Worries

For the first full week of the new decade it was not as new as one would have wished.

I needed to phone the plumbers at the end of Wednesday to remind them to visit but instead sat chewing my fingernails waiting for an emergency call from the doctor following a bit of a cancer scare again.  The doctor said the earliest he could get me an appointment at the hospital was the day before the check-up I had scheduled in a fortnight anyway, so we agreed to sit it out, at least he agreed and I went along with it and was too late to phone the plumber. The next day the builder asked if I had chased the plumber up……..

Well you get the general idea. So I decided to stop hitting the ground running first thing and go more sedately, which seems to be helping the health situation.

Remission from cancer is a great deal of wait and see.  Knowing how terrified I have been has helped me to stop beating myself up for not seeing my cousin before he died, though I would have tried to go if he had invited me.  I did ring to speak to him and was told to go away because they were having a dinner party.

So it is that old regrets and fears sometimes follow us into a new year. At such times I take comfort in the fact that the start of the year is an eighteenth century construct to do with calendar change to cope with old systems of time measurement being at variance with the time of the planet.  The real beginning of the year is as celebrated by astrology, which measures Aries as being the first sign of the zodiac and the start of a new year in a couple of months from now.  That will feel like the start of things in the Northern hemisphere as spring wakes the world and this year, particularly, a return to a less drastic weather situation in Australia.

Meanwhile here I have two lakes of freshly poured concrete in the dining room, as you do.  I also have newly poured concrete in the downstairs toilet, with permanent cat footprints in it, because curiosity makes the cat from next door pop in to have a look while the builders are sitting in the garage having a cup of tea, having left the outside door open, enabling Felix to go and have a look down the drain pipe at floor level because he is a cat and it was an open drain pipe.

The OH and I are coughing nicely and it is on our chests because everything is covered in a film of plaster dust no matter how often you wet dust every surface.  So in addition to being frightened I am tired because I couldn’t lie down to go to sleep for coughing and eventually fell asleep about two, sitting up/  And I missed writer’s group and I can’t write anyway because I am paralysed by fear.

So I have been sitting in the front bedroom making greetings cards from kits because it is fairly mindless.

Today we walked round the house to assess what still has to be done.  Three A4 pages still have to be done, this is without installation of the new lift and staircase.

And when it is all done and all decorated and all the furniture put back there will be a house we can live in to old age, if I get there, even if my knees give out.

How is your year going so far?

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Yet more junk

This will not be a long posting, there are two rooms to empty before the builders get started on some demolition in the centre of the house.  Yesterday and the day before were the same, when did I acquire all this stuff? I blame television shopping, it’s incredible to realise that twenty years ago, last century I hadn’t heard of it and now I could start a shop of my own with all the clothes I have bought and all the craft stuff.  Paradoxically, having got the room, I think I will now stop shopping.  A lot of it was consolation, sitting at home alone.  The people on the TV selling you stuff are not your friends and a working mirror will convince you that the garments that look so good on a size nothing nothingy nothing six foot tall model with perfect skin, six inch heels, under forty with hair down to here, will appear somewhat different on a five foot one, size quite a lot, spotty, hairy, grey hair not covered up, elderly lady like me.  I rarely appear in photographs but if I do I most closely resemble in stature the Queen, in fact we are the same height and much the same figure type. If she bought the gear from the six foot model, her hems would be trailing on the ground too.

So having decided it’s all too much, I really ought to throw more of it away.  A lot has gone to the charity shop, more to go.

I have been up and downstairs so often I should be thin like a greyhound.

However I am not.  There would be something either hilarious or touching about an elderly midget trailing up and downstairs with a load of junk, were it not me.  Also what is needed is a lift, really, to transport the heavy stuff, like bits of furniture.  But I am moving the bits of furniture so we can demolish the chimney and have a lift instead, except that my greatest need for a lift is before I put the lift in to help with putting a lift in.

