Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Changes,Health Freaks and Arm Wrestling.

It's nearly 5 O'clock in the early evening and already quite dark. The dogs are snoozing after their afternoon walk, whilst they wait for their tea. I found myself with a few minutes to spare, something that doesn't seem to happen lately and thought I would grab a chance to write a quick blog. After one of the best summers that we have had for a long time(relaxation, holidays and time with kids not the weather) we are fast approaching winter. Christmas is not long away and trying to think what form it should take this year is preoccupying my mind lately. We are quite unconventional when it comes to Christmas, only a few traditions are observed, such as the tree and lights. I must admit I do not think I would miss it if it was cancelled but hubby definitely would. The kids are quite indifferent to it too. Cicely is probably the only one who will celebrate it when she moves out.
  This summer has seen transformations to our kids. Eldest son suddenly decided to have his hair cut short only a few days after he had been telling me he probably would not cut it for years because " it was part of his identity". Youngest son has lost weight and gone from being in front of a computer all day to running and going to the gym. I think he has started to notice girls. Our daughter after years of diets and frustration and hating exercise is 45lbs lighter, working out every day and seems quite happy for a teenage girl. Unfortunately this means that there is no chance of sweets, cakes and anything naughty for hubby. He has become used to brown rice but he has held on to his butter and a private stash of crisps. Every fat gram and protein gram is analysed and counted. Punch bags, exercise equipment and weights have taken over the house. I have dropped 25lbs so far and am cycling again. God knows how long the other 30lbs will take but I am slogging on under duress not really enjoying it but feeling compelled through guilt living in a house of health freaks. Who would have thought that this could happen in our house? Hubby is still free to eat whatever he likes and keeps sweet things at work. He is in great shape so does not have the same guilt as I do.
   After doing weights all summer, deadlifting 100 kilos and more, my son decided to challenge me to an arm wrestle. Back in the day I was quite muscular and could usually beat your average man or woman from years of farm work growing up. Thinking I was now old and feeble my son sat down oozing confidence, I guess building sheds, fences and digging over the years has kept me quite strong. I don't know who was more surprised when I beat him. He was quite put out and has challenged me to a retry at Christmas now he has worked out which muscles I must have that are more developed than his that allowed him to be taken out by his mum. He says he will work on these muscles and I will not stand a chance. I haven't laughed so much for ages. I am in two minds whether or not to put in some serious secret training form now until Christmas to make it really hard for him. Cruel I know but I am quite competitive.
   Well it is time to cook the brown rice and beans to go with the low fat chicken and salad. Until next time. Mrs. R.C.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Grieving and Clearing House.

I have been absent from blogging for quite a while, the time has run away from me. Although we have been extremely busy, I think it was an accumulation of several different factors that have kept me offline. One was falling out with my brother through facebook which soured the whole getting online thing. Another I think was that I have never blogged or been on facebook at a difficult time of year for me, which marks anniversaries of the demise and deaths of my parents and my daughter.
 I find it difficult to share the feelings I experience each year as that time comes around again, especially about my Sophie. It seems strange that eight years on I still struggle because of the time of year. My parents deaths are easier to deal with because they had full lives and leave lots of memories behind, but with my daughter every year brings a new milestone that she will never reach. Several of my friends are grandparents now, their children went to Primary school with Sophie. Her little brother is now older than she ever was, my other daughter is now the age Sophie was when she became ill and died and our youngest towers above her height on the wall where we measured them through the years. Time moves on and she stays frozen in time.
I recently encountered a woman out on a dog walk, who had lost her only son to cancer, he was twenty. There was an instant recognition that we were alike, as though we knew each other, it was easy to talk to her about Sophie dying because she knew. When she told me how her son died and what it was like to slowly watch that happen I felt it and understood. It's like a club of people who  no longer belong in normal society and only feel "normal" when amongst their own kind. Losing a child forever changes you, your ability to connect to others is never the same and people find it difficult to befriend you when they know.
We have recently been clearing out cupboards, sheds and the loft to clear some of the clutter that builds up when so many people live in a house. Our big shed that I built, insulated and wallpapered when the children were little had become a store for furniture and old toys. I got the boys to help me and now it is a study come art room with sky tv and a day bed, I hope to get back to painting and drawing this year. My small shed has finally fulfilled it's purpose and is now a tool shed and not a store for things that might be useful for building projects. The rabbits have a new run that only takes up a half of the space that it used to and is much easier to get into to clean them out. Out in our front porch we had a large walk in brick cupboard that had held tools since we moved in, as these now had a home in the small shed it was time for a new lease of life. After putting up shelving I now have a cool, walk in larder/pantry. It has room for my Christmas china to be stored as well. I intend to be able to buy things when they are on offer and have somewhere to store them, so hopefully saving money in the long term. I have put a store box for chocolate in there as with our healthy eating there has not been much of that in the small food cupboard in the kitchen and that is taking it's toll on poor Rock Chef who needs his treats. He refers to it as "things from the top shelf".
Today I rang the travel agent and was told that our tickets for Malta are now ready to be picked up. I didn't want to pick them up on my own so we will go together in the morning. I have got the suitcases ready and am hoping I haven't bought too many outfits to fit in them. I have never owned as many shoes as I do now. I now have only to stock the cupboards with food for the kids, I have had them coming on dog walks every day to get used to the routine. I have been working in the garden, trying to get brown before we go as the sun there will be just too hot to risk getting a suntan.
Mother in law is healing well after her fall, getting her shopping has forced me back on my bike, so I was pleasantly surprised at the weekend when we went out for a bike ride how fit I was again. Maybe I will be able to survive one of Rock Chef's "short cuts" in Malta. Life continues to test us, Rock Chef lost his old band mate to a brain tumour, just two weeks before we had seen him play at a gig in Ramsgate. My last Aunt passed away after a long illness and my sister is having all sorts of tests for an illness that as of yet is undiagnosed. She has had to give up work and has basically taken to her bed.
It feels good to have got through the last couple of months more or less sane for another year, although the members of the household do suffer as I work my way through it, clearing, cleaning and changing everything. But now with an art room, tool shed, rebuilt garden and pantry in place they are happy. The garden is lovely to sit out in now, we have new neighbours with a little girl called Freya, I love to sit in the sun and listen to her sing and play in her world filled with fairies, ponies and magic. She has made up a song about me that she sings in the garden, it's great. She has benefitted from our clear outs with tents and music boxes, she reminds me of ours when they were little and could make up stories and pretend play for hours. Am hoping for a couple of quiet weeks now, holidaying and camping.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Funeral for a Fiend

This week has been one where the stories in the news have brought feelings of nostalgia, anger and sadness. We had the funeral of Baroness Thatcher. When me and RC were growing up, this was the most hated figure by the youth and working class in our country. When we were at school the boys all knew which apprenticeships they would take up at sixteen. They were the future engineers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians. Overnight apprenticeships disappeared and college courses for which you had to pay came into force. The earn as you learn way to progress into a trade became pay to learn if you can. For those of us who now had left school with no job lined up(unemployment was very high) we were forced onto work schemes. When RC left school 3yrs before me these were placements in non profit organisations, but by the time I had left this had been expanded to all businesses. This meant a business could take on a 16yr old and make them do a full weeks work with no obligation to train them and the best bit was it was free. The government gave you £25 a week, you were contracted to this placement for 6 months, you had to find travel costs out of this too. If you refused, you could not claim unemployment benefit. You worked a full 42 hour week which made it impossible to look for a real job, as everywhere was shut by the time you finished for the day. Some kids were treated like slave labourers, they were mistreated, bullied and given dirty and dangerous tasks with no health and safety risk assessments.
As a sixteen year old I was sent to a day centre for the elderly and mentally disturbed, during my six months I was left with deceased clients at their homes to wait for police and doctors, told to assist in laying out bodies, attacked by a mental patient who had a knife, sexually harassed by older workers and clients at the centre and treated like a servant by the manager. I was sent out on the ambulance with Peter, to pick up clients from their homes, Peter was doing community service for tax evasion, running houses of ill repute and taking money with menaces. He came to work in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, I told my dad who my ambulance partner was and he was worried because Peter was a well known criminal who was known to be extremely violent if crossed. Years later he shot his wife and her friend when she tried to leave him. There would be a national outcry today if 16yr olds were put at risk like this.
I hated my time there and found a job as a nanny as soon as my time was up. A lot of kids from school didn't find work for a long time, if at all, the local dockyard closed and there were even more unemployed. All these young guys from school who had thought they would have jobs and trades like their dads were now hanging around the town centre sniffing glue or sitting at home doing nothing.
When I moved to the coast at seventeen for a job in a computer parts factory I was the only person with a job amongst a large number of friends. When I have watched tribute programmes to Mrs.Thatcher this week I don't recognise the country as they described it on television. I think if you were above a certain income then life was very profitable and you must have been either disinterested or unaware of what the rest of the country was going through. My father kept a bottle of whiskey for nearly thirty years waiting for Thatcher to die. The year before he died he decided it was wrong to celebrate someone's death and gave it away.
I cannot believe that after all the country went through, that the government were surprised there was resentment when it was announced that she would get a state funeral, paid for by the people. We have had other politicians and prime ministers who have achieved great things and do not get this treatment. I think the worst thing is that the whole funeral was planned by Mrs. Thatcher when she was alive. She expected a state funeral, pomp and ceremony fit for royalty and she secured a promise that her wishes would be carried out many years ago. It is wrong that at a time when we are in recession, when payments to disabled are being cut, medical treatments are being withheld because of lack of funds, families are struggling to meet the cost of burying their relatives that an extremely rich family can have £10 million pounds of tax payers money to fund an egotistical display of sheer class arrogance.   

