There and back again and back again and there.

The poor S&H needs a visit, I thought.  When things go wrong a hug from Mum is a help.

However, it is a long way and a long time since we went there.  The OH has found and been bought very, very expensive new shoes that help his crumbling feet but has not driven far in them; I will not drive that far with the constant whining noise in the next seat.  Did we need to go on one day, stay in an hotel overnight, as the mature are prone to do, apparently, or could we, taking into account feet, bladders, eyes and other bodily parts, do it in a day?

Therefore, it was suggested, we should go for a day out somewhere, some way away, not necessarily over the rainbow but a reasonable distance and see how we did.  Coronavirus restrictions being lifted, a visit to another town seems less risky than hitherto.  The OH has always wanted to visit Cambridge.  When he was the County Emergency Planning Officer of the next county he went there for meetings that were in a large venue on the outskirts but he had never ventured into the centre, reportedly pretty.  Moreover, a friend of his, who had been to university there, said it was an easy place to get around in.  Little he said, you couldn’t possibly get lost.

I am quite stupid, yes I am.  I took the word of a drinking friend of the OH, whom I have never met and, stupidly trustingly, did no research of my own.  I am your dim friend.  Oh yes, der.

Our destination decided, the fight in the morning about time of setting off was reasonably brief, so we set off in a huff, or other wheeled conveyance (my car which has the aircon) at just after nine.  I begged the OH not to drive to terrify me, eternal optimist that I am, the car was pointed east and we went.

The theme of the day, which was being lost was established fairly soon.  We arrived at a brand new stretch of road and the SatNav threw its hands up in horror. Warning Uncharted Territory.  CAUTION, UNKNOWN ROAD.  It announced repeatedly in sepulchral tones whilst showing nothing whatsoever on the screen.  Thus was the second theme for the day, not being able to operate the helpful electronic maps, established.

Ten miles of utterly uncharted A road and a couple of incognito bridges, like the Man With No Name in the cowboy films were sufficient to establish that we were in the Badlands of Unmapped Britain (next village three miles) but suddenly the virgin road surface gave way to the usual littering of exploded tyres and grit and we were back on the radar again.  The SatNav, suddenly gaining confidence came back on line and began to warn the driver that he was speeding.  It warned the driver:  Beware! three times before he lost patience and switched it off, approximately three minutes later we were flashed by a speed camera helpfully upping the cost of the trip somewhat.

See?  If I tell him he’s speeding, I’m a nag.  If the SatNav tells him, it gets switched off, and so, he will persist even unto fines or driver’s ED.  You really can’t tell some people (another theme for the day.)

Two hours, one restroom stop, some points on a licence and a pop quiz on the radio, later, we arrived on the outskirts of Cambridge.  We then relied on the driver’s internal radar, which does not exist, and, ignored all pointing from the passenger, who was reading the road signs and pointing: Look, City Centre!

‘No, it’s this way. I know this stuff.  I’m driving.’

After three one-way streets and twenty minutes of suburbs and tiny back streets, he finally caved in and asked a pedestrian, who, naturally pointed in the same direction the passenger had been pointing in for twenty minutes.

In the centre we drove gaily past the entrance to the multi-storey car park (which we were to exit in the wrong one-way direction  for the benefit of another camera, later,) and had a little tour around the one way system before we encountered it again.  Finally we parked up, and telling each other which level and area we had parked in and both instantly reverting to default setting of: mumbling noise from spouse, ignore, forgot where we were immediately.  Though it became urgently obvious that we were not in proximity to toilets at all.  Fortunately a lift decanted us into a shopping centre.  After a very quick trot down the stairs to the basement toilets (closed for cleaning) and a slower trot back up we discovered the main shopping centre toilets,  Mafeking was relieved and the day out began.

Half a street away we were in the centre of town which is a market place.  You could tell it was a area redolent of students by the fact that it was an area redolent of cooking smells.  Every cuisine of every street everywhere and a sweet stall, which enjoyed my custom until I remembered my diet and felt the weight of the bag which I had over my metal shoulder.

Fortunately as we ambled along we came across a very good bookshop.  Like most university towns, Cambridge seems to be well endowed with book shops.  Cambridge University Press is the oldest bookshop on the same site in the country and has been publishing and printing since 1584.  The OH has signed up for a distance learning course in Astronomy and Cosmology.  You may ask what the difference is, apart from Carl Sagan, who always said ‘Cosmos’ so cutely, and, indeed, the OH and I are hoping the course will enlighten him to the extent that he can tell me, because I would like to know.  He was keen to see if the shop had his coursework book, which of course, it had, though the Big River outfit has it for less, a fact the OH provided on his phone to the lady on the till, who lowered the price to match.  One course book later and a quick lecture book on What is Life by Mr Schrodinger, which seemed a good question in light of the demise of the little cat, for me, and we were out in search of the river with the OH carrying the bag.

The OH was very keen to see the river; punting on the river Cam has been going on for about a hundred years.  A punt is a boat with a flat end on which the sailor, known as a chauffeur on the Cam, walks whilst sticking a pole into the river bottom and pushing, walking along the boat and retrieving the pole.  Various novels and writings have explored the comic possibilities, so we walked via the wrong street indicated by the OH and his on-phone SatNav, encountering some students protesting, running along with banners, hotly pursued by the police, running along with radio phones.  It was all quite energetic and someone in the crowd said they were protesting to The Speaker.  In a town where everyone is encouraged to get on their hind legs and say something, this was a fairly equivocal statement, in my opinion.

Two wrong streets later we followed my nose and found the river and a pub serving lunches by the river and while the OH did the ordering I talked to a fairly excited couple, about our age, also there for the day.  Apparently just a few minutes earlier a punt had passed at a leisurely pace, followed by another punt, low in the water, just out of TV camera shot, laden with huge secret service men, bristling with guns.  The lady said that in the first punt there had been an important American called Nancy Posy, or something similar.  Nancy Pelosi? I enquired.  ‘That was it! Do you know her?’  Oh, that Speaker.

Yes indeed, Nancy Pelosi, hearing that we were out for the day, had decided to follow suit, just missing us by tourist attractions all day before popping into the Cambridge Union to give a speech and receive an award.

After lunch the OH decided he wished to see the Mathematical bridge.

The first street we went up was blocked off.  It was populated by some workmen straight out of Shakespeare’s comic scene with workmen to put in play ? talking to Lady MacB?. Cheer things up a bit?

Following some enjoyable banter I rushed after the OH up the next street on the left which was also blocked off.

The OH got out his phone with SatNav.  (Shakespeare would have put this in every comedy, if it had been invented.)  We trekked for a good fifteen minutes, and, as we then appeared to be on the outskirts of civilisation turned and trekked back.  The OH had had his phone upside down, helpfully, as you do.  We noted the Loch Fyne restaurant on the opposite side of the road and trekked back to where we started, to the cry of ‘Twelve minutes walking, it says here, twelve minutes!’*

I asked a person, who directed us to the restaurant we had had lunch in, where you could observe the Mathematical bridge by turning your head, very slightly, to the right.

I was extremely keen to see the Fitzwilliam Museum, which was founded in 1816 and has half a million objects.  The OH did not want to ‘Spend all day in a museum,’ though he never said at this point, or any other, that he wanted to spend all day tramping the streets, which is what we did.

