Nurses.

Eight days in hospital is a long time to watch.  There’s not a lot else you can do if you’re not up to reading but hooked up to bottles and drip stands. I had pipes up my nose and everywhere else and a forest of cannulas delivering stuff into veins, so apart from lugging the lot to the loo or the shower, watching and leaving meals was the entertainment on offer.  There was a lady admitted in the last couple of days who thought the ward would benefit from her choice of 24 hour radio station.  I pretended I was better than I was to escape, which wasn’t difficult; I was clogging up a bed.

You hear a lot about the NHS on the news at present.  How the government promised pay rises for the staff that survived Covid and then reneged on the deal.  You also hear a bitter bit from those that lost loved ones.  You hear about an influx of nurses from overseas and doctors resigning in droves.  But all of this is stuff you are hearing from outside the system.

Inside, things look a little different.

I was in a six bed ward, supposedly a gynae ward but full of those who were not there for those reasons.  As I had been admitted ten times previously for ‘conservative’ treatment (otherwise known as ‘see if she gets better on her own’) I had been on this ward, and indeed, in the corner bed, several times before.

This time I had long enough to observe the patients.

In the far corner next to the door was a large lady who had broken a forearm.  She had very little English, I don’t know how long she had lived here; her son, visiting, in his forties, had perfect English.  She was waiting for some assisted accommodation to be arranged.  I came back from the bathroom once, having met a nurse who had missed me for observations, to find the broken arm lady shouting and gesticulating at me.  ‘BELL!’ she shouted making a sign pressing with her thumb. I explained that I had met the nurse.  ‘NO!  BELL!’  After several increasingly violent shouts, I pressed my bell and redirected the nurse.  Mrs Broken Arm just wanted someone to take her to the toilet.

She drank pints of chocolate laxative out of a feeding cup, and, despite having learned several demands, didn’t appear to know ‘Thank you.’

The nurses were always kind to her, always cheerful, always willing, and, although she shouted ‘TRAINERS!’ at them several times a day, never clonked her across the head with them.  I would have.

In the next bed, when I arrived, was a nineteen year old with some sort of mental problem to do with malingering or pretending physical problems that she did not have.  She was as manipulative as a politician.  In the phone call to her boyfriend, complaining that her bank card wasn’t working, she had his card details out of him in a trice and onto a website on her phone that takes me longer to type than it took her to do.  She constantly rang for the nurses to bring her packets of crisps and sweets.  When the doctors did ward rounds she cried. When they were away she had long conversations with friends about a reality dating show.  Her mother came to fetch her; she wouldn’t go.  She lay curled up in bed hugging a teddy, with her fingers in her ears.

Eventually a senior nurse with epaulettes, was tasked with persuading her to go home.  Every half hour through the morning, the nurse drew the curtains round the bed and had a chat.  She never raised her voice.  She was never anything but kind, she never threatened, but halfway through the afternoon the patient capitulated and went home, without a fuss.

Later when that nurse came to do my observations I praised her consummate professionalism, and was provided by her superior with paper and pen to write down my opinion for the record.

In the next bed, opposite mine, was Shirley (not her real name).  Ten years older than me with heart trouble, she’d only been there a day when she tested positive for flu.  They put her on antibiotics which gave her diarrhoea.  Poor Shirley trudged with a stick, backwards and forwards to the loo.  Cheerful and uncomplaining, she was visited by family who lived near and were making arrangements for family care post hospital.  The window between us was open because of the heat, which would have been great if the ward hadn’t been positioned above the lorries’ loading bay for the hospital.

I teased Shirley we were on holiday together to cheer her up.  I made plans to go clubbing, or shopping. One particularly sonorous night, I said I wasn’t going on holiday again with her if she kept choosing a room over the docks.

That night at four in the morning there was a backing lorry, intoning ‘STAND WELL AWAY – VEHICLE REVERSING’ in the normal way for ten minutes.  There was a massive crash.  Someone said ‘Oh,’  preceding the sound of seventeen radiators falling off the back of a lorry.  There was a long and thoughtful pause before the voice said ‘..shit’.  Then I fell asleep.

In the corner bed was me.  I know you know I was polite and thankful, walked up and down, tidied my food tray, wiped my table and did everything possible to help myself.

I am surprised there was no lynching party, however.

Arrived on the ward, it was clear my newly reconstructed intestines were in charge. At first I hiccupped loudly every five minutes.  Not your dainty ladylike hic but a huge lengthy HYuccER…IC!  By the second day it was down to every ten minutes and continued in that manner for the rest of my stay.  I still do it if I get hungry, or I’ve eaten a couple of mouthfuls too much.  Or drunk a fizzy drink.  Or moved.  Or stood up.  Or sat down.

