Trades

Whilst I know them individually, and they are all lovely people, salt of the earth and so on, collectively I am as fed up to the back teeth with assorted tradesmen as one can be. This one, in particular has had eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenough of them.  Enough of enough, a sufficiency.

It might, of course, also be because I am so tired.  I can’t remember the last time I had a weekend.  They finish on a Friday, early afternoon, with a cheery ‘bye!’, off like a bullet from a gun, dear.  Pubs like to be open, stocked and ready by five on a Friday which is traditionally where the working man will repair to get stuck into wasting the week’s wages straight out of his hot dusty hand on some cold wet beer.

I recall Friday at the works when I was a child.  If you popped in to the outer office the girls were busy.  One or two secretaries, as the business waxed or waned, fully occupied on a Friday with wages.  It was their job to go to the bank on the High Street with a withdrawal form.  To obtain this form they had tallied up the hours worked by each man and the remuneration, differing by scale from apprentice to master and by trade from labourer to bricklayer to joiner.  My father signed off on this and the form was taken to the bank and the wages collected in a blue cloth bag. The secretary doing the collecting always carried a shopping bag, usually one of those over-the-crook-of-the-arm types made of coils of sewn plaited raffia with an embroidered flower on the front.  This was to disguise the fact that she was carrying the wages and to deter burglars, who, it is well known, are terrified of raffia. Back at the office the money was all tipped out on one desk, which had been cleared for the purpose, and the wages counted out into piles, checked, sealed in a little brown envelope, ticked off on the list and assembled in lines, next to the electric typewriter, which had been returned to the desk.

After afternoon tea in the office, all trades would be back in the subterranean workshop, one flight down from the half landing and entrance hall.  One by one, in order of seniority, they would climb up to the landing, then up again to the office where, cap in hand, they would receive their wages, express gratitude and then, if they were nice people, go home to their wives, hand most of the cash over, be given pocket money and be in the pub by five, spending it.  If they were less lovely they would go to the pub first.

Old traditions die hard, despite electronic payment and the rise of wine bars, half past five on a Friday sees the local pubs full of assorted trades, starting the weekend.

Back at the ranch I get an early night so that, come Saturday morning I can rise with the lark and, in the absence of plumbers, builders and assorted others. get started.  This weekend we shopped for tiles to go round the counter top in the utility and the OH, declaring it to be his job, stuck them to the wall.  I cleared (there is endless clearing of rooms and piles of junk), varnished the doors in the downstairs loo and painted the skirtings and the back of the removable panel.  We put up the television holding thingy on the wall, far too high, though it may help to prevent double chins, time will tell.  I did several lots of washing.  We shopped for and bought a new lock for the door into the garage, which the OH fitted and a lovely new handle.  It is screw-on-to-the-thread which will be a massive improvement on every handle we have ever had, which have had weedy little grub screws and falling-off disease as soon as put on.  It is so nice I just keep opening the door.  Because I can.

Then it’s another early night and up at crack of eight o clock, dressed and thinking and ready to let in the plumber and the painter and here we go on another week, and this has been my life since last September.

It will be lovely in the end, it will be lovely.  Despite the fact that I now have a reduced side passage (which may be a symptom of age) and a sewerage pipe down comer in the dining room, currently boxed in with the expanding foam insulation I insisted on, oozing out all over the radiator and floor.  Then there’s the new gutter, now efficiently soaking the front garage wall.  And still, still, still, everything covered in a layer of gritty brown dust even though I spend many hours each week wet dusting.

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

And the householder, apparently.

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Eye see you you,you.

I fondly believed that I had escaped eye injury, as described n the posting below, by the skin of my teeth, or, to be more accurate, the protection of my contact lens.  Until, that was, I woke up yesterday and realised I was seeing double.  Not fully double, just seeing everything with a half image below it, like a customised dropped shadow.

So I rang the opticians who said they were not qualified to sort this out, that it sounded like nerve damage, and the best people were the huge hospital in the next town.

The OH drove me after he had had his coffee because I couldn’t tell which were the cars and which were the half images of the cars.

So we got there at twelve thirty and waited.

And waited.

