Masterfully Miniatura

Over the years assorted journalists have asked assorted visitors to the show how they tackle the problem of seeing everything, given that several thousand people are trying to do the same thing at the same time.  The strategies to avoid the queues are as various as the visitors.  I remember once as a visitor myself, when the show was held at the Motorcycle Museum, standing in the queue next to a lady I recognised as writing for an American miniatures publication that was very famous at the time.  As the doors opened she put her head down and ran to the stairs and downstairs to the lower level.  I ran with her, this being my first experience of anyone actually running into a dolls house show (though I have seen the phenomenon plenty since then).

Why are you doing this?’  I gasped swallowing the unspoken addition – you mad fool you –.

Everyone starts at the front!’ she gasped back, sprinting.

I subsequently employed this very successful technique myself when planning the strategy for interviewing exhibitors and often it worked, I managed to visit stands before they were four deep in shoppers and grab the items to be photographed and run.  It only worked early in the day, of course.

There are also some exhibitors who are so popular that savvy collectors get there early because they know the best stuff will be gone.  Here is a wonderful item from Masters Miniatures which I have a horrible feeling I am dooming to an early disappearance just by showing it to you but as this might be the only way you see it, here goes.

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Oh how badly do you want that for your study?  And I’m about to make it worse……

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Oh yes, early bath for that item, I think.

The visitors I admire most in terms of strategy are those who buy the brochure at the entrance and then remove out of the rush and calmly stand with a pencil marking the floor plan.  I think they must be able to see most of what they came to see, which really is a feat.  If every stand were blown up to full size it would be like visiting more than one hundred shops in one day and trying to see everything in them.

Thank goodness it’s Miniatura which is planned not just with room for the stands but with wide aisles for the visitors.  I remember long ago when Dolls House Shows used to be held in hotel foyers with everything crammed in, two toilets for everyone, and visitors shoving and pushing.  At one point in the hobby, for a few years, I could guarantee that I would go home from a show with a terrible headache.  Moving the Min to the NEC which is purpose designed for lots of people all at once, solved the squash at a master stroke.  There are restaurants actually in the hall and plentiful toilets and seating areas and piped air and space the final frontier.  I don’t think I could go back to squished up shows, I’m getting too old and too used to shopping and exhibiting in a civilised manner.

Long live Miniatura!  (It’s the show that puts out the red carpet for the visitors, you know).

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www.miniatura.co.uk

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Midweek Miniatura.

Who can you expect to see at Miniatura at the NEC?

grandpa

Julie Campbell’s Grandpa, soaking his feet.  That’s who!

After a weekend at Miniatura we could all join in.  If you’re coming and you’re walking, you’d be well advised to wear comfortable shoes.  Julie Campbell, long time Miniatura exhibitor with her Bella dolls, trades now as Julie Campbell doll artist and you’ll find her in the Miniatura Brochure under J.  Julie is famous for making a Mum doll who starred in a TV advert for a telecommunications company.  You can find her online at www.juliecampbelldollartist.co.uk and see the famous doll for yourself or you can find her at Miniatura on stand G2 and ask if her Grandpa really did sit with his feet in a tin bath.

Don’t people have strange relatives?  My mother soaked her feet in a plastic bowl which I have now inherited. (The bowl, not the feet.)  I do not know of anyone modern who soaks their feet but if it’s you get in touch, I’d like to know.

Incidentally if your feet are not up to walking round the show, did you know that blue badge holders can get a free wheelchair by pre-arrangement with the NEC?  There are also mobility scooters for hire and disabled toilets.  Once in the hall the show is all on one level.  An aspect of the hobby which has always seemed very right to me is that it is open to all, you do not have to be ept ert and a general winner to join in, as long as you can get to the NEC there is lots of help available if you have mobility problems.  More details at www.thenec.co.uk

I have been busy with the 2 inch and under collectable dolls.

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Here they are, gosh there are plenty.  Stood up against a cotton reel individually they resolve into a variety of porcelain dolls inspired by the collectable dolls of our collective youth.