Then there were my fights with the bed.  There’s a control at the foot of the bed that raises the top, bends the knees or drops the lower third of the bed.  I could not get comfortable.  Then the pillows joined in.  They are made of a smooth substance like plastic, with one pillowcase with ambitions to be a concertina.  They look quite plump but as soon as you rest on them they deflate.  Crosspatch with the broken arm had EIGHT pillows.  When I broke my arm I had given the hospital £200 to buy pillows; I was really quite annoyed to think I might have financed someone shouting ‘BELL!’ at me.

At one point the cleaner came to my corner and raised the bed to head height, preparatory to cleaning underneath, as I was sitting in the corner in a wipe-clean, slide-off chair.  As soon as the bed was up the consultant lady arrived to see how I was.  The cleaner beetled off.

There followed an interesting interview.

Consultant (on tiptoe peering over the bed) ‘Mrs. Laverick?  Where are you?  How are you?’

Me (craning and sliding) ‘Um, OK’

Consultant (peering under the bed) ‘You’ve had a lot of work done.’

Me (Peering down and nearly sliding on to the floor.) ‘Yes’

Consultant’ ‘Oh be careful.  Can we move this table? Oh good thank you.  There you are.’

Me (scrabbling back into the chair) ‘Yes.’

Consultant (consulting a chart) ‘We’ll have couple of tubes out of you, Mrs Laverick, later today.’  She turns and walks straight into the bed.  ‘Arrgh.’

Me  ‘Good.’

In the next bed when I arrived was a lady in later stages of dementia.  After a day and a half she tested positive for Covid, was wheeled off elsewhere and the entire ward was in for a deep clean.

The cleaning crew were cheerful,  foreign assorted and constantly wished each other ‘Happy Christmas!’ and laughed.

First they took all the curtains off all the rails and bagged them and sealed them and put them in a heap in the middle of the floor.

Happy Christmas!

Then they raised all the unoccupied beds to five foot and washed them.  Then they washed the floor, the door, a bit of the walls and all the curtain rails.

And then they took two big buckets of water with two cloths each bucket and washed the television.

The front the back, the stand, the top, the workings, the speaker bar and the antenna.

Then they very thoroughly soused the remote control.

Happy Christmas!

A very comely nurse with incredible multicoloured dreadlocks, three inch curly eyelashes, massive pink lips, beautiful round cheeks, an impressive frontage, a substantial derriere and a very short skirt came in, did a 360 and left at speed.

Happy Christmas!

Then they brought in new curtains for every bed, replaced them all, high fived each other

Happy Christmas!

and left.

The TV dripped for a couple of hours, but it was by the window, so it blew dry eventually.

After a few days the next bed was filled by a pregnant lady with an entourage of two young men, who closed her curtains and lay on the bed with her.  By this stage the OH had brought me earplugs, which I used.

The bed opposite, vacated by the teenager, was filled by a young lady with Quinsy and a massive backpack.  The first morning she stood at the end of her bed and bent her knees so bendily if she had swayed slightly she could have swept the floor with her bottom.  Then she wiggled her arms a bit, then she stood on one leg, picked up the foot she was not standing on and placed it on her head.

As you do.

She was a Canadian volleyball player who had represented her country at National level.  If you’ve ever wondered about you and the Olympics – not like us dear, different species.

On the second day her coach, a local lad, arrived for a visit.  He did not take his eyes off her eyes for a second and he laughed at her every utterance including once when she sneezed.  There was quite a lot about his mum in the conversation.

But by the third day she was cured and set off with her massive backpack alone.

The last bed was dramatically occupied by a twenty one year old who swept into the ward with many bags and asked ‘How are we all doing girls?’

‘BELL!’

‘HYuccER..IC!’

She was a teacher, she said constantly, and also twenty one.  She had brought laptops belonging to the school, jewellery and many things for which she was required to sign forms absolving the hospital from responsibility in the case of theft.  She then left them all and went off to find a hospital garden to vape in.

Later in the morning another loud dramatic conversation through the soundproof bed curtains revealed that she had an ear infection which might just invade her brain.

There was a lot of bravado, but by eleven she was in tears, so I took her half my box of tissues and and stroked her arm and told her I knew she was frightened but the doctors knew what they were doing.

The drama continued through the night as she summoned nurses, contemplated discharging herself, and flounced out to vape.

The last patient

HYuccER..IC!

came in in the middle of the night, covered in blood and looking as if she had come off worse in a fight.  She couldn’t stand, the ligaments down her legs were destroyed, so the nurses had to put her on a commode.  She couldn’t see out of one blood-covered eye.

But when her family visited in ones and twos the following day it turned out the damage was self inflicted, that she had been lucky someone found her in the hall.  Every family member asked her why she was doing this to herself and when she was going to stop.

I gave her my Lucozade and best wishes as I left.

I was just as much a problem as the rest.

I have fine veins, after a week in hospital any visible veins to get a line in are in short supply and require a skilled practitioner to do the job.  One night I waited a couple of hours for a young doctor to be fetched from the other side of the building to carefully cannulate me to get a painkiller into me.  He was patient, kind and cheerful, on a scholarship from far away.  I hope his mum knows how good he is.