Guided by the OH’s in-phone Sat Not we tramped the streets again for a lot more than twelve minutes.  Eventually I spotted two children, dressed as policemen.  The girl was very pretty, so ignoring my urge to ask her why she did not just marry a nice man and have some children, instead of tramping the streets, like us, we asked for the location of the museum.

Ten minutes later we discovered it was the building opposite Loch Fyne.

At the door we found out that, though it was free, you had to book.

Finally the OH put his phone to good use, booked us a spot in five minutes with an Email ticket that he only deleted twice before being able to show it to the chap on the ticket booth and we were in.

Gosh it was good.  There is some fantastic pottery, lovely Roman and Greek stuff and some fabulous Ancient Egyptian artefacts.  Actual linen clothing thousands of years old.  Quite wonderful.  We spent ages in the museum, had a cup of tea and decided we would go home because, for some unknown reason, our feet were aching.

It was a great day out,  famous people have been founding colleges at Cambridge since 1284. Seemingly every one of them has then had his statue carved and stuck on the building that he founded.  You can absorb a lot of sculpture just by tramping the streets, which we definitely did.


Nancy Pelosi was here five minutes ago.  She probably knew how to work the SatNav.


Coming soon – Miniatura news!  It’s on, Coronavirus willing.  Details at

*10,672 steps, a mere 100 calories worth according to the OH, who looked it up on his phone, or 400, according to my feet.

Posted in The parrot has landed. | Tagged | Leave a comment


Dear little Cleo the cat died today, 9/11. A fox got her, she was a small cat.

You may say that there are bigger things to mourn today.  So there are.  Man’s inhumanity to man, in any place at any time should make us sad.  You may say that a fox is just being a fox and a cat is just a cat.

Ronald Searle, the great cartoonist, described his time working as a prisoner on the Siam-Burma death railway in the Second World War.  Starving, one day he and some fellow prisoners found some kittens and played with them.  The next day they cooked and ate them.  Ronald Searle ascribed the way cats crept into so many of his later cartoons as the result of guilt.

If you lose a family member in a terrible way, though there are few good ways to lose someone, you can feel the loss is too great to mourn.  Most of us feel able to express our grief at the loss of a pet animal when we are unable to articulate the loss of a family member.

I think it’s because pets can’t talk. What can’t talk can’t lie, can’t manipulate, can’t call names, can’t break promises, can’t betray.  And there’s a lot of really bad stuff you cannot do without opposable thumbs.

I met Cleo when the S&H chucked out by a girlfriend, came home bringing his cats.  In the first flush of enthusiasm, the girlfriend had weakened when the S&H had kept putting ‘cat’ on the bottom of the shopping list.  I am quite grateful she did not succumb to the subsequent ‘horse’, though the S&H may have been pushing the joke as much as his luck.  He went to a dreadful breeding farm and rescued the little one hiding under the furniture.  Back at the flat the little one had two little ones of her own.  The S&H asked for advice; I suggested a trip to a vet unless he was planning on becoming a cat breeder; not an ideal career in a block of flats with a ‘no pets’ policy.  One kitten was rehomed and then the girlfriend and the S&H fell out and home he came with two cats.

A friend of mine said ‘What an imposition!’  I agreed for about three days, after which I was a gonner.  It had been twenty years since we lost our first cat, who lasted to nineteen and a half.  I felt the loss so keenly I said I would never have another cat.  In the same year my cousin’s son died of a brain tumour, he was only thirty, and we all lost beautiful Princess Diana in a terrible car crash.  The world seemed too sad to contemplate.  It was, for a while.

Then along came this little cat.

P2260234 (2)

the perfect size for sitting in a box, helping.

Or, equally, having a nap on the work you were planning to do

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so you couldn’t.

For five years I loved these cats, especially Cleo, who was little.  One of the undertall but a cat. Absolutely perfect.

But then the S&H married, had children and moved to a larger house with room for cats and children.

The day he came to collect the cats, she tried to dig her way out of the basket and I had to run indoors, crying (because I do not cry.  I am made of boiled nails.)

But she went to live with him, they moved to a bigger house and the cat was a shoulder cat.


Then I started breaking bones and got cancer and the surgery went wrong.  So I asked the S&H if the cancer came back, to bring the cat back to me and he agreed.

But here we are, or, rather, I am but she isn’t.

When we went to visit she was so pleased to see me, she would rip up the carpet.  How many people do you know who are so pleased to see you, they rip up the carpet?  I hadn’t seen her, except in emailed pictures since the Christmas before lockdown.  And now I won’t see her again.

I hope there’s a heaven for cats and dogs and pets in general.  All those little animals that live with us and give us unconditional love, no matter how rubbish we are.  Animals contribute so much to our lives.  They are excellent companions, teachers and time wasters in the most life-affirming way. 

And it is above all safe to love them because they cannot speak, safe because they only want a stroke, or a walk, or the big monkey with the opposable thumbs to work the tin opener.

You may remind me that I put my mother’s cat down, at her incessant request.  I did.  I did the same for the first cat, who had a rodent ulcer that was incurable.

And this is the problem with pets. We are.  We outlive them.  Unless we are old and frightened that we won’t.

Loss is the price of love.  It hurts your heart.  It sits, like lead, in your feet.  It makes the day of loss interminable and then subsequent days speed up, taking you further away from the loved one.  It gives your soul a right good kicking, until it is bruised.

The bruises of your soul are wisdom manifest: blue for knowledge, red for hurt, gold for the love that runs through every life of every sort, that makes the wonderful world.


Posted in About artists. | Tagged | Leave a comment

A step in the right direction.

This blog is firmly apolitical.  It’s about you and me and anything cheerful, because that’s what I got requests for twelve years ago.

However, I notice the British governments are finally taking notice of the financial truth which so many families have run into like a great brick wall across the future.  An ageing population has care needs which need to be addressed.

Nobody would look fondly at their little children and think that some day those children would make themselves ill trying to care for their parents.  If you are a similar vintage to me you may recall a television programme called Tomorrow’s World, espousing the view that in the future the advances of medical knowledge and ability would lead to us all living to be much older and have a great deal of leisure time to fill.  The corollary, that we would still be alive but infirm and needing help was not foreseen, and how to finance it all was not even mentioned.  The world was an optimistic place in the nineteen sixties.

As you know I have come up against the sharp end of dementia three times so far.  Every time has been destructive to me financially and health-wise, even though I was not the one with the dementia.

I started to work-out daily, twenty-one years ago.  I did that because I had a disease that made moving difficult and I was allergic to the medicine.  I did not think at the time of a connection between dementia and inactivity.  My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s but at the time she was very active.  She used to run keep fit classes.  I believe her dementia may have had something to do with being the youngest of fourteen children.  Children produced from elderly genetic material are likely to have in-built faults, nature doesn’t like old parents.

Subsequent encounters with sufferers of dementia convinced me sufficiently that their inactivity was, at least, a contributory factor to the development of the disease to keep me doing the workouts.  I think getting the blood rushing through your brain, contrary to the dictates of gravity, is like running the tap swooshily enough to wash the gunk down the plughole.