And did some waiting to practise waiting, which we got good at over the next six hours.

The bit where the staff all walked out in their outdoor clothes, shouting a cheery goodbye to each other, was a bit alarming.

But finally, nearly last person in the building, I got to a doctor, who put drops in my eye.

I sat in a corridor and did waiting (which I was absolutely expert at by then.)

Then he looked in my eye at the back of it.

I have muscle damage and it may get better on its own over the next few weeks.

So I have not got off Scot free, but I am lucky, blessed and grateful, do not have a detached retina or visible damage to the internal structure of the eye and was reassured that it was right to get it checked out, the doctor would have done the same.

As Kylie Minogue once remarked: Lucky.  Lucky.  Lucky.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarg!

Before we begin, can I offer you some warm cheese, lukewarm but raw scallops, or a bar of melting cod with an eye hole in it?

Sure?  I have plenty.

I know I have written previously about the UODAKA (The Union Of Domestic And Kitchen Appliances).  When you wake in a cold sweat in the night, hearing murmuring from the kitchen that will be UODAKA members having a meeting.  I wrote about this when the S&H came back home to live, bringing with him many many dirty clothes, and the washing machine had a nervous breakdown and the cooker came out in sympathy.

This time round it was the new lino that gave them all the heebbie-jeebies.

As we had carefully asked at the flooring shop for the floor layer to arrive after noon, he was, naturally, nice and early at half past ten.

The previous day, the OH having decided to join in with the house makeover, he had had a lovely time with a hot paint stripper and the door into the garage, carefully covering the walls, those he had previously painted, with a nice fine airborne grit of green paint particles, which he pointed out to me today as I was holding the new fridge freezer aloft.

Anyhow, some of the preparation was done for the floor layer laying lino in the utility.  The little bedroom having been done by me was utterly ready, obviously, the utility did not contain the fridge freezer, the OH and the lovely neighbour having moved it last night.  It did not contain the washing machine which the OH and I had moved last night, despite his desire to leave it till the morning and visit the pub to see what it was like, at all.

So it was the lino layer who hefted the dishwasher into the garage and let go.

It was the lino layer who suggested that in the recess where the machines live, he should continue the lino in a curve up the wall in case, perish the thought, a machine should ever leak water.  What?  A dishwasher or a washing machine leaking water?  Nah!  Never, ever going to happen, not in this universe, anyhow.

So the layer laid and he and the OH carried the fridge freezer back in and plugged it in and it went bang.  It  no work. It dead.

The layer left, with speed and eighty pounds in pictures of the Queen and was far up the road and going round the corner when the dishwasher, which was obviously in love with the fridge but had told no one, broke down in tears and then became incontinent, and the dying freezer joined in.

When we had finished paddling and used every mop, sponge, cloth and kitchen paper roll in our possession, and someone (me) had the bright idea of turning the water to the dishwasher to ‘OFF’, we then took ourselves and all my plastic cards for paying to the local electrical goods emporium to have a chat with the millionaires there.

We came home with a delivery date of today and a phone number to ring so the robot could eventually tell me, after several tries to ring it (it was not in, had popped out to the cinema or something) that the delivery would be today about four in the afternoon.

So at eleven on clock in the morning the delivery van hove into view, and after various struggles, the fridge freezer, which had looked so tiny in the showroom and wouldn’t fit through the arch to the back door. but did in the end with the packaging off, was delivered.

And as the delivery men left, emphasising with merry laughs, how simple it was to change the side at which the fridge door hinged.  At which point the washing machine which was washing all the cloths from the previous day, burst into tears and flooded the floor.

The OH had wanted wood block flooring.  I wanted lino, I cannot remember why, something to do with water, perhaps?

For the third time in about eighteen hours we had floods.

Then we set about changing the fridge hinge side because the OH was very very confident.  Saying ‘How difficult can it be? They say there is a thing online.’

In the sales I had bought myself a set of screwdrivers, sockets, handles, wrenches and so on, all very heavy metal tools, because the OH had taken all those that we owned and locked them in his shed and I wanted to be able to do things like change a plug without a trip down the garden.