I appear to have hit the ground running. 2020 tired already. But it will be worth it. I hope the house will be future proof.  I hope doing it now when there is still the will and energy to do it will mean that I do not have to make awful decisions in a rush such as I had to make for my mother. I hope we have enough room for people to come and stay if help is needed.

But most of all what I would like is the thing I wanted all the last terrible ten years, I want a place to write, to make dolls, to sculpt, to do hobbies and I would like to do all those things for thirty years or more.  I would like to put the bad health behind me and discover a settled outlook.  I would like to lose the fear that long ill health brings with it.

I have stories to tell you and would be glad if I had made a place to do  so for many decades.

What would you like for the next decade?

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The decade.

It was the teens, wasn’t it?  Redolent of everything rubbish we associate with those years of our own lives: Crackers fashion, utterly lost politically, altruistic for the planet, the homeless, the dispossessed and pants at doing anything about it, all whilst struggling with bits sprouting, bits dropping off and difficult parents.

I don’t know about you but I shall not be sorry to see the end of the twenty teens which have been a personal trial like no other decade except my own teens, when my appalling mother did everything she could to stop me leaving including locking me up and starving me.

The decade kicked off with the realisation of what the OH had.  I consulted a couple of doctors and then joined Al-Anon.

Then the decade started in earnest in 2012 for me with my father’s death precipitating numerous difficulties.  When he died I discovered that he had changed his will and left his money to my three cousins who were to be his executors, inherit his money and ‘manage’ me.  This was changed by my mother before the official dementia diagnosis, or my cousins, all living at a distance, would quite certainly have put her in a home instantly and thrown away the key, she would not have the money from her own house to keep her because they would have split the £500,000 which her care cost, between them.  In the will I also discovered his wish to leave his body to medical science and had to fight my cousins to make that happen, I am also quite certain he did not wish to be dissected by students, I believe he meant to be an organ donor and then I had to deal with all the enquiries about when the funeral would be.  Then my cousins arrived after a snotty email saying they had to be allowed in without let or hindrance, a phrase used by bailiffs, and they arrived mob handed with photos off the internet to distract my mother while they ransacked the house.  I actually think all of this was the wellspring of the cancer that killed my cousin.  A guilty conscience is a difficult thing to live with.

Then there were the five years, one broken arm, that came with being carer for a demented person at a distance.  The whole saga can be found under dementia diaries, click on the side panel.  This was the second time I had been carer for the insane at my own expense, even though I didn’t have any money.  Half a house the first time, a whole house but half a million pounds the second time and cancer after each time.  The second time it was the second broken arm, including the wife of the doctor next door labelling me ‘disabled’.  Then there was the cancer diagnosis after being sent home from the exploratory surgery three times when they ran out of time.  Then the surgery,  Then the adhesions and 20 months in and out of hospital before diagnosis, every time terrified that it was cancer again somewhere else because of all the bruises that blossomed on me, hugely and endlessly as my intestines backed up.

And throughout it all the OH drank, hours and hours each day getting rattier and rattier and nastier and nastier.

Also the S&H and the DIL married the day after her father had died, turning joy into misery.

And I had the cats for five years but now the S&H has them and they are miserable, terrorised by the cat next door and covered in fleas.

And I have lost an inch in height and my trousers are dragging on the floor dear.

And I am a decade older.

However, friends are beginning to say I look better now, even though, because they were friends, they never said I looked awful.  I think I look better despite being ten years wrinklier, lumpier, hairier.

So it is with just this final backward glance I leave this utterly awful decade, determined as I am knocking on, not to have to look after, minister unto or anything, else, anyone else.

There is one thing in the whole of this teeth gritting, flipping get on with it, shoulder to the wheel, back to the wall decade that has been a blessing, a pleasure and anticipated happily every week.

