scotland, of all places). And most importantly, he’ll be able to finish off the decorating in my flat!

Waiting

The washing machine didn’t come today.
This is not good. I had gone off to work this morning full of anticipation of a sparkly new washing machine waiting in my sparkly clean kitchen (thanks, big brother) when I returned home for a few hours between my two shifts today. I’d even saved up a special load of washing to christen it with. But though the kitchen is sparkly and clean, the washing machine looks remarkably like my old one.

Still, they got my brother in the right mood – he’s waiting for a call regarding an appointment at the hospital tomorrow to find out what they’re going to do about his head. Boy, did he give them stick! The washing machine was promised for today – we have it here in blue and white (written in blue biro, not printed in black ink) – and it was only on his insistance that we purchased it from Currys in the first place, seeing as they were already in my black books for their attitude about a fault with my telly. So it sounds as though the machine will be here FIRST THING TOMORROW!

Meanwhile, he’s out on the drive fixing my car aerial, we hope. It’s rather nice having him here! 😉 . As I drove through the multi-storey carpark, the aerial bedoiiiiinnnnnggging on the ceiling joists, I thought to myself “it’s a good job I’m driving forwards, in the correct direction for it to twang safely, and not reversing”. It was only when I had parked in the parking bay and realised that I was going to have to reverse to get the car back out again that I realised there was going to be a problem. Bedooooiii…,SNAP!”

Me, next job on my list is cleaning out the hamsters. I’d rather be doing the aerial. There has been, yet again, a population explosion in the tank – from two hamsters we suddenly seem to have eight in that tank! I wonder how that happened!!! Worst thing is, while the babies are weaning you have to avoid cleaning the tank out, and the second brood of babies arrived before the first lot had properly left the nest, so .. er… it’s been a while! Something makes me think that maybe I’d better set up a third cage and separate off the hamsters with the tiny-extra-bit for a while. What do you reckon?

Dusting off the cobwebs

Well, I haven’t been here for a while. I won’t be here for long now. Mega-shift tomorrow – 7-10 in the morning followed by 3-9 in the evening and a snatched lunch with my big brother in between. But clearing away the cobwebs in here is more fun than clearing a space for the new washing machine in the kitchen so I’ll quickly squander the last ten minutes before bedtime by stating my intention of being a better blogger again in the near near future.

Promise.

It’s all that pot-bellied pixie’s fault.

Taking the plunge

Tired of always taking and never giving; tired of saying “no” to so many things because I can’t even think of justifying paying for them; tired of seeing things I want to get/do for people and having to say no because they’re beyond my budget (even a £2 toy in a charity shop!); tired of wondering why we haven’t taken advantage of the £5 tickets at the Globe for an eternity and then realising why; tired of “waiting for the end of the month” from very close to the beginning of the month; I have given myself the kick up the backside I needed and applied for a second job.

It looks right up my street, and to tell the truth is the only sort of part time job I could fit in. It’s flexible and working from home mostly. It’s using the computer to produce worship materials and posters and other sundry bits and bobs. It will need plenty of self-discipline to fit it in, but the flexible and “at home” working means I can sit in the lounge and do it while the boy is watching interminable repeats of Top Gear and so appear companionable without being bored senseless. And I can easily use it to substitute for the time I fritter away at the moment on Bejewelled Blitz and the like.

I have an interview on Friday. The job could well have someone else’s name on it. I’m not holding my breath. But… oh, I am ready for it.

Meanwhile, this flat needs a really good sort out… just think, if I were to get the job I could maybe even spare a bit of the income to pay for a cleaner!

Snippings

I just posted this on a friend’s facebook (you know who you are!) and realised that actually it was a moment in time worth recording for posterity..

The boy just had his hair cut. I nearly squawked on his behalf when I saw the barber make the first cut – but by then it was too late. I am resisting the temptation to call him “Shaun”. My poor boy, who did a good impression of a cross between a Highland Cow, a Yak and a Dulux Dog now looks more like my penguin avatar! I was a supportive mum and did not laugh (much)…. but not envying him his arrival at school this morning.

Still, he’s learned a lesson about listening to mummy. I’ve been nagging him to go to the barber’s since the beginning of his three week half term holidays, saying that he’d then have time to let it grow a little and not look quite so “newly cut” by the time he went back to school.