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Moving Pipes and Dreaming of Sunshine.

The new boiler has been running really well now for a while and it was time for the inspector to come out and view the quality of work and check if there were any problems. He asked a lot of questions, checked gas meter, temperature of water heated, pipe work and typed away on his report. The system was working perfectly I was told but unfortunately the flue pipe that vents outside would not pass inspection as it was 20mm too close to the window. This means I will have to have another crew in to bore another hole through the wall in order to move it again. Luckily I was allowed to keep the boiler going and they promised to have it done by the end of the week.
 The crew turned up the next day, apologised profusely for the inconvenience and within an hour it was done. I don't think Cicely was too pleased as she was still in bed and the kitchen is just below her room. I now have to wait about two weeks for the inspector to pass the work, so that I can redecorate, as this boiler is a lot smaller than the last one.
  The weather seems to be trying to change. I have seen the sun on more than one occasion, but it is still way too cold for this time of year. The garden looks so unloved at the moment but there is no point in potting up any plants as it is too cold and we have had some thick frosts and freezing fogs the last couple of days. I'm usually working in the garden at this time of year getting a nice early tan.
 Still I have Malta to look forward to and can almost feel hot sun on my skin when I think about it. I'm hoping to find time for some swimming. I used to do a lot of swimming when I first moved to the coast. I would swim from our town to the next as RC and the dogs followed along the beach. One of our dogs, Max, was the worst swimmer and capsized a couple of times trying to follow me in the water. We used to walk miles when we were first together and arthritis willing, I am hoping for some epic walks in Malta. However, I will be avoiding anything that RC refers to as a short cut, as I would like to be back at the hotel before nightfall or the restaurants close.
 I am already thinking of all the preparations for our trip, camping after and anything the kids need while we are away. Once I have made up all my lists I will be lost in organizing heaven much to everyone else's annoyance. It is so nice to look forward to something nice for just us to do. I have constant butterflies, waves of guilt but mostly I am so excited, it's almost like running away together.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Planning a Honeymoon with Zombies and Vampires.

Having survived my identity interview,without being arrested or deported, I was ready for a long lazy weekend, to try not to think about whether I had passed or not. Friday I decided to go to town,to get supplies for the weekend,so we wouldn't be forced to tackle Saturday shoppers. I had walked the dogs and it was still quite early so I thought I might have a bath whilst everyone else was getting they're breakfast and the bathroom was free for a while. The doorbell went while I was in the bath and I lay there listening to the dogs barking wondering when one of my three children,who I knew were all awake,would answer the door. I heard the door open and close,after I called out in not so lady like fashion,for someone to please answer the door.
   When I got downstairs,I found an item not delivered card on the table, for a recorded delivery. This meant nobody had answered the door in time. The package would be unobtainable on a van,for the rest of the day. Worried that it may be notification about my passport, I went online to try to arrange a redelivery. They would not be able to get it to me until Monday or Tuesday. I didn't know if my stress levels would allow the relaxing weekend hoped for if I was anxious about this. So I decided to call the delivery office, to see if I could pick up the package from the main post office later, as it said on the card.They couldn't guarantee that if I travelled an hour on the bus to the post office that the package would actually be there, it could mean two hours travel for nothing. Curiosity was killing me, I had to know if it was about my passport. I told the guy on the phone that the reason I had not got to the door in time was because I had arthritis in my hip ( this is actually true). That the driver was gone before I could get there and I was worried that the package contained travel documents, for a flight I was on the next day. Yes, I know, I was weak. However the lovely guy at the post office promised to track down the package and make sure it was delivered the next morning. Lots of profuse thankyous  and I was free to go shopping.
  I told RC what I had done on the phone and he said,between laughs, that I was a very bad person. When RC got in from work that evening,he found a package addressed to me,in the porch. It was from the passport office, but I couldn't bear to open it and carried on getting tea ready. Later I did open it and found my new passport. It had only been two days since my interview, not 7-10 days I had been told to wait, just to hear about it. We were full of praise for the post office, getting it here so quick. The next morning the real package arrived, certificates for my daughter from college, when we looked at the passport envelope it showed it had come by courier not post office.
 Feeling rather sheepish but very happy to have a passport, I went to the travel agents with RC Saturday morning and booked our honeymoon. I am a bit shell shocked. I am going to Malta! I went into the clothing store next door straight after and bought a couple of things for the trip, to make it a little more real. I have terrible butterflies now whenever I think of it. My OCD will come to the forefront now as I obsess over every detail to make our trip and the kids stay at home run as smooth as possible.
 Bad mother guilt is already making me nervous. We have never left these kids with anyone before,apart from when I was giving birth, when my parents or sister watched them for a couple of hours. Arthur keeps telling me how he doesn't even live at home anymore and is more than capable of coping. RC's mum comes in every day and his little brother is five minutes away if needed, Ira keeps telling me how his friend's parents do this all the time and he thinks we should go. Cicely sees it as an opportunity to see what running a house is like, as the thought of growing up and moving out scares her a bit. The thought of never moving out scares her more!
 So roll on summer. RC is very excited about our holiday and has a long list of sightseeing trips already compiled. Sunday was a much more relaxing day, especially for RC who didn't appear until late morning and spent the day in PJ's writing the great Maltese Zombie horror. Whilst I,having finished the house work and in between dog walks, watched numerous episodes of Trueblood. I'm not sure RC is very impressed with my dvds, he kept peering over the top of his laptop as we sat on the sofa together and enjoyed some of the blacker humour but mostly was absorbed in turning Malta into slaughter central. What a strange couple we are.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Who Are You?

As Hubby RC and I had recently decided to have a long overdue honeymoon,I required a passport. This would have been a simple matter of filling in a form, getting a photo done, getting a friend to sign the photo and sending it off, a few years ago. Six weeks later you were ready to go. Not anymore.
   I filled the form,had the most awful photo taken( that scared looking, middle aged woman was me), found a responsible person who had known me for many years to endorse said photo and added long since forgotten documentation. Off I headed into the town to the post office. I didn't want to send it off with any mistakes,so paid for a "check and send" service so that my application did not get held up because my photo was the wrong size or I had forgotten to sign something.
   I have since had a request from the identity and passport office to come and see them for an interview. Apparently, some applications require you to prove who you are by being interviewed, so that you can reveal things only the real you would know.
   RC said he would come with me as the train journey would take three different trains.He had made this trip a few years ago, when he did some mapping work for the Police headquarters there. We left early as it was snowing and we didn't know if it would be worse inland. It only takes an inch of snow here to bring public transport to a grinding halt, sometimes. We made good time and managed to look around what had been a lovely medieval city,RC had his trusty camera with him.The shops were interesting and we found a department store that was closing down, who were selling off Le Creuset sugar bowls below half price. The purchase of this item was solely to calm my nerves before upcoming interview.
   RC needed feeding if he was going to have to sit around in a waiting room all afternoon. We found him a Burger King as I do not allow MacDonalds (a story probably best if never blogged about). I was a bit nervous so decided on just the burger but RC wanted the whole meal. He was going to "go large",(I didn't know they did that in England). But then imagine his joy when he found they also super-sized it. Curiosity got the better of him. With no ice in his giant cup it was like a bucket of coca cola.The caffeine and sugar crash would be a doozy.
  The walk to the identity office was quite nerve racking, what if I give the wrong answer?, What if I fail to prove it's me?Jokes about probably being deported to Romania were not helpful. When we got to the office I felt guilty, like a criminal. I asked RC in the waiting room if they would expect me to know my mobile phone number. He said that nobody knows that. People came and went and eventually I was called.
  The lady was very nice, but what unnerved me was the way she just nodded and said," ah ha, umm, ok," when I answered as though she was just humoring me. She took notes and kept circling things as I answered and then would click and scroll her computer to check what I had said. Most were personal family and relationship questions, birth dates,death dates, events and finacial banking stuff. One of the questions was about phones, mobile phones, such as what your number was. Obviously I had no idea. It's strange when you're nervous and you draw a blank. After answering rather well on names,places and dates to do with my first marriage that was nearly thirty years ago, I was asked when me and RC had gotten married. It took me a couple of minutes that felt like an eternity to work it out through house moves, childrens' ages  and then I remembered. I felt like an idiot. I know this. It is me who remembers this stuff at home.I came out not knowing if I had done well or not. I will hear in 7-10 days time. I told RC what I could and couldn't answer and he felt I had done well, then he told me he didn't know any of those dates. A good job it wasn't him doing the interview or a pizza parlour in Romania would be geting a new "Deported Chef".
   I wanted to go straight home, lucky for us as it turned out. We had a long journey and RC was contemplating a trip to a supermarket first. But we went straight to the station, RC did get coke from the shop outside. We had just reached our home town station when they announced the next train was cancelled, due to trespassers on the line. So we would have been stuck for hours if we had gone shopping. So now we wait for notification that I can have my passport. Then it will be honeymoon booking here we come. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Losing Family and Hair, and Giving Chocolate