Causes of dementia are not yet certain.  Figures for dementia look set to follow the cancer statistics in blossoming.  If we are not to cripple the future with care of the elderly and not so elderly, we need more helpers and finance.  If you’re a regular reader you’ll know the financial cost to me of caring was half a house the first time and a whole house the second time and cancer both times.  There are and will be many people in the caring role who do not have a house to sell to finance care of a relative but be stuck with the problem anyway.

I am glad Parliament is addressing the problem.  I have not the slightest doubt that some tax payers will complain that they should not be asked to fund someone else’s disease.  However, no one now thinks cancer charities are nothing to do with them.

I believe in a relatively short span of time everyone will agree that the problems of an ageing population are the problems of us all.

The world is a very unequal place. Some people are not even free to call their lives their own. No one who was ever a teacher would fall into the mistake of believing we are all born equal.  We are not.  We may start out healthy and sane and end up crippled and sick. We may have children who have special needs.  We may catch diseases and die too young.  All these and more traps for the unwary lie in wait and we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow.*

But we can predict that if we live long enough we will grow old and probably need help and that the people helping us will need support.

I, for one, am very glad that a government is starting to address this problem.


*Therefore, enjoy today.

Posted in Dementia diaries. | Tagged | Leave a comment


Regular readers may be surprised that I’m visiting the dementia diaries again.  If you are a new reader who has found this blog by putting dementia into a search engine, hello.  There is information here, accessed by clicking on dementia diaries in the bar to the right of your screen. The experience was gathered during five years of care for my demented mother, which I blogged.  Every agonised step of the way is there, with nothing omitted.  The funny things that happened, the frustration with various agencies, the reactions of the wider family, the neighbours who stopped speaking, are all documented as  they happened to me and my mother.  The diaries evoked a response from others in the same situation, world-wide.  I wrote them because it helped me and helped others with the same difficulty.  Despair is likely to strike in the middle of the night or at the end of a very long day, when the world is asleep and there is no help, at which time learning from a screen that someone else has been where you are and lived to tell the tale might be the only help you are going to get. If you are new to this and wish to email me about it just click on the link at the end of this bit of writing.  Whatever awful thing has occurred or how inept your response to it, I promise will not shock or stun me, and I will never say ‘You did what?  You idiot!’, because I am visiting this disease as an amateur assistant for the third time now.

The first time was just after I married, when my new mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, back in the late 1970s.  Nobody knew what it was, you had to explain that it was a pre-senile dementia.  My poor mother-in-law, who I scarcely knew, was only in her fifties.  My father-in-law, having two older sisters, had decided long ago that in times of trouble the women closest would help.  So he drove himself and his wife from the North East to Scotland one weekend, where his sister-in-law lived in a big house with a guest bedroom; the following weekend he drove down to the Midlands where my husband and I were just settling into our new house, which had a spare bedroom.  It was a four day long weekend.  As I reached home from the school where I was a teacher, my in-laws would be sitting in their car on the drive.  They would wait, on Monday, until I returned from school to leave, and in between I was nurse, cook and bottle washer while my father-in-law and husband sat in the pub.  At the end of it all I was in debt to half the value of our house and had cancer for the first time.

The second time I became the carer on the death of my father.  For a couple of years, when I visited, he had been standing behind my mother making whirly signs beside his head.  On the advice of a couple of doctors I let sleeping dogs lie.  Again the disease was of a five year duration from diagnosis, although the specific type of dementia was not able to be identified during my mother’s lifetime.  At the end of it I would have been in debt to the tune of half a million pounds, but fortunately my parents lived in a town where the houses were as expensive as the private health care.  One offset the other, so I didn’t have the debt, just the cancer.  The surgery to save me was bungled so I am still suffering intestinal problems and a lot of pain three years later.

This time round it is my father-in-law’s second wife who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  She is taking the medication which prevents further formation of the plaques in the brain, which characterise the disease and prevent the brain working properly.  This is a new invention since my mother and mother-in-law were diagnosed.  The situation has been complicated by the pandemic.  During the lockdown my Step-Mother-In Law was being kept company and helped in isolation by her son who lived in the same town.  He committed suicide in March, prior to her diagnosis, leaving his sister, who has already had breast cancer and lives at a distance, as sole carer.  I have been talking to SMIL every day on the telephone from the beginning of the pandemic but am unlikely to visit so far away.  My greatest use to her daughter is moral support and continued telephone contact every day with SMIL.

I am also in weekly telephone contact with a friend whose husband has the disease, who also cared for her difficult mother through it and ended up with cancer.

You can see why nothing you say about the disease will shock me.  I have a wardrobe of tee-shirts on this problem.  Accessing medical and daily assistance is as near as your search engine.  It became evident, last time round, that provision of help is various round the world, but that there is some knowledge and experience wherever you are reading this. The problem of how to help demented people and their families and especially how to help family members who are direct carers and prevent them become ill themselves, seems to be evident in all developed societies.

In my dealings with this disease I have noticed that the attitude of carers to the problem and to the sufferer can make a difference to day to day life, both for the person with the disease and those trying to help.  As the disease progresses, the sufferer’s brain is no longer able to function normally but to the very end will be able to pick up on nuances in behaviour and attitude of the carer and react. If there is one thing worse than somebody loopy round the bend (to express it in the vernacular), it is someone loopy and angry with it.  Anger and frustration are typical for the sufferer, which you can understand readily; if your brain is not working the way you want it to, that’s annoying.  If someone who is meant to be helping is annoyed with you because your brain is not working and you can’t make it work that’s very annoying.  If all that happens and you have lost the words to express it, you are likely to strike out.  Therefore to forestall this unfortunate characteristic of later stages of the disease as long as possible, the helper, whose brain has to work for two people, needs to modify their responses.  The more calm, soothing and reassuring they can be, the happier and more confident the sufferer, the less fraught the situation, the more pleasant the day, the less likely the carer to get sick later.

If you are the primary carer, looking after yourself is exactly the same as looking after the sufferer.  In fact it is more important, because if you go down, they are stuffed.  All agencies will tell you that, admitted to care homes or hospitals, dementia patients go down hill.  Memory is one of the first casualties of dementia.  Everyone is happier and more confident in familiar surroundings. If you take a person who is struggling to understand, away from everything they know, they will be lost.  It may be that a formal care facility will be the eventual destination anyway.  Postponement of this situation is desirable.  As the carer, you will be alarmed at how little you are able to help your demented person, once you have given up daily care of them to another agency elsewhere.  You will be powerless.  Care homes have their own rules, they have to, to work.  Your aim, therefore, as primary carer is to keep things ticking along as normally and happily as possible for as long as possible.  Happy declining years of the cared-for are less likely to make you, the carer, ill eventually.  Daily strife and misery is more likely to make you sicker sooner.  Therefore aim for happy.