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They have to be our collective youth because I never had a Greek soldier doll or  a Dutch doll and I was too old by the time those lovely rag dolls that came with adoption certificates were popular.  Many of the collectable dolls are making an appearance thanks to photographs from collectors who have taken a camera into the loft and had a good poke around in the old suitcases.  If you would like to send similar photographs I will take them under consideration because the hobby is all about the toys you didn’t have, they ones they took off you and those that turned up missing.  Get them all back again at Miniatura.

I’ll see you there, meanwhile I think I had better get busy with a new addition to the collectable doll stand to house these

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www.miniatura.co.uk

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Miniatura news

Bels Mini World 1

How do you like them apples?  I think they’re great.  This is a new exhibitor at Miniatura: Bel’s Mini World.

One of the features I really enjoy about Miniatura is that there are always new exhibitors and, because it’s Miniatura and there is a rigorous entry process, they are always good exhibitors. 

Years ago when I used to write for paper magazines, I discovered that some of the new exhibitors were sometimes very disappointed.  Having got their expectations up after being invited to exhibit at such a prestigious show, sometimes visitors missed them in the rush to see all the familiar friends and artists that were already there.  I started trying to interview all the new people every show, so that at least they got a mention in a magazine and didn’t feel so left out.  In the days when the hobby and the show was expanding rapidly there were often a lot of new exhibitors, once I interviewed 27 new artists in one weekend, many of them in languages I did not speak, whilst simultaneously running my own stand.  Interviewing them meant just that, often waiting till they had a lull in sales to chat and then taking some of their work to the photography studio to be photographed and collecting it after it had been done and returning it to the correct stand.

Dearly beloved Joyce Dean, magazine editor, followed me round one show.  I said: Joyce, are you following me round?  She replied:  Yes, we were all having bets as to how you managed to do it.  But I can see how you do it now.  You run.

Dear reader, I did.  Sometimes it took three days after a show for the soles of my feet to go flat again, they used to be so swollen.  I had relative youth on my side, slightly.  The work generated kept me writing for whichever magazine it was for six months until the next show.  I also interviewed regular exhibitors too, though I never managed to get to everybody, there were just too many.

Then artists began to say that it was lovely to be in a magazine but it was, unfortunately, after the show.  What would be helpful was some way of telling visitors what to look for before the show.  Simultaneously visitors used to complain that if they had only known the artist had been going to take the miniature depicted in the magazine to the show, they would have gone and had a good look before some other collector bought it and spirited it away to be part of their collection never publicly to see the light of day again.

So I thought and then I cogitated and I wondered.  Oh if only there were some free access media system where an artist could send me details of their work before the show and I could show everyone…………….

And the rest, as they say, is history.

EH Miniatures

EH miniatures’ squirrel will also be seen for the first time at Miniatura, it will probably have eaten all the matches by then.

There is much to look forward to, stay tuned for the next fortnight.  There will be frequent updates because it’s Miniatura and it’s great!

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www.miniatura.co.uk

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Miniatura

I am back!

I feel as if I have been wandering in the trackless desert for four and a half years.

But now, I’m back.  I still haven’t had the length of time to prepare that I’d like but already, sandwiched in between solicitor stuff look…..

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At last for the 2 inch collectable dolls collectors, here are Red Riding Hood and the Wooluf.

Actually Red and the Wolf are just over one and a half inches tall, they could be children in 24th scale.  I made these dolls in reminiscence of the collectable dolls which kindly aunties used to bring me from foreign holidays abroad in the late nineteen fifties, when getting on an aeroplane to go somewhere was quite a novelty.  On planet Jane, as I don’t like flying, it still is.

But I did eventually have a collection of dolls and when I got talking to other miniaturists, I found a lot of other people had such collections too.  Sometimes they had lost them or given them away.  Some poor collectors were forcibly made to give up their dolls ‘for the poor children’ or because they were ‘too old’.  

