Saturday, 25 May 2019

A Happy Day

Ann and Grandad-John at The Mill
Yesterday we should have been in France. We had booked the hotel in Dover for Thursday and Friday nights, and the ferry for a day trip, but our plans were sent cock-eyed by the unexpected illness of Edwin. On Tuesday, he had high fever, swollen tonsils and tender glands the size of marbles, and couldn't swallow. He was started on antibiotics, but on Thursday was worse, with soaring temperature and his glands the size of golf balls. We had to take him back to the doctor, this time with a diagnosis of severe glandular fever. He will be highly infectious for some time and has had to cancel his appointments at university - though he is so ill, he has been confined to bed anyway.

So yesterday, with his temperature down a little and able to sip milk, we went to the Mill at Sudbury. It turned out to be a perfect day, although unexpectedly in England. The sun was warm, we had cream tea with G-and-T on the balcony (though just Coke in my case, as I cannot take spirits now), and walked leisurely in the meadow by the river.

A new otter at Clare
In the morning, I took the dogs for their regular walk in Clare Country Park, where they have installed a number of new visitor notices, including a huge carved wooden sculpture of an otter, much admired by the curious dogs.

Relaxing in the garden today over a bowl of soup and a refreshing Crabbies after cutting the lawn, I was reminded of a story my mother used to tell when we were little. The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle relates how she wished fervently for a slightly better place to live, but on being granted her wish, kept wishing for someplace even better. Finally she wished for a whole palace, but the granter of the wish was so fed up by this time, that they put her back in the vinegar bottle! I think my mother used the story to discourage over-ambition, but lying in the sun listening to the birds I am reminded of how I sometimes wish for elsewhere, and forget how much I already have.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Team work

My son Ben and his family stayed yesterday, and we subjected them to an entertaining evening of Eurovision. We went to the Flying Shuttle for lunch, to leave them conveniently on the road back to Shropshire, but in the carpark Ben noticed he had a completely flat tyre, in a car with no spare. It was already past two o'clock, and to the surprise of all of us, there is no mobile tyre service in the UK! He phoned the AA, and they too are unable to repair tyres, though they offered to send a breakdown truck to provide a lift back to Telford. Edwin found which tyre services were open on Sunday; grandson Luke confirmed the Newmarket Quickfit was closest, just 11 miles away; Matthew phoned to check they had a tyre of that size and offered to bring one down from Kings Lynne; and Ben  pumped up the tyre with a hand-pump and some goo to try to block the hole, while his partner Kaz phoned the AA back to cancel the breakdown truck. We then went to eat while he drove to Newmarket, stopping every so often to re-inflate the tyre. Finally he phoned to say he was on his way back, and we ordered his meal to be ready for him.


I am tired of morbidity
and endless pessimism,
Life was meant to be lived
not in some dark vacuum,
but in the hope and optimism
that there are better days ahead,
and, should that seem a false dream,
well, there is an easy way - DEATH,
an ending, a finality
succumb then with final breath—
or smile at strange life,
welcome it with open door,
see it through to acid end.

All too often in life we panic at any set-back, or make rash, unsensible decisions, or argue about the way out of a problem, with friction, bitterness, and lack of accomplishment the only outcome. It was wonderful to see how well a clear objective can be achieved with a great team working in harmony. So in life, if we can set a goal and work together to achieve it, we can achieve a good outcome, without rancour or recrimination.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Learning to socialise

Ann and Edwin have now taken possession of their new cars. Down the road, another neighbour who is the nosiest man I know, was so impressed he shouted up the street to Edwin to ask him about them. He then said "wait till I get my shoes on!" He had been in his socks, but rushed up to Edwin when shod to quiz him about the cars, adding that he had never liked Ann's old one! He will often stop his car and wind the window down to find out what we are doing, and he can spend hours in the middle of the road gossiping to another neighbour. This I can never understand, as the most I usually grunt is "good morning", if anyone greets me, and I hurry on my antisocial way. But last night I went to a "men's night" at our local pub.

This should be nothing unusual, and most writers might neglect to mention it; but for me, this was a first. This is a small group of local men, all with many years of life experiences, some widowered, some not, who meet from time to time. Another neighbour phoned unexpectedly to ask if wanted to go and I broke my usual habit of refusing to socialise and joined them.

Four were there when I entered, but as the evening progressed several more joined the group and we migrated to a larger table, pulling chairs in for each new arrival. I said when asked that I would have a bitter shandy. "Yes, but what do you want to drink?" they asked. All were drinking beer of one sort or another, bar one - a man even older than I, very rheumatic, who had been an engineer with my host and was staying with him. He was drinking Coke, explaining that he was on so many tablets he had to stay off alcohol. The evening finished with the table drinking whisky chasers, which again I had to decline. Alas, my renal failure is too severe now to risk knocking it further out of kilter; both brandy or whisky argue too fiercely with my internals to make the enjoyment of them anything more than a very short-lived business, so it is easier to decline.

I shall not bore readers with details, but it was a companionable evening, with not a word of gossip or of Brexit (or any politics at all, which was sensible). It just shows that one can change even a life-time's habits with a positive outlook, and I look forward more to living again, rather than in the gloom of anticipating death.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Byron meets his match

Resting on a log in a glade in the Nuttery whilst walking the dogs, a voice coming down called, "Oh, your dogs are loose. Mine goes for other dogs!" I called them to me and a women entered with three dogs, one on a lead – a huge black Doberman cross-breed called Roxy. Byron gave a low growl ready for a good bark, then saw Roxy and the growl died in his throat. The dog towered above Byron. She didn't bark or growl, but stood with mouth gaping, great teeth bared like a crocodile's grin, and a malevolent glint in her eye, but then trotted off in obedience to its owner.

