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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Competency.

Have you ever woken up, knowing what was wrong?  Or right?

I don’t mean in the normal excessively late middle age things of having a sense of which bits have dropped off in the night, assuming, that is, that you’ve got your brain working, don’t have cramp in your leg that gets the cramp, aren’t exhausted from trips along the landing in the night or triple digging a flower bed yesterday to find and exhume the rhizomes that seemed such a good idea by post in the lockdown but are now invading the entire neighbourhood and every pot, bed and hanging basket you possess.

Or even just being knackered from reading long sentences.

No, I mean globally.

Well, to be fair, globally locally.  You know, in general with you.

I woke this AM and realised that competency had arrived with me and was lying there with me, in my summer pyjamas, one leg out of the duvet, wondering if half past six is too early to get up.

You may be thinking (people do, readers especially, politicians almost never) ‘Competency, Jane, competency?  Should that not be competence and does the fact that you are thinking the wrong noun show that you haven’t got it?  Eh?  Eh?  Hahaha.’

Well no because competency is the ability to do something measured against a standard.  Aha!  It is also being fit enough to give evidence in court, but I wasn’t in court, I was in bed one leg out etc.

Yes, I realised that limited competency had arrived in the night.

As a young teacher I was taught that you can’t teach children anything.  I had already suspected this to be the case from observation of some of my cousins, one or two in particular.  But no, there it was, lecture ONE, you cannot teach anyone anything.  This did not lead, as you might expect, to a mass exodus of putative teachers to sign up as road sweepers (lift up the corner of the zebra crossing, sweep the leaves underneath, put it back, carry on up the road – not that anyone can teach you this, you’ll just have to find out by trial and error.  Don’t try to lift a traffic roundabout, they glue them down and then put plants on with really long roots.)

What they taught (given that they couldn’t) was that you stuff the information in, like worms into baby robins and sometime later, usually in the night when the nestlings are asleep (apart from the one with its head over the edge – indigestion) connections are cemented in the brain and learning has taken place.

Lateron, studying der brane I loined dat there is opun endid elektrik cunnekshins in der brane wot joins up if yew do it offen enuf.  Der prossess is assisted by der amygdala, der hippocampus what is named after seahorses, and what have you.  Ther stuff gets chucked eround between ther bits until a shortkut is made and nekkst time you knows how to do it.

So, you are saying, Fatso, (showing what you have not learned) so, Tubs, what is it you learned, Oldie, and did you forget it instantly, hahaha!

It was THER computing, grasshopper, ther computing.

Well, a bit of it.

In the beginning, about 1981, the OH wanted a home computer.  As it had only been about twenty years since pundits had predicted the possibility of as many computers in the UK as a whole five, he was right on trend.  He wanted a keyboard that you connected to your little boxy television with a wire and, excitingly, later, to your cassette recorder with another wire, so you could record all the steps it had taken to get the word hello’ on to the screen.

He wanted it so much he sold a sword to get it.  It was an inherited thing, from his father, in WW2.  I was glad the sword had gone and not very interested when the keyboard arrived.  I didn’t see the point when you could write ‘hello’ with a pen, or indeed, a pencil.

Boys toys, I thought.  Stupidly.

But a mere 40 years later and several laptops of my own I find myself quite interested.  I can do the words (slightly),  I can print off pictures of the grandchildren to send to SMIL, I can foolishly order stuff I don’t want and cannot afford late at night, in the usual way, I can watch stuff, I can answer emails from you.

But I cannot do the fancy stuff.  Teaching me (impossibly) the S&H had instructed me to ignore vast swathes of symbols arranged in various locations on the screen.  I was more than happy to ignore them.  Ignor – ance bring it on!

But yesterday I had a thought (second this week, hippocampus up and running like nobody’s business).  What if, I put an indication of the existence of this blog in with the bookmarks that I put in the bags of books in the lockdown library on the end of the drive.  Hmm? Then readers who had finished a book but couldn’t get another because it was raining, or night, or summat, would have something else to read for free.

Since the beginning of the lockdown library on the end of the drive there have probably been hundreds of books on and off the cart.  How could I get hundreds of notices into the book bags?  Well I could buy more business cards which is expensive when I am currently skint, due to late night online shopping.  I could write a screed and print it off numerous times or.

Or I could use one of the mysterious symbols on the top of the screen in the programme where you write things, to get a little message replicated many times on one sheet of paper.

I have done this previously, not using the little symbols.  I just typed it out repeatedly.

Der.