You are never too old to make a collection of anything.  Collections I have found to be a font of knowledge and a wellspring of learning.  Right up until the point where you can’t move for collectables and are ready, on your own, to sell up and start a new collection.

And, of course, you are never too old for dolls, for trains, for models, for all the companions and friends of your youth.  You never have to lose your old friends just because you make new ones.  Hobbies that transport you to a more carefree time: lower your blood pressure, calm you, cheer you and just generally make you happier.  Hobbies are good for you, I am living proof, I could not have survived the last few ghastly years without somewhere else to put my thoughts.

I made the collectable dolls small, so you don’t need much room.  If you’d collected a 2inch doll from me every time I exhibited at Miniatura, you’d have over fifty dolls and they would still all fit in a shoebox.

I am now embarking on the next four 2 inch collectables, I’ll show you when they are done.  As always these are porcelain dolls which are jointed, the legs and arms go up and down.  They are china painted, the properly sewn clothes are sewn on to the dolls and they will last for hundreds of years unless you take a hammer to them.  And they still only cost fifteen pounds each.  And they always will.  A dressed, original artist, collectable porcelain doll has been available from me for fifteen pounds for twenty five years and will be so for as long as I’m making dolls.

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Oh collector, what big eyes you’ve got!  (Come and have a look at Miniatura, the best dolls’ house show in the world (author’s opinion – and that of several thousand other people))

www.miniatura.co.uk

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Stay tuned for news of other exhibitors because ………….. I am back!

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You put your whole self in……..body donations from a relative’s perspective.

It’s happened to me twice now, discovering that someone close does not want a funeral but wants their body used for medical experimentation.

Some time after my father died the university that had received him held a service of thanksgiving for the families of donors.  This was a very suitable occasion prefaced with some remarks by a speaker from the university about donors who considered their body totally theirs to donate without reference to their next of kin.

This really got to the heart of the matter.  When I first discovered that my father had left his body to science was when my cousin and his wife, ransacking what had just become my mother’s house, for the will, while she was in hospital, discovered the will and I read it.  This is not really a piece of news you need to digest with onlookers keen to see what they are going to get.  On the other hand this is something that needs to be discovered quickly.  Death is not an event, it is a process triggered by the stopping of the heart and circulation.  For some time some automatic systems carry on; hair and fingernails can continue to grow while there is cellular nourishment available.  Other systems decay or change state very rapidly, blood congeals, some areas collapse, gas builds up.  All sorts of changes can take place in a dead body which can be varied for many reasons.  To be useable for research purposes the body needs to be as fresh as possible.  For example, if you are training surgeons it’s no use them having a go at dissecting a vein or inserting a stent in a body that has turned to mush.  I’d like the surgeon who inserts a stent into my artery to have practised on one as like my living blood vessel as possible.  I’d like medical students to be able to recognise something as near to a healthy heart as possible so they can spot what is unhealthy about my heart.  Equally if I am undergoing a disease process, I’d like the example they are working from to be as fresh as possible, I’d like the person scanning me to have seen the real thing in a body as soon as possible after death, so they can spot the difference and see how far along the path I’ve gone.  You can learn from textbooks, you can learn from videos, these days you can probably learn from virtual reality, but I’d like the doctors who treat my body to have learned from real bodies as often as possible.

This is what body donation is about, all over the world.  Doctors are no different from any other worker, they get better by practise.

So, here’s a question.  Who are funerals for?

No marks if you answered ‘the deceased’.  There is no doubt that it may give you comfort when you contemplate your mortality to picture a very lot of people, preferably hundreds, gathered round having a jolly good sob at the horrible thought that the world will have to struggle on as best it can without you.  We all like to think we make a difference.  But really the people to whom we most make a difference are the old N&D.  Even if it’s just that they no longer have to fetch your slippers and resist the urge to beat you up with them, it’s going to affect them most.  Who knows, they may have been rehearsing your eulogy along the lines of ‘He was a git but he was my git’ for years and have honed it to perfection, twelve minutes including the extract from your favourite, very meaningful, pop song.

