We didn’t quite make Scotland

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you might have noticed that we didn’t make Scotland. Indeed we only made it as far as Wallesey (to see C’s godmother) and then headed south, back home. C had been complaining of soreness ‘down below’ – a perennial issue – and, after a pretty hectic time with my mum and everything else, and a long trip to Wells to attend the funeral of the husband or her matron when she was a housemistress on the Friday, a combination of the stop/start of Doris, Scotland with the midges (we normally go at Easter when it’s Scottish RAF free) and the constant pain just did for her. 

we made it here

Pain is, well, a pain. It can be debilitating. C’s waiting for a gynae appointment … and whilst she normally manages as it (and other afflictions down south fade in and out), the whole thing came to a head. In short she broke a little … the manifestation of how she was was her lying on Doris’s floor trying to abate everything, as I drove away from Liverpool trying to decide whether to turn left or right when we hit the M6. In the end it was an easy choice. Doris is fab when you’re both on par. It becomes a small white box when the alternative is our lovely, comfortable new house. Things didn’t improve for a couple of days. She essentially shut down, managing basic tasks – including walking with me. But she slept a lot. We spoke to the surgery and we now wait a call with the doctor on Thursday.

I can’t do any of this without her

There are two issues: physical (tiredness, coldness and soreness); and mental – mostly anxiety, brain fog and need to keep away from folk. It is fair to say that she has got much better, and we’ve a couple of really good days – we did a carboot and she ran yesterday, and we had a day out to Slimbridge today. Indeed, we may be over the worst. But she can’t live with phasing pain, a foggy head and an anxious nature. And it would be helpful to know if one is feeding off the other; or vice versa … but with our Jen we know how complicated the brain is. The good news is we’re already talking about taking Henry away in Doris in the summer. Then Spain in September (no midges). Oh, and as part of the selling work I’m doing here, we’re taking a trip to Paington tomorrow to drop some kit off.

colder than it looks

A day by the seaside. Hurrah!   The brain’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?In amongst all this I’ve sold some more stuff.


And, a big hurrah, I eventually fixed my bike. You’ll remember that I changed both of our chains. C’s bike worked perfectly first time. Mine was rubbish, jumping links constantly. I tried three different chains (spent £40), but to no avail. Frustrated at my incompetence, I phoned the local bike shop who, in the end fortunately, couldn’t take her in anytime soon. I then contacted a mobile ‘bicycle repair man’ (remember the Monty Python sketch?). He popped round and thought the issue was possibly the need for a new rear sprocket, but couldn’t take the bike away.

more complex than it looks

So, I manfully removed the rear sprocket (which, with hub gears, is more complex than it sounds) and ordered a new one. It took me almost two hours to fit it … and, hey presto, she was absolutely perfect – until you put power on. It was then clear the chain was sticking on the Panasonic motor’s drive socket, something you couldn’t see before because the rear sprocket was also sticking. My first thought was to buy a new sprocket (an easy replacement of just removing the chain and a single circlip), but then I thought I’d just turn the sprocket around as it would only be worn on one side?

Yay! That worked.Lesson?

Replacing a chain might conflict with your old sprockets. A new chain will, quite possibly, not like the old sprockets as they’ve worn with the old chain. You may have to do both.

still running

Anyhow, all done now.And, thankfully, Mrs Sun is with us for the week. More selling, I feel. And more helping C improve. Easy to do that here.   

We sold some stuff

We had a fun time at Mary’ sorting stuff and then watching the Coronation. We got a lot done and, between us, I think we can say that we have a plan in place. And the Coronation was fab, wasn’t it? Sure, it was preposterous in places, but I have to put my hand up and say that whoever pulled it together made it as inclusive as it might have been. And King Charles seems a decent man with values that seem to chime with modern life. Hopefully he can spread a bit of his green and pleasant ambitions to Downing Street … it sure needs it. The quite horrible immigration bill, which is currently in The Lords, does not reflect my country. And I’m pretty confident it doesn’t actually do ‘what the people of this country want’, well not anyone with a moral compass …

we managed some walking

… and when the Archbishop of Canterbury says it’s not what Jesus would do, you’ve got to reflect on what you’re trying to make happen.