But this time, all on my own, like a three year old, I experimentally wrote one message and then replicated it by prodding other electronic buttons and filling a page with the same message, little and able to be cut up and popped into a book, with the bookmark.  I did it just as if I were computer literate and not guessing.  (I was just guessing, don’t tell anyone.)  And then, even on my new computer, I managed to save the result and and I even know where it is and where to find it again.

And woke this AM knowing I could do it all again if necessary because learning has taken place and my hippocampus is swanking around all over the place.

I woke in stunning competency with a cold leg.

Fabulous.

And to think all I once wanted was thinner thighs.

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God Save the Queen.

In 1969 I had a mini that was advertised as being able to turn on a sixpence.  It was in need of a paint job, a Union Jack was mooted but never arrived and eventually you could inspect the engine through the rust holes.  It had been a practice car, my parents having little faith in my ability not to have an accident, as my physical skills were not renowned, as I was puny.  I loved it.  It was little, like me, and easy to drive. Records were eight and six and a gallon of petrol was six and eight (about 32p, I think)  When I was twenty one my birthday present was a Moggy 1000, which I did not appreciate.  It was a sturdy vehicle, felt like driving a heavy tractor and turned, almost, in the space of a really wide road, ideally a dual carriageway (both lanes.)

But this was what I was getting.  I relinquished my carefree mini and took on a tank, reliable, solid, steady.  I was saddled with it for years and it was the last car that was mine alone, because we were into family cars fairly soon, until I got my pension and saved up for my current Volkswagen UP which I love.

In a programme recently the Queen remarked on fate.  Fate has a lot to do with the Queen.  Had fate not sent the appalling Wallis Simpson in to bat, we would never have enjoyed the spectacular innings of the current monarch.

The Queen was eleven when her father was crowned.  Up until then she had been putting her wooden horses to bed, being a little girl, enjoying family life.  Suddenly her carefree passage of life was removed.  Her future featured only the lumbering carriage of state into which she was strapped for the ride with absolutely no way out.

At the time, it must have seemed that it would be a long time before she became Queen,  Her father was young, just into his forties when he took on the job, when his brother abdicated, abandoning us for Wallis Simpson. 

If, like me, you watched the BBC programme of the Queen’s home movies, perhaps you were struck by the youth of her father, playing games with her on the lawn, running around and looking fine.

As we know this didn’t last.  He died so young.  I had always just accepted this as a fact of history, but it wasn’t until I saw the home movies that I realised quite how young he was.  I lost a favourite uncle at about the same age.  At the time I was very shocked.  In my twenties I hadn’t appreciated that people you loved could die so suddenly and so young.  But I was lucky, I could go on being me.  The weight of the world did not descend on my shoulders.

How lucky we have been!  The Queen has always done the job that fate thrust upon her with grace, goodwill and fairness.  She is forgiving, understanding and dedicated to duty.

In March this year the Queen got Covid.  The television news reported that she was carrying on as usual.  I was very worried.  My next door neighbour, in her forties, strong and fit, had carried on working with Covid and had developed long Covid, she has been unwell now and frequently very ill for two years.  My hairdresser was the same and cannot now stand up long enough to put all the perm curlers in my hair.

So I made a get well card, my best effort with watercolour peonies and hummingbirds and sent it to the Queen at Windsor castle with a message hoping she would not carry on regardless, telling her of my neighbour and hairdresser.  I also told her I cared less about the Jubilee or her keeping an eye on whatever it is that parliament is getting up to than I do about her resting and getting thoroughly better.

I really meant it.  Queen Elizabeth the Second is the only Queen Elizabeth the Second we will ever have.  She is one of a kind, an endangered species.  If you look back at history we have had some rum monarchs.  We have had high-handed monarchs, murderous monarchs, warring monarchs, acquisitive monarchs, absent monarchs.  What a lot!  Even celebrated Queen Victoria went snuffy after Albert died and had to be coaxed back to doing reigning, very reluctantly.

But nothing phases our Queen, which is, really, why I wrote to her.  We are living at an exceptionally lucky time in history because our record breaking Queen is our Queen.

Thanks to the English Civil War of the seventeenth century we have a wonderful system whereby we have politicians, who we can vote out out out but a monarch who we can use to represent us, apolitically.  We are not stuck, like some other nations have been in history, with someone who has seized power and then gone power mad. In ever-changing times we have stability.  The longer the Queen is on the throne the more she sees, the more experience of the world she has and the strange vagaries of some world leaders.

Yet she remains steadfast and is not swayed, diverted or turned on any sixpence.