So the very first thing to do, if you are contemplating donating any or all of your body to medical science after your death is talk to your relatives, not least because they will be the people who have to make it happen.  You have to actually address the real practicalities, you cannot just airily write as my father did, ‘I leave my body to medical science if possible’ in your will and hope it happens.  If you do so it will turn the days after your death into some kind of terrible breakneck race against time and, in my case, against the threats of relatives and some incredibly bad behaviour.  At the very least people will be surprised, at worst they will be shocked and behave accordingly.  It’s a good idea to leave your body: if you’re young and healthy, organs can be used to help others live, if you’re old and healthy you can be used to help to train doctors to help others to live, if you are diseased your disease can be studied to help others live.  Facing the truth that the world will go on without you and making plans to help others with the body you have stopped using is a wonderful way of making sense of the horrible fact that we are all mortal.  But first, please talk to your relatives, you may be surprised to find they are nearly as attached to your body as you are.

If your relatives are either OK with it or can be talked round to your point of view you then you need to get online and find out how to do it where you are, and then share the information with the N&D.  The difference between the aftermath of the death of my father, where the body donation came as a complete surprise and the death of my mother, where I had everything set up and could set events in train with three phone calls, was incredible.  The first contributed considerably to the grief and shock, the second contributed considerably to the feeling of a dignified process, well carried out.  The first time, I did not know who to contact and had to discover everything on the go with a sick, bereaved and confused mother to support at the same time with relatives hanging on my heels at every step.  The second time I had already spoken to nearly everyone involved, the coroners were a surprise but helpful and professional and because all agencies had had pre-notification, everybody quickly found the file and they all talked to each other.  It was easy for me because I had made it easy long ago.

Just because you have decided to put your whole self in doesn’t mean it will happen.  Parts of you may not be acceptable for reasons of health hazards, if you have died of something infectious from tissue sample for example.  You may die in a location which means that you cannot be got to the receiving place in time before you degrade.  This time will vary depending on your geographical location.  If you will go dying somewhere hot and remote, you are probably stuffed, as it were.  If you die before a lengthy public holiday when the receiving location is shut and all the medical students are nursing a hangover you are probably stuffed as well.

So you can’t just go arranging to be donated and think that’s it.  You will need to make plan B for when circumstances prevent the donation, too.  In the worst case scenario you may be landed with the same misfortune that befell my mother, the brain was acceptable but the rest was not, so I had to arrange a donation and a cremation.  However because I had spoken to the funeral director years before to investigate the situation, he was professional, helpful and already cognisant of all possibilities.  He said that it was a pity that most people only talked to funeral arrangers when they had a body to hand, so to speak.  It isn’t just those adverts on the television about paying for your funeral on the instalment plan who can help.  Your local funeral director would probably like the money a bit at a time as not at all, too and it might be cheaper without a finance company involved who have to pay for television adverts.

If you are able to make an entire body donation it may cost you nothing, with transport and storage costs paid for by the receiving agency, though you cannot discover after your relative has croaked that there is little in the kitty and suddenly decide to donate them to save on the outgoings.  In fact you cannot decide to donate someone else at all.  Even if they are really annoying.  No, not even that annoying.

The cost of funerals varies but will always be more than you think, wherever you are.  You do not have to have the standard item.  Funerals are for the living (did you get that question right, earlier on?) as a way of drawing a line under the past and obtaining that nice modern thing, closure.  They are not for the dead person.  The dead person is, well, you know, dead.  Whoever was there has gone.  If you are not sure about this, there are websites which document near-death experiences.  These contain the testimony of people who have clinically died and then due to the advance of medical science, been brought back to life again.  They include people who died on operating tables, in accidents and so on.  In every case they were revived and able to say what happened next.  I have read many such evidential reports and not one single one says they were trapped in their body after death.  Every single one says they left their body immediately after death.  Find them with a search engine and read them yourself.  After death what is left behind is just a body, nothing else.  The person you loved is gone.  What is left is a body, nothing more.