Apart from that we’ve been admining. I’m still selling stuff, with some success. I’ve hardly touched the surface in terms of items to be sold, but much of it is bulk metal and plastic items which have both usable and intrinsic value, but probably not as single items. So when I come back from Scotland I’ll have to get in touch with equivalent companies and see if they want to bulk buy stuff. It has, I have to say, been fun. For example, today I posted 200 plastic balloon holders to a woman in Southampton (I’m guessing they were unused from a business launch event). We made £15, which didn’t pay for my time. But, do you know what? The woman was happy. And we didn’t put 400 bits of plastic into landfill. And that’s a result in my book.

one of many wrapping of stuff we’ve sold
wanna buy a boiler?

Today we popped to Shrivenham, where C’s mum’s ashes have been spread. We met her sister, Annie there. The weather held (hasn’t it been awful?) and we took Cassie (Jen and James are away for a couple of days) and Annie brought her dogs. We had a picnic by a disused canal and caught up with all the news. And it was lovely, especially as it reminded me that I don’t actually work anymore … not in any real sense. It was a feeling I used to get all the time, early in our travels, but now something I am very poor at reminding myself of. But I did today … and it was a real fillup. 

we did a picnic

We’ve got some more admin to do tomorrow, and we’re off to a funeral on Friday. Then it’s time for a month in Scotland in Doris. The only fly in the ointment is that I have still not got my bike fixed. I can ride it but, three chains later, the chain still slips under pressure. The local bike shop couldn’t find the time so I’ll have to get it sorted on the way. Oh well.

Whatever, we’re heading off for a month. Which can’t be a bad thing.Stay safe everyone.  

Up and down dale

Mrs Sun has, at last, thought it appropriate to come and say hello. And what a fabulous welcome it has been. We have spent the last week looking after and enjoying the company of Bex, Steven and Henry. It is so easy here. Henry, bless him, is into ‘diggers’ – his vocab is limited to yes, no, there, mama … and digger. Trains are, for some reason, ‘fras’, and he calls planes something similar. Oh, and he makes plenty of animal noises … constantly. It was a fab, if exhausting, four days. The house soaked us all up and C, bless her also, slaved in the kitchen whilst I did my best to get Henry to bounce on the landlord’s industrial-sized trampoline (they have been brilliant, btw. Their place is our place, give or take, although we do our best not to step over any lines). Anyhow, the senior Ladley girl and her family are now back in KSA, and we’ve been left to our own devices. We will see them again in eight weeks time.

Slimbridge with the lad

In between all of that we have cycled, walked and admined. I changed the chains on both bikes. C’s was a seamless switch. Mine has been a dog’s breakfast and I’m not sure what the problem is. We dropped into Dursley car boot on Saturday and afterwards I popped into a bike shop. A much more competent man than me had a look and said that he’d need a couple of days to sort it, as it wasn’t an obvious fix. He did, however, tell me how the Shimano Nexus hub gears can be tuned. There’s a window on the rear wheel hub which shows two yellow lines. You twiddle something until the yellow lines are coincident, and hey presto. It took me 15 minutes to find and clean the window and then, sure as eggs, the gears were sorted. It’s only taken me 10 years to work that out. Anyhow, I’ve still not got my chain sorted. 

love the walking

The walking has been absolutely fab. We did close to 5 miles yesterday, up and down dale. Four miles today. Within 100 metres of our place we have cows, calves, sheep, lambs, geese, two ducks, a labrador and two cats. We have nine (yes nine) goldfinches on our feeder and a couple of great tits. We have buzzards and kites. Two roosters up the road and pigs down the dale. We have every tree known to man, fields of dandelions and daisies and four deer. There are flowers in every hedgerow and the woods are currently blanketed in wild garlic and bluebells. The air is as fresh and clear as newly washed wool. It is fabulous, made more so because, rather than being on top of the Cotswolds where the countryside is lovely, but just undulating, here we’re on the edge, and the valleys are sharp enough to be classified as ravines. Sure, it’s hilly and you can’t go anywhere without going up (or down) and then back again. But we’re getting used to that. All-in-all it’s a plum place. We are very fortunate.