As this, very heavy, comprehensive, heavy set (did I mention this was heavy?) was close to hand the OH’s stuff being down the garden in the rain, he used this to unscrew the screws.  He popped up the step ladder and put the entire (heavy) set on top of the fridge.  Then he popped down the ladder and wanted to unscrew the screws on the bottom of the heavy fridge freezer.  (Am I sufficiently describing the weight to you?  Are you aware of the heaviness of things?  There was weight involved, and also, in a couple of sentences, gravity.  Keep reading but  please bear the word ‘HEAVY’ as in ‘WEIGHT’ in mind.)  (Keep your eye on it. )  (I did.)

The OH then called his wife, an elderly lady with two broken arms, from another room to assist him by catching the fridge freezer as he tilted it away from him towards his wife.

Yes every single screwdriver, nut, bolt, and heavy metal object fell off the top of the tilted fridge on to my eye.

I ran upstairs screaming, as you do, and thought I had gone blind.

I had not.  Miraculously my contact lens had saved my eye and had been knocked out on to the floor in the flood.  The OH came upstairs to the bathroom with it, saying ‘There you are, the lens is not broken!’ in a confident and cheerful tone.

You know those murder mysteries where the husband is found reclining beneath a fridge freezer with every single one of a very comprehensive set of screwdrivers inserted?

So I went next door, where my lovely neighbour had some of my frozen stuff in her fridge and got a block of fish and held it on my eye and held the fridge up with one broken arm while the OH carried on.

And later I rebalanced the washing machine and emptied the sump and dried the floor and that was my weekend.

I believe a black eye may be on the horizon.

And maybe a divorce.

Even a working utility room.  (No, don’t be silly, the UODAKA wouldn’t allow it.}

I am going to bed early with my eye. which I still have, because I have to get up at the crack of dawn to let the plumber in and the carpenter because the floor layer has now rendered the door too low and the one on the carpeted bedroom just had to come right off.

Why am I having this eventful life?  Some people (of whom I am utterly jealous) get bored.

In a mere four hours I can go and switch on my new fridge freezer, which by then, I am told, ‘Will have settled’ (Like a cat do you think, where you cannot let them out for six weeks until they decide they are home?)

It’ll be talking to the washing machine in the night, I’ll hear it when I come downstairs at four to switch the heating off (the heating controller is a computer- what idiot thought of that?) Next thing you know the fridge will get emails and spam* and we’ll all be off to hell in a handcart,

until the wheel comes off.

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*It won’t actually get Spam.  I don’t like it, or processed meat in general.

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Valentines, lurve, etc.

As Valentines day rolls around like an elderly drunk auntie with a heavy moustache, hiccupping ‘Give us a kiss, love,’ it prompts one to ask:  What do you really love?

I have been thinking about this.

What I really, really love are penny sweets

Sad but true, I always have, my love is unwavering.

I have never met a chewy milk bottle I didn’t like.  I like foamy mushrooms and shrimps and bananas.  Shrimps, which Marks and Spencer renders as Prawns and Lobsters because it is an upmarket store, are actually made of cornflour and flavouring.  All the time I thought I was gluten intolerant I could eat them, they were sweets in my hour of need.  Which is pretty much always.

Like a popstar or an actor who you lust after at a distance, knowing they will be yours but briefly, I recall the taste of some sweets shaped like strawberries that my aunt bought back from a holiday in the Channel islands in the late nineteen fifties.  A one-off delight, sadly, never rediscovered.

I do like liquorice.  I used to be bought, occasionally, as a child, an entire smoker’s set made of sweets. A liquorice pipe with fake smouldering bowl topped with red hundreds and thousands and, naturally, sweet cigarettes, the ensemble finished off by a little packet of tobacco made of shredded coloured coconut, all items tastefully presented in a lurid yellow box with pictures of people killing themselves by smoking on the front and a cellophane window so you could see how realistically you’d be able to ape your elders and betters.

I do like fondant in collusion with liquorice.  You can get liquorice tubes wrapped in chocolate fondant.  What a brilliant invention.