There was a gentle, slim African nurse, constantly worried about her little boy, in a flat, in a heatwave.

There was a large incredibly capable white nurse.  She has several children, struggles with finance for all their needs and is one of those who were definitely born to be a nurse.  Always kind, always gentle, never forgetting a request.

Some of the black nurses were so gorgeous they were out of everybody’s league.  Any one of them could have been a model but every one of them was a nurse.

And then there were the self-styled Minions of the Night.  A pair of nurses who I have met before on the wards.  On permanent night duty, a short middle aged lady and a taller thinner one, keeping each other going through the darkness with banter, ribbing, biscuits and an occasional nudge in the ribs and laughter.

And there was a Matron.  I don’t know if that was her title but she was in charge of  two wards but was not too busy to spot me after the doctors had left.  The surgeon who had just removed my insides suggested I could eat anything I liked and recommended a whole baked potato.  The Matron spotted me creeping out subsequently to vomit it all up again blackly by the litre.  She rescued me afterwards, shepherding me back to the ward with a quiet ‘Doctors, what do they know?’ muttered under what I swear was a wing.

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Nurses are not paid enough.  Nurses are insufficiently valued in society.  When you need them they are there for you.  We should be there for them.  Whoever looks after you in your hour of need ought to be encouraged to be there because sooner or later we all encounter an hour of need.  I had 192 hours + district nurses, surgery nurses and counting and needed every nurse in every hour.

Never there to judge, always there to help.  How lucky we are that there are nurses.  Long may they continue.

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How now.

I am writing in a very self-obsessed way following enquiries as to how I am.

What a very lengthy performance.  It is three weeks today since the surgery.  I can walk a few steps before I need to sit down.

The OH joined in.  I’d been home a day, when he announced he had occult blood and had sent samples in and might be ill.  It was nothing.  Then he threw himself into archery, causing one step down from a detached retina with flashing lights, a drive to the next big hospital, an argument about the booking process and a return the following day in an expensive taxi after looking at me slumped in a chair and wondering if I could drive him.  It has gone away.

The previous day the OH came in from the garden and thought I was dead and the day before that he shouted at me because I nearly cried, I was so weak.

However, he has been doing the shopping and the washing and the gardening.  He has not been drinking the bad news away which is an improvement on when I had the cancer diagnosis.

The District nurses have been helpful and are now down to twice a week and hoping to get rid of me as soon as I am able to sit in a car, get out, walk into the surgery and report to the practice nurse, which I could not do yet.

The main reason for all the nurses is the leak.

About two days home, I stood up in the loo and realised everything was wet.  The wound had produced a couple of pints of foaming fluid all over the floor.  A nurse was sent for and and pronounced it a partial hissage.  This is a thing when a wound opens up.  Fortunately she had seen it before, got on the phone and mopped me up and dressed the wound.

This has continued ever since seven or eight times in twenty four hours.  Not as much in quantity and slowly decreasing, I think or hope.  The nurses bring absorbent dressings, I have bought some expensively, online.  No one knows what to expect because no one knows anyone who has had scar tissue from 1959 removed before.  The surgeon said he had never seen anything like it, the appendix scar was like the baddie scar master pinning the front of me to the back of me with every other scar wound in and out of it strangling my intestines.

The stuff coming out of me is the most amazing red gold colour.  It’s the colour you would paint a dragon.  It looks like life force.  It actually sparkles.

Although it has been horrific, this undoubtedly needed to happen.  There are benefits already.

For several years my face has been getting spottier.  Over the last year I’ve had weeping pustules all over my chin.  My navel had leaked for several months.  The only way I could make my innards work was an hour on the twist stepper, a pint of tea and then pummelling my stomach.

All of that is swept away.  There was even a thing like a mole but scaly, near my eye, that has just disappeared.  My fingernails are wonderful.

It remains to be seen what next and if the benefits hold steady and when the leak will just stop.

Could it be that I will return to 1958 and start skipping and building snowmen?

One thing is certain.  You are your intestines.  Who knew?

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Gutted

I actually have been.  I am now missing 8 inches of small bowel and several pounds of scar tissue, which has been dissolved.

All this happened on the 9th, this is the 24th and the first time I am strong enough to write.  I’ll tell you the occasionally horrific tale in small doses and will not post the photo of me with 25 staples holding my stomach together because it is awful.

Must be special medical staples?   Must be a special medical stapler?

No and again, no.

25 staples is quite a lot.

Picture it.

A hot theatre.  A tired surgeon who has just spent three hours taking out the trash.  He does three staples, starting at the top, fires the next one, nothing.  He checks the gun and because he is a surgeon, does not fire it experimentally in his face.

No staples.

Everyone looks at the junior doctor at the back of the room because they know he has a bicycle and the roads are being resurfaced all around for the Commonwealth games and many are shut.

The lad sets off for Rymans.