JaneLaverick.com.  It has been going a decade and three months, through it I have found you.  Through it I have found good friends, had hilarious emails, supportive emails and kind messages.  Because of it I have shared wisdom and found viewpoints from around the world.  If I hadn’t known (but I did) there is always someone worse off than you.  For every problem faced by ordinary people there are a range of solutions.  Most of all, you are never alone.  This wonderful Internet has enabled me to lift as many people in dark times as have lifted me.  Even more it has enabled me to reach out with laughter, right around the world.

I intended to promote artists, share a hobby and maybe sell some dolls.  In the course of trying to do that I found that there are nice people all over the planet.

Do not let the news in the newspapers and the News on TV drag you down. Do not allow teaspoon-shallow influencers and mindless celebrities to make you feel inadequate.

What JaneLaverick.com has evidenced is a decade of meeting lovely people and sharing a laugh round the world. There are perfectly ordinary, perfectly lovely people everywhere. Thank you for being one of them,

Happy new decade,to us all!

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Happy Christmas from me and Frisco.

Finally the skip has skipped off, so have the builders, for their fortnight break.

There was a bit of a panic when I climbed up into the new loft to put the second sun tunnel window out of harm’s way.  The stuff that goes missing on building sites is nobody’s business.  Greta Thunberg would have a fit at the stuff that gets repeat bought and the stuff that gets chucked on skips (of which more later.)  So, seeing the sun tunnel lying around I popped it up the loft ladder, and for lo!  Daylight.  Two little triangles of daylight.  I got the OH to confirm the daylight, which he did.  I got the builder to confirm the daylight, which he did.  Then those that had made tiled the roof came and declared the triangles to be caused by the angle of the tiles on the sloping bit.  Then there was daylight round the bit on the old roof where the chimney has been removed, so they fixed that.  Then the joiner fitted all the lock plates in the new door except for the old bathroom door whose lock plate has turned up missing after being on the same windowsill for months.

So, one way and another it was this morning before I got out to photograph Frisco in situ.

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How jolly mysterious is that?  Makes you want to open the gate and slip down the alley to a mysterious kingdom of intrigue and dragons and what have you.

Actually that’s just me putting a filter on,  Unmysteriously what’s behind the wall is the dustbins and in actual light Frisco looks like this

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and closer up like this

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not very mysterious at all, in the wall, in the location he had to be for technical building considerations, as to how many bricks above, below and to the side of him to make it work.

And you can see all the bits round the bottom of the garage wall where the path has to be finished and so on.

But there he is, what do you think?

As to the skip, having been self-levelling in the matter of stuff being nicked, it then reversed the trend by stuff being added.  First we got a room fan, then a microwave, then a lot of boxes.  The skip was growing at such a pace I begged the builder to arrange for it to be collected before we acquired a forest of Christmas trees.

Which is about as festive as it is going to get round here.  I refuse to drape tinsel on brick dust, and as I am still feeling very bereaved and struggling with it, it suits me this year to be covered in brick dust and busy busy busy.

The OH has bought me a huge lump of limestone for Christmas. Almost as good as the year 33 ago when he bought me my first bucket of mud for doll making. Come the summer I will be out in the garden with a chisel.  Recent experience suggests that the ideal place to do limestone sculpture is not here, Jane.  The OH is still grumbling that his shed is lightly covered in stone dust.

So, as we all do at this time of year I am packing up the old stuff in my mind and looking forward to getting rid of a load of baggage by bashing a rock with a hammer.  It’s good for you.  I fancy a sleeping griffin.  Maybe. If it turns out good it will go on top of the arch if I can find several strong men.  The block weighs eighty kilos.

If it is rubbish it will go in the back garden and acquire a cluster of pots in front of it.

If it is any good you will see a photo.  About June probably.

Look forward, new decade, new work room, new dolls, new sculpture.

Happy Christmas.

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It all makes work…………….

Do you remember the comic songs of Flanders and Swan?  They had one called The Gasman Cometh in which each tradesman who arrived created a problem that required the work of another tradesman.  The chorus was ‘Oh it all makes work for the working man to do.’