When I was a child and sick (often, with hindsight I was allergic to my mother,) she bought me Allenbury’s lozenges, which were blackcurrant flavoured sucking sweets with a hard jelly consistency. They were to stop you coughing so you would shut up and go to sleep.  They came in a great little tin, which you could keep afterwards.  My mother used to give me the tin at bedtime and then worry endlessly that I would choke to death and keep popping in to ask if I’d stopped coughing, I would reply and cough, obviously.

Red liquorice in long strings is great.  Any sweets in long strings that you like is wonderful.  You have all the way from here to the end to go, such a joy.  I like the long long fondants in liquorice tubes in lurid colours.  Excellent.

I’m sorry but candy floss is disappointing, you can’t actually bite it and it makes your face sticky. In a high wind it can make your ears so viscous that your hair adheres to them overnight and has to be cut off in the morning.

Cutting the hair off your ears is one downside of candyfloss, the other is that it doesn’t actually taste of anything.

I don’t like hard boiled sweets, if you suck too many sherbet lemons your tongue becomes very sore.  Many boiled sweets lose their flavour after a while.  However, a stick of minty seaside rock left in a drawer for a few years until it goes soft and develops small holes here and there, like holes in a geode lined with sugar crystals, this is a thing worth having.  The iron self-control required to leave it in the drawer long enough is very character forming.  You only have to eat it too soon once to know.  Open the drawer, stroke it with a finger, close the drawer for another few months, ooh you can feel your character forming like jelly going crispy round the mould edges.

Jellies.  Yes.  When I went to see the Beatles at the Sunderland Empire in 1963, Ringo had just announced he liked jelly babies.  So I stood under the shelf on the ground floor in an absolute hail of jelly babies. They can be quite painful en masse, chucked jelly babies, I don’t suppose any of them reached Ringo, he was right up at the back of the stage behind the drums.

As well as knowing what you really love, it’s worth knowing what you don’t really love.

Boxes of chocolates.  I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really like boxes of chocolates.  It’s not just that there’s always one you don’t like.  There’s always several.  Coffee creams for example, what git invented them?  Raspberry creams.  Who thought of them? You bite them and they run out all over your chin. Yuk.  Don’t get me started on orange and chocolate.  I think they probably serve it in Hell and it’s the main reason I try to be good.

Mint and chocolate, however.  Oh yes.  One of the reasons for being grown up is so that you can afford to buy a box of those wafer thin chocolate mints all to yourself.  At Christmas they do the box or, better, two boxes, in a tin.  And the tin is the right size for pens and pencils.  You can get 28 Kurecolour dual tipped markers in an After Eight tin, I have done the research, and you still have room up the end for short propelling pencils or rubbers or even a small notebook.  And you are eating the chocolates to make free storage provision for your future career in art.  Result.

And, of course, soft rhubarb and custards,  Fondant really, flavoured with lemon.  Absolutely perfect,  you can eat so much it would make you horribly sick but the lemon stops it from being sickly!  Genius!  Why is there no Nobel prize category for sweet invention? Serious omission, in my view.

Historically sweets were a bad idea.  You only have to look at all those portraits of bygone rich people, who could afford sweets, hiding their teeth behind a fan to know the invention of dentists was not far behind.  I recall visiting a Scottish town some years ago, when there was a Scottish Miniatura.  This town had a street entirely lined with sweet shops and estate agents, for those understandably desperate to live there, and a parallel street housing many, many dentists.  Almost a study in perpetual motion.

It is an addiction, you know.  It’s exactly the same receptors in the brain as alcohol.

I am above all that. I’m not addicted.  I can have entire days without sweets.  Weeks probably (though to be honest I have never tried.)

My other great love would be to be thin.  This has never happened for reasons I am powerless to access.

Put positively I am cuddly and usually have a bag of sweets nearby to share.

What’s not to love?

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To the future by balloon.

A friend is sitting under the sword of Damocles; her husband is booked in for a dementia investigation at the local hospital.

I told her about my blog and the dementia diaries.  Having done which, I thought I’d better go back and read them a bit myself to warn her about anything that might upset her.  The purpose of the exercise both of writing and reading them, being to demystify a disease cloaked in mystery and fear.