Good thing he’s gaining the maturity to laugh at himself…… poor lad!

😉

Goodness

Just, on an impulse, re-read my profile page on here.
How out of date can a profile page be?
Interesting to see what had stayed constant and what had changed.
It’s now more of a relfection of my current circumstances – though the last line remains true!

PS Any suggestion that I spent time updating this in order to postpone all the other things I am supposed to be doing is entirely in the mind of the beholder… honest.

From home to home and back again

Easter.

I love Easter.

People talk of “thin” places. For me, Easter is a “thin” time… a time when all my nerve endings seem ultra-sensitive to the amazing presence of God. It is the best day of the entire year. Christmas is nothing in comparison.

Since moving, Easter has been the one day when I feel ever so slightly homesick for the Isle of Wight. There’s something about the way we’ve always celebrated Easter on the Island. Now, our church here has a sunrise service, just as we did on the Island, and provides an Easter Morning Breakfast before the morning service, just as they did on the Island. But somehow it seems more sanitised, more “proper”, more “church” – held at the tennis club with microphones and seats – not quite the same rawness as huddled on the concrete cricket strip on the recreation ground. And even the breakfast feels different.

And so it was that we decided to return “home” for Easter this year. The ferry fare justified by the fact that the bungalow needed cleaning through before the tenant moves in this week. So a day trip wouldn’t be enough – overnight seemed too short a stay for how much we were spending – travelling Friday would have been extortionate – so Thursday it was. Hotel? Too expensive. B&B? All booked up apart from those that were too expensive. Stay with friends? Too restrictive.

I’d vowed never to go camping again.

Well, I’d vowed never to go camping again unless I had a proper bed to sleep on. So, a quick trip to Argos. After all, camping WAS the only option. And the campsite in East Cowes was tied in a deal with Red Funnel which seriously reduced our ferry fare. So, blithely ignoring the weather forecast, we packed tent and sleeping bags, camping table and chairs, brand new campbed and not-so-new airbeds, and off we went.

It was brill. 😀

The campsite was beautiful – overlooking the sea. The weather was mixed -torrential rain and cutting winds contrasting with brilliant sunshine. Brilliant sunshine with bitterly cold atmosphere, I hasten to add, but it was pretty even if it was freezing. Sleeping was fine on my comfy new campbed, all wrapped up in sleeping bag and duvet and several layers of pyjamas. It wasn’t me who was complaining. No, it was the Explorer Scout. It’d be cruel of me to mention that the boy forgot to pack jumpers, forgot to pack pyjamas, forgot to pack a warm sleeping bag (“MY two-season bag should have been warm enough, it is spring, after all!”), and wriggled so much during the night that he first fell OFF his airbed and then managed to pop the stopper and find himself very deflated in the middle of the night.

Cleaning the bungalow was … er… well, I can’t particularly say I found it easy… and I can’t particularly honestly say that I did an extremely thorough job as a result… but I did it… and managed not to be toooooooooo resentful of how spacious and lovely it is in comparison with our tiny tiny flat (which I do really like but which is just that bit too small, that bit too expensive, that bit too close to the pub and the sewage farm!).

We managed a “grockle day” too.. though a bit difficult to decide what to do seeing as we’d planned to go to the beach (toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cold) and had a sense of “we’ve been there before” for everything else. So we went to the donkey sanctuary. Always a winner. And free 😀 (This latter was an essential factor in our planning seeing as our arrival at the isle of wight coincided exactly with my overdraft limit being reached!).

The best bit, though, was the look on peoples’ faces at each of our “home” churches on the Island and the former colleague we dropped in on for coffee. What made it better was that it was the boy they saw first – the boy who’s considerably taller than last time they saw him. We relished the “I’m sure I know you from somewhere” moment, suddenly desolving from puzzlement to surprise and then pleasure when the penny finally dropped. It was lovely to be welcomed with so many open arms and expressions of delight. Home indeed. (My current home church isn’t one where hugs and kisses are the norm…) Sad, though, to realise that everyone is getting older – all my Isle of Wight friends were older than me – and the unspoken “Is so-and-so still alive” which accompanied every conversation made me realise how lucky I am now to have friends in every age bracket, most of them the same age or younger, now that I live in suburbia.