I thought this was hilarious and fanciful at the time, now I know it is funny because it is true.

In my beautiful new work room I have painted three walls and the ceiling white and one wall as green as green can be.  Against the green green wall of home will stand a radiator composed of 44 tubes in a enamelled bronze colour that are decorative on their own and will cast interesting shadows as the light moves round.  On the opposite wall are a wall of cupboards with glass knobs that cast interesting shadows as the light moves round.  On the ceiling twin three spot lights that cast interesting shadows from the radiator and the knobs as you move round.

So cometh the plumbers after three days of turning up and buzzing off.  They cannot put the radiator on the wall; it is too heavy.  So the wall was knocked out in two lines and replaced with two battens strong enough to hang the radiator.  Then they plastered.

Everywhere.

So the plan was for me to paint again.  Then I had the vomiting thing again. Oh how heartily tired I am of that.  You cannot paint a wall when your intestines are acting up, all you can do is lie in bed and sweat.

This AM, quite a bit better, I have got started.  I have to get three coats on and dry because they are coming tomorrow AM to hang the radiator.

Then there is the soil stack. , Have I told you about the soil stack?

I haven’t got time, I have to get another coat on now this minute to be able to do the next one and get it all dry by tomorrow, other wise they will come, look at a wet wall, shake their heads and disappear.

Oh it all makes work for the working Jane to do.

The OH has joined in.  He is painting the ceiling of the downstairs loo so the electricians can put a light in there.

How our ambitions shrink in life as we age!

All I want for Christmas is a working toilet with a light.

It feels like one step off a pit and a cover.

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The horns of a dilemma

Is what I’m on.  Conflicting advice and viewpoints.  Tricky.

When we moved in to this house 33 years ago we inherited a strange pipe.  It comes out of the bathroom wall and disappears up into the ceiling.  As we had just moved in and were skint, what we did about it was nothing. At the time we had a seaside themed bathroom so I hung a whale bag over it, as you do and that was that.

Fast forward to the architect pointing to the pipe and asking me if I would like to get rid of it.

I do not trust architects.  Let loose with a pencil whilst enjoying a pint and a pickled gherkin, they could come up with anything.  They could visit Egypt, look at Paris and get daft ideas.  My late father, builder, always used to complain that architects never designed to brick sizes.

When we were at the stage of demolishing the outer bathroom wall, prior to it becoming an internal bathroom wall there was a chance to inspect the pipe from the side.  Turns out to be a cast iron soil stack bending round a steel RSJ holding up the roof.

The first plumber shook his head, sucked his teeth and said ‘Ooh no Jane, don’t touch it.  Cast Iron pipes can shatter just like that.’  So we ordered a concealed cistern toilet preparatory to boxing in the pipe.

The second plumber said, ‘Ooh Mrs Laverick, you don’t want to go hiding that, that’s asking for trouble, left alone they can spontaneously disintegrate just like that.’

Then two plumbers took my shopping list went off to the plumbing suppliers, brought back three radiators and disappeared shaking their heads.

I have watched some videos of people dismantling cast iron soil stacks.  You do need to be strong, however if you hit it in the right place………….

On the other hand, the planned second bathroom will have to plumb into the existing waste system.

On the other other hand we have lived through three earthquakes here and my stack has not shattered yet.  (Sounds like the lyric of some desperate Country and Western song, doesn’t it?  In the third verse the stack will fall out of the wall demolishing a cow that was minding its own business, roll down the hill into a river where it will give a beaver a headache and thence to the sea where it will enthrall a small eel, but only briefly.  And the cowboy doing the stack song will just have to shit in a bucket, such is life.)

My other toilet suffered damage early in the build when I believe someone stood on it to reach the light in the ceiling.  If I am not careful here the cowboy might not be the only one very inconvenienced.