did Doris

However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that we are leaving soon for four weeks in Scotland. I did a Doris check yesterday and everything is as it should be. We head off to Mary’s on Wednesday, back on Saturday and then after a short period of looking after Cassie, we push off the following weekend. I think it’s fair to say we can’t wait. Hurrah!

And stuff continues to sell, which is great. C doesn’t know it, but I am going to take a box of gear with us to Scotland to continue the motion. They have post offices up there, afterall.

drunk tea

In the meantime, you all remain safe. Remember to pledge your allegiance next weekend to a man who, if it weren’t for the order of birth, might have been Prince Andrew. Come on, that’s got you thinking, hasn’t it? I’m not sure I’ll be joining in. I’m neither monarchist nor republican, but I am for the common man/woman. And the more we can do to help those less fortunate than ourselves, the better. I’m not sure how the coronation moves that bar in a cost of living crisis. But I am blinded by my own brand of socialism. I’m off my horse now.      

Keep smiling. 

I miss the simplicity of it

what’s not to like?

I think I miss the simplicity of it. We’re in Penkridge picking up Rebecca, Steven and Henry from Stevens mum’s. We got here early and have just taken a short walk along the canal, a waterway we know well having spent many nights here with Bex and Steven a few years back. The simplicity. Ahh. That is the simplicity of van life. Living in Doris, full time. Everything we needed and pretty much everything we owned in a 4.5 tonne truck. 

It was a simple life. Park up, do something, normally involving walking, running or a bike, eat something and then repeat. Day after day. Moving on when the mood took us and only worrying about finding a washing machine, as everything else was on board.

I miss it, I do. But do I miss it enough to want to abandon everything and head off again? Part of me says yes to that. But a larger part reminds me that we live in a beautiful cottage and still have the time and flexibility to push off in Doris, pretty much at will. That’s what’s happening next month: Scotland for 5 weeks. But it’s not quite the same. It’s, and I know I’ve rehearsed this argument many times before, living in a van full time changes your outlook on life. You are necessarily constrained by the confines of a small box. You can’t do big administrative things, because there aren’t big administrative things to get done. So you focus on, in the end, what can only be described as your wellbeing. Sure there are pinch points and compromises, but they far outweighed by the plusses. Van life focuses you onto good things. The moment you move back into a house, the world encroaches … and not much longer it takes over. 

Funny old world, isn’t it? And, I know, all this nonsense from a couple who has pretty much everything they need. So stop moaning Roland … ok. Will do.

one of the many things I’ve sold

It’s been a week of sorting and selling and, I have to stay, I’ve really enjoyed it. I don’t think it politic to mention the sums involved, but they’re worth getting out of bed for. And I can see these things heading off to people who will use them (rather than putting them into a skip), and who think they’ve secured a bargain. That makes me feel good. Oh – and I know the lady at our village post office really well now! It’s a 10 minute walk across the fields. Perfect.

C had been doing what C does. Getting the place ready for the team to arrive. She’s been baking and shopping and cleaning, and we now have enough food in the house to survive the apocalypse. Well done her. And we’ve been doing a lot of exercise. The hills here shout out to be climbed.

those hills won’t climb themselves

And we’ve just finished a big family lunch. Both kids, spouses, Henry and the dog. Fabulous in this place. Just fabulous. If we were still in Doris that would have been impossible. So, note to self: don’t be such a misery … but, the simplicity of van life, hey?

For the record we had a really productive time with Mary at the end of last week helping her sort some things and we’ve planned a further visit around the Coronation. I’ve got all that pomp and circumstance to look forward to. Yey!

Stay safe, everyone.