People look around the walls and whistle.  Enquiries are made about holiday plans.

The boy returns with a box of number eight staples.

Sadly the machine takes number elevens.

He leaves, the theatre grows hotter.  No whistling, everyone is picturing ice lollies or beer.

The lad returns with two boxes of elevens and a doughnut in his pocket, for later.

They haul me off for a few hours in high dependency, of which I recall nothing.

The surgeon removed scar tissue from my appendix scar, Christmas 1959.

I am now so old I qualify as archaeology.

But I am still here.

Thank you to everyone who emailed.

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Brief hiatus

Hi all, S&H here. Just to let you know my Mum was admitted to hospital yesterday. She’s had a section of her intestines removed, but is recovering well. She asked me to drop a note here to let you all know. Normal service will resume once she’s back home and feeling up to posting.

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The squirrel.

I read in the newspaper today that grey squirrels, which are not native to Britain, are responsible for the destruction of trees and chasing our native squirrel, which is a red squirrel away.

Well, I’m sorry.  I have a grey squirrel and I really like him (or her).  He, she or it is clever.  And fast.  The photos were taken over a while, so you’ll have to excuse the greenery shrinking.

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He arrives on the OH’s shed roof and has a look around.  He’s making sure the crow family, who are bigger than him, are not around.

If the coast is clear, he bounds across the fence.

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And down  on to the grass and up the bird table stand.

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What happens next depends on me and the garden birds.  If there is something he fancies on top of the table, he will pick it over.  Favourites are sunflower seed kernels.  I either put these out neat, in a bird feeder, or loose on the table top if they are mixed in with Richard Jackson’s bird food.  (It says on the packet that it attracts all sorts of wild birds, doesn’t mention squirrels.)

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But if the birds have wrecked his plans by eating the bird food he is obliged to become an acrobat.

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Very cleverly he hangs upside down by his tail, grasps the feeder with his paws and eats all the sunflower hearts he wants.

Yum.

Sometimes he sits up on the table, digesting, and once he hobbled across the lawn, stopped and gave his tail a good wash to get it in working order.

The OH calls grey squirrels ‘tree rats’.

I disagree, I think he is enchanting.

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What do you think?

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Three pinfalls and a submission.

There has been a bit of radio silence from me.  You’ve not had any writing because I’ve been writing.

As you, dedicated reader, may recall, what sustained me through the dreadful years of being a carer for my demented mother, was the hope that at the end of the awfulness there would be time for me.  I joined sculpture classes and began to write a comic novel in the summer of 2017 and then broke my arm.  It was the second worst break in the history of the local hospital and it looked for a while as though I might end up unibrasular, which, as it was my right arm and I am right handed, was a bit unfortunate.  But I hardly had time to lament my one handedness when I was diagnosed with cancer, for which I had surgery in January 2018, which was bungled, leaving me with multiple adhesions to my intestines, which were not working, and only diagnosed after ten hospital readmissions.

Nevertheless, howsumdeavor, and heyupmelad, I kept writing.  I did it in my head until hours and hours of arm exercises meant I could actually operate the keyboard again, more than one finger at a time.  I bashed away until I had a novel.

Unfortunately, as this was the start of lockdown, everyone else and his dog was writing their novel.  Literary agents were swamped in a backwash of surprise creativity.

All the advice is to submit to numerous agencies at once.  That’s probably professional but it isn’t me.  Many agencies no longer even bother rejecting you.  If you haven’t heard back in ten weeks you assume they do not want you.  You polish up your manuscript again, write a new letter, check the synopsis is still good enough, compare yourself to several other writers, which I find almost impossible, and send a little lonely extract off into the darkness to wait its time being turned away.  Eventually you start whistling ‘Buddy can you spare a dime?’, wearing a flat cap and kicking a tin can along a gutter.

Two years later you decide on a big edit, a major carwash and polish, including the glove box and the wheel rims and that is what I’ve been doing.

The friend who died, who was carer for her husband, asked me if I would let her read the manuscript of any book I had written.  She was a fan of my funny columns in the hobby magazine.  I always promised she would get the first copy.

So that won’t happen.  Neither, if I ever get it published will I be able to send a copy to my cousin, who I still miss, and I won’t be able to read it with the cat on my knee.  The OH will never read it; he’s married to the author.

However, having  cleaned its ears and sent it off again, I am about to embark on some sculpture.  There’s a big block of stone in the garden with the old shower curtain draped over it, as you do.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

And if the novel ever makes it, I’ll let you know about that too.

Winners never quit, quitters never win.  Failure only exists when you stop trying.  There are more wise sayings about keeping going than there are sports coaches in the world, possibly.

My next door neighbour is the local hospital orthopaedic surgeon for legs.  Although it was he who recommended I wait for the surgeon who did major arm injuries for rugby players, after the surgery his wife said: well, we are all disabled now.  I think trying to show solidarity.