I was there, reading my own words for a jolly long time.  I had forgotten, well, forgotten is not the right word, erased from my accessible memory is a better encapsulation in words, especially considering the subject.  What I had thrown a blanket of forgettory over was the detail.  I had moved myself on mentally, sweeping the awfulness to one side of me with a strong broom of busyness.  Then came the broken arm and then the cancer, so my attention was drawn to the present very strongly, and the fear of all that was the dementia, overtaken by the fear of my own death and then the fear of my cousin’s death, which I think I dealt with by denial.

At the end of the dementia diaries I wrote that if I could care for someone with dementia with no ill effects, so could you.  This was because throughout the disease I had come into contact with people who, seeing the dementia diagnosis, ran towards us to help and people who, also enlightened, headed for the hills at speed. I wrote that one of the awful aspects of the disease was the isolation of sufferers, who not only realised they had an awful disease that most people were frightened of, they were also about to be deserted by some of their closest friends and family in their hour of need.

Wasn’t that wonderful of me to take the moral high ground!  Especially since I was about to do the same to my cousin who died.

Throughout his illness I communicated with him by email.  I chose this because everyone knows an email is a non-urgent communication, at least it is if you are forty and up. Below this age most people are so wedded to their devices and the urgent requirement to text, respond, like, approve, give an opinion on and so on, that it becomes an immediate concern.

My cousin was three years older than me, so emails at our age are something you look at when you are not doing anything else and respond to when you can think of what to say, sometimes days later.  If you are poorly and not up to much I would suggest this is ideal communication.   Also I imagined that his wife would be at home caring for him and I didn’t want to intrude.  I only found out at the funeral that she kept on working until she retired just a few weeks before he died.  I rang to speak to him when my computer broke and she said ‘Go away, Jane, we are having a dinner party.’

The ancient Egyptians, whose religious beliefs have informed other religions throughout the centuries, believed that after death your soul would be weighed; if your heart was as light as a feather, you would go to your reward. If your heart was heavy with misdeeds, a fearsome beast, called the eater of souls, would gobble you up.

I have three weights upon my soul, though each has a little balloon attached.  Not seeing my cousin is one.  He did not suggest it, though early on he wrote that he was not well enough to travel.  Just that.  With hindsight this might have been him asking for a visit.  At the time I was turning up in hospital regularly, apparently vomiting blood, at unpredictable intervals.  This is not much of a balloon but this is what I’ve got.  Of course I would love to see him now, but now I am well enough and have a diagnosis, so I can manage my condition up to a point.

I have seen this from both sides.  When I was upstairs with a useless arm and cancer the OH was out drinking eight hours a day, or sleeping it off.

So what is the right thing to do if someone you know gets a diagnosis of a horrible disease?  Do you run towards them, do you run away?  Do you contact hesitatingly for fear of hurting you both?  Do you throw yourself in unsparingly and end up ill and in debt yourself?

I think the thing to do is to be unjudgmental.  A dilemma of such proportions hopefully will not face most of us often in our lives.  It is impossible to predict before you are affected exactly what you will do.  You only find out what metal you are made of when circumstance thrusts you in the fire.

I found myself to be an alloy. I have strong spots, I have weak spots, I am as human as you are, few of us are steel all the way through, fewer are gold.

The answer to what you should do is to do what you can at the time, and, possibly keep a diary.  Then, afterwards when you are beating yourself up for not doing more, to look back and see how difficult the situation was at the time.

The other thing you can do, which I am really bad at, is to ask for help.

The thing we can all do is to learn from our mistakes, to look back sufficiently to weigh our own souls, to attach balloons where necessary.  To fling a leaden weight forward into the future so we trip over it enough next time to do things differently, if we can.

You can spend a lot of time in regret, I live there some days, especially late at night when I am tired.

The things that help me are: remembering we have only today.  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, it’s called the present because it’s a gift.  Wasting the gift time travelling to yesterday is not wise.  Buddhists talk about acquiring skill in the business of living.  You can do this by getting a great teacher or by doing the living, most of us do a bit of both, if you knew it all already, you’d be the teacher.

And, for goodness sake, get a hobby.