Our grandchildren will never forgive us

This blooming weather. And with a keen interest in climate change as always, this blooming weather. Records were broken in 2022. And this Spring, heat and cold records (have you seen the snowfall in California?) continue to get broken. Things are not settling down. I know absolutely nothing about the weather, but as I understand it El Nino, which is an east pacific weather phenomenon, looks set to be vile this year … which, so I am told, will exacerbate the extremes even more, which will break more records, which will then further influence things and  – yes, the cycle seems to get worse. 

calm before the storm

And we’re worried about whether Harry comes to the Coronation? What are we doing? Why are we not on the streets demanding change? Our grandchildren are unlikely to forgive us. 

Ho hum. 

Ok, so the weather hasn’t been that bad.

We’ve been busy. We popped down to Brizzol to see E&A, who let us have their apartment in Chatel. We had some goodies to deliver and it was great to catch up. Whilst out we bought some more stuff for the house, and there is still much to get. It may seem odd to be replacing curtains, putting up blinds and shower grab rails etc, when it’s only a rental. But it definitely is home for us. And we intend to make it so. Our biggest job is a suite of open wardrobes in the pretty big study. That’s on the market for next month.

Talking of which, I applied for mum’s probate ten days ago (I’m not sure I told you). It was a pretty straightforward event, although I’ve yet to hear back from the probate office. What I would say is if you’re dealing with an estate which has an uncontentious will and is likely to be less than the inheritance tax threshold (£650k for a couple) then do give it a go yourself. Or, DM me and I’d be delighted to help. It’s all on done via on-line forms. As we wait, I/we put the house on the market yesterday. It’s a lovely house in the best street in the village but, unsurprisingly, it’s dated and needs a lot of work. So who knows whether it will sell easily. We shall see.

Got this from mum’s. Dad is middle row on the left. Fab.

I’ve kept myself occupied by clearing P&K’s outhouses, something I promised I would do for them. It is not a small job, mostly because they’re full of past-business gubbins. The aim is to sell the stuff, for which there is a decent (for me) profit share. I’ve already had some success and I have now ventured onto eBay, a marketplace hitherto I have used on;y sparingly. So far, no hiccups. The process also ticks my ‘recycling’ bone. One of Peter’s businesses had procured a large amount of marketing stuff, much of which, in the right hands, could be used again. They had no monetary worth for us, so I took them to Gloucester and handed them back to the same company which produced them. That worked for me.

The weather has been a pain, though. Everywhere is so much nicer when Mrs Sun is out. When it’s hoofing down with rain, even the most convivial of places can lose its shine … and, when that happens, Doris shouts loudly for an excursion. Alas our next trip is not until mid-May. The good news is that between now and then we do have Bex, Steven and Henry back from the KSA. They’re only with us for 4 days, but what a four days that will be! Can’t wait to see then (especially the little chap).

Cassie came to stay

Anyhow, stay safe. We’re off to see Mary tomorrow. And then we have some old pals coming round for supper on Saturday. Hopefully the weather will perk up a bit between now and then.

That’s that, then

I was really worried about mum’s funeral. Fretfully so. It’s not because I was giving the eulogy. I have learned to see any public speaking commitment as an opportunity. And giving mum’s eulogy was a chance to let everyone know what a wonderful person she was and what I felt about her. So it wasn’t that. I guess some of it was the fact that it was mum’s funeral. But that should have made me sad, not fretful. I think it was about the choices I’d made about her send off. Was a crem service the right thing to do? Did we have the right mix of speakers? Were the hymns right? How many people would come? Was the wake (tea, wine, sandwiches and cake) the right choice? In short, was I giving her the send off she deserved?

we cleaned and sold some stuff

The thing was, it was just me making the decisions. Sure C’s always by my side and she’s very good at adding class into something which would otherwise be an Essex fest. But I was the one making the decisions. There is/was only one Ladley left in this family. Just me. And it worried me. In the end, though, it was just fabulous. (And I would have told you if it hadn’t been, I think). There were over 60 people there, a fab mix between all of the lives she touched – Army, village, Golf, family. And it had a lovely, homely weight to it. And the wake was just right too. What relief!