Howsumdeavor, our kid, what I have actually turned out to be is ambidextrous, which is handy for lifting, typing, shopping and maybe sculpture, I’ll let you know.  And it’s good for your brain, it gets the blood going in different circles, always helpful for any sort of art.

And you can hold an ice cream in each hand, come the hot weather.

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Still in there somewhere.

For new readers, these are the dementia diaries in which I document the occurrences I encounter when involved with family members, or friends with dementia.  I am now up to my fifth such family member.  The first was my new mother-in-law who was diagnosed at the end of the 1970s, the latest is my step-mother-in-law, who I usually refer to as SMIL.

Throughout the pandemic SMIL had her son, who lived near to her in the same town, popping in and doing the shopping.  He committed suicide, so his sister, who lived several counties away, took over, getting helpers from Social Services provided by the local council to go in every day, once her mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease as lockdown was ending.  Just over a year ago, a senior member of the care team encountered SMIL on a bad day and threatened her daughter that they were going to put SMIL in the first care home available.  The daughter, who had been surveying care homes near her, acted quickly, moving her mother to a care home in the next village to her.

If you read literature which is available about dementia, which I did obsessively when my mother was first diagnosed, nearly all sources are of the opinion that the more familiar the surroundings, the less demented the behaviour.  I had already experienced this with my mother-in-law.  Once she was diagnosed, my father-in-law came and stayed with us for one long weekend a fortnight, early Friday to late Monday and the other weekend he took her up to Scotland to stay with her sister.  In conversations with him and the sister it became apparent that my mother-in-law was very much more agitated and aggressive up in Scotland than she was with us, in Nottingham.  The reason was the building.  We lived in a semi-detached three bedroom house, identical to my in-laws’ own home.  All the rooms were in the same place, the stairs were on the same side, the kitchen and crucially, toilet, were in the same location.  The house in Scotland was utterly different.  Different size, different number of rooms, different placement of the garden, different location of the kitchen and bathroom.  My mother-in law was lost the minute she got out of the car at her sister’s. 

In dementia the brain is challenged, parts of it are not working, or not working well.  This can be deduced by bystanders with little effort.  At first the short term memory will go on the blink causing sufferers to repeat themselves endlessly as they forget what they have just said.  As the disease progresses the normal stimulus/response activities simply do not work.  As the sufferer becomes more aware that their utterances are not understood and they cannot think how to correct the problem, they will resort to increasingly less sophisticated forms of social connection all the way down to physical violence and beyond.

The prognosis is variable, depending on the type of dementia, the underlying health and age when first diagnosed.  The shortest prognosis would be about five years, the longest about ten.  If you look it up you will find the disease is now classified in stages, which it was not when my mother was diagnosed, a decade ago.  I don’t know how helpful the classification is: as in bereavement people go through all the stages but not necessarily for the same duration of each phase or in the same order.

But, as with my mother when the re-mortgage ran out to pay for 24 hour care in her own home, causing her to be moved to a care home, or with my mother-in-law at her sister’s, when the sufferer is moved away from familiar surroundings at any stage of the disease, their ability to cope and subsequent behaviour will take a nose dive, instantly, or fairly soon.

I have likened dementia to a faulty neon sign, flashing on and off with a dodgy electrical connection.  This is a good analogy, the brain is electrical.  Every thought you have ever had is the result of an electrical connection.  In dementia, there are road blocks in the brain, normal routes of thought are unavailable, so connections are random, unpredictable and frequently inappropriate.

Imagine what it is to be a sufferer.  Imagine yourself to suddenly arrive in a hotel in an unknown location.  Everyone is speaking a foreign language which you do not understand, you have a massive headache, you are bursting to go to the loo, you have no idea where it is, you do not know how to ask and any minute you’re about to disgrace yourself in front of strangers who are all making noises at you which you can’t understand.  What do you do?

Now imagine all this happened because the person who was usually there for you has died, which you only remember sometimes.

When my father died, there were many visitors.  They nearly all promised to visit often.  By the last six months two were left.  One, my mother’s hairdresser decided she could not bear to visit the care home, the other came briefly, just a couple of times. SMIL had a great social life; the week she was due to move to the care home she had a goodbye party.  Of course none of the former friends have visited – the home is many miles away and they are all old.

As familiar faces vanish and the surroundings become strange and unfathomable at the same time as the brain, trying to catch up with all that is happening, diverts blood from the conversational areas to the map reading and toilet finding zones, life takes an unwelcome downward turn.  Add, in a home with communal lounges, other demented people, some of whom are having a violent phase, so that the sufferer is now surrounded by aggressive strangers, and the outcome is not going to be peace and light.  Not long ago, on the news, there was an item about someone’s family member who had been murdered by another resident in their care home.  Suppose you had just seen that on the news, before you, who cannot walk well, and certainly cannot run away, are moved into a care home.