Have been really slack lately with blogging, have hardly looked at the laptop in a while. Life has been really busy this last couple of weeks and I must admit to becoming a bit disheartened by the whole getting online, social networking thing. I've only been on Facebook since November and it has put me back in touch with old friends from school, family I had lost touch with and other mum's I had known well, before we moved and our kids all grew up. However, it has also helped to cause a family rift between my little brother and I that seems to not have an end in sight and made me question what on earth was I thinking when I decided to go online. My SIL has messaged me and profusely apologised for the hurtful things that she said after my daughter died and for that I am truly grateful. My brother unfortunately has gone silent and ignored my last message.
 I was kind of fed up with the whole internet thing for about a week. But then I realised how much better I had been feeling lately, because I had somewhere to talk about all the things that had happened to us over these last eight years. Things that I really needed to get out, to talk(or blog) about and had been unable to bring up for fear of upsetting family. RC told me that after Sophie had died he had blogged about dreams he had had of Sophie and memories of things that she had done because he wanted to tell someone but did not want to upset me. I decided to carry on with blogging even if it was just for the therapeutic effect it was having on me.
 So to re-cap on the last week. Our broken boiler was finally condemned and went to it's watery grave. Hubby RC came back from Malta and brought a little sunshine with him even though the temperature was still freezing. It was so good to have him back, even though he would have to put up with no heating for a while, a bit of a shock after hot, sunny Malta. A crew turned up to fit a new boiler on Thursday morning and after a flood,(the dismantelling crew had not drained the system like they said they had), work proceeded. It all came to a halt when the new boiler was not delivered but resumed again in the afternoon with blaring fire alarms every time they had to solder a pipe. They were nice boys, very polite and seemed to want to do a good job. So I made sure they had the good coffee when I made one. The job took all day, but the house was finally warming up. The electrician arrived and did temporary wiring so that we could use the boiler over Easter weekend, he will be back on Tuesday to do permanent wiring. Everyone is having lots of hot baths and I am struggling to keep up with washing and drying so many bath towels each day.
Early Friday morning I walked into town with youngest son to look for a barber that was open on Good Friday. He had decided to get rid of his long hair and go for a very short style. A big decision I was hoping he would be happy with when it was done.I told him to be sure about it and reminded him of the haircut he had wanted at five, to look like Bart Simpson, that had left him crying for it to be glued back on. The first choice of barber was shut, but a couple of doors down was a unisex salon that a friend of his used, so we popped in, to see if they were busy. They were not and soon he was in the chair, the lovely hairdresser asked him about three times if he was sure before she took the hair clippers to him. There was a lot of hair, someone even came in and asked if it was being done for charity, or a bet when they saw all the hair coming off through the window. My baby boy with his long golden curls is now a smart, striking young man, with a George Clooney short back and sides. I cannot believe how much older he looks and that he has a neck! After watching how good she was and how unbusy it was, I decide to get my hair styled as well, while I was there. I have not had my hair cut by a professsional in years. It has been long for ages and mainly in a bun, sometimes loose or in a pony tail, however the bonfire a few weeks ago had singed a bit of my hair  and I had had to lose a bit of it. Now I needed it to be shaped as it was a lot shorter. We both felt good as we walked home with our new posh hair
 Good Friday was also eldest son's 19th birthday, he mainly had computer components that were ordered online, although I wrapped and paid for them, I have no real concept of why they make him so happy or what they are. We all went out as a family for the day and took him to some of the posher food stores to get supplies for home made chinese meal that he wanted for his birthday tea. He spent the evening using the big television in the sitting room as a moniter, as he tried out his new toys.
Saturday everyone was tired, probably as we had a whole day now with a lovely warm house. RC was showing no enthusiasm for getting out of bed, especially when I told him that we had snow again, so I took the dogs out, made tea for his mum and then made the ultimate sacrifice, for which I have told him he would have to love me forever. I left RC to lay in bed, while I braved the supermarket, on an Easter holiday weekend! I knew it was going to be bad, when the people at the pedestrian crossing were already jostling and arguing, because the people at the front were not crossing quick enough. I managed to get the last trolley and proceeded to the doors where there seemed to be a game of chicken breaking out, fuelled by profanity. By the time I reached the salad section, they were openly calling each other names. It was packed, there were staff trying to restock shelves and taking flack because they had run out Easter Eggs.As I inched my way round, it occurred to me that most of the items on my list were well stocked, I was in no rush and the mad behaviour of my fellow man was actually quite amusing.I waited patiently in packed aisles, smiled at the grumpy and queued serenely much to the annoyance of all around. Somehow, I dodged around the rude shoppers all trying to get in the doorway, without giving way to anyone and got lucky when a taxi pulled up straight away as I got to the kerb.
 Easter came a bit quicker than we thought, as we had forgot to change the clocks. But RC loved his Easter egg that I customized for him. I bought a giant hollow egg, managed to cut and prise it open, fill it with his favourite creme eggs, reseal and decorate with melted chocolate, add a couple of his favourite chocolate bars and tie with a ribbon.I love to spoil him. The kids said they were too old for eggs this year and chose other treats but my RC will never grow out of anything, he is forever young, part of the reason I love him so much.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

It Never Snows but it Blizzards

Life at "Home RC" has carried on crashing from one disaster to the next. I'm starting to think that Hubby RC is a good luck charm because things just seem much crappier without him here. Or maybe I'm just missing him a tad too much. The bike is now fixed but at nearly treble the original price, the wheel had to have extra parts which doubled the cost, then I thought what the hell, throw in a decent new seat the other one was way passed due.
Me and Cicely got to have a lovely couple of hours in Whistable, sat in Costa having a mocha, the most relaxation I've had all week. I picked up the bike on the way back and felt that I might just pull the weeks chores off in time, until I saw the flood in the kitchen on my return. The boiler has packed up again, so had to call out the engineer, who cannot fix it til Monday.He left us with 3 tiny fan heaters to keep a whole house warm for the three days.
Once the kitchen was tidied after his visit, Cicely told me her laptop disk drive has also ceased to work. I do not have my own laptop at present, I have been borrowing RC's, and lately Ira's, I had hoped to pick up a net book for myself as my computer use is quite limited. I can see the chances of getting a netbook floating away now as I will have to address the cost of repair of Cicely's against the cost of getting her a new laptop. I could use her old one as I do not need the disk drive, she needs a good one for college.
  Later when dogs were walked and I had managed to warm up the kitchen, I sat down to look at the computer, Cicely was going to show me how to set up a twitter account, but I thought I would browse facebook while I waited for her. I saw that I had a private message from my little brother. I haven't heard from him for a week since he asked me why I had not friended his wife on facebook. I had told him that she had upset me with comments she had made about the care we had given our daughter before she died. The message was a tirade about what a wonderful kind woman his wife is, how what she said would never have been said intentionally to hurt us. How can telling newly grieving parents parents they should have done better and the result would have been different, not be intentionally hurtful? Apparently mentioning my mum in this makes me a low person and he is angry about the way I have dealt with it. I cried over this for a long time. My reasons for not telling him what was said was to prevent a family row and not make a rift in their marriage that was rocky at the time. He was aware of his wife's views when she had aired them with my mum, but did not know that she had also decided she needed to air them with me.He told me he couldn't believe I would hold a grudge for so long and didn't know why I needed to bring it up.
 I have answered him. I know he has read it. I told him that however the comments were intended, they had hurt and still do and how inappropriate the timing of those comments were. I have also told him that I am pissed that keeping it to myself has put me in the wrong, that I couldn't feel the same about his wife knowing she had judged us in that way, and that HE was the one who asked me if his wife had upset me in any way. She got him to ask me, because she thought I wouldn't tell him and would be embarrassed into accepting her request.Why else would she not have messaged me herself, if she was truly wondering? Because, she already had a clue as to why I did not answer her request.He asked me for the reason. I gave an honest answer and felt better for it. I don't know what else I was supposed to say. If he doesn't want to speak to me anymore I suppose I just have to accept it. Families seem to thrive on blame, but I do not want to hurt any more. Every time I feel we move forward with trying to live without Sophie, something always drags us back to the fresh pain of those early days.I hate it when somebody wrongs you and yet they try to make it all your fault.
  I woke up this morning feeling that life couldn't get much worse. Then I realised how cold the house was and remembered the broken boiler. I opened the curtains to a world of white, a blizzard of snow and thought of Arthur trying to get home from Uni today in this weather. But tonight I am hoping he will be here and we can skype RC in Malta and be our happy little family and forget about everything else.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Archbishops and Passports