Weave a basket for your soul, line it with torn scraps of regret, ripped small so it looks better, be kinder to yourself to  inflate your balloon.  Paint pictures on the balloon, grow plants in the basket, write pretty words all along the rope and take off into a better future, with the lightness of soul to help you rise and the weight of experience as an anchor when you need to alight to give someone a lift.

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The man in my wardrobe

Are you sensing a developing theme here?

Yes this week there has been a man in my wardrobe – a different man!

Hola!  Hey up!  I say, steady on!

This time it was the joiner because I do like a change.  He was fitting it out with hanging rails suspended off shelves.  I was careful to emphasise that they must fit me, meaning make them low down, otherwise I’ll have to jump to hang my clothes up.  After he’d been working a while the OH popped in and asked if I’d seen how huge the carpentry was.

Yes, the brackets, made of large trees, would have been suitable for a gibbet for giants.  The joiner was not happy to scale his efforts down but he did when I asked ever so nicely.  Then he brilliantly threaded the hanging rails through them.  They will, being situated for a titch, neatly decapitate anyone tall, but to be fair I now wish to discourage people from standing around in my wardrobe, so that will be quite satisfactory, thank you and, nice though it is, I am not planning guided tours, at all.

Once I got in there to decorate (white paint) I discovered some nice floorboards.

Floorboards are an endangered species.  All the new rooms are floored with grey sheets of stuff, if you wanted floorboards you’d have to buy them and put them on top of the floor boards.  Complex, no?

So, having discovered some floorboards in wood, which had been buried under a horrible pink carpet, I was quite keen to keep them.  They connect through to the wooden floorboards that were in my wardrobe, and still are, that I thought were grey.

No, they were not, it was dust.

Just dust.

Bajillions of dead skin flakes from all the owners of the wardrobe in the past, shed from their dirty clothes as they hung them up at night.

Lovely.  We are but one step away from the compost heap at any time, dear.

So I borrowed the OH’s electric sander and got busy.

There were particles of all the previous residents hanging in the air in a thick grey cloud.  To this particular party I wore ear defenders, a mask and the OH’s prescription goggles, ‘cause I can’t find mine.

Then, as I was in the middle of this, the neighbour came to the front door to mention that the round-leafed holly tree at the bottom of our garden was just about to fall into his.  As he has children, chickens, a dog and two cats, all imperilled by the falling tree, I was on the phone faster than you could squeak ‘Help!’ and half an hour later a local tree feller and his pal appeared.  I stood in the garden in the storm explaining the problem, probably superfluously, as the tree top was horizontal and the roots were in the air.  Nevertheless I stood there allowing the gale to blow dead leaves into my tangled, dusty hair until all was explained and the sawing began.

Eventually I fell into bed with hair full of dust, sawdust, half the garden and practically uncombable, thinking that, in the morning, I would wash, detangle and condition my poor hair.  I resembled a particularly unloved vagrant, of the type you would squirt at length with aerosol medication before dropping a coin in his hat, no matter how fast he was waving it.

So, naturally, this morning the shower broke, no hot water.

Perfect.

I’m off to paint the skirting boards and probably wave my hair around in the paint in the normal way.

The plumbers have already declared themselves unable to appear sooner than Tuesday and I still have varnish to put in my hair, ideally, as I varnish the shelves and the floorboards.

I remember a time when my house was not a matted-hair, hard-hat area. When I had possessions that were displayed in an orderly fashion.  When carpenters did not turn up unexpectedly on a Thursday when I was still in my pyjamas and expect to be run through a list of tasks for the day.  When I did not have to make three pots of tea at once and forget to do a cup for me because it was time to wash all the cups and start the next lot.

When I could put my hand on the shower warranty.  (It was under the sink that landed in the skip about three months ago.)

I am just glad I am doing this lot now, while I still have the strength and youth*  ++

It’s to make the upkeep easier in the future**

*In quarter of a century Ill be ninety something, it’s horrific.

**Of me, the upkeep of me.

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And I did say I would make an announcement about the autumn Min, and I will, eventually.

++ And I haven’t even told you about the sink plugs, or the perishable toilet connectors.