So too, I thought, do our plans fail when the rising growl of excitement is choked off, frightened by the threat of reality.  Our early bright dreams faded in the dark reality of life in a dark world; and so many of our ideas were crushed by the first set-back. It is time to reclaim those early enthusiasms and not let the threat of difficulties overwhelm us, nor the looming teeth of adversity in living choke us off. We should strive to live the dream.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Recovery time

Susan and Brian join us from Australia
Today has been a good day, following the black days. The time has come to say "pull yourself together!", and "snap out of it!" It is too easy to wallow in self-absorbed pity, moping about on the threshold of death. Ann is cracking the whip and I must now do more each day to build up strength, and put age and infirmity behind me. The only choice in life is up or down – I intend to go up for a bit longer yet D.V.  Roll on the good times again. 

Susan and Brian, our friends from Australia, came to stay, full of vigour and determined to progress with life despite their own serious setbacks. They are currently doing a two month tour of Europe, despite the general Australian attitude by youth to oldies, which seemingly is even worse than in the UK. Ann has bought a new car full of youth and pep, and Edwin also has traded in his old car for a Peugeot GT! Let the recovery begin.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Depressions of Age

!!!This blog comes with a warning: Do Not Read If You're Depressed!!!

Mid-summer approaches, and the rising sun is now well to my left, not yet dazzling my eyes. Midsummer's day is the saddest day. Not for nothing is it called the longest day, for it is hard to get through. After midsummer, the nights draw in and cold winter looms ahead. As my steps slow, and even going up stairs grows more painful, I am growing maudlin in mind as in pace. It is good to be surrounded by young people, for the old grow old like me. But there is a dark side to seeing youth: the clear skin and bright eye, the energy and hope and optimism that one loses with age, yet yearns for yet. I remember an SF story, where a rich old man grants a poor boy all his riches, to exchange minds with him. Bernard Shaw too, for all he had achieved, looked back with nostalgia in Back to Methuselah.  I read it when young, and thought it a poor play, but now it resonates, and I look on youth with envy, not with joy, and yearn to run and play again as once we did.  How we took our youth for granted, like a spoilt child brought up in riches, never thinking that his fortune might be spent. The only consolation is platitudes: "You can't turn back the clock", or "You had a good life" or "It could be worse". But you can keep your platitudes and stick them where you will; they do not console.

If Death Should be The End

If death is the end, it is better to die
in the cradle without pain or strife;
yet on we live.
Through thought and writing,
by poetry and art,
in children and friends
we live on.
All we are and all we have been
is poured out through them.

When friends die and children die,
do we then die with them?
It is said that when someone dies,
whole worlds die with them.
We each contain a world of thoughts,
of habits learnt and feelings won,
of loves known and memories earned,
worlds awaiting death.

How little passes on;
some trick of speech,
some memory of a distant day's event,
some happy moment.
How little is the recollection now
of once dear grandparents;
yet all that exists of them may be
that tiny and fragmented memory.
Somehow you try to ingrain it
in children of your own.
But you forget, or they forget,
and though their insidious influence
creeps through your every act,
everything that was and made
that individual fades gradually away
into insignificance,
as surely as their name fades
on an old tomb stone until
one can barely read the scratched out lines.


Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The BBC calls me

An article by the BBC today told of the falling numbers of GPs, to which I responded saying how I would love to work as a part-time locum again, but current regulations prevent me returning unless I go through an intense process of re-training and six months of work under supervision as a trainee. I wrote in to suggest that perhaps there should be a new level for people such as me who no longer wish to be principles or take on a management role, but just offer clinical support to our hard-working and over-loaded GPs.

I was immediately contacted by Richard Irvine-Brown, a BBC journalist, who interviewed me by phone to expand on this. If it does get some publicity, perhaps it will be the start of a new grade and  more retired GPs may be encouraged to return to part-time locum work.

Perhaps I may join them, always assuming I am well enough. I do seem to be increasingly tired, and often spend large parts of the day asleep, with little energy to do much in the garden or round the house. I continue to have diarrhoea for which I have to stuff loperamide (Lomotil) into myself, and although my urine is thankfully now free of blood, it does show large amounts of urobilinogen, a breakdown substance from the blood. None of the causes for this look particularly healthy, so I can only wait and see what develops next in this sad body!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Cuts all round

Last week I was a member of the Labour Party; this week, no longer so. Disgruntled with the two factions of parliament tearing each other apart, I sent in my letter of resignation, and am now a member of the Brexit Party, in the hope that such focus may bring matters to a head and sort out the mess one way or another. For the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be English.

As I age, I find I do more and more "sillies", such as going for a plate and bringing back a cup, or trying to put the milk in the cupboard rather than the fridge. Usually, the sillies are more forgetful than dangerous, but now I have done another silly, this time to myself. Going to the toilet on one of my regular excursions, I generally know my way well enough to not put on the light until I get into the bathroom. This time, I pulled the door shut ready to click on the light, but had not moved my foot far enough over the sill, and the door sliced into my toe like scissor blades. I could do nothing until I had reached the toilet and sat down, for when I need to go I need to go quickly.

Across the floor were little puddles of blood where my foot had trod. I wrapped a handful of toilet tissue round the toe, which rapidly turned red. Finally the flow was staunched, and with toilet paper wrapped round and wedged between my toes I hobbled downstairs to dress it as best I could, with a great swathe of bandage to hold it in place, and a sock over all in case it leaked through to the bed sheets.