So what are you going to do with yours?  Are you going to be the corneas of a child and a nice ceremony for the rest and your relatives?  Are you going to be training for young doctors who will remember dissecting your artery and know just how hard they can push to get the stent in place that will keep a heart going?  Or are you going to be the glass coffin, the black horses with the ostrich feather headdresses, the lengthy eulogy you’ve written yourself, the brass band and the slap-up meal at a five star hotel for the grieving relatives tastefully attired in a selection of the latest hats, in black, with veils and lovely black fishnet tights ( for the one who once starred at the back in the TV soap crowd scene.)? 

The choice is yours if you make it in time.  It’s almost certainly the last choice you will have, so you might as well get what you want and then tell people so they know that’s what you want and can help you to make it happen.  With a bit of forward planning you can do something wonderful every day of your life, even the last one.

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Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it.  Malcolm’s speech in Shakespeare’s Scottish play.

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Yet more rubbish

Hello again.  I know I said I would write about making a donation of bits of yourself after death and I will do so.

At present, however I am deeply enmeshed in all the practical things that have to be done after someone dies.  When my father died the accounts and papers for the house had been kept in order by someone very old looking after a demented person and a demented person having a quick shuffle of the papers just because.

For the last four and a half years the papers have been sorted out by someone reputedly sane (me, that’s me I’m referring to) so it should be easier.  Stuff such as agencies who still haven’t managed to cancel their direct debits have to be dealt with as the problems arise, however.  I spent the whole morning doing a list of addresses of beneficiaries for the solicitor.  There were many, most of whom have not been near for the last four and a half years, needless to say.

I am doing what I set out to do at the very beginning, which is to do as much as I can each day, which is easier now that I’m not having strange phone calls late at night because when I stop to rest, I know I can do so.

Now I have stopped I am so tired but last thing at night I look much less like a panda, which is an improvement.  When the weather gets warmer I shall get outside and do some digging.

And soon, too soon, it’ll be Miniatura.

Hooray.

I know I sound tired but I am glad it’s on the horizon and this time I’ll be able to do it without my mother feigning sudden heart attacks or whatever to stop me going, so that will be better.

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Miniatura March 25th and 26th NEC full details www.miniatura.co.uk

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The penultimate dementia diary.

I expect you’ve guessed from the title.  I couldn’t blog it any sooner until I had made sure all friends and relatives had been informed of my mother’s death, a fortnight ago.

She actually died of a chest infection and hasn’t been cremated yet because the virus is everywhere; if you’re wanting a funeral in a rush in the UK at present, it won’t happen.

As I last wrote, it looked as if she was on the mend but she quite suddenly worsened.  They sent for the doctor, she stood up out of bed and then literally dropped dead on the spot and five minutes later I rang.  So it was all a bit of a shock.  It was, however, exactly the way she wanted to go, no ambulances, no paramedics, no machinery, no pain, no struggle.  Just one minute there and the next minute not there.

Because she died on a Friday, events became time critical.  In order for her to make a successful brain donation she had to be at the receiving university within a certain number of days; there was an intervening weekend on which nothing can happen, and because there was a DOLS order against her there had to be a coroner’s inquest.  Also the care home manager had suddenly left that morning and the deputy had taken over.

Fortunately I had everything written down and had given the care home the written procedure and all the phone numbers, which they easily found in my mother’s file.  At my house I followed my own identical list and three hours after the death had spoken to all the professionals involved and had put them all in touch with each other and with all the relevant information.  I had not had the coroner’s office on my list, but they were helpful and professional and told me that an inquest could be a paper investigation rather than a physical post mortem.  That afternoon the coroner emailed me a statement of Truth for me to fill in saying what I knew.  I filled it in and sent it straight back and an hour later he was able to tell me that he had spoken to the doctor who had attended my mother ten days previously and received evidence from him and that the meeting to hold the inquest would take place early in the week.  I rang all interested parties, the bank, the Department of Work and pensions and the Inland Revenue and all pension providers.  By teatime I had stopped all incoming money and then rang the solicitor.