So I called the plumbing firm and asked the receptionist to call out the MD as I believe either plumber getting it catastrophically wrong is a worry well above their respective pay grades.

Meanwhile I have agreed with the builder that after Christmas if I have manage to clear this

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we will be able to lift the concrete floor and see what was done when the downstairs loo (on the other side of the wall) was plumbed in and with what and connected to what made out of which material.

Meanwhile, meanwhile, what I really need is the building equivalent of the bendy camera on a wire that was bunged down my throat with such enthusiasm at the hospital, so I can see what is going on in the intestines of this building.

Supermarket shoppers are starting to stop me to say in tones of surprise,’but you must be nearly finished by now, surely?’

When I am twenty years older and still living here I will be satisfied that I have got to the bottom of everything and that there are no nasty surprises coming out of the walls.

It will be a happy situation arrived at by myself putting in the ground work for it.

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Rubble.

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This is my dining room, three weeks before Christmas.

Oh yes it is.

The rest of the house is worse.  In the next two weeks the chimney is coming off and down in the loft too.

Today I have got a first coat of paint on the new work room upstairs and tomorrow a painter arrives to do the front bedroom.  I have a white speckled face, to to be more accurate, a silk finish brilliant white speckled face, because I haven’t used a roller on a ceiling before and I kept looking up.  I have painted rooms for fifty years but not with a metal arm, (I usually used a paintbrush) so a roller seems like a good option.

I am writing the second novel while the first coat dries.

So if you could please excuse me not posting very frequently, I’d be grateful.

Still got a skip on the drive, it will be filled with the chimney soon, so I will still photograph the arch and the head in it, when I can.

I spent Friday out of it a bit because I did that vomiting thing that has landed me in hospital so often.  I phoned the doc to tell him and get it put on my notes, in case it needs surgery and then I starved myself for two days, which is what they have always done in hospital.  It’s quite an effective pre-holiday season diet, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m off for an early night.  Builders, plumbers, painters and other similar trades all arrive at crack of dawn this time of year because they are dealing with rooms with no electricity and short days.

And it is costing a bomb.

But.

At the end I will have room to work, in the light and bedrooms for the grandchildren to stay when they get a bit older and all the misery of it will be worth it.

I hope.

Christmas smistmas, haven’t got time this year, but I am so glad I made 70 Christmas cards in August.

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Beleaguered.

When the family up the road had their house improved, we visited to assess the possibilities.  They told us that they lived there for most of the build except for the last couple of weeks when they decamped to a nearby hotel.  I thought then that was a little strange, surely if they had survived the bit where the walls were knocked down, the bit where the plaster goes on would be subsidiary, misery wise to the initial stages?

How educational is life!  Walk a mile in my one slipper, one fashion boot (because pairs are under a tarpaulin, somewhere) and find out.

The OH is on the happy pills, I am permanently cold and cannot eat without coughing because my digestive system only works within a certain tolerance.  If I were a seal hunting under what is left of the pack ice, I’d be stuffed.  I’d be stuffed even in a vest and scarf.  I’d be stuffed in a vest and scarf sending out for pizza, I so would.

The plasterer needs to come in both front doors and walk up the stairs with multi-gallon buckets of water, so he cannot possibly be blamed for leaving the door open.  While they were on their break I popped  up to use my own bathroom but the plasterer was in it, plastering. On the way out I would have turned the lights out had the switch not been just a mass of wires sticking out of the wall.

The side door, which is now back on again, has a large gap between the floor where the wall used to end and the new wall, which has footings but not much else.  However today egress from the building is assisted by the sun room door which is wide open as the fitters fit the plaster board for the plasterer, obtaining access through the dining room which has no ceiling but everything which used to be my doll business piled upon it.  The door between the dining room and the outside is permanently open, so ideal in November when you live in what used to be an open plan house but is now an open plan building site.  To think I complained two weeks ago when I stepped out of the shower on to rubble.  Wimp that I am.