(Oh, and Kevin’s girls turned up – Grace read a poem – and afterwards the four of us went to Clacton to throw Kevin’s ashes off the end of the pier … which was closed, but the two girls fluttered their eyelashes at a security guard and we were in position moments later, doing the business with the backdrop of a glorious sunset.)

cheerio Kevin

Subsequently we spent three days sorting out the house. It was more of the same. Charity shops, the British Heart Foundation came around again, we did multiple trips to the dump to get rid of the recycling … and a massive skip turned up on Tuesday, which we quickly filled. We got the cleaners in on Wednesday and left on Thursday for home with just four bits of furniture unsold. Everything else is gone. It’s such a relief. 

Now we’re back home, and it’s fab. I’ve completed probate for mum’s estate and we’ve dispatched the will to the appropriate office. There’s been some other admin, but I think we can put mum on hold for now.  

And we’ve done lots of stuff. Car and Doris cleaned – we next expect to go away the van in May, hopefully Scotland for a month or so. We saw Jen and James and we’ve been kicking around the house, sorting more stuff out. I’ve taken on responsibility for clearing out a lot of kit around P&K’s estate. They have a number of lockups which have accumulated all manner of work and domestic gear which they’d like rid of. It’s given me a purpose and the weather has, at last, improved. So it’s great to be outside and making a difference. FB marketplace, Gumtree and eBay are the first port of call. I think a couple of skips might be needed later in the summer. And I’m also selling stuff of ours, and some gear we brought back from mum’s. You never know, it might become a business?

Scrub, scrub

On reflection, mum’s death hasn’t really hit me yet. Back here, now, with Mrs Sun doing her thing washing over us like a biological all-in-one conditioner, it’s very easy to forget the recent past. Maybe that’s it, though. Maybe after her stroke in 2012 when I said cheerio to her three times, there’s emotion left? Maybe. Anyhow, rest in peace, mum.

Keep safe everyone. Out to supper tonight with Daren and Karen in Chepstow. There will be plenty of motorhome/Hymer talk. Hurrah! 

Ester cometh

House clearance duties

We had a lovely, relaxed weekend with Mary last weekend. There is no doubt that Courtyard Cottage is a delight to entertain from. We had another friend of ours (and Mary’s) round on Saturday night, and Jen and James came for Sunday lunch. It was fab and, as the weather improves, things can only get better. 

back by the sea again

The rest of the week was always going to be about prepping to go to mum’s. Our ambition is to make the funeral a reflective and happy affair whilst also getting as much of the house clearance done as we can. It didn’t start well. I changed the wheels from old Focus back to new Focus (winter to summer tyres) and the locking wheel nut key sheared off. Thankfully I was on my last wheel, tightening the last summer one, so everything was done. But without a key, if we had a puncture there was no way I’d be able to get the wheel off without professional assistance (I don’t think the AA can do it either). I did some shopping around and everything pointed to taking the car to Ford, who may or may not have a master key and, if not, would be able to forcibly remove the wheels.

we caught a bus

Ho hum. In the end we used Ford in Colchester, dropped her off and then took the bus into town. We were quoted £120 plus the cost of new nuts (ouch). In the end, the moment we got off the bus in the town centre we had a call from Ford to say it was ready. We had a quick McD’s and got the bus back. The bill was £35, including replacement nuts (not locking), so they all got a box of biscuits from Tescos. It just shows you that sometimes it’s best to use a main dealer. Fab.

wheelnut broken and key sheared

[On a less exciting note the Focus spent a few seconds ‘missing’ in 6th gear today. We had this problem once on the way down to Chatel, revved the engine and it went away. The same happened today. I’ve spoken to the garage we bought it from and they are happy to take her in and lend us a car (it’s still under warranty). I’ll see how that goes.]