I also rang the undertakers who were on my list, who, aware of the situation speedily received the body and stored it to maximise the chances of the donation happening.   When I originally made enquiries, some years ago, they said that a whole body and brain donation would be usual.  Since then regulations had changed because of the dementia; whilst the brain donation would be even more welcome for dementia research, the body was now classed as a bio hazard.

I will write in the next blog about donating a body after death.  The OH worked as a medical scientist for many years, so I was aware that research situations can be dynamic and severely constrained by health and safety at work considerations – you probably couldn’t plate up a microscope slide while you had a fag on the go at the end of the bench anymore, I expect, though you could in the 1970s.

So my poor dead mother went off to the university and then most of her came all the way back again, assisted by the undertaker, the coroner, and the university and by the time she came back the coroner had finished his deliberations and registered the death himself.

Two weeks later we have cleared my mother’s rooms and have to have all the furniture here until probate.  We met the solicitor after I had spent a week and four days with the dining table covered in papers, so that I was able to hand over everything necessary in chronological order.  The solicitor said I could probably do everything myself and I’m quite sure I could too but I handed it all over very willingly and received a couple of certified copies of the will, one of which I took to the bank the day before yesterday.

All I have to do now is send out photographs to the family, as I did for my father, to provide closure for those who have no funeral to attend.

And then I’m done.  Four and a half years working every day without a break.  When I look in the mirror I look like it, but at last, I can rest.  It’s been hard but I am not ill as I was when my mother-in-law died, I am also not in debt, as I was then, for which I am thankful.

Most of all I know I could not have done more than I have done.  My conscience is clear, if I were an ancient Egyptian my heart would be light as a feather.

I hope you can see that if I can do this you can do it too.  Dementia is spreading like a plague, it seems to be taking hold in every country in the developed world.  Thirty odd years ago when I had cancer people crossed the road to avoid speaking to me because they didn’t know what to say.  Right now people are frightened to speak to people with dementia, they are terrified of the disease and don’t know what to do.

But you do, you’ve read the blog, four and half years of it, you know that if I can care for my difficult, critical and frequently aggressive mother, every day for four and a half years in another town more than an hour away and at the end just be tired, you can contact the person you know with dementia too.  Send a card.  Pop in for five minutes.  Do what my 102 year old aunt did, phone and say you’ve just put the sprouts on to boil and excuse yourself if the conversation takes a tricky turn to go and see to your sprouts.  Send love, send good thoughts.

I have been struck by the number of number of strange communications I’ve had since my mother died, from people who headed for the hills in terror at the beginning.  To a man they are now troubled and upset people.  Please don’t do this to yourself.  If you even just managed to send a birthday card and a Christmas card to the demented person, they would notice and be glad; my mother was.

Because it’s bad enough to have a frightening disease without being isolated too, and who knows, until all the research is in and we know what’s causing it, although I hope it isn’t, it could be me, it could be you.

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And rest.

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Happy New Year.

A belated happy new year from me.  Thanks to the mild weather there seems to be vast numbers of horrible germs going around, plenty of which, I’ve got.

And so has my mother,  Last visit, I rang her in the morning to remind her we were going and she was fine.  By the time we got there she was a bit croakey, by the time we left she had a well-established chesty cough.  The care home was great and got a doctor and antibiotics for her at once but now she is on the mend she is absolutely evil.  I rang at lunchtime when I finally stopped coughing long enough to get up and learned that she was starving, had been wickedly abandoned, was no way going to press the buzzer beside her bed for help, they could all rot and I could ring the office, stamp on their toes, spit in their eyes and call them some really bad names she couldn’t be bothered to think of now but I could and was instructed to be inventive.