Those of us on the outside of the disease find the repetition a trial or the making no sense, stretching, or visits exhausting.  We decide to spare ourselves the trouble, hoping that the one in fourteen current incidence of the disease, won’t be us.

Cancer is one in two, I have had it twice.

So now, deserted by everyone we know, sick and struggling to make sense of it all, ineffective and terrified, how are we to cope if we are the demented person?  What future is there for us?

As you know, regular Diaries reader, my recent communications with SMIL have been very difficult.  The system to get to her involves ringing the office at the home.  Frequently I wait for a response, sometimes there is none.  If there is one,  the member of staff will search for SMIL and see if she is awake.  If she is, I wait five minutes and ring the home mobile number and they will take the phone to SMIL.  If she is asleep or running amok, I will ring later, if she is really bad I just send love.  I’ve been doing this every day for over a year.  I started ringing SMIL every day in lockdown and promised I would continue.

Sometimes when they hand her the phone she presses all the buttons, on a few occasions she hit the phone bearer with it.  Sometimes she can say a word, sometimes I just chat into a void.

I try to send a parcel once a week.  A card I’ve made, pictures of the grandchildren, a bit of chocolate, clothes when she lost weight.  Something non verbal, something easy to understand.

Imagine my surprise this morning when she responded so sanely.

I asked how she was, chatted about the nice weather, asked if she needed anything and waited to see if there was a reply.  She was obviously trying to speak so I waited.

SMIL said: I just want to thank you Jane for staying in touch, thank you for the phone calls, thank you for being there.

I couldn’t decide whether to burst into tears or fall off the chair.  In the end I just reassured her that I always would be.  I told her I knew how terribly her life had changed recently but that I would not, she could ask someone to phone me and I would always try to phone her; in a changing world I would be the same.

Your demented person is still in there.  They are lost in their own brain.  Like a person imprisoned behind a jumble of electrical wiring, they are still there, lost and severely damaged but still themselves.

Don’t sever the lines of communication with your demented person.  Keep trying.  Set the example for the generation coming after you.

One day we will all be old with bits dropping off.

If we are lucky.

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Art

Art is the language of this planet,
It knows no boundaries, owes no allegiances
It illuminates the truth; it speaks to the soul.
Art shows us what is – with a better understanding.

Art is food for the hunger of the heart.
Art is solace in the lonely places.
Art grasps an empty hand with love
And shows the jaded vision a new vista.

Art endures and takes the artist with it
Into an eternity of objectivity.
Those who transform our perception of the world
Are forever part of the altered image.

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Welcome new reader.

Welcome!

If you have found me because of a little piece of paper, or a search engine, welcome!

This website is incredibly easy to navigate, if you can tap, scroll, or poke you can do it.  There are no pop-ups, no adverts, it is all for free and I am not trying to sell you anything or help anyone else sell you anything.  I know there is an empty shop arranged along the top bar.  There was a working shop before the old computer fell over and the shop will be filled just as soon as my son, who is the technical expert has taught his idiot mother (that would be me) how to get things into this new shop.  Apparently it is intuitive.

But only if you are under thirty.

Visiting the site will never be dependant upon buying something.  What there will be for sale in the shop is for miniaturists.  I have been making miniature porcelain dolls of my own design, from scratch via my own sculptures and moulds for thirty five years.  The number of each item is one and they will only be for sale in the UK by post because of Brexit.  You would find, if you were buying them elsewhere in the world, that taxes at the border might double the cost.  However you will always find me at the dolls house show, Miniatura, at the NEC or Stoneleigh show ground.  The dolls in the shop are there for adult miniaturists and collectors.  Yes, there was a show on the telly, not very representative of the hobby, which hobby, over the last forty years, has featured professional artisans in every artistic discipline you can imagine.  I had only been making dolls for a couple of years when I was asked to contribute to a magazine and wrote for various hobby magazines for fifteen years, only stopping when I became carer for my demented mother.

Writing for magazines involved interviewing artists, often those who were exhibiting at the NEC.  As a glossy magazine can take months to come to press, the artists complained that the publicity was always too late: by the time I was able to tell collectors what was available, it was sold.

So I began this website thirteen years ago this autumn, to tell collectors what exhibitors were taking to the show.  Everybody liked that.  Exhibitors could email photos of the things that were finished just a week (sometimes the night) before the show and I could show visitors what was there.  In a hall of two hundred tables full of tiny stuff, nothing got missed.

If you create an entity, however, it becomes itself.

I wrote the funny column for dolls house magazines (originally because I thought some collectors were so far up themselves there was no daylight) but got frequent requests from readers to be funny ‘about something else, for as long as a cup of tea’.

At shows people started running up to me, saying something, laughing and running away.  When I eventually managed to get out from behind the table to catch them, I found they were quoting my own jokes at me.

There’s a lot of humour here.  You can find it by clicking on the word humour in the tags section to the right.  Like everything else in a blog the most recent posting comes up first.  When you read a piece and get to the bottom, the piece that comes afterwards was written before.  If you are just reading the whole column of articles at the bottom you click on ‘older posts’ to summon a new column of reading.  You can also keep going back to humour, or anything else,  and clicking on that.