This week has been a mad rush in preparation for Hubby RC's annual trip to Malta. Dusting off his trusty suitcase, locating his sunhat, passport, medical card, suncream and generally organizing his wardrobe is my department. RC is incredibly laid back and although I know he is capable of getting stuff done eventually, I like to fastidiously plan and pack. By Tuesday he had his Euros, had bought new training shoes and was sorting paints, brushes and soldiers just in case there was time for some painting. I had located and ironed all his clothes, making sure to include him as it was packed,to avoid any awkward moments if he was asked if he packed the case himself. The only item eluding me were his sunglasses. Now it seems like such a long time since we have had sunshine, I know I have seen them somewhere. So much stuff has been moved around lately in my spring clean that I cannot think where I saw them last. I had to admit defeat, but know that it will bug me until I find them.
  The weekend had turned out quite busy. Saturday RC had tried to get his bike repaired as it needs a new back wheel. The shop didn't have one in stock, so RC asked me to take it back down on Wednesday when they should have one in. He went shopping and then stacked hay up the pony field for his mum. Sunday RC was completely zonked and took to his bed for most of the day, I did all the usual cooking, cleaning, dog walks but also had to contend with the antisocial rabbits. At weekends I like to strip out their runs and houses and freshen them up with fresh hay and sawdust, they don't take kindly to this, often attacking the broom or my boots.
 While all was quiet Sunday afternoon I went to see a friend to ask her to sign my passport application. I have been so nervous filling in this form,as I have never held a passport before and do not want to hold the process up by filling in anything in the wrong way. I had gone down to the train station Friday morning to get the photos done, they were horrible, I looked like a criminal.RC is desperate to book our honeymoon, but we have been told to wait,until I have definitely got the passport. Forms completed,armed with every bit of documentation I could find,I headed to the post office Monday morning and paid the person at the counter to go through the form and check all my documents before they were sent, in order to cut down on any mistakes. I now have to wait about six weeks to find out if they will just give it to me or if I will get called in to do an identification interview. Apparently middle aged people getting their first passports are extremely suspicious.
 Well wednesday finally came at 5.30 in the morning and I had to say goodbye to RC for a whole week. He had a terrible cold which made me worry all the more. "I feel fine", he kept on saying in a croaky voice. Well, I told him, he better hope they didn't decide to scan for temperatures as he would be coming home. He went off happy enough and from the texts and blogs I have read got better real quick with double breakfasts and his favourite cake shops.
 Back home ,the things that go wrong as soon as dad is away, began in earnest. First, after rushing the dog walk to get RC's bike to the shop to be fixed, the part had not come in. The shop is shut on Thursday, so fingers crossed they will fix it Friday. Youngest son Ira managed to shred an ethernet cable he uses for his desk top computer, I fitted a spare through the house, still not working properly, ordered a new one and Cicely slept through the delivery, so no cable. The post office wanted me to take a two hour bus ride to collect it, but I went online and found I could request a free redelivery as long as someone answers the door this time.The only day they can deliver is Saturday and Arthur comes home from uni then. I have to meet him at the station,so am hoping it is delivered before then. I have been preparing for his visit all week.
 This morning(Thursday) I had planned to go to Canterbury to get last minute things whilst the bike shop is shut. I was already awake listening to the radio at 6am, as RC had texted me at 5am, to tell me he had just woken up. I think it is 7am there.They were telling people not to go into Canterbury today unless they had to. The new Archbishop was being enthroned, Prince Charles, David Cameron and all the bishops from around the world were congregating there today. Oh great, the one day I need to go. I bit the bullet and once dogs and kids were sorted,grabbed the bus. The empty bus, all the way to Canterbury! There were lots of people in the city centre,all dressed as if they were going to a wedding, police everywhere and lots of noise down near the Cathedral. But I didn't have to queue in a shop or for a bus. In fact there were four of us on the bus home. Great. I'm glad I ignored their advice, as everyone else had heeded it, there was little traffic on the way back.
 Now I just need to juggle Friday chores a bit to fit in all the things I need to do. Cicely needs me to come with her for a couple of hours to Whitstable, dog walks, blitz bathroom, get Arthur's bed ready, get shopping, collect bike(god willing), do ironing,start to make RC's secret Easter present................

Friday, 15 March 2013

A Friend In Need

 When I was growing up the adults would talk in hushed tones,about people in the family who had done something shameful or had fallen out with other members of the family. Every family had someone who was not on talking terms with someone else. Usually it would be something that was said many years ago,that had been too hard to forgive and so had festered causing embarrassment and bad feelings at family gatherings.
 I have a younger brother, he struggled with the idea of monogomy for several years. My mum learnt early on to never address girls on the phone by their first name, just in case Casey had become Lacey but Casey didn't know that yet. He had a marriage that was turbulent, they lost a baby and it ended badly. Then he met a woman who changed that. She already had a young child,was pregnant with another but the father didn't want it, so she needed somewhere to stay. She shared the house with my brother as friends at first, then later they got together, they married and eventually had a child of their own. This woman was different from his previous relationships. She was intelligent, good with money(he is not), seemed to tame my brother making him responsible. I liked her, she was kind, genuinely cared for my brother.
 Over the years we had family gatherings, our children played together. They moved away, but we would see them from time to time, catch up. Then our eldest daughter died, part of helping our kids to carry on ,was taking them to visit their grandparents. We stayed with my parents, did the zoo, swam, played tennis. One day my mum pulled me aside to warn me about something odd that had happened on their last visit to my little brother's. We were due to stay with them for a few days so she thought I should know.My sister in law had gone into a long tirade about how we had not looked after my daughter properly,should have done more to save her. My mum had been shocked, hurt and told her that under no circumstances was she to repeat what she had said when we visited. I was confused, I couldn't imagine her being so cruel, about us and to my mum too, when she had just lost her first grandchild.
 No more was said, my brother picked us up and took us on the drive to his house. When we arrived my brother was embarrassed, nothing had been prepared for our visit. The house was messy, there was no beds made up for us,no grocery shopping had been done. When his wife came home they rowed like we weren't even there, she didn't want us there. We were stranded hundreds of miles from home and not welcome. The next couple of days were some of the worst I ever went through. My daughter had only been dead a few weeks, we needed support, stability. We tried one day out to a farm,we had to take two cars, I got to share with my sister in law. I spent two hours being subjected to how I hadn't done enough for my daughter, how if it were her daughter she would still be alive, how we were not welcome in her house,how they couldn't afford to feed us all and now she had to drive us all to a day out she didn't want to go on.When we reached the farm I took my husband aside and told him that we were to pay our own way even if my brother wanted to treat us, I would explain later.
 I was so glad to leave that house. We visited my other brother and his wife, they were kind, good to the kids. We went back to my parents house and I told my mum what had been said. I was angry and upset.She told me not to tell my brother what had been said in the car. Their relationship was in trouble and it might tip it over the edge. So I said nothing,but I hated her for what she had said and for when she had said it to me.
Time went on, I didn't have much contact with them, if a family event came up, I just bit my tongue. My dad would read me the riot act about not starting an argument, but it was uncomfortable. Over time I learned to be polite, they lived so far away I didn't have to deal with it. Then I lost my mum, followed by dad and contact between my brother and I was sporadic at best.
 A few months ago, I joined facebook, to keep in touch with family and loved that my little brother and I could laugh and share stuff like we did years ago. My sister in law sent me a friend request, I ignored it, a few months went by. Today, I got a private message from my brother asking me why I had ignored her request, had she upset me in some way? I had to sit and think long and hard about my answer. Should I forgive and forget, call her a friend again? I can't forget,I don't know if I will ever forgive and any friendship we had should have prevented her from saying the things she did.Nearly eight years have gone by since this happened, even though I knew that a day would come when I would have to deal with it, I was shocked at how bad it still hurt and how angry I still felt.I decided to be truthful with my brother without going into details.
"I knew one day you would ask me this.Several years ago Jackie said some things about the way we dealt with Sophie's illness which we and mum found very upsetting.I wanted to have it out with her,but mum asked me to leave it, so I did. If there is a lack of sisterly love on my part this is why. Sorry."
I haven't heard back from my brother, but I am relieved to have got it off my chest. I felt annoyed that something that had caused me a lot of grief over many years, had not even occurred to her, as a reason why I would not want to be her "friend". 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Romans and Sloths