Mum’s has been fine. Kevin’s girls came last weekend and took what they wanted. It didn’t clash with our list so we’re all happy. Mum’s not a hoarder, but there’s still an awful lot of stuff. An awful lot. Sadly much of it is chipped or scratched, the outcome of a few years of near blindness. I have tried to Gumtree some stuff with limited success. There are a few bits which I will take away and try and sell, but we have found a friendly charity shop who will take most things. In addition, British Heart Foundation sent round a large lorry and two (very nice) brutes of men who took away five bits of furniture (which they will do for you). They’re coming back on Monday for some smaller pieces and some bric-a-brac. And we have a gihuge skip coming on Tuesday which will take the rest of the nonsense.

we’ve been recycling

But … we have tried. As a bravo to us we have gone out of our way to separate glass, cardboard, metal and clothes, and use then recycling centre -with whom we are now good friends. The skip will help finish the job but, by then we sincerely hope to have passed on anything useful and recycled everything we can. It’s been quite an effort, but I hope it’s been worth it.

For the record – and maybe I should have started with this – early on we contacted a local house clearance company. I sent them a video of the house and they came back with a quote of £1900. That’s what we would have to pay. They would take everything, sell (for themselves) what they could, and dump the rest in landfill. The skip, which is the biggest domestic one they do, comes in at £360 … so we’ve saved the estate a good deal of money whilst doing our bit for the environment. Good-oh!

we had some tea

And we have tried to stay fit, running and walking where we can. C’s not been at her best. I have, thankfully, got over the issues I was having ‘down below’ but, it is fair to say, having had a washout in Chatel we’re both looking forward to some downtime when this is over.

Anyhow, I hope you are all keeping safe. The cost of living crisis remains a misery for most (my mum’s gas and electricity bill for the next 12 months was predicted to be just shy of £4000 … and she’s an old lady living on her own!) and I feel for anyone trying to make ends meet. For me, my eyes are on the longer term future … and the climate, and poor old Henry (grandson). The latest IPCC report is eye wateringly bad, although nobody in government seems to care. It does my head in, it really does. Oh well. 

Life goes on

A short paragraph on politics. I think the latest immigration bill is a betrayal of our values. Whether it stops the boats we’ll only know in time, but I sense not. What it does is it prevents any asylum application (unless there is a pre-existing process, such as for Ukraine). Which answers the question. Are there any Ukrainians on the boats? No. Why? Because there are safe and legal routes for Ukrainians to enter this country (the same exists for Hong Kong nationals, but not for Afghans, where there is a process but it is much more arcane and, as a result, the numbers are tiny in comparison to the need). So, to stop the boats we need to establish safe and legal routes for all people seeking asylum to the UK. These could be at embassies in any country, or in a big shed in Calais – you choose. Those who pass our ‘test’ are brought here without jeopardy. Those who fail the tests (I don’t know what the tests are but, currently, well over half who land on our beaches pass the tests when they eventually get round to being processed) and then try to cross the Channel, well I for one am happy for those to be repatriated … or dispatched to a third safe country. There. That’s solved it? But my approach wouldn’t be a dog whistle to the far right voters, which is what this government is doing. It’s tragic. 

Ok. Back on track. 

we went to theatre

Our trip to London was fab. Grace’s play, in a tiny theatre on the Isles of Dogs, was fun. It wasn’t necessarily my kind of thing, but we all enjoyed ourselves. It was fab of C’s cousin, Eva, to put us up, and we had a lovely time … including a trip to the revamped Battersea power station which is well worth a visit if you’re ever in town. After that we had a very relaxed weekend, among other things, looking after Peter and Karen’s dog, who has got to be the easiest dog-sit in Christendom. We’ve both been running and walking in the fabulous countryside and generally feeling very pleased with ourselves as to our choice of house. 