Oooh, I am so sick of plumbing.  How come the Romans did plumbing that would work now, all it needs it needs is a bit of water, and we are doing stuff that has to be maintained on contracts every two years?  Hmm?  Two thousand years of no problem at all, versus two years of a renegotiable contract, ever escalating in cost – and they call that progress?***

***I’ll feel calmer after my hair is washed.+++++

+++++In a few days if the plumbers can fit me in.

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The man in my wardrobe

I missed posting last week because I had a man in my wardrobe.*

Also I am just beginning to sleep again having had the current sit-up-all-night-coughing virus, that’s doing the rounds.

Also I was worried about my hospital check up appointment, then I went and got it on the wrong day, then I found out I wasn’t on the list anyway and the booking receptionist that deals with those appointments was having a day off.

Everything is covered in a layer of dust which has been normal round here for four months.

Also I am having a bit of a struggle with the lift manufacturers, I have been given four people to contact, two of whom don’t seem to go in for replying to enquiries.

The lift shaft is a huge hole in the middle of the house, where the massive chimney was, which turned out to be simply a feature built round the existing small chimney, right on top of the woodchip paper.

Woodchip paper, now there’s a thing, it’s everywhere here.  As part of the get-to-the-bottom-of-it ethos of the build most of it has gone, but the lounge is still covered with it.

So I have had a mixture of first world problems, old fashioned terror of the cancer returning and a man in my wardrobe.*

When I rang the doctor to say I was worried he said he couldn’t do better if he requested a hospital appointment than the one in a fortnight, which it turns out I didn’t have anyway.

Then we had the asbestos problem.  The soil stack for the existing bathroom having finally been identified, by the two plumbers who had been sent on the course to identify what pipes are made of, not as cast iron, as previously proposed, but as asbestos. After various chats to qualified people I have decided to revert to plan A which was to box it in and Leave Well Alone.  It goes down into a poured concrete floor between two brick walls so it isn’t going anywhere and it comes out into the manhole as a ceramic pipe.  I shall do what I did with the gas pipe, disconnected but still apparent to a builder or demolisher as a gas pipe.  I made a fake brick (us doll’s house enthusiasts can make very convincing fake bricks, the virtuoso brick layer hadn’t spotted it.)  On the back of the fake brick I wrote in 2000 that the gas was disconnected even though the pipe was still there. I shall add in 2019 the gas pipe was removed from the garage so any pipes embedded in the floor are empty. Before the soil stack gets boxed in I shall write a similar message on the wall before it disappears behind a fake wall and then anyone in the future will know what they are dealing with.  Wonderful, decision made, work can proceed.

And then I found out that the soil pipe in the downstairs loo, which I was going to leave well alone until the builders broke the toilet, might be asbestos too.

And of course, there was a man in my wardrobe.*

I really need to get busy for Miniatura.  I will as soon as I have finished sorting out my new work room.  And cleaning the dust off everything.

Yesterday the OH joined in.  He stripped the new bathroom of the old paper, with a steamer in his underpants.  Hot stuff.**

As a result of all the above I now have to get busy with a paint brush, a feat now made possible by the disappearance of the man in my wardrobe*.  I just checked, he has definitely gone, though the head builder will pop by on Monday for more money.

So if you think of me next week, I am standing in my wardrobe, or the landing cupboard, or maybe the bathroom, with a paint brush, painting away the fear until I get a hospital appointment.

A couple of months to the Min and a huge announcement about Autumn Min which I will announce when I announce it.

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* He was the plasterer, plastering my new walk-in wardrobe, made from a left-over bit of bedroom, which has become a bathroom and a lift shaft.  I wanted a walk-in-wardrobe because I change size frequently and can’t afford new clothes in a different size, also I prefer old clothes in any size.  And also, to be fair, it was an idea generated by watching American sitcoms on TV, where they all have walk-in wardrobes which they call closets.  I could store a load of doll kits in a closet.  Also clothes, probably.

** The steamer was not in his underpants, he was, because the steamer was making the tiny new bathroom very hot.  He was wearing normal shoes, not wellies as you might expect, and, sadly, I could not find my camera, anywhere.***

*** And still haven’t.  I don’t suppose you know where it is?

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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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