The weather certainly has taken a turn for the worst. Last week we had a couple of reasonably good Spring like days with blue sky visible, sunshine and no rain or snow. You don't realise how much you crave the sun until it's been covered by clouds for weeks on end.Today we woke to freezing temperatures,strong winds and snow flurries. The dogs were not impressed and couldn't get home fast enough, Custard spending most of the walk doing a sideways crab march to avoid the cold wind blowing on his rear end.
 MIL was really feeling the cold this morning, she was frozen. So,we sat in the kitchen and had hot tea and MIL devoured the last chocolate chip muffin. She told me how she was working her way through her rather large box of Mother's day chocolates at home. I had already cleaned the kitchen before she came, so was busy setting up the laptop, diet cherry cola and notepad for later when all my chores were done.I was keeping an eye on the weather,snow flurries meant I would not be hanging out the two loads of washing now. When MIL left, the wind felt bitter,so I put on several layers before heading out for dog walk 2. Frou and Brin were setting a brisk pace and I found myself pulled in two different directions, by the girls who wanted this walk over as soon as possible and Custard,who wanted to loiter and leave text messages on every tree.Back home, leads off, quick drink and jump into warm beds. I probably won't be seeing anything of the rabble until this afternoon, when walk time looms again.
  The weekend was fantastic. Saturday, I got to spoil Hubby RC, a day of wargaming. Friday I pulled the kitchen table out to it's full extent, moved chairs out the way and RC started to set up his scenery.In the morning I had done a special shop for favourite beers,fresh burgers from the butcher's counter,fresh baps, bacon and swiss cheese. RC had said burgers and chips would be fine for lunch but I wanted to make sure they were really good.They seemed to really enjoy their game, I made them lunch, beers were consumed, battle resumed.Several hours of Romans later, RC's friend departed to do Mother's day shopping and RC carefully packed his soldiers and scenery back in their boxes.He had really enjoyed the game, so I suggested he make it a regular thing.
 RC's birthdays used to be big games that took a whole day with several friends, I used to love cooking for them. A lot of them were divorced or batchelors and appreciated home cooked food, I liked to theme the food according to who was fighting.They had a great wild west game once that just needed tequila, beers and a huge mexican spread. I'm hoping that we can do that again now. It's great when the house is full of people having a good time, I miss it.
 Sunday I was a complete sloth.Comfy lounging outfit, fluffy slippers, no dog walks,tea with MIL and a bacon roll compliments of RC. I only sneaked a couple of bits of housework in when RC wasn't looking and they were to do with washing, to make sure all Ira's uniform was clean and dry for school.Sunday afternoon, I was on the sofa with loads of cushions(a bug bear of RC's), big furry cover,table for laptop and copious amounts of chocolate, cherry cola and dvd box set.I swear I have never been this lazy in all my life (I couldn't even sit still after giving birth). I ate things I really shouldn't of, drank way too much fizzy and my lowest point was letting RC change the disc for me, because he offered and it was all the way across the room.I did make it to the table for pasta, although I must admit, I mentally had to slap myself when a vision of a lap tray appeared in my mind. I did however slink back to my perfect nest after the meal and blocked out the sound of dishes being done that would normally have sent me back to the kitchen feeling guilty.
I don't know how any one can watch television for a long time like that. I was absolutely exhausted, we hardly watch television, I prefer radio. I'm sure I've rotted a few brain cells. I woke up this morning with a sugar hangover,me and chocolate will not be talking for a few weeks, I'm definitely more of a savoury person.My back will take a few days to forgive me for sitting down, doing nothing, for so long. But, I have dreamed of a day like that for so long. Circumstances have never allowed me to totally check out and be looked after like a queen. RC has always tried to give me time like this, but family commitments have always made it an unfair workload for him, that I could not happily let him deal with alone.Our lives have changed so much these last few weeks,it's like being young and hopeful again, with time to devote to each other. Roll on honeymoon!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

I Wish I'd Looked After My Teeth

When we took on Hubby RC's Uncle's dog, we knew she was old and had not been to a vet regularly. She had lived in a house with two heavy smokers,hardly ever had fresh bedding and due to confusion had not been fed the right amount she had required. She was quite a sad old girl and we thought we would take her home, clean her up,give her a lovely new bed next to the radiator and let her live out her last days well fed and well loved. However, once bathed,brushed and fed she changed. She was more alert, she didn't smell as much and revelled in the squishy softness of her new bed.
  Over the last couple of weeks we noticed that she had started to smell a bit again. She was eating ok, seemed really well but I was concerned so decided to take her to the vet for a check up. Frou was due to have her yearly check and immunisations, so I booked a double appointment for Thursday morning.. Hubby RC took Custard, our labrador for his long walk before he set off for work, so that I could take the two girls for a long walk to the vets in town. Everything was fine on the way down, Frou was quiet in the waiting room,but kept a suspicious eye on the crated cats that were pulling faces at her from their owners' laps. Frou went first and was given a clean bill of health, not even squeaking when she got the needle. Then it was Bryn's turn.
 As soon as Kirsty, our vet was down at eye level with her she could smell her. She gave her a good examination. Bryn had an abcess at the back of her mouth. Kirsty believed it had been there for several months and had just recently burst, hence the smell.Unusually her face had shown no sign of swelling,she had shown no sign of any discomfort when eating, so it had remained undiscovered for some time. When FIL had looked after Bryn, he had become convinced that she could only have soft food and would not allow chewies and hard biscuits, so the food had caked around her teeth causing plaque and decay. A couple of years before she had had to have several teeth removed and he had continued on with the soft food believing that was the right thing to do.So now poor Bryn had to have antibiotics and face another operation on Monday.
 The pills that we were given were what my nan would have called"horse pills",great big enormous things. Twice a day, with or without food, just as long as she takes them, they said. There was a big packet of ham in the fridge at home that I could see coming in handy in my scheme to dupe her into taking them.(I have never been able to do the shove the pill in the back of the throat and hold their mouth shut thing.)My cunning scheme worked,two days in Bryn stopped being smelly,just in time for the wake and didn't seem to question why a whole packet of ham was being generously portioned out to her twice a day.
 Monday,I took her down to the vets early. I felt slightly nervous as general anaesthetic in older dogs can be risky, but this needed to be done for her health. I was told to ring at half past three.Back home, Frou, who never passes up an oppurtunity had taken over Bryn's large bed, assuming I had lost Bryn on a walk. I didn't get to collect Bryn until half past five and assumed she would be groggy and need to come home on the bus. As soon as the rather substantial bill was settled, she proceeded to drag me all the way home, putting as much distance between her and the tooth fairies as possible. They had taken out another five. I did quip to the nurse as I was settling the bill,when she told me how many,"Did you leave her any?"I thought she was only having one out. She did remarkably well to cover that distance after her operation. There was only one moment when she stopped to squat for the toilet that I thought she looked a bit wobbly and might keel over face first in the dirt, but she shook it off and raced for home.
 Today is Thursday and I was again back at the vets for Bryn's first check up since her operation. After three days of soft food, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, she is once again deemed in perfect health. Hard food can slowly be reintroduced as she has healed so well. Chewies and biscuits a must.We walked home in the pouring rain and this time it was me who wanted a bus, but Bryn was enjoying her walk, so I endured another drenching and headed home where there was a cup of tea with my name on it.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Cream Junkies