The eagle-eyed reader (that’ll be you) may have spotted that this column is entitled ‘Resentment’.  Entitled!  Entitled!  Who does she think she is, expecting everyone to do her bidding while she sits there like lady muck.  Entitled!  I’ll give her entitled, you can’t even see there’s anything wrong, I bet she could remember if she tried, and now she’s moaning and I’m expected to deal with it, as if I didn’t have a life of my own!  It’s disgusting and, what’s more………………

The adopted family in which I grew up didn’t just have resentments, they dandled them, paraded them, dressed them up in bonnets and took them out for a walk.  They are not alone. In any family: What she said to Uncle Ernie at Our Maggie’s Wedding can provide a topic of conversation that only dies with the participants.  I was fortunate, a decade ago, to finally realise that I had married an alcoholic and had been raised in a family, members of whom had this disease also. A doctor pointed me to Al-Anon Family groups, the support organisation for family and friends of alcoholics. In the weekly meetings many topics of interest are discussed which are evident when living in proximity to alcoholics.  One of the topics is resentment.

Resentment, which the dictionary defines as showing or feeling indignation at, or retaining bitter feelings about, insult or neglect, is so common in families of alcoholics, it’s almost a marker of the disease.  Alcoholics under the influence of a drug can exhibit behaviour which is careless, rude, aggressive, challenging, destructive and hurtful at least.  In withdrawal, the brain, devoid of the alcohol on which it depends as fuel, can cause similar behaviour. As that disease progresses the alcoholic needs more alcohol to obtain the same effect, suffers more from withdrawal and is eventually trapped in behaviour and mood swings which will damage every relationship, starting with the close family and working out.

And so, of course, does dementia.  The pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which houses all of our more complex and delicately nuanced interactions is destroyed by disease.

If you ask the loaded question: Does my bum look big in this? of a healthy person whose brain is fully functioning, you may come away from the encounter glad that you have beautiful hair or unusually lovely extraordinary brown eyes.  This is because their pre-frontal cortex is functioning. If you come away from the encounter considering applying for a job as a model, even though you know you are four foot ten, sideways, then their pre-frontal cortex is working very well indeed.

You will not have such luck with an alcoholic, unless they are drunk, or a person with advanced dementia unless they love you very much.

Constant, sometimes seemingly daily, damaging encounters with a pre-frontal cortex that is not working can build up resentments at a great pace.  As I learned at meetings, the only person hurt by the resentments is you.  Resentments can chain you to the past so thoroughly that’s it’s difficult to operate in the present.  If you approach the demented person bristling with indignation about something they said, or something you had to do for them yesterday, they, who cannot express anything helpful, will pick up on your resentment instantly.

I personally believe the brain in disease retreats to infantile clues as to the demeanour of the carer. A baby knows if you are tired or cross, without you having to explain.  They read your expression and tone of voice.  If you had ever tried to care for a baby late at night when you had little patience left, you would know all about this.  The more the baby screams, the more tired and desperate you become.  The more tired and desperate you become, the more the baby screams.

When your brain is working well, you can detect and modify your behaviour to finely nuanced clues.  Salesmen do it, psychiatrists do it, children do it.  It is a matter of survival and the oil that keeps the wheels of society turning.

In the damaged brain, the connections that interpret incoming signals and modify outgoing communications are lost.  Although the wonderful, plastic brain will be adapting like crazy, or more specifically, like sane, it cannot keep up with the destruction.

Therefore holding on to resentments about any behaviour evinced by the demented person is a waste of your valuable time.  At the start of the disease, strange behaviour and unsuitable utterances may be a surprise.  Caregivers may try to deal with the utterances by giving them equal weight that they would give to similar declarations coming from sane people.  As the disease progresses and it becomes more obvious that these are not the utterances of a sane mind it is easier to take them less personally and respond more effectively.

It is unfortunately a marker of the disease that the closest care giver gets it in the neck just because they are there.  The sick person needs to bemoan their lot, as would you with a diagnosis of dementia, and the closest caregiver is just that, and in range.

The reason I am writing about dementia and resentment now is that yesterday when I rang the SMIL, the phone was answered by a friend who was visiting.  Visits from those who are not family members will dwindle as the disease takes hold but are beneficial, when cheerful, to the demented person.  They are respite for the primary caregiver and to be encouraged as long as they last.  In between praising the friend, I became aware that she was very resentful.  She had arrived to find the SMIL in pain and mostly, sitting in the chair whispering and moaning.  The SMIL has back pain, largely because she doesn’t move much. She gets up in the morning and sits in the chair.  As the carers coming in four times a day make the meals, she only gets up to go to the toilet or back to bed.

The friend decided it was her job to remove the pain.  She had rung the doctor’s surgery, which was closed for training and then the SMIL’s daughter, who was at work. Consequently the visit, which the friend had hoped would be a good thing she would be doing, but for a limited amount of time, had suddenly become a lengthy deed until the daughter could be contacted, medical assistance found or some other remedy applied in the unspecified future.

I could hear the resentment in the friend’s voice and I could hear the SMIL responding to the situation, which the friend was obviously finding difficult, by crying and moaning.

I chatted cheerfully to the SMIL, while the friend had a breather in the kitchen.  Half an hour later the SMIL was a little improved and I suggested to the friend that she only wait until the carers turned up, which was in another half an hour.  The friend was slightly mollified, so I praised her a lot for going at all.  She cheered up, the SMIL cheered up but I’m willing to bet the friend will find reasons not to visit for some time.

If you decide to interact with a person with dementia, doing so resentfully or angrily will not be helpful. The ideal mindset is to do the research early in your contact.  Doctors have numerous leaflets, The Alzheimer’s Disease Society has a website and offers online support.  Having some idea of what is in store is helpful.

Of course you can always dodge the bullet.  You can bung your relative in a home, sell their house to finance it and never visit.  In my mother’s eventual care home I met people with relatives who had done just that.  I’m sure it would be safe to do so if you were absolutely certain it would never happen to you.

My Victorian grandmother used to say: Don’t do as I do, do as I tell you.  As a teacher I can say with great certainty that children do not do what you tell them; they copy what you do.  This is how we evolved and still how we learn.  How you care for your seniors is being watched by your juniors.  In times of stress behaviourists tell us we revert not to our education, but to example set in our childhood.  And, as they say in the Lottery adverts, it could be you!

Why dementia is on the increase is the subject of research.  I think inactivity has something to do with it. During the pandemic many people who were normally very active spent the day sitting at home.  For years before she became ill my mother used to get up and sit down. She had cleaners always but years ago, when there were fires to be laid and lit and no car to go to the shops in, she moved a lot more.  She believed that idleness was the mark of a lady and felt it a privilege not to have to move or work.

During the pandemic when I rang SMIL and asked what she was doing she replied that she was just sitting.

All the blood in your body goes charging through your brain every seven and a half minutes. Moving helps it to whoosh through your head, defying gravity, clearing out the far reaches of your synapses, refreshing all the connections, keeping your brain alive. We are the first humans in history who can sit and watch a screen all day long.  We have not evolved yet to overcome the dangers of this inactivity.   Our brains are huge for our size, they utilise a fifth of the fuel we take on board each day, they require hours asleep in down mode to keep healthy.  You are your brain.

I will never tire of saying how wonderful you are if you are managing this disease for someone, helping someone with the disease or just turning up now and again and being a friend.  The job is possibly the most difficult you will ever undertake but few things will ultimately make you feel that you have realised your potential as a human being so fully.  Don’t wait for the aliens to land.  All there is, is people.  Be kind to them as you are one, secure in the knowledge that what goes around comes around.