I wasn’t at school with my mother, which goes to show the good Lord limits misfortune for all of us in some ways, but I have thought for quite a while that it is probable that her CV includes a lengthy stint as school bully.  I remember from my childhood when I was bullied by a much bigger girl, my mother’s amazement.  ‘Why don’t you,’ she asked, ‘just reach up and pull her hair really hard?’  I never made the classic rejoinder: With which arm?  The one she was twisting or the one she was standing on?

So I did ring the office and politely expressed my concern and advised them gently of my mother’s mood.  I have every confidence that they can deal with the problem and grateful that I no longer get embroiled in such difficulties as I used to do when she was cared for at home.

Have you ever felt that the first few days of a new year can give an indicator of what is to come?

I am hoping this year will feature more problems that magically vanish as I get closer to them, such as the mouse.

Cleo brings in mice and loses them, easily.  Russell tracks them down.  Last week he kept putting his head in the kitchen cupboard whenever I retrieved a plate.  I have yet to find a cat with a keen interest in crockery, though I’ve known a few furry students of tin openers.  I remarked upon it to the OH who had also noticed the feline plate inspector and, he thought, a smell.  So when I finally surfaced today we took everything with great trepidation and rubber gloves out of the cupboard.  First we emptied the bottom shelf, filling a bag for the charity shop in the process.  I washed the shelf, we put the plates back and then I surveyed the top shelf.  Mountaineering mice?  Hmmm.  Jumping mice pursued by a cat?  Very possibly.  With even more trepidation I emptied the top shelf as the OH had an urgent recorded comedy TV programme he’s only seen ten times to watch.  And for LO!  Nothing.  Hooray.  What would you call the opposite of serendipity, you know, the expectation of something awful that turns out to be the discovery of nothing?  Well whatever it is, I had the pleasure of it.

And then the bottom fell out of the kitchen drawer again, so I took it out and mended it.  Just like that.

Are you familiar with the dinosaur behind the door in the dark that turns out to be a coat on a hook when you put the light on?  After the last few years, I could think of a worse theme for the year.  I hope all your tyrannosaurs turn into car coats with an abandoned bank note in one pocket and a pair of gloves that you thought you’d lost in the other.

Happy 2017.

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Can you remember when no one was sure how to spell millennium?

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Christmas day.

It started badly.  There was a phone call at nine.

Well!’ exclaimed my mother, ‘why has no one been to fetch me?  I expect you are knee deep in turkey and I am alone on this desert island!  I am disgusted!’

Happy Christmas.’

‘Oh don’t go happy Christmasing me.  I’ve been up since six, they made me go on the bus to another house.  Where is my house?  What have you done with it.  I walked to your house, I saw you cooking the turkey.  WHERE ARE MY PRESENTS?  Where are the staff?  The cook has mickeyed off and I am left on this desert island.  What do you think you are doing?  You are evil, evil, happy Christmasing me.  Why has no one told me the arrangements?’

I have written the arrangements on the card with Rudolph on it.’

I cannot possibly find it in this jumble of junk, someone has been moving everything around.  Have you been here moving things?  I hope no one comes near me today.  I will tell on them.  Why are they starving me?’

And so on.  You get the general idea.  Halfway through the tirade she pressed something on the phone which, bizarrely, stared to play Fur Elise.  After a couple of minutes of it I hung up.

I finished feeding the cats and started off upstairs.  The phone rang.

‘What was that music?  Are you trying to fob me off?’  and so on for another half hour by which time I was late getting ready to go and didn’t want to anyway.

But we went, after lunch, as arranged, told for a fortnight and written in the card with Rudolph on it.  Fortunately the roads were relatively empty, though not necessarily empty of relatives and one lone lorry driver from Albania.

We arrived, the car park was relatively empty too.