The weekend had begun with a funeral,but as the best china was packed away and the buffet leftovers were being sealed and wrapped our minds turned to Saturday. Hubby RC was doing a fine job making sure that one of the bottles of red didn't go to waste and seemed happy to go along with any restaurant that was suggested.The original plan had been to have my birthday a day late, go shopping and have a meal. However youngest son has a lot of exams coming up this week and needed study time. So it was decided we would do just the meal and postpone the shopping till Wednesday when my daughter has a day off of college. A clever strategy on youngest son's part as he hates shopping.
  Saturday the weather was a lot milder than we had seen for a while. We set off a little after lunch to the restaurant hoping to have missed the rush. The roads were very quiet for a Saturday on the way there and we thought how great it would be if the restaurant was quiet too. Alas,all the drivers missing from the roads were parked in the car park. It was the busiest we had ever seen it, but we hung in there lounging in the bar,until our table was called.We really only eat out on special occasions such as birthdays, so as the restaurant periodically changes dishes on the menu, there ensues great debate and turmoil over what to try. Unable to choose just one thing RC decided to go for the Ultimate Mixed Grill.A new accompanying sauce had appeared since last time, so he was quite enthusiastic to try this maple and whiskey sauce.
 I like to come to this restaurant because I have some foods that I am unable to eat since an operation a couple of years ago.They give substitutes instead of fries,creamed potates etc I can get fragrant rice, no matter what the dish. Also, the bread rolls are cooked on the premises throughout the day, I can only eat bread that has been very recently cooked. So if the rolls are just coming out of the oven, I can have rolls.Pasta is not something I think I would eat in a restaurant unless they made it themselves fresh. Dried pasta is like trying to digest concrete. Fresh pasta is perfect. (thank God for RC's culinary skills.) I like to have chicken with my rice and chose a dish that also gave me a couple of ribs.Cicely and Ira chose steaks. Ira being a fourteen year old boy, decided on a twelve ounce steak, I think it goes with the whole primal meat thing that RC often talks about. Some sort of passage of manhood thing.
 The meal was lovely, sitting chatting and laughing, catching up. I love to watch RC try something new, I feel that sometimes he should be jotting his thoughts of each mouthful down on a notepad for later contemplation.He pauses as he slowly gives each mouthful his full attention, analysing each different cut of meat's compatability with the sauce he has chosen.My son Ira, who is anti sauce on anything including ketchup on hot dogs and burgers, somehow was persuaded by RC to try the maple and whiskey sauce with his steak. He actually liked it and will apparently be having it the next time we go.This is a major milestone for him.RC was still slowly working his way through his meal when we had all finished.
 Drinks replenished, the task of choosing dessert. This is an easy one for me. I am not a great lover of desserts, profiterole with ice cream is about as mixed as I like things. Ira was beaten by his steak and opted for a coffee. Cicely and RC are cream junkies. RC chose one of  those massive disgusting desserts with meringe,cream and berries built up in layers. Cicely's was all shortbread, caramel and chocolate. I love when we are together like this, RC and the kids goof around, Cicely laughs at everything and Ira delivers fantastic one liners that have us in fits. When eldest son,Arthur is there we pretend to be the serious ones and roll our eyes at them. This sends Cissie ino fits and makes RC even naughtier. Arthur will sit there and say,"Which one is the adult did you say?" pointing across the table at the three naughty children, one of whom is 49. This just sets Cissie off again and we leave in a happy, chattering mass to go outside to wait for our taxi.
 I've learned through experience to treasure every moment with my children. I sometimes sit back and take a mental video image of moments like this, saving them to my memory. I try to absorb details,smells,sounds so I will forget nothing. I hope they realise how much I draw strength from watching them so happy,relaxed, knowing they are loved by their parents unconditionally.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Funerals and Birthdays

The day started at six, feeling groggy from a nasty cold that wanted me to go back to bed, I forced myself up. First I had to wake youngest son,who wanted to get some last minute revision in,for his biology exam today. Next the dogs needed their early morning scoot around the block for a wee. Coffee for son,who appeared to be auditioning for The Walking Dead. First rounds of chicken, sausage rolls and chipolatas into the oven. Hubby RC set about grating cheese and thinly slicing tomatoes and cucumber. A lovely card from RC with Boofle the knitted dog on, a favourite of mine. Chocolate and a gorgeous little lidded Le Creuset soup bowl.
 Then onto frying till crisp,tiny pieces of bacon,that will be added to cream cheese  and chives to make a filling for the tiny tortilla wraps. BIL cannot eat bread. Prawns,lettuce and sauce, then southern spiced chicken with mayonnaise and finely shredded lettuce. I'm sure he will be pleased. Youngest son gurgles something unintelligible, last bit birthday and thrusts envelope into my hand. Lovely card with "mum" and elephants playing peek a boo round the letters. Inside card, beautiful silver elephant earrings that I will wear today at FIL's funeral.
 I am a bit of a perfectionist, so when RC says the sandwiches wont fit on the trays as I wanted them too, I tell him it's because I cut the crusts to make them symmetrical. He looks dispondent at the thought of the extra work involved,but my OCD is telling me this is necessary, so I take to doing sandwiches and he switches to wraps.Soon the fridge is overloaded with trays that are garnished and looking pretty.Best china is washed and placed on the table with serviettes. My daughter emerges in her pyjamas and I set her to work putting my china cake stand together. Once carrot and cucumber sticks have been arranged around the houmous in a pretty blue and white china dish, there is time to have a coffee, while I wait for the garlic bread to cook. Youngest daughter is itching to give me her presents. First is the shampoo that I have been searching for, for ages. "Just a silly present". she says. The next is a rather nice sized box wrapped in pink polka dots. I open the top and peak inside. I'm overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness and generosity and burst into tears. You see for many years when things were really hard for us I coveted a beautiful red kettle that I imagined would sit perfectly on my range. But this thing of beauty was beyond my financial means, years later and out of debt with savings, I still could not feel comfortable spending such a large amount on something we didn't exactly need. I often would check when there was a sale, but it still bothered me how much it was. My daughter knowing that I would never treat myself, had taken it upon herself and just bought it. It may sound very sad to think an item like this would bring such pleasure and some people may have preferred jewellery or perfume. But to me it is a dream come true. It has pride of place in my kitchen and it will make dealing with FIL's funeral today so much easier, thinking how thoughtful it was.
  Today was a happy and a sad day all rolled into one. MIL who has been stoic since FIL passed,was overcome at the sight of his coffin. We sat in the chapel and I cuddled her up tight. I was so worried, as she seemed so broken. But then RC stepped up to do his eulogy and as he read MIL smiled and nodded, people laughed, the feeling in the chapel lifted. I was so proud of RC, his speech encompassed all aspects of his father's life and his long battle with mental illness, with love and kindness. Anecdotes from childhood were shared and brought laughter. By the time he was finished MIL was uplifted and renewed. I felt as though we could draw a line under those difficult years, say goodbye with a good feeling about him and move on. Thankyou RC. 
  There were rather a lot of people who made their way to the wake. I must have made a hundred cups of tea. BIL insisted on giving me lessons in how to make his cup of coffee just how he liked it. I spent all my time in the kitchen, making tea, a captive audience for Great Uncle Frank, who likes to be near the food. My daughter and aunt in law helped me wash and dry cups and plates to keep the table stocked. All in all a very successful day. BIL2 spoke to me in a civil manner, at least that seems a bit better, but Custard, our lab still growled at him at every opportunity. I'm afraid SIL still blatently snubbed me quite rudely,at the graveside. But what the hell, do I care? No the woman's a kook. Sorry slip of temper. It obviously still gets up my nose. So I stayed in the kitchen with Uncle Frank and pretended he hadn't told me all this at Christmas.Later SIL left after hugging RC and being oh so sweet. But it just slipped her mind to say goodbye. This is getting cynical and I'm trying not to go down that road.
  So now I am back to my birthday and having white wine, lemonade and orange juice all mixed up together in a big glass.Tying to fight off the lurgy,which is trying to take over and rob me of the last few hours left of my birthday.Goodnight everyone, I'm going to get another drink.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Life of Pie

On recently being invited by Hubby RC to read his rather numerous blogs going back several years, I couldn't help but notice, how food fixated so many of them were. We are,it seems,a family of foodies. My son will practically,every day call me on skype from uni,when he sees I'm on my laptop. The first thing he says is,"Guess what I had for lunch today?"Or maybe I ask him what he's going to have for tea.Our love of food is not the huge consumption of mass produced processed rubbish that you see on diet shows.The ones where they claim they didn't realise that consuming ten times the calories their body requires,would make them fat.
Ours is more of a fascination from creation to perfecting a recipe.My nan was a great cake maker and I would watch as she beat the mixture by hand, then folded, then baked and voila. Perfect light sponge cake.I was determined to master this skill.My nan was an honest critic.The day she told me the sponge I had made was exactly right, I knew I had cracked it.I went on to make apple pie like my mum,scrambled eggs like my dad and soon I took books from the library learning about food from abroad.
 When Hubby RC and I first lived together,he was in the middle of a love affair with chinese cookery.Ken Hom was his teacher at first. For a present for his birthday,we went and got all the spices and equipment he needed. We ate nothing but chinese food for months as he tweaked and perfectd his craft. For three months we used only chopsticks. When we were invited to a friends for dinner during this phase,we were both lost when confronted with knife and fork,they had become so alien to us.There was the vegetarian phase. Back then recipes were hard to come by if you wanted a "normal" meal, or they would contain strange and expensive ingredients that were only found in specialist health shops.We lasted a month and it was awful.So awful in fact that as I am writing this I asked Hubby RC about it.He had erased it from his memory (trauma of lack of meat), and recalled it with an "urgh" and disheartened "yeah".
 Our love of Italian food has lasted for years. Last Christmas Hubby RC was very excited with a new pasta machine I got for a bargain in a sale in a very posh kitchen shop. We have since added ravioli moulds. The hunt for premium 00 pasta flour had begun, the kitchen perioically becomes Papa Rock Chef's Italian pasta factory. The kitchen table is covered in flour and strips of pasta waiting to be rolled, simmered and sauced.
 Tonight we are up late planning the light buffet lunch for FIL's wake. There will be many elderly relatives, so flair has to be restained. Simplicity is the order of the day, small savoury sandwiches, pastries, quiches all made with dentures in mind. This will be followed with cups of tea with small butterfly cakes,little squares of brownies,cherry bakewell tarts etc. The dogs are hoping that MIL,who thinks all dogs are only moments away from starvation,will be seated somewhere near the chipolatas or the tiny slices of pork pie.Well the last cakes are cooling on the racks, Tomorrow we will shape,add cream,sprinkle icing sugar and they will turn into butterflies. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Place for Everything and Everything in it's Place.