The head that I sculpted is in the wall, when I get a minute I will take a photo over the skip and let you see, though it is currently draped with a drape to protect it from fall out from the roof until the last course of bricks goes on and the scaffold comes down, though I think it will have to go back up again to remove the chimney which I have determined cannot stay if a lift is going into the chimney at ground level through two floors.  The lift will happen if there is enough money at the end.  Financially this is future planning.  If our collective knees go or any other bodily part, being able to go upstairs in a lift might avoid having to sell up and move to a care home.  I remember my mother stopping halfway up the stairs, looking like a person climbing Mount Everest last thing at night and how happy she was to see the lift in the care home was right opposite the door of her flat.  I also recall the carers who looked after her at home costing £13,000 a month.  Installing a home lift will cost £25,000 ish. This sounds a lot until you work out that’s only two months care bill and suddenly it sounds like a bargain.

I could have continued as we were, investing the money to pay towards help, though at current rates of investment the same amount as all the building, invested would yield £250 a month.  This is such a drop in the ocean of care costs that it makes sense to invest the money in the house instead, not only adapting it to our changing needs as we age but also making it more saleable for the S&H when we pop our clogs.  I will always be grateful that my parent’s house was posh and quality and therefore easily saleable.  That meant it was easy to mortgage to get the money to help her when she needed it.

A quick look at politicians in general and a quick drop in the grocery basket of the boy begging outside of the local food shop makes you realise more than ever that the best person to help you is yourself. Throughout my mother’s dementia I was the cavalry through forward planning.  I am now putting all those skills I acquired to my own use.

There will be extra rooms for carers if I go nuts.  There will be a lift to go up and down in if my legs fail.  There will be an extra bathroom if my guts turn out rubbish.

There is a ton of insulation, there is a big south-facing window.

I hope for a publisher.

And then, in the future, for many years I will be able to sit in a warm room and write, unlike the wind tunnel in which I am trying to type this, but I can put up with awful a bit longer because the forecast is sunny.

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Talk to the hand

I finished the hand clutching the brick at the end of the week.

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The brick is an actual brick, the hand is Milliput.

I thought the bricklayer was going to build the arch on Friday but he doesn’t want to until the scaffolding is removed from the side of the house, in case dragging the scaffolding down damages the arch or the sculpture, which sounds reasonable.

We have been unbelievably cold recently.  We do not have a side door to the utility, which includes the bit of wall with the glass panel.  We do have a wall there now, closed off with a wooden board with a huge gap at the top and bottom.  We live in an open plan house and the weather has dipped below freezing for several days in the evening.  The side door cannot be replaced in the utility until the scaffolding is down, either. The scaffolding cannot come down until the corner tiles for the dormer are up.  The corner tiles for the dormer were due to be couriered to the site last week.  The builder, who is on holiday in Spain for the second time during this build, has been unable to urge the tile manufacturers by telephone from abroad, which is a source of amazement to the lads on site, who have done their best.

Have you seen a film called The Money Pit, with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long?  Exactly like that.  Exactly.

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Fortunately I have the finger to give them all.  Four in fact. And a thumb.

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art and that

I have finished carving the block of limestone.  I really enjoyed it. Here he is, sitting on a tin.

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What do you think?

He is one of the flint knappers that lived here 2,000 years ago.  I keep turning up his leftovers ever time I dig the garden.

He has a really risky earring, so when the wonderful bricklayer rebuilds the arch, Frisco will be recessed into the bricks so he is coming out through the wall and protected from the elements.  I have rung the stone suppliers to ask what I can do about protecting him from pollution because we now live on a busy main road.  It wasn’t when we moved in but it is now.

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Frisco is going to sit on the table while I make his hand, grasping a brick. I am going to make the fingers with Milliput, the two part epoxy resin which is referenced elsewhere in the blog.  I’ll show you that when I’ve done it.

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