I love the Isle of Wight. It is still my home – far more so than the town where I was born and grew up – and we seemed simply to slot back in as if we’d never been away. But it is lovely to know that I love my current home too. I feel so settled and so part of life here – I wouldn’t want to move back.

Going nowhere

Well, the decision has finally been made – we’re going nowhere.
Six months of Smudgie Towers standing empty was more than enough for my bank account to cope with (a fact borne out by our recent experience of a weekend’s holiday beginning with the local cashpoint refusing to give me any more cash!) so I have finally bitten the bullet and arranged for the agents to put tenants in. The new resident moves in tomorrow. A long awaited day – suddenly my overdraft will be converted into just enough credit to last me until my wages go in at the end of the month.
Could we afford to move even into slightly bigger rented accommodation? Don’t be silly! This is the Surrey/Greater London border. We’re lucky to be able to afford anything bigger than a cardboard box.
So, we’re going nowhere.
At last, the excuse I needed to invest in some paint and decorate. I use the word “I” in its loosest possible form, of course. I am the one providing the constant supply of caffeine and spotting the “painter’s holidays”, my darling brother is the one roped in to doing the actual decorating whenever he can come down to stay for a few days. So it will be slow work. Alongside me trying to sort out some of the accumulated clutter. Not all of it – I actually quite like my cosy environment but do have rather more taking up our space than is actually comfortable. It would be nice to be able to see through the bedroom windows! I’ve even.. shock horror… put aside a pile of books to take round to the nearby bookseller to see if I can convert them to cash.

float away

I’d love that, I thought. Total lack of sensory stimulus and a chance to relax completely for an hour in solitude.
My friend’s husband bought her a floatation tank experience for her birthday; this friend for whom silence and stillness are vacuums just waiting to be filled with busyness and doing rather than simply being. She was uncertain of how she’d like the darkness, the enclosedness (is that a word?), the silent stillness, the floating in nothingness. Me, I’d love it, I thought. And as the words slipped out, she decided that she’d found the one person to take with her on the “2 for 1” voucher.

Wow!

I don’t suffer from claustrophobia – in fact, the thought of being enclosed in darkness was a pleasant one.

Did I love it?

In a word….
no

I didn’t hate it, I just couldn’t relax. In fact, even worse, I managed to relax for the last five minutes, from the moment the music began in order to signal “get ready to get out”. I liked the sensation of the warm water against my skin and the salts which have left my skin soft to the touch. I liked the darkness and the gentle music.

I did not like the sound of my breathing once the music stopped and the silence began. I started to question – is this the right pace for breathing? Why is my breath juddery on each exhalation? Is this normal? Does the air begin to seem just a little bit stale?

I did not like the sensation of the neck pillow supporting my head. Can I move it a bit? If I move it here, will it suddenly pop out from under my head and I get the water on my face, soemthing we were warned not to do? If I take it from under my neck, will it be any more comfortable? Will it float off somewhere where I can’t reach to retrieve it? Is it really sensible to balance it on my stomach? Is my neck supposed to ache like this? Ah, it is more comfortable if I put my hands at the back of my neck – more comfortable for my neck, that is. Goodness, though, it doesn’t half make my shoulders ache.

I did not like the way my thoughts continued to bombard my brain but without being able to gain a purchase and be resolved… a bit like those squelchy toys you throw against a mirror which sort of stick but then slither down and fall off onto the carpet where they pick up all the loose hairs and fluff. I didn’t go into a meditative state – I went into a teflon state, but still with the myriad of thought-directions sparking off inside my brain… together with a sense of guilt that I should be relaxing.

I did not like the way my stomach loomed high above the water level. I really must lose some weight this year!!!! More to the point, it was chilly. My back was warm, my front was decidedly not. I found myself wondering how far into the hour I was, whether I could sneak out of the tank and into the lovely hot shower which was waiting for me after my floatation experience – a ration of five minutes at the end of the session to wash off the salts.

Once the experience was nearly over – the air in the tank had warmed and I’d found a comfortable way of supporting my head, the music had begun and covered the sound of my breathing, suddenly I had a taste of just how relaxing it COULD be in there. Just in time to get out.

Would I do it again? Only if you’re paying!