Above the tags are the categories. They are the subjects that I am writing about.  The first three are all for miniaturists and about miniatures.  Astronomy will fill up as we go and I get to grips with a telescope, maybe.

The next category, Dementia Diaries, is huge.  I am now on to my fifth friend or family member with dementia.  This is a disease that affects families and friends almost as badly as the sufferer and can make carers very ill indeed.  I have had cancer twice, each time after being a carer at my own expense for someone with dementia.  I began writing the diaries when I became carer for my mother, who was difficult even before she became ill.  I wrote to help others in the same position.  I wrote what I had done, the agencies who had helped and those who had not, what could and could not be done to make things better and just the day to day experience of living with the disease.  I was not writing to tell anyone what to do, just sharing my experience.  I had found the situation to be one that can wake you in the night with the woes of the world going through your head.  You cannot ring social services in the middle of the night but you can sit down with a cup of tea and read the blog and know at the least that you are not alone.  The dementia diaries drew emails from round the world and still do.

The category below is dolls, which is about collector dolls, mine and other artists.  The next two are humour.  Knickerbocker Glory was a series of radio plays I wrote when Terry Wogan asked people to write a radio play; mine never got broadcast, although a play that I wrote in Dolls House World did get performed with doll shadow puppets and a bed sheet in a church hall in Canada, a place with very long winters.  Lost Victorian Novels is just me being silly with an eye to all the classic Victorian novels we ploughed through at school, as is Mrs Beetroot.  The Parrot has Landed is also humour.  Nostalgia, I bet you can guess, is nostalgic (you’re getting the hang of this, I feel) and I’m willing to bet you’ve guessed that this posting will end up in the next one, Site Information.  Things to make and do is just that.

Before I write a posting I am supposed to pick from a list what it is about, being human I don’t always remember to do this.  When I forget, the computer shoves it in Uncategorised.  It’s the third drawer down from the drawer with the spoons in, is Uncategorised, you could find anything in there.  Green Shield Stamps, a hopeful cat lead, the spare keys for the car before last, and something strange which has gone brown and a bit organic, possibly a new life form.

Last is Werse.  I was a published child poet and won prizes.  I still break into verse occasionally, old habits die hard.  I never succeeded as a poet as an adult, I am not thin enough and I wash my hair too often.

You can click around all over the page and site and you cannot damage anything or make anything disappear.  You cannot buy anything by mistake and I have absolutely no idea what you are looking at or how you are dressed or what time of day it is at your end.  There are readers who are clever enough to subscribe to other websites that alert them to a new posting here.  I have never got the hang of any of this.  If I like a website I put it in my favourites and just go and look regularly.  I post here at least once a week, though if you are a new reader you have got thirteen years worth of postings to read through before that worries you.

If you wish to email me about something you have read, you just scroll down to the bottom of a posting and click on Leave a comment.  This brings up a form that sends me your comment as an email.  I will email you back.  Occasionally I think other readers might be interested in what you have to say and I will post your comment which will be available at a click for others to read.

Because I used to be a journalist, of sorts, I only refer to actual people in the blog by their initials, and all the photographs are my own.  You will not find anything here copied from another site.  The OH is my other half, the S&H is my son and heir to all my debts, The DIL is the daughter in law, the GDD and the GDS grand daughter and grandson respectively.  SMIL, who appears a lot currently, is my Step Mother In Law.  She has dementia and is in a care home.  During the lockdown she was well and helped by her son who lived nearby.  He committed suicide and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved by her daughter, who lived a few counties away, to a care home near her.  I ring SMIL every day but am not always able to talk to her.  I am getting to know the workers at the home very well.

Along the top line Cart, Checkout, My Account and so on are items that will either help you to shop when the shop is up and running (don’t hold your breath) and keep details on your computer which I will not be able to see, to help your computer find my computer if you want to shop. If, as and when, the shop is up and running I will post about it and how to use it and all the technical stuff. The links are to miniaturists’ web sites, they really need modernising and I will do it when I get a minute, or several.

I called the website Jane Laverick .com because that is my name, calling it Natalie Sprandangle would have had little relevance to me, I feel. (Though it’s quite a snappy name, if you’ve got a christening coming up, help yourself.)

And that is it.

Brew up a cuppa, pull up a chair, if you enjoyed this there is thirteen years of catching up to do.  Email me and be a friend if you would like to, or just be a reader.  There is nowhere to do thumbs up or ‘likes’ or any of that.  I have hundreds of readers rather than thousands and do not benefit financially in any way by your reading.  I just do it because I was asked to do it, to help people and found that it did and people liked it, so I continued.

It’s for you. Free reading.

Welcome new reader!

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Inarticulacy.

Inarticulacy, or as I like to think of it, inarticularcy, is its own thingummy jig.

