Major (Retired) Colin Ladley – rest in peace

Dad left us on Wednesday. I got a call from the nurse late on in the evening that his breathing had become very shallow and if we wanted to, we should get to the hospital asp. We quickly agreed to leave mum behind … she wasn’t in a fit state to come with us. C and I got in the car, drove out of their road when I noticed that the car’s lights weren’t working. That is they were on with main beam, but not on dipped. Bugger. And then there was a further call from the hospital and dad was gone. We turned the car around and went home.

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Since then we’ve been sorting stuff – medical certificates, green cards, death certificates, undertakers, vicars, crematoriums, churches, people, pensions, picnics (taking mum out) etc. The list is pretty endless, but thankfully between us we have managed to maintain our humour – just. Mum has been better, although it’s probably fair to say that we’ve tried our best to mellow a little.

Dad, what to say?

What few people know was that he’s the son of a farm labourer. Poorly educated, left school at 14 and after a spell of National Service stayed in the army where he made his way all the way through the ranks: from private to major. That is no small achievement. He is widely respected among his regimental pals (the accolades keep coming in) and him and mum were loved by almost everyone – they were generous with their time and always on hand when other military families were struggling. Dad retired early and they bought a pub, which was very successful, and then they ran a series of post offices/shops retiring into Great Bentley … and golf.

And golf was huge. Dad became both the veterans’ and main captain of a posh golf club (did I tell you he was the son of a farm labourer?) in Stoke-by-Nayland and a major pillar in the village. Unfortunately dementia stalked him for the past five years, with the last 18 months being particularly frustrating. In the end, at 88, it was a blessing that his time ran out.

As a dad? I think it’s fair to say that I come from a generation where mums brought up the children and dads were more shadowy figures in the sidelines. As such, dad was always there … and always a gentle man … but not the beacon of advice and support that we sort of expect from dads nowadays. He was a figure to be admired, and to emulate. But not someone with an obvious metaphorical knee to perch on. But, we didn’t expect anything else. And I can tell you that it hasn’t done me any harm. Far from it. Before I was old enough to take my own control, I had a lighthouse to follow. And follow it I did.

So, thanks dad. Thanks for your example – straight and honest. Thanks for putting your hand in your pocket when my car needed new brakes at Sandhurst after I’d spent all my cash on beer and women (and so many other times). Thanks for pointing me towards the army. Thanks for being there … and whilst I rarely asked for advice, I always knew that you’d drop everything and listen intently. And thanks for never being anything other than you.

I miss you. I hope you’ve found the organ and are giving it everything you’ve got. And that you’ve found Mags (C’s mum) and give her a hug from us.   

What to write?

I’ve just deleted a paragraph talking about His Donaldness and right-wing supremacists … he doesn’t think it’s a problem –  just a few people. Grrrr. And then I paused and was about to pen something on Theresa May’s insistence that she’s allowed to ask government to vote again for the third time on an unchanged EU Breixt deal next week, whilst there’s always a sharp intake of breath anytime anyone suggests that we go back to the people and ask them what they think about where Brexit is heading.

But I didn’t.

So I thought I write something on the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who started the whole Friday school-strike malarkey on climate change, which has spread to 1600 cities in 105 countries. Apparently she might get the Nobel Peace prize. If she were a British student she would only be allowed to collect the prize once she’d finished 1,000 lines – I will not play truant, even if the water levels are above my knees – to be completed on Monday afternoon detention.

But I gave up on that.

Instead I thought I’d come closer to home. First, Dad is in hospital with a UTI. Apparently if you have dementia and get a urinary infection it can send your mind into all sorts of places it shouldn’t be. We’ve seen him this afternoon and he is very weak. Both C and I would be surprised if they let him home anytime soon … which might mean that he finishes his time there. That would be very sad, but when your Dad is as tired and confused and as unhappy and frustrated as he is, and at 88 and having had a full life, that may not be so awful. I think. We spent a couple of hours with him today. We got him out of bed, gave him a wash and a shave and, having fed him, left him to his sleep.

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I forgot to mention that we spent Friday and Saturday night with R&C (many, many thanks) … and Burgundy, who is clearly v comfortable.

Mum is fragile and a little confused, but coping really well. Their carers have been brilliant – immensely flexible and very helpful. We are all lucky there. Whether she can cope full time remains to be seen. A day at a time.

On a more upbeat note, we’ve booked our flights too and from East Asia. Over a six week period we fly (via HK) to Seoul, then to Singapore and finally from Hanoi to Seoul, and then fly home. I’m not a fan of flying. It’s nothing to do with being in the air (or, indeed, plummeting out of it), it’s the environmental impact. There are other choices, of course. Like don’t go. Or buy a camel and take a bit longer. Neither of which are great options. Anyhow, we shopped around and, in total, the cost of all of the flights is £900 each. Which I don’t think is a bad price, although we’re probably got seats in the hold.

Notwithstanding catastrophe here we have a week of work at Jen’s and then I have two days at the school at the end of the week … and then a weekend free. And then, mid the next week, we’re off to Scotland for a couple of weeks in Doris. Hurrah … blooming … hurrah.

Can’t wait.

Then I make things up

It’s tough here, at Mum and Dad’s. They are resolutely stuck in the house. And so they should be. But every time we visit, they become frailer and frailer. Dad’s dementia is getting worse – we get asked the same question time and again. Mum is a stalwart, but she can’t see (much) and struggles to shop. Between them they are in a pickle. But they do not want help. And they certainly don’t want to move. As our good friends in Kent told us (and they’ve been through this, so they should know), you just have to wait for a catastrophe – and then come in and mop up. It wasn’t said in an uncaring way. It just is as it is. But it’s blooming depressing.

The good news (selfishly for us) is that we are just three days away from catching a ferry and heading off to southern France. It’s our usual trip. Down to the bottom – finish the book, and back in time for Christmas. It’s a tough life.

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Words from book 4

Talking of book, I’m 105/120k word complete, and so close to finishing. I reckon I might be there before we get on the ferry. Which would be fab, because it means we can take the next 5 weeks at a slightly slower pace and I can work harder at the edit. Which is fun. Let me share with you a couple of Twitter quotes. First, ‘I’m an author. I get out of bed, drink coffee and then make things up’. How true! Second, ‘You can’t edit what you haven’t written’. How true – how true. I just write and write. And then pick up the pieces on the same day (a running edit), and then much later on the first edit. And then, as often as you like after that.  Final Twitter quote (I think it’s Stephen King): ‘Your first draft is telling the story to yourself.’ That is also true.

Am I excited? Easily as much as I was at the end of all of the previous three books. I’m still short of a title. It might have the word ‘Armageddon’ in it. Of a bastardisation of ‘Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war.’ Which is a Shakespearean quote. We’ll see.

Finally we had a fab evening on Friday back down at Wells. The (student) symphony orchestra with singers gave us a Broadway evening. And it was extremely special. Until you’ve heard these young people play and sing, you can’t quite get how good they are. We had a very special evening indeed.

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a fab evening

Back down the West Country tomorrow to pick up Doris. Via Mary’s, then Richard and Caroline’s before we catch (hopefully) a late Wednesday night ferry. Can’t wait!