I knocked on her door with some trepidation but all was well.  She was up and dressed and we had an hour to spare and the room was not disarranged but fairly normal.  So I washed her hair while the OH wandered around muttering that he didn’t know how to child-proof a room, though he managed quite nicely and by the time I was drying her hair on the curlers she was chatty and cheerful.  I took the curlers out and gave her her presents and she loved them all, especially the royal blue all lace dress with the matching slip, high neckline and scalloped hem and sleeves.   I hung it on the outside of the wardrobe as instructed so she could enjoy it and then the family arrived as I hastily combed her hair through.

And it was OK.  She gave the present I had brought to the baby who was excited to open it.  I distributed various presents while the S&H and the DIL answered the same questions multiple times beautifully.  I went up to my mother and murmured in her ear to ask if she wanted to give the elf to the baby.  She murmured back that it was hers and no one could have it.  But for lo with cries of great pleasure the baby found the elf for herself.

The S&H remarked that it wasn’t her elf and she had better put it back but for even more lo, my mother said as the baby liked the elf so much (which was fairly obvious as she was kissing the elf and cuddling it) she had better have it.

A Christmas miracle!  (Yes it was, don’t argue.)

At which point, winning, the S&H suggested they leave having been there three quarters of an hour, everyone agreed and they did.  My mother got up to wave them off at the door, the OH took them down in the lift and let them out.  He returned, I took the empty bags and we departed having reassured my mother, who had become anxious, that the baby would being the elf back next time she came.

In the car on the way home the songs on the radio were Christmas songs from the late 1950s and we sang all the way home.

So it all went better than anticipated up to the point where the OH left me to go and drink round at the house of a couple of heavy drinkers, which is why I’m sitting at home alone on Christmas night typing this.

So, a bit of a curate’s egg, good in parts and not a disaster and therefore, under the circumstances, OK.

But I’ll have to get up early to go back to the posh supermarket where I got the elf, to see if he has a friend.

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Happy Christmas from Jane’s little self elf group.  (You and me against the world.  As usual.)

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Christmas – will we or not?

This is the fourth time I’ve written about Christmas for the demented.  The first two times I arranged it at my mother’s she was well enough to enjoy critiquing my efforts, mostly approvingly, though I scored poorly on a few fronts.

Last year Christmas was cancelled by the doctor on Christmas Eve when she became dangerously hysterical.  She phoned frequently through the day, although sedated, to express her opinion that I would go to hell and deserved the trip.  We had Christmas a week later when she was better.

This year the arrangements are that we will meet the expectant parents and the great granddaughter at the care home for an hour in the afternoon and that I will take the present, that we will turn up early to child-proof the room and ring the S&H and tribe to warn if she is dangerous.

I could already feel the problems drifting in the wind.

I had decorated her room including a brightly coloured stuffed elf to sit in the Victorian fireplace, which is black.  The plan to which she wholeheartedly agreed, after I had washed the fireplace and put the elf there, was that she should, in addition to the main present, enjoy giving the elf to her great granddaughter.  We left her last week talking to the elf.  By Tuesday it had become a present someone had given her and it was her elf and no one was getting it and anyone who was thinking of parting her and the elf had another think coming.

Last night she rang at ten to explain for an hour how ill she was.

And today when we arrived she wouldn’t get out of bed.  It took me ten minutes or so to find out how to fill her hot water bottles.  They used to be microwave bottles but they were banned after reports of explosions during heating, which was a pity because there is a tiny kitchen along the hall from her room with a microwave in it.  Today I couldn’t find a kettle anywhere but finally located a hot water boiler for tea making and filled up the bottles.  Back in her room I placed one by each foot.

She lay in bed hardly speaking.  This is bad.  You know my mother is really ill when she goes quiet.

Four days to go and she is lying in bed not speaking.

The OH has arranged to go to some hard-drinking friends on Christmas night and do some hard drinking.  After we come back from whatever occurs between a one and a half hour drive there and and a one and a half hour drive back.

I think I remember Christmas being a happy time instead of a worrying time or a lonely time but that was a long time ago.

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The rising of the sun and the running to and fro.

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