If you are at the start of this journey be like Captain Pickard on the Starship Enterprise, get your crew at the consoles, buckle up and Engage!*


*In fact there were no seatbelts on the Enterprise, despite regular Photon Torpedoes and half the saucer section going missing.  In the 60s version the crew ran backwards and forwards shouting, on the bridge, under attack.  Twenty years later they were just leaning slightly.  Aim for leaning slightly, if at all possible.

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The technology of yesteryear…….

ends up donated.

If you have ever considered yourself to be ever so slightly past it, please be consoled.  You cannot possibly be more past it than passed-on technology.  How capacious is your drawer of music cassettes?  Do you still remember how to use a pencil to wind the tape back in again, when it has snagged in the machine?

We are not talking classic cars here, though they won’t be quite as classic when the petrol runs out.  The OH is betting on hydrogen, which I think will prove to be an interesting way of making rain explode.

The Father-In-Law, bless him, was wedded in equal amounts to assembling drawers full of gadgets and specialised gadget improvement, sharpening, enhancing and storage items.  One of the first things I noticed in my boyfriend’s  parent’s kitchen was the rack for storing Tupperware basin lids.*  It was fastened to the wall on a special, almost metal, doodad which had a lengthy chromed double pole with notches that extended, on the extension poles, to the edge of the kitchen workbench, handily rendering that part of the workbench unavailable for working on.  The many, many round lids were hooked on the poles in order of size.  The titchiest one, the size of half a crown, invited the mind of the viewer to boggle at the modest size of receptacle which the lid would fit. It may well have been the very handy, one-pickled-onion saver.  This was nested in all the other bowls and taking up at least half of the cupboard beneath.  Conveniently anyone wishing to utilise the biggest bowl lid would only have had to remove the other forty five lids to access it.  This whopper was large enough to seal the bowl big enough to keep a whole sheep’s head in, so handy for broth and inconvenient for the sheep.

And yet I married into this family, fool to myself that I am.

When the M-I-L had sadly passed on, the F-I-L took to visiting with gifts.  My newish husband received his school plimsoll bag with its cargo of ball bearings with less joy than you might expect.  My tin-like heart had already been tempered by the pre-nuptial gift of a nineteen thirties toaster, boxed and in working order if you ignored the so-called electrical wiring, which was unravelling like hairy string. The metal appliance had drop-down sides, in each of which you placed a slice of bread.  When the bread sides nearest to the unshielded electrical curly wires, (which heated up when you plugged the appliance into a wall socket, sometimes before you switched it on,) had reached the requisite shade of black, you could turn the bread by grasping the Bakelite handles and opening the sides. The bread slid down, flipping as it slid, so that putting the handles back up permitted both sides to be carbonised.

When we married, then being in possession of multiple toasters**, we donated the gadget to a museum of wartime life.  Six months later, dropping by to see our donation on display, we found it unavailable to view, unless you were invited in to the curator’s kitchen, where they were using it to make toast.

Step-M-I-L made donation of her intended’s treasured early vacuum cleaner a condition of marriage, wishing to keep her ankles intact.  The cleaner had a business end shaped like the head of a hammerhead shark.  The ‘ears’ were twin exhausts, capable of scorching both armchair legs simultaneously, whilst failing to suck up even light dust.  As a safety measure the, for want of a better description, electrical lead, was nice and short, enabling you to rearrange fluff in at least a foot radius of the socket.  I was always surprised there was not a nineteen-twenties maid in a black outfit, pleated pinafore and starched Art Deco cap in the broom cupboard with it.  The vacuum went straight to a museum.  The F-I-L was quite indignant at the amazement expressed by the museum staff at the existence of the artefact, ‘It was,’ he spluttered, ‘still working.  It could do lino, you know!’***

The unalloyed joy with which donations of ancient conveniences are received by museum staff is directly in reverse to their numbers.  A friend who worked in museums assures me there is no museum left that would welcome a flat iron.  Starting in the seventeenth century, the wonderful convenience of a solid lump of metal with a flat base, the base resting on the outside of a stove with a fire inside and rows of iron shelves round it, was the imaginatively named flat iron.  Each cooling flattener was replaced on the stove to warm again and a freshly snatched hot iron pressed into service.  Consequently flat irons were never singular items. In time, self-heating iron interiors were various.  The friend was at the museum when it was donated a gas iron.  The genuine burning gas flame inside the hollow metal lump being kept supplied by a rubber hosepipe, was, naturally, only as safe as the perishing hose.  How widely irons were used, when clothes were only washed at the end of a season, you may wonder.  The over-all pinafore visited the laundry with a frequency not enjoyed by the clothing underneath.  Washing the goodness out of woollen combinations was thought to promote the likelihood of catching chills.  Therefore all the clothing between the inner, unwashed, layer and the outer, starchy white pinafore or smock, could hardly be considered besmirched at all.  In a letter to her sister, Jane Austen bemoans the disintegration of a blue silk dress, stored in tissue over the winter and blames the failure on the silk, sold as washing silk not being ‘washing’ silk at all, not that she had tried to wash it.

Photographs of eminent Victorians feature concertina trousers.  There is a well-known one of Dickens, looking freshly pulled through a hedge backwards and one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel with a massive hat and fold-a-long trousers, though he was, of course, one of us, the undertall, in fact he was shorter than I am.  If he’d starched his trousers, and then applied a flat iron, he might have been able to look me in the eye, until it rained.

Along with the handy gas iron, capable of setting the ironing board on fire with ease, the gas poker was a popular household convenience.  In the semi in which I grew up, there were four open fires, each with a handy gas point next to the hearth and one gas fire upstairs which was considered amazingly modern for cutting out the middle man, so to speak, by burning the gas directly, rather than using it to set fire to coal.  The startling modernity of the gas fire, coupled with the extremely handy way in which all the rooms already had the wood floors painted black for a foot in from all the walls, was a major selling point; moreover the coal house in the back garden had a random outdoor cupboard joined on to it as an extra, for storing your wood. There was also a large rainwater barrel.  Washing your hair with rainwater was known to make it much softer, once you’d picked the cobwebs off it.  There was also a half door at the back, for the fishwife to rest her basket on while she was filleting, and carpet up the middle of the stairs, already. I moved into this marvel of the atomic age when I was three, but survived.  My mother used to light the lounge fire with a gas poker, paraffin, screwed up newspaper and a flat sheet of paper held across the front of the fire to help it draw. What it often drew was the sheet of newspaper, alight, up the chimney.  They chose white and gold wallpaper, so must have been young enough to be optimistic.  I have inherited the picture which was above that fireplace. Dark it is.  A portrait, possibly.

I have personal experience of the fragility of gas mantles, having stayed in my aunt’s gas-lit caravan with a friend.  The noise the mantles make when breaking is: crick, whoof.  The black mark up the wall is quite distinctive too.

At the back of my wardrobe in a box there’s an early nineteen eighties ladies’ electronic razor, conveniently the size of a shovel. It is rechargeably cordless and the charge will last long enough to do one and a half armpits, or half a leg.  I have the original store receipt, the carboard box and cloth for polishing the plastic case of this expensive item so handy for any lady weightlifter with the leisure to shave half a leg at a go.  I am biding my time to donate, waiting until I am certain no owner of my Father-In-Law’s stripe is still using one.  Then I shall swoop with my donation, using subsequent visits to observe the state of the curator’s legs, if the wondrous gifted item is not prominently on display with three spotlights.