I like to think I am an organized person There was a time when our whole lives were ruled by schedules and routines. Our eldest child, Sophie had a disability, a form of autism. She was very clever and demanding but her understanding of the world and people around her was chaotic, frightening. Above all other things she needed was to know exactly when, how and where the next part of life would unfold. The unknown was an insurmountable terror. She needed routine in order to function.
 When she was first diagnosed, we were actually relieved that there was something wrong. This sounds odd, but we had put everything into being good parents and were not seeing the same results as other parents,some who were only making a half hearted attempt. Her disability affected her physically, balance, fine motor skills, interpreting signals from her body to the brain. One test that really scared me was, when they asked her to close her eyes,then asked her to point to where on her body the stick had just touched. There was no correlation. She was miles away every time. Her behaviour had always been challenging and she had very little in the way of social skills at first. Pretend play was totally alien to her. She could play in amongst a group of children but couldn't play with them.
 We were told that in order for her to feel secure and develop she had to have routine. So it began. Everything had to be scheduled, even meals. If it was Tuesday then we would be having pasta, so that was one less worry for her etc. Toothbrushing, bathing, bedtime, all with their own little rituals and procedures. Going somewhere new was a nightmare, we had to research every aspect of the building, the trip there and prep her for it in advance not knowing if she would cope. She couldn't tell when she was hungry or full and ate until she was sick a couple of times. Not knowing when she needed the toilet was overcome with routine. This kind of back fired on us as she went according to a routine not by demand so a day out could entail several trips backwards and forwards to the toilet for no reason.
 I taught her to make lists of things we needed for trips so she could feel in control as though she was navigating and predicting the outcome. She loved food shopping working from a list and gradually could bear surprises and extras even if they were not on the list. I'm sure she probably added them and amended the list as we went round.She started to plan Christmas about ten weeks in advance and compiled list after list of things that we had to have or it wouldn't be Christmas.These lists had to be strictly adhered to.
 The result of all this strategy and order was that it kind of flowed out into all aspects of life.There are set cupboards for things in the kitchen and each item has it's place. Utensils are hung in a certain order from the rail at the back of our range cooker. The one the kids find a hoot is how I can't just put canned goods in the cupboard, they have to be organized in rows with labels facing out. They like to go in the pantry and mess with them to "keep me on my toes". One that drove hubby RC mad for a while was how,when he helped peg out the laundry,I would have to go and repeg it the way I liked it. I have best china, christmas china and everyday china. The thought of using these at the wrong time used to fill me with dread. When my husband's late aunt used to stay with us at christmas she liked to help and dry the dishes. I would thank her, make her a cup of tea and when she was comfortable in the other room put the forks and spoons back in the order they should be in the drawer.
 You'll be glad to know that hubby RC doesn't have to live under this OCD dictatorship so much these days. Gradually over the last nearly eight years I have gradually relinquished most of these orders and rituals. Mealtimes are more flexible, once in a while we have takeaway. Although it was pointed out to me last night as I was dishing up roast potatoes(Thursdays)that it was Monday and I hadn't made a curry. I can stop the worry now that the whole week is up the creek because Thursday became Monday and Tuesday(pasta)might become Friday(pizza). You see no one minds anymore. I do still slip into set meals for set nights sometimes just out of habit,but most of the time it is the great unknown at mealtimes.
 There were times in the early days after we lost Sophie that it felt wrong to change things. But children have a wonderful way of lightening the situation. When I had relaxed a routine or changed round furniture they would laugh and say"Sophie's not going to like that". When her picture in the kitchen kept coming off the wall (no broken cord or hook), it would be "See told you so".It's strange how sometimes we strive to keep everything as it was when somebody dies,as though they are going to return and need it just the way it was. So much has changed in our household over the last eight years,I sometimes feel guilty that she would not recognize or feel at home in this house. I have had terrible guilt dreams where she returns, mising not dead and is confused and hurt,at how we have moved on without her.But life does move on and our other children need to see this, there has to be living after death.
 The hardest thing to change was Christmas. The lists(I still have them),were so precise that the only way to get through those first few Christmas's was to not have Christmas in any recognizable form. We let chaos rule.There was no set Christmas dinner. You could eat whatever you want as long as one of those things were sensible and you weren't sick.If you wanted a certain meal then mum or dad would prepare it at your whim.You could slob in PJ's all day. No special Christmas clothes. You could stay up as late as you want.The kids loved it. We loved it. Gradually we have been drawn back to a more traditional Christmas, but it did take about five years.My daughter Cicely's days of ferrero rocher for Christmas dinner came to a close,she likes them for breakfast now.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Learning to Say NO

Ever since I can remember I have had an overriding ambition to help people, to make them happy. As a child I always hurried to the kitchen to make tea for everyone, rode my bike to the next village to tend my nan's garden, dug worms for the bantams that my dad kept and collected the eggs, even when the little buggers tried to peck my eyes out.  I learnt to do the laundry and clean the house at an early age. You see both my parents worked, I could see that by doing these things it made their lives easier, I liked that. I felt my actions had meaning, they contributed, that made me feel useful. I took this mantra through my childhood and into later life. When I was 16 my nan had an operation, I just dropped into the role of live in carer, cook and cleaner until she was better. By then everyone knew I would be the one to do this, I always was. I didn't see then that I had become obvious and convenient. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of that stay, Nan was my role model, that time together I can look back on, knowing that none of the other grandchildren had spent that close, loving time with her. She was an amazing lady.

I left home a little after that, to become a nanny. I had a brief couple of months with a Kuwaiti family in London that ended when they wanted to take me back to Kuwait, my parents said no. Probably a good decision as it goes. Next I was a nanny to Matthew, whose parents were going through a trial separation, they also needed me to look after Anthony, who was deaf and a friend of the family. I also accumulated lots of extra tasks during that time that were not part of my job but his mum worked and was training as a nurse so I wanted to help. Soon I did all the jobs in the house, even got to know the whole extended family as they all needed a little favour. I never saw myself as taken advantage of, I was falling over myself to help this family. And I got my result. Mum and Dad reunited, the extra time I had given them had allowed them to talk, date and I felt good that I had had a hand, no matter how small, in this reunion. They are still together today and went on to have a daughter. Of course, I was out of a job.

When I was seventeen I moved to the seaside as I had managed to get a job in a computer components factory. Although I was primarily dealing with weighing out the tiny components for orders, I also became adept at covering reception, office and factory floor work when people needed me to fill in. During this time I met hubby no. 1. I rented a room with small kitchenette and shared bathroom. He was a friend of my neighbour, we went to pubs together, the beach, I met his family and worked in his dad's shop. Then I went to visit my family for the weekend, on my return he had a ring, he had missed me. I summoned up the speech that would explain we hardly knew each other, I didn't think of him that way, but the words died on my lips as he gushed on about how happy his family was, our friends, the surprise engagement party they thought he didn't know about. What do I do? Could I let all these people down? No. I carried on, thought maybe we could string it out, he wasn't the most reliable of people he probably would never get round to it. But he did. We did.
 By this time I worked nights at a retirement home and a few hours a day in his parents' shops paying off his gambling debts that his family had neglected to tell me about. So while I worked, he played. If I couldn't give him money he borrowed it from his family who were quite happy to oblige, as they had found a way to get the money back. Me. One day I sat in the kitchen of our little flat, with the remnants of the card game of the night before and thought, "Is this life? Do I have to live like this? Can I live like this?" I knew the answer was no. I was 18 and felt like 50. I admit, it took 5 ultimatums but by no.6 my father in law developed a conscience, helped me move out to a tiny bedsit, four flights up in the same town.

I started again, I worked and looked after me, for a while. In time, I started seeing a friend, who was kind, shy and didn't take without giving. We became inseparable, moved in together. We cared about people, cooking for and feeding the girls in the other flats who thought vodka and toast was a varied diet. We looked out for them, some asked me to take a spare key in case they lost theirs, I was a mother hen. One night I was woken by a strange sound like someone was choking, a scream. I knew who it was, I grabbed a key, ran to her flat. The guy was on top of her, his hands around her throat, I rushed him from the side and knocked him off the bed, the girl was hysterical screaming. I tried to comfort her, she clawed and flailed, so I gave her a resounding slap around the face. She took a breath then started to cry, breath, calm down. The police were on the way and the guy on the floor had started to rouse, so I sat on him until they came.

Different girls came and went. We looked after them all, storing stuff and giving baths to the girl who went to protest by living in trees, birth partner to the girl whose boyfriend was in prison for drugs. Phoning her mum, who had disowned her, to let her know she was a grandma. I once stood as a human barrier between the beater and the beaten and passed him his belongings through the door, escorted him from the premises, took his key and told him what would happen if he came back. All because she asked me to.