It’s looking fab

I have been working on mum stuff. It’s coming together. There is a whole lot to do and many phone calls to make, but I think I’m getting there. Sympathies keep coming in, which is lovely, and it does feel very strange not having to call her every morning (pretty much on the dot at exactly 9.30) to hear her cheery voice. But, to be honest, that is also a relief. Like most older people living on her own she was never too far from domestic catastrophe. I remember a couple of weeks before she died (when we were still in Chatel) we had a conversation about a persistent cough that she had … which, I think in the end, did for her. Bless her.

still running, whatever the weather

I have been sacked from ghostwriting. That’s harsh, but it is pretty much the nub of it. I am three stages removed from the decision making process, so I sense much is lost via Chinese whispers, but the best my mate can give me (and I know he’s trying his best to resolve this in our/my favour) is ‘the publishers want their own ghost writer’. OK. That’s fine, but there has been no explanation as to why I can’t be it, bearing in mind I’m a no-cost option. If they don’t like my style, that’s fine, but it would be nice to hear that from them. So I better get on and do something else. Just for the sake of it, I might publish here what I’ve written so far. It’s about 20,000 words and, I think, the start of a fascinating story. Let me dwell on that.

Oh, and I fixed the car. She is still under warranty and the garage was prepared to take her in and sort the problem. But it’s a faff of a journey, so I did it here. Apparently the Mk3 Ford Focus has a water ingress problem, which we noted in the boot and the rear seats. It’s a design fault, which I won’t bore you with. But to fix it I had to remove the rear bumper, remove four rubber vents, dry out a couple of compartments, drill two holes in two rubber bungs, seal (which they weren’t) the four vents back in place, and then put the bumper back on. Done! And I really enjoyed it. It was all very satisfying.

I fixed the car

And last night we had a lovely supper with our landlords (P&K) and another army couple, who we know well. The husband is one level down from ‘a master of wine’, which is a big cheese in the wine industry. He generously brought a selection of fine wines which we quaffed as he explained their backgrounds. It was great to catch up with old pals and get slightly sloshed at the same time. As a result we were slightly worse for wear this morning … oh well.

someone’s cooking

On, on. I’m picking up Mary from Godalming on Friday. She’s with us for the weekend. As a result C’s baking and cooking for Europe. And at the end of next week we’re off to mum’s for a week of admin and (gulp) her funeral. I hope that goes as well as can be expected.

Stay safe everyone. 

Almost, but not quite, back to normal

Well that was a lovely weekend. We had C’s sister Annie down (with two Jack Russells who were better behaved than their breed might suggest). And then Jen and James popped in  today for Sunday lunch. Roast lamb was enjoyed by all. It was particularly good to see Annie. We walked the estate on Saturday morning ending up at the Vestry cafe, which is in the village (Uley). It’s not what you expect … in that you might think it would be a bit vinyl table and polyprop chair. It is not. It’s all heavy wooden furniture and tasteful decor and the food and coffee is lovely. Well done them.

Annie cam down …

That capped off a week where, as best we could, we finished off mum’s affairs in Great Bentley, and we registered her death in Colchester before heading home via Mary’s. I’d like to think I have come to terms with the whole thing, but I sense that I have not. Out of sight is … well, you know the saying. I guess we’ll have a relapse come the funeral. And, back home, I have spoken to the banks etc and I am just one more ‘tell us that your mum died’ communication from finishing the whole sorry affair. That’s tomorrow’s job. And then probate. That’ll be fun.

My ‘registering mum’s death face’
we found a nice cafe in Dursley

It is fab to be back in Dursley. The house is pretty perfect and the grounds to die for. We have been out on our feet a lot – I have run twice. And it’s always a pleasure. There is so much space and so much wildlife. We have two resident buzzards and there was a red kite overhead yesterday. Cassie, Jen’s dog, had a half hearted attempt to chase a deer as it dashed out in front of us across a field earlier today. There are sheep and owls and moles and who knows what else. And it’s all so open. We are residents so we can walk any field we like and that makes us feel immensely privileged. Fabulous.

I washed Annie’s car, and ours. And I started to look around Doris, to make sure she’s in good nick (after a ‘no advisories’ recent MoT – yippee). She needs a good wash and I might get round to that this week. I’m keen to get away in her but I feel that C will be more inclined to enjoy her new home, which is wholly understandable. I think we might end up breaking clean in mid-May with a trip to Scotland. We’ll see.