It is difficult to say when, exactly, the laughable technology of yesteryear either becomes a valuable antique or gets reinvented as the latest thing. No one would have bet £.s. d. on the Victorian mangle being electrified and re presented as a die cutting machine for hobbyists and craftsmen, but it has been.  Other has-beens have possibilities, think of a new use for a Poss stick, an internal combustion engine starting handle, or a dumb waiter and you could be behind Mr Dyson in the queue at the bank.

Describing my refusal to espouse social media, smartphones or even my lack of facility with the TV remote, I am inclined to cite dislike of technology.  This is not strictly accurate, Victorian technology I find fascinating and on Tudor wood technology I can wax positively lyrical.

I like a bit of time to catch up, because I’m not past it at all, just timely.


*The Queen, famously, keeps her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes.  If she has the top-of-the-range box lid storage thingy it will not be as quaint as my In-Laws’, it will be regal.  In time museums will fight for it, obviously.

**Modern Wedding anniversary gifts.

1st.  Toaster repair vouchers.

2nd. Bed leg castor glue.

3rd. Carpet stick tape to stop mats wandering around.

4th. Dishwasher door seal replacement.

5th. Take-out dinner vouchers.

6th. Private detective gift certificates.

7th. Twin lawyer consultations.

8th. Social media slag-off templates.

9th. Put-you-up single bed.

10th. Engagement ring.

11th. Toaster repair vouchers.


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The gift of sight.

As I have been discharged by the surgeon and declared fit, I deem it time to bang on about my cataracts and the absence thereof.

People who have stuff, such as working intestines, no cancer, no pain and all five senses in good order, have absolutely no idea how lucky they are.  Not a clue.

People who have an ability, such as digestion, and lose it in an accident, or bungled surgery, have every right to bemoan their lot, acutely aware as they are of their loss and the problems the loss causes them.  Difficulties such as constant pain, loss of function and independence reduce your world to four walls and sometimes just a bed.  The pandemic has given everyone a taste of the frustration and hopelessness that is the daily lot of some of us.  I sincerely hope we retain our sympathy as the world improves and the health situation eases. I never really had a carefree youth because I had my mother. I was always in puzzlement about health matters when I was kept at home to see the doctor because my mother fancied some attention or sent to school in awful pain with my appendix because she was going out shopping.  My stoicism was a survival trait, unallied to pain or the need for relief from it.  I know I’m not alone in this attitude – my lovely old neighbour once remarked at the start of his heart troubles, before he got proper help, that he was not sure how much pain was the right amount to have.  The ideal answer is: none, though this age of drugs and painkillers is a relatively new phenomenon in human history.  Frailty of various kinds is known to have assailed famous historical figures but not stopped them achieving.  We think of Julius Caesar who had a malady which caused fainting and falling and may have been epilepsy; Horatio Nelson who was almost as short as me, had frequent bouts of dysentery and malaria, and lost an eye and an arm; and Queen Anne who had eighteen pregnancies, none of the resulting children surviving to adulthood.

You don’t have to be a slave building some great monument by hauling blocks of stone somewhere else, or some consumptive literary genius, to suffer from health problems, anyone can do it.  Neither do you have to be Queen Victoria to be slightly undertall, or Emperor Claudius to have cerebral palsy, anyone can be born a bit substandard.  If you have always wanted different coloured hair or eyes, or longer legs or less humorous toes, you’ll be right in there with me, I’m sure.

But how many people are substandard from birth and then get accidentally put right?

Well, there’s me……………

I am aware that my left eye has always been imperfect, it is not aligned exactly to the other eye, I’ve got a bit of a squint.  This is the eye that developed the cataract all on its own in an: oh let’s give up and stop working, sort of way, years ago.  Gradually things became dim. Keen readers will be aware of the decline of my proof reading skills.  One of the reasons I was so enthusiastically employed by magazines was my facility with proof reading.  They knew they could ask for five hundred words to go to press in two hours and just operate the pagination programme without needing to spell, grammar and fact check first.  Time is money.

You may also recall the dreadful accident that caused the development of the cataract in my good eye, when the OH tilted the entire fridge towards me including a box of screwdrivers he had just rested on the shiny top, that caught my eye literally.  I still think it was only the hard plastic contact lens that saved my eye from bursting.

The gradual diminution of my sight was never more obvious than when the hospital stopped all the cataract surgery in the pandemic to help cancer patients from another hospital.  I didn’t just approve of this move, as a cancer patient myself I stood up and cheered, I thought it was The Right Thing To Do and was glad to wait.

I knew that I was living in a bit of a fog.  Supermarket shopping was confined to the rows of shelves I could see.  There could be shrink-wrapped dragons on the upper shelves, for all I was aware.  One inch away from the TV I could almost read the programme guide, but it didn’t matter as watching fog in a box is a pretty pointless activity.  I was driving only three streets away, very slowly and, in the garden, getting some startled close-ups of snails and other slow-moving grabbable creatures, though the overall picture was just general swathes of colour.

I have described, previously, how my skill at memorising bus timetables was rendered unnecessary by the provision of spectacles first at age sixteen.  It was a revelation that buses had numbers on the front to identify them and their destination.  What a good idea! How very easy!  You couldn’t have done that to a Georgian horse pulling a cart.  The spectacles were provided when my answer to the direction to copy the notes on the board was: board, what board?

But spectacles are supplied on the basis of: try this, is it better?  It was definitely better than awful and I had become very good at discerning letters of the alphabet from vague outlines and had unwittingly learned by heart most cardboard optician’s sight charts and I could always read the close eye test and frequently read out loud the bit that said ‘Printed in Letterpress Monotype, Optical Supplies Ltd. 35 Chard Street, Gastown.’

However my cataract surgeon took no notice of any of that.  He corrected my right eye to normal and my left eye to a bit short sighted.  So I can read this, but, also…………

At six in the morning little birds are very active in my garden.  They swoop and fly everywhere. Blue tits take a bath in the bird bath and then drink the bathwater.  I CAN WATCH THEM DOING IT. Yesterday I had to interrupt my neighbour, who was talking to me, to tell her she had blue eyes.  At the tops of trees there are leaves, in fact there are leaves all over trees and I can see every one of them.  I can see where the ridge tiles on the house at right angles to mine have not been laid with even gaps.  I can see every blade of grass on the lawn.  I have just watched a squirrel jumping across the lawn, if he stops to scratch I might be able to see his fleas.

I can’t stop drawing.  I can’t believe how easy it is when you can see where the edges are.  When the children two houses away watch cartoons in the bedroom I can too, through the window.

Other people have spots and hairs.  You know that thing about British teeth? Absolutely true.

Hardly anybody’s clothes fit them.  Don’t people walk funny? The kitchen floor is filthy, and I’ve just washed it.  I can see the individual tufts of wool in the carpet that I bought for the lounge. I still like it, even if it doesn’t look like a renaissance painting.

Art!  There are dozens of art galleries I need to revisit!  I can watch a film at the cinema instead of guessing from the sound track.

The glass oven door is so you can watch the dinner inside, burning.