By the time we had a child of our own we had moved to another town. We fed the local kids whose parents smoked and drank away their benefits,became child minders to the kids whose parents didn't pick them up from nursery, because they were still in the pub. We had a little girl who climbed in through the window and slept on our sofa because it was violent at home. The woman opposite who couldn't pay her bills because she couldn't read them, so I helped her understand them and went to the post office with her to pay them properly.There were birthday cakes made, party dresses sewn from second hand bridesmaid dresses and street parties for VE Day.

We fostered too. First was my husband's little brother who didn't get on with his stepdad and needed support to finish school and years later his daughter who at 10 months was a burden on her teenage parents. Then the teenage mother who decided she did want her baby after all. All were found flats, furniture, food and money. Then we moved back to my hubby's hometown. My eldest son had a best friend who had family problems, he stayed on and off. Then my daughter's friend needed a family as her mother was ill and couldn't care for her. She lived with us until her mother died and a family member stepped up and adopted her. Then my son's friend returned from Spain with no home and needing a family to put him through school. We took them all in.

In amongst all this giving, saying yes, doing the right thing there came a day when we needed help. Our daughter was ill, we had three other young children, no money, no car and a daughter suddenly in a wheel chair.We learnt a hard lesson. We were on our own.  People suddenly didn't want to bother us, stopped calling or just plain left us to it. We were so busy in the struggle we found ourselves in, stressed beyond sleep and reason that we didn't notice at first. After my daughter died there was a silence, we were avoided. I realised we no longer had many friends.

My parents both suffered from cancer and died within 2 years of each other. Both times they needed nursing and care. I stayed for a month when mum was ill caring for her till the end so that she could die in her own bed. Then I stayed and cared for dad, to help him grieve. For twelve years we cared for my FIL, he could be difficult and demanding, he had a mental illness, life was difficult.

Now we are just us again, FIL recently passed away and this weekend for the first time in a very long time we are not looking after, caring for, cooking for, doing a little job for, babysitting for anyone. I want to say that, we are going to say no. That we will put ourselves first. But I look back and think of people we have helped, whether they appreciated it or not and know that I am glad we did it.  Maybe, it's not, "No", we need to learn but, "If I can."

Friday, 22 February 2013

Warm Toes and Frozen Fingers

Today we woke to the weather man on the radio telling us that it would be bitterly cold with snow flurries. At six in the morning, this is no way to encourage the national work force to get out of bed and face the day. He should have lied, told us it would be hot and sunny, so that when seven o'clock did roll around it didn't  find us still snuggled up under the covers.
 The first dog walk wasn't too bad. I had my furry boots on, a couple of extra layers and just the odd flake was coming down. By the time hubby RC had left for work, MIL had stopped in for tea and sympathy it was time for dog walk no.2. This is an hour long and required even more layers. My trusty boots kept my toes snug and if I marched along at a clip my legs were staying quite warm. However, my hands were absolutely frozen, three leads make it impossible to wear gloves and I lost sensation in my right hand and my fingers were going purple. We all rushed back down the road and back home into the warmth. The pain in my hands was horrible as they started to thaw out.
 Dinnertime rolled around and I was snug and warm with my cup of coffee watching the flakes drift by the window. My daughter was going to MIL's to walk her dog today, but she seemed a bit reluctant to head out. In a moment of  madness, I told her to stay in the warm, I would go and do Spot. So I got my bike out and headed off to MIL's. The wind was bitter on my face. I took Spot out for another 35minutes and then took him home. MIL made me a cup of tea, which I used for warmth, as MIL doesn't feel the cold, rarely has the heating on due to being hardened by several years living in the Highlands of Scotland. I was starting to wonder if it was colder inside or out. So tea consumed it was time to brave the snow and set off for the ride home. Halfway back I realised my hands were really painful again, had to dismount and take turns with one hand in my pocket while I pushed the bike with the other hand until the feeling came back and I could continue riding. My daughter did have a nice hot cup of coffee waiting for me when I got in, gradually I thawed out.
 So it was it some trepidation an hour and half later I stood looking out the window at the snow whilst putting on my boots again. Another hour of frozen hands beckoned and once more into the breach I went. I never thought that picking up dog poo would make me glad to feel the warmth through the bag, that's how bad it was today. There is one more walk tonight that is usually Hubby RC's. Just a short, round the block, last wee before bed thing. Some nights if RC has had a bath early, I say not to worry ,that I'll do that one as well. Tonight is NOT one of those nights. All the goodwill has been frozen out of me.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Dirty Dogs

I have many things that irk me, and I admit to being slightly OCD about some things. One of these is doggy smells and muddy paws. Our dogs have a large collection of their own towels and bedding. These are laundered two or three times a week, much to the chagrin of Custard our lab, who feels I whip away his bedding with malice, as soon as he has got it, to smell just right. He is the fussiest about his bed. He will sometimes rake out his covers and then just sit there, blocking the hallway, waiting for someone to notice his plight and come and refold his quilt, refluff his pillow. Then he is happy, and will plop back into bed. He is compliant when he is groomed and loves a rub down when it rains, before being let into the house. And then there is Frou Frou.


Today Frou was in the sitting room having a really good scratch, until she caught my eye. Paused mid scratch, her foot raised, and an,"I know what's coming next, and I want no part of it" look came into her eye.Like a shot, she was gone and heading for the stairs. I could almost hear her shouting, "Sanctuary, sanctuary, open the gate", as she made for the one safe place in the house. My daughter's room. But alas, there is a Judas in our midst and she was delivered to Mum, dejected, to face the flea comb and brush alone.
  I'm happy to say that Frou was harbouring no friends amongst her tangles, but did give up a couple of seeds,small wood shavings and some rather nasty crusted dog food round her chin. Looking sleek, glossy and with a perfect parting down her back in true yorkie tradition, Mum was proud of little Frou, who had survived the ordeal remarkably unscathed. Then the phone rang, hubby RC, for a lunchtime chat. Sensing mum's grip had relaxed, Frou sprang like a gazelle and landed like a wart hog to rub her face all over the rug and along the sofa. With a quick shake to restore the "dragged through a hedge backwards look", that she is rocking this winter, Frou gave me a look of utter contempt. Then she strode off to stare at my daughter, to see if there was any betrayal guilt there that she could milk for a treat.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Running Late

 So this morning we were running really late, this always happens a couple of times when the kids have no school. Put baguette in oven, race round the block with the dogs while hubby gets his bike out,retrieve baguette, make hubby egg and bacon sandwich, fill baguette with yummy stuff ,wrap and write soppy note on it, all the time dodging the audience of canines that have appeared at the smell of bacon.See hubby off and breathe. Then just as I fill the kettle youngest son appears to join the canine party that is still taking up a large part of the kitchen floor. "Bacon?" Two slices of bacon and half a baguette later he shuffles off back to his cave, just as MIL comes in greeted by the dogs who realize there is no more bacon to be had, so go and enthusiastically greet her at the door(there will be treats in her pocket). I finally get my cup of coffee and sit down with MIL for a chat about funeral arrangements for FIL who passed away 3 weeks ago.
  Later when out on my main morning dog walk I finally thought about my blog in between trying to stop my little yorkie cross, Susie,from barking at every bird, human and vehicle she saw and picking up poop. Not coming up with anything profound I wished to talk about just yet in my novice status I decided to apply a dear diary approach and just blog the morning as it unfolded. Washing hung, housework done I am waiting for my daughter to appear who assured me last night that she wanted to help with shopping and walking MIL's dog Spot. Having no car, we will have to take the bus to MIL's and then give Spot a good walk, then walk to the supermarket to get the shopping. This means rushing back to do the main afternoon dog walk for our own dogs before even starting the tea. If he's really lucky tea will be ready for hubby when he gets in the door and if I'm really lucky I will be siting down with a cup of coffee asking, "What sort of day did you have?", "Mine?Nothing much, quiet, you know."

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


 About to hit 47 in about 10 days time. Call it mid life crisis or life re-evaluation, but I feel it's time for a change. I think if my 16 year old self could reach out and see me now, they would be afraid of the future.  Although, not idealistic or ambitious, I had hopes that the future would be rich and fulfilling and that I would grow as a person. I find now that I am a shrunken version of the girl I used to be. Although I have wonderful people and things in my life, I feel that there is something lacking in me.
   Life has proved to be a lot harder than I could have imagined and there have been personal losses that have moulded me in a way that, both physically and mentally, have not been beneficial. My aim now is to reclaim some of the hope and love of life that was lost along the way in the last 30 years and start a fresh chapter, ergo the blog. Technology kind of past me by for a long time and this is one of the worlds I wish to discover. I know I can't be the only middle aged person out there who is tentatively dipping their toe into the pond that is internet blogging and I hope to find others as I go along, who like me, are just starting out and hopefullyI'll pick up some friends along the way.