Cassie came for lunch.

In the meantime I’m waiting out for my mate and his book. It’s been over three weeks now which, in many ways, has been a fortuitous gap, as it allowed us to entertain Bex, Steven and Henry in Chatel, and then for me to be with and then process mum’s death. If I don’t have an answer (on the book) by the end of the week, I think I’ll start to get a little anxious. If the answer is ‘no’, I’ve got a job to do to work out what I do next. If my Bill Brysonesque writing style (for Guy’s book) is not what the publishers want, then maybe it’s time to hang up my fountain pen and try something else? Perhaps. 

We’re off to London on Wednesday. My late brother Kevin’s younger daughter Grace has just graduated from drama college and her show is being put on in a theatre in London. C and I are staying with her cousin Eva and we’re all heading out for the evening. How lucky are we? And then, on the way home on Thursday, we’re popping into Windsor Castle. Friends of ours have a job there, of which I will regale the details when we next chat.

Until then, stay safe!

A few tears …

I think many of you will already know that we lost mum on Saturday. I’m not up for a eulogy, but it’s safe to say that she leaves a hole which – as you’d expect – no one can fill. You only get one mum. In the end she died peacefully and pain free in Colchester General, having lived the life she wanted to live. At 89 that’s pretty much as good as it gets and we have so much to be thankful for. Bless her and may she rest forever in peace …

… and a huge thanks to the NHS, Colchester General and Langham Ward. Everyone has been fabulous. 

I think that mum’s process over the past year from ‘steady on her feet’ to really rather poorly and then not with us, has taught me some lessons and, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share those with you just in case you’re heading that way anytime soon.

First ‘Careline’ are/is fabulous. They operate throughout the country and provided you have a landline or wifi, it costs around £20 per month for an older person to have a wristband or necklace with a big red button. They press the button when they’re in distress and, via a loudspeaker, an operator calls them, assesses the situation and phones their next-of-kin (me, in this case). I think I’ve spoken to them ten times in two years and every time they have deployed a medic, who triages and, if necessary, calls an ambulance. If you don’t have live-in carers it’s the next best thing for peace of mind. I can’t recommend them enough. 

Next is UTIs, or urinary tract infections. Old people, men and women, get UTIs. It’s all about hydration, cleanliness and incontinence. They get poorly pretty quickly (lethargy etc) but, most of all, they can quickly make no sense … as if they’ve taken LSD or something similar. Dad used to see things. On Monday Mum wanted to know who the lady in pink was with the baby, pointing at an empty chair. From there they can deteriorate very quickly and a UTI can very easily turn into sepsis, which will likely kill them. The madness is (no pun intended), UTIs are cured quickly with antibiotics. The problem is getting an old person, who is not thinking straight, to take their medicine.

Bottom line, if your elderly loved one starts to make no sense, get them to a doctor as soon as possible. It can be easily sorted. It was a UTI which put mum in hospital. Deeper, underlying things killed her, but the UTI was the spotter.

Finally, when it comes to making decisions about the elderly, insofar as care/care homes etc, try and take as much time as possible. For many, and I include us last summer, we wanted a quick fix – actually, as we had to get Henry to Saudi, we needed a quick fix. In retrospect I probably didn’t spend enough time thinking through what was best for mum which, of course, was best for us. I regret that, but thankfully no harm was done. 

Thanks for listening, by the way.

We’ve got a couple of more days here … a meeting on Wednesday to register mum’s death. And then we’re back home via Mary’s mid-week. Some of you may wish to know when the funeral is. It’s planned for Monday 27th March at 3.30pm at Weeley crem, followed by tea at St Mary’s church in Great Bentley. You’re more than welcome to attend. 

Other than losing my mum (cheeky grin) we’re fine. It’s a strange old life, isn’t it? Doubtless there will be plenty more tears. In the meantime I’m reaching for my glass of cider.

Keep safe everyone.