I can count the weeds on the lawn from this upstairs window.  Hang on.

147, mostly daisies.

I would probably not have had the cataract surgery if I had not had the accident because I still had one good eye and you see with your brain.

The S&H was born by C section, as they lifted him out and up, he turned from lilac to pink and opened his eyes.  And was surprised and delighted.  All that morning he looked at everything and you could almost watch the cogs in his brain whirring.  When he eventually slept, just after lunch time, it was only because his brain needed to catch up.

I feel the same.


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Itching for Britain.

You should believe in your beliefs, I believe.  Furthermore I believe I should set a good example in this matter and I believe I did not.

Tuesday night is the last night on which I slept, through the night, in the manner, in which, I think, normal people are prone to do.  I cannot remember exactly because I have lost the sleep of reason and am no longer normal.

Husband reading paper: What are you laughing at?

Reader: She says she’s no longer normal.

HRP: I thought that’s why you read it.

On Thursday night, swollen ‘twixt neck and knee and unable to find a place to place any place of me without it swelling and itching, approximately five sisquetillion times worse than in the photo, (previous blog, scroll down) I bravely co-opted the OH.

He likes his sleep the OH.

I was desperate.

The OH found the phone number of NHS direct, I phoned them.  Yes I phoned a medical helpline in the middle of a pandemic.

HRP: Now what has she done?

Reader: She’s very optimistic, you’ve got to give her that.

There was a solid ten minutes of : we are busy, if you cannot breathe try a bit harder.  Then there was ten minutes of: there’s a pandemic on, had you not noticed?  Then there was five minutes of: if you are dying, hang up and then try this very long number which we are only going to tell you once.  Then there was a lady with an accent so thick you could have cut it into slices with a butter knife and spread it on toast, topped off with some very idiosyncratic grammar.  For several minutes, utilising all the skills I had acquired teaching English in the language school, I did the fifty questions which must only be answered with the answers on the sheet she was holding, so that we can proceed to the next question.  A mere ten minutes of questions established whether or not I was exhibiting coronavirus symptoms to determine if I had accessed the correct service and a variety of numbers if I had not.

Half an hour after I had dialled the number, my identity was established.  Always a help when trying to help (or not as the case turned out) to find out who it is you are trying to help and always useful to understand the English spelling of a tricky and unusual name such as: Jane, I find, don’t you?*

Half an hour into the conversation the OH, whose desire to assist had been prompted by the sight of a wife resembling an inflated red balloon with fingers and feet sticking out of the sphere, lost the desire and sloped off to bed.

The gods of You Should Help Your Wife were on my side, however.  I had awoken his prostate.  As I itched for Britain he put in a bid for the 2024 DampOlympics.  How glad I was that I had spent the extra on reinforced underlay for the carpet between his bed and the bathroom!  For it is rather jolly to feel vindicated as a person of reason in the midst of telephone helplines, which, come to think of it, urgently need renaming with a name that is fit for purpose.

That afternoon I had taken an anti inflammatory prescribed for the OH, Fexofenadine.  It had worked briefly.  I had also at hand an over-the-counter anti-histamine, whose leaflet of contra-indications were practically a verbatim (despite being written) description of Yours Truly’s current state of being.  As in: do not take this if you look like this.

I would not, as I did, which information, in small, easily understood sentences, I conveyed to the listener on the helpline.

A few times.

A few more times elicited the response that it was almost certainly inadvisable to take the over-the-counter remedy, coupled with vast surprise at the matchy matchy nature of the written script and my state of being.

The caller gave out the potentially helpful information that she had been joined by a pharmacist.


But she would not let me talk to the pharmacist as I had TAKEN A MEDICINE PRESCRIBED FOR SOMEONE ELSE WHO WAS NOT ME.

The last five minutes of the hour were occupied with the advice to hang up and ring the GP in the morning.  The telephone assistant was so helpful she said she herself would book me a call to the doctor.  She was on it like a car bonnet.  With no further action on my part, the GP would ring me solicitously in the AM, alert as a lurcher with a downed duck in sight, ready to prescribe medicine for the person the medicine was to be prescribed for and no other human.

HRP: What are you tutting for?

Reader: Remember that set-to I had with that receptionist?

HRP: Oh, that!

Reader:  Just like that.

As I hung up the phone on an hour and a half of my life that I would never get back, I noticed that my arm, which had been resting on the marble top of the wash stand, was quite a bit less inflated than the other arm.

Therefore the next ten minutes were spent with both arms resting on the marble.

I did try for thighs on the marble, small of the back on the marble, ears on the marble, midriff on the marble.

Assiduously, I assure you.  However, the pensionable may struggle at five in the AM to hoist parts of their person on to a waist level Edwardian wash stand.  I certainly did.

I eventually discovered that the key to curtailing the itching was to get cold.

Fortunately it is August in Britain, therefore quite chilly.

Reader: Ooh, remind me to find the hot water bottle for tonight.

HRP: Will it stop you putting your feet on me to warm up?

Reader:  Maybe.

Then I remembered that I had not put the dustbin out.  Gambling that the neighbours would all be abed, I put the dustbin out wearing very very little clothing.  Me, not the bin.  No one passed by to remark that they were seeing more of me than usual.  Reluctantly I returned to the warmish indoors and spent the rest of the night doing wash stand, bed, wash stand bed, as you do.

The first time you can ring the doctor’s in the morning is 8.30, exactly at 8.30 there were 22 people ahead of me in the queue.  When I finally accessed the receptionist, I discovered that the helpline direct had indeed arranged for a call from the doctor in the late afternoon, as it was non-urgent.

So, the doctor’s receptionist being sympathetic, the doctor rang half an hour later.  I told him I was in post surgical isolation and could only let him see my rash if he was willing to direct his computer to my blog.

Which he did.

Two readers!

In perfect English (as he is) in a five minute conversation all was established, the rash identified as a post-surgical over-reaction to insect bites and Fexofenadine, but much stronger than the OH’s, prescribed.

The OH in bed, informed, did after half an hour get up of his own volition and fetch it, and I took the One-A-Day pill, once.  And after two hours the swellin’ subsided.

Reader:  Oh she’s alright.


Reader: Oh hang on……

By bed time it had thoroughly worn off.


Three o clock arms on the washstand, half past hair on the wash stand.

Do you know how it is when you give up and decide to sit up and read and, when you put your glasses on (because you are no longer short sighted) and the passage of the arm of the glasses sets off a furious itching behind your ear?  And then all the curly bits inside your ear join in and swell too. No?  Lucky you.

I was terrified the swelling would get to my face and I would scratch and dislodge the recent implant in my eye.  My ears were swollen like a prize winning boxer, leather belt and gold shield.

Terrified with the terror of terribly tired at four in the morning.

I interrupt this blog to go downstairs and get the next dose of Fexofenadine for it is ten sixteen, exactly 24 hours since the last dose.

And then I bethought me.

Reader:  Finally, she’s thinking!

HRP: You could take a leaf out of that book.

Reader:  You can talk!

HRP: No, I’m trying to read, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Serrapeptase!  My serrapeptase!  The classed-as-a-health-food enzyme that saves me from polymyalgia rheumatica – it’s an anti-inflammatory!