If you arse around with the words, which slip, fugitive from your whatsit, (holding with the hands and fingers, begins with rasp) the results are either a joy or jolly dangerous.  Circumstances whojumaflip.

I had a friend whose whatjamacallit – female relative that had her, you know – yes, mother, thank you, was a confirmed alcoholic and frequently speechless by four in the afternoon.  In the heady sixties, both her and the date, I was at her house staring in fascination as she waved her hands around.  I was lighting a cigarette, teenage sophisticate that I was.  As I applied the flaming lighter the waving increased until she looked liable to take off.  The wings were accompanied by shouts of increasing force.  No!  NO!  NO!

What on earth is she on about? I wondered, as I casually lit the filter of the cigarette.  They go up like a dog chasing a cat upstairs at speed, with a little woof.  She became exasperated that her utterances had not had the desired effect.  This, as I sat behind the conflagration, she expressed succinctly: Oh.

You’d be looking for inarticulacy in places where language is taught, such as the School of English where I worked for a couple of joyful years.  One of the standard exam questions: What is the purpose of a bath?  usually drew answers such as:  No you would need somewhere bigger to keep it in.  Or:  Only if it is a little one. And once:  I would rather a dolfin.

Every day was hilarious and I do wish I had written it all down.

I think my appreciation was heightened by my maternal relative, a bear of little brain endeavouring to remedy the deficiency by repetition, shouting, or frequent requests:  What am I thinking of, Jane?

Like many others she would have been rendered dumb, had you chopped her hands off.  She was prone to adopting phrases that she had not understood.  For several months she acclaimed circumstances, people, items in the news and occasionally, goods she had bought as ‘crap!’  My patient father let it go until he could bear it no longer and enlightened her as to the nature of the nominative.  For some days she uttered: Oh! at intervals  in the unusual silence as she recalled exactly at whom she had used the noun in question.

The S&H, who said his first word at four weeks, asked questions by four months and learns a new language whenever he is bored (currently Greek), shares my enjoyment of inarticulacy.  He could beat his grandmother at a simple board game by the age of four and always cracked up when she demanded to know where he had got the learning.

I learned him good, obvs.

Now you could say this is just the facility of words of the very left brained, which the right handed are, and that in this woke age, we should rush to appreciate the inarticulate.  I do appreciate them.  I have done through all the hundreds of dyslexic proto-readers I have taught.  Has it ever struck you what a very cruel spelling that is?

You can get over-woke, in my opinion.  I have absolutely zero facility with airborne balls of any variety.  This is partly because I could only see them recently but was still made to play tennis as a teenager.  Couldn’t hit the ball, couldn’t see over the net, couldn’t see the other side of the court, found the racquet heavy, couldn’t see the lines, looked like an elephant in the short skirt, fell over my feet.

My mother accompanied me once as my father attempted to compensate for my deficiencies on a public court with people watching.  Later she described the result to my aunts at my grandmother’s coffee morning: She stood there like bloody Queen Victoria, barely moving!

I had adopted this strategy at school discovering that I got hit less by balls if I stood still and shouted at less by the teacher for running the wrong way.  I was pants at it.  I could not see very well, which no one had divined, and I had the same shrunken legs that barely reached the ground as I have now.

But, in the main, being derided was character forming.  In the far-off fifties and sixties, no one expected to be good at everything and all deficits were to be remedied by trying hard at something else.  Some gels who were not good at speaking, or reading, or writing or suchlike were destined to be dinner ladies and make solid gravy, or doctor’s receptionists in charge of telephones and public relations.

Articulacy is not necessarily the sole province of the certificated intellectual.  I had a lovely uncle who failed routinely at school but turned out to be a solid businessman with a word for every occasion.  He had the gift of the gab and was frequently funny.  How my mother was his inarticulate little sister is just a chuck of the die in genetic roulette.  In adult life I have met certified tongue-tied book learners, proof that squirting the words in does not always result in the emergence of verbal glazed pretzels.

I think the right brained can help themselves to further servings of articulacy by eschewing left brained communications such as emojis.  What you practice becomes you.  I think I was eight when I was given a dictionary, best present ever.  You are never going to activate your amygdala by Googling: when was the Queen coronated?  which I was horrified to encounter recently.  It is awfully easy to poke and scroll on a phone, which we might deduce from the spelling of phone firms who describe their products as: fones.  It not nolidge, it poking screen wiv finger.

Most of all (here I will mount my teacher horse to ride around and nag on the nag) we need to talk to children.  There is a vast groundswell of adults with child care responsibilities who believe the job can be done by parking the child in front of a screen.  This against thousands upon thousands of years of human evolution of face to face interaction.  Get in touch with a baby by talking; stamp out inarticulacy by putting words in the head of the young.  Words for them, from you.  Nice ones, easy at first, getting longer as you go.

If we all do it enuf there won’t not be no one what can’t not chat away like anyfink.  You no?

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