Three doses at hourly intervals later, the itching everywhere except in my hair and on my hands (which look like I’m wearing inflated red rubber gloves) has subsided.  Even the thighs, which were extreme.  You know when you have cheap mass catering and they do pigs in blankets as tiny expensive sausages encased in massive huge cheap puff pasty rolls? Like that.

And then it was eight o’ clock and a mere two and a half hours to the next Fexofenadine, so I kept my fat itchy fingers busy writing this.

I should have thought of the Serrapeptase sooner.  I should have kept the faith and believed in an enzyme which is of proven assistance rather than an advertised so-called helpline.

I should have known what I know instead of believing anything that can be looked up on a phone.  With age comes marginal wisdom, there to be used, if you remember to do so.

I hope with great sincerity that this is the last blog on the subject of itching.  The last three nights I could have given the Singing Detective a run for his money, that’s for sure.

In the insufficiently-chilly night I recalled a film about the French Foreign Legion (in my defence it was half past two and I was swollen) in which some poor wrong-doer was either staked out on an anthill in the sand, or buried up to the neck with wriggly things, I forget which, but if they have ever done this for real, you want to avoid joining the French Foreign Legion, you really do, no matter how bleak the supermarket chiller cabinet is for vegetarians in barbecue season.  No really.  Anyway, you wouldn’t suit the hat.


*Ken I quoll yeeuw Jen? Jeeyan?

No, call me stupid, that will do.

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Revenge of the Triffid.

I was an idiot.  (You may have worked this out.)

I foolishly labelled my lush and magnificent tomato plant ‘A Triffid’.

It did not like it and got its own back.

The last two posts have been about the garden because I have been having my cataracts done.  This is a thing which is both less and more bother than you would think, though on present evidence, by gum is it worth it.**  I have not been reporting on this for the theoretical learning wot I have got in the way the world works. As in: crow about something and the wheel will fall off, be modest and get on with it and yours will be the earth and everything that’s in it and what is more, you’ll be a man my son.  Rudyard Kipling, Margaret Thatcher and me, we all support this view of things. So I have carefully not been mentioning my eye in case it exploded.

However, it is still surgery and no matter how trouble-free modern surgery may be, it is nevertheless a bit of an insult to the body and should be treated with respect.

After surgery on the first eye, I came a cropper ten days later shifting massive pots full of soil and carrying statues round the garden, like you do.  Well I do, and I believe they do it in the Iron Man competition too, though they may not have had a cataract done just ten days previously.  My done eye, which had been fine, developed a white ring round it which was just like a contact lens about to drop out and becoming detached in a way that garrulous neighbours do not when you have left the last of the milk and sugar on high while you just pop out to the bin.

I lay flat, put the antibiotic drops in and crossed my fingers and toes, while cursing myself roundly and, indeed in other geometric terms too, I was quite annoyed with myself.  The day after the day after, all was well and it was a check up.

Having got away with stupidity you would think I would be more sensible for the second eye, wouldn’t you? (Welcome new reader!)

Yesterday, the day after the surgery on Tuesday, I realised the tomato plant had not been watered.  A plant 12 feet high requires a couple of gallons a day, at least.

As I (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Fool’) had not watered it, I thought I would do it by can with feed in the watering can.

This requires me to crawl into the jungle with the can, under the canopy, far from civilisation,


Some jungle resident, thinking I had come to nick its tomatoes, bit me.

Indoors I asked the OH to check my hair for signs of life.  This was my mistake.  I should have got fully undressed and hosed myself down with disinfectant.

During the evening the bites all down my arm became itchy, rapidly followed by everything else.  By midnight I could not lie still and had an itchy rash everywhere like this one on my arm.*


Everything swelled.  Do you remember Suellen, the poisoned dwarf who lived at Southfork by the pool in a howling gale?  Categorised as Swellin’ by Terry Wogan.  I was more swollen than Swellin’.  My swellin’ was swellin’ until I was swole, as a whole.

Thankfully the OH, who has medication for things you haven’t even heard of, crikey we designed the kitchen around the need for drawers for his pills, had very powerful anti-histamine, of the light blue touch paper and retire variety.

By three in the morning it had begun to take effect and today I just have a rash round my middle like a jammed lifebelt.

I am going to vouchsafe you a thingy that may help you in the future.

It is: after surgery, rest up.


Today I shall simply perpetrate art, but only if the pencil is not too heavy.

* I did not take the photograph of my arm for this blog, the OH took it on his phone so he could say to the ambulance people ‘But it was only like this an hour ago.’

**Yes, it is.


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The tale of the triffid tomato.

Back in the spring when we were still locked down, it was permissible to take my sewing machine to another town where a shop could repair it under guarantee.

The return journey was paused to visit a strange supermarket, such a thing, at the time, constituting a wildly exciting day out. (And, reader, when we went to collect the machine we visited the same previously unknown supermarket, even though there was food in the house.  Obviously because we needed to use the facilities provided for the elderly bladder and not just because we were having a jolly when we should have been sitting at home being miserable.  Though to be fair we were masked, squirted and gloved.  Well I was gloved.  The only time in the last eighteen months that I have been out without gloves was when the hospital receptionist forced me to take them off because ‘only the doctors are allowed to wear gloves’.  They will besmirch her fingers with devil’s snot when she gets to Hell, in my opinion.  Just saying.’)

In this marginally sumptuous venue I purchased a little tomato plant.  I grew it on in the sunroom and repotted it twice before planting it outside in a16 inch pot  With Richard Jackson’s Root Booster and some Easyfeed.

Here are some of the tomatoes which have fallen upon the ground.

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You may wonder why I am not picking them all before they drop.  Good question.

Here is the 16 inch pot.

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Underneath the plant, which is so gigantic I have had to support it with a garden chair.

Like this.


It has climbed up over the substantial wire obelisk, which is buried in there somewhere, and is now venturing behind the drain pipe.

Next week I expect to be able to lean out of my bedroom window and pick tomatoes.

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There are many tomatoes.

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Many, many cherry tomatoes.  There is also a cucumber plant. which was standing on a table, which has now been overgrown by the triffid, and is starting to produce cucumbers interwoven with the tomato vine.

I await the eager cry of Tarzan: Ergle ergle ergle ergle err, can I have a tomato sandwich please?

Yes of course he can, there is plenty, or maybe, planty.

I wish I could email you some through the ether.

Picked off the vine and shoved in the gob, summer has arrived.


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As it is August, I had to go out in the rain to photograph my lilies before they go over.

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Even from inside the house, through the French window they are pretty good.

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I was quite quick with the lily beetle spray this year.  It has paid off, strong growth in the leaf stage seems to produce better blooms, possibly because the plant is not using all its energy to fight the attack.  If you go outside and turn the other way on the steps you see this:

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The cascade is rooted in several different pots.

I went out to the front garden,where a gentleman walking past, stopped so as not to get in shot and remarked on how beautiful the lilies are.

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I agree, even those in pots doing their first year are good this time.

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You can appreciate the use of them by Victorian artists as symbolic of all things angelic.  Considering that these are bulbs that anyone can grow, that are readily available and not expensive, (and these are not the giant lilies, just ordinary Asiatic lilies) they really are out of this world, even in an English garden,in the rain.

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