We need to take care of the Queen.  She is a senior and needs to pace herself, she is verging on being declared officially wonderful.

I am so glad the Queen rested and got better.  I hope she continues to rest when she needs to so that we can have her as long as fate will grant us this boon.

God Save The Queen!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Learning and that

This is the second time I have written the introduction to this post, because I have lost it somewhere in the computer, which rather proves my point.  I can see a draft of it, written in strange symbols but have no idea how to read it.

What I wrote (I think) when I leapt out of bed this AM, was an account of a bit of yesterday, that was wondrously frustrating.

I began by praising the abilities of the S&H as a teacher.  I believe him to have inherited this skill from his mother, it is highly unlikely to be an attribute of his father, who could not teach a cat to lick itself if it was sitting in front of him with its tongue hanging out.

The OH, when confronted with educashun, is inclined to go red in the face and shout: You think I’m an idiot, don’t you?  An utterance which agreement with does nothing to ameliorate the situation in any way, whether he is seeking to impart or absorb.

This did actually happen yesterday.  Anticipating the future, deriving knowledge from the past, as remarked upon recently by HM The Queen, I had requested instruction from the S&H in an email, he who brilliantly taught his cat not to put her paw out of his bedroom window and catch passing bats.  My plan was to break the task into two sections to facilitate learning by the ignoramus, in this case myself.  I intended to request the OH to assist with the simple part of the task and the S&H with the part I foresaw as being trickier.

I am probably the last person in the country lacking a smartphone and with no intention of acquiring one.  There are beggars on the pavement in the next town with smartphones attached to card readers but I’m still taking money at Miniatura because I understand it.  I have little truck with computers or modern technology, which I do not love with the same intensity that others embrace the joy of being able to leave pictures of your children on your phone until it falls over.  I still have rolls of film in the fridge and have actually bothered to learn how to take photographs (with a camera), get them on to the computer and thence to a printer.  Once printed I put them in an album or make them, currently, into zig-zag books that I post to SMIL, with captions in my clearest Marion Richardson teacher writing.

The new laptop has proved challenging.  It makes decisions for itself based on what it thinks I’m doing.  As this is, frequently, floundering, the results can be interesting, such as keeping a record of the previous version of this, which I forgot to save, as unintelligible symbols.  It did offer to sell me an app to buy an interpreter, with faultless logic.  If I have money enough to purchase a new laptop I must surely be wishing to give Bill Gates more chances to save the world, ASAP.

What I was wanting to do was ask the OH to assist me with cleaning some of the memory stick thingies used in setting up the new laptop so that I can use one to record a new version of something I am writing, whilst keeping the old version on another stick, in case the amendments turn out in similar vein to the choice of paint colour for the kitchen, upon consideration.

What I had omitted to do was to leave room for the OH’s natural resentment of everything.

‘Why are you asking him how to put new stuff on to a stick?  I know how to do that!  I can show you that!  Why are you not asking me?  Do you think I’m an idiot or something?’  (Oh here we go.)

‘Could you just show me how to clean this USB stick, please?’

‘Why, why, why do you want it cleaned?’

‘So I can put new stuff on it.’

‘Wouldn’t it be easier just to leave it there in the first place?’

‘Well no, because, oh never mind I have asked the S&H..’

‘Why are you asking him?  I know how to do things too.  Right, what do you want?’

‘To clean these sticks.’

‘Why?’

‘So I can put stuff on them.’

‘You can add stuff!  You can add stuff!’  (Getting excited.)

‘But I like one stick one task and very definitely one stick for what I’m writing, not mixed up with pictures or downloads.’

‘Buy new sticks!’

‘I don’t want to buy new sticks, I have these. Just show me how to clean these, please.’

‘Right.  Let me explain how a computer works.’

‘No!  Just show me how to clean this stick!’

‘YOU THINK I’M AN IDIOT, DON’T YOU?’  (Second time in five minutes.)

Could you please just…’

‘Alright, alright.  Put the stick in.’

‘I’ve put the stick in.’

‘Take the stick out.’

‘Why?’

‘So I can show you how to put the stick in.’

‘I’ve put the stick in.’

(Sniffily) ‘I was going to show you.’

‘I know how.’

‘You asked me to show you.’

‘Just show me how to…’

I’m doing it!  You think I’m an idiot don’t you?’

‘Yes, you don’t know any Latin!’

‘You don’t know any microbiology!!!!!!!!!!!’

Pause.

‘OK.  Up on the screen, if you click on the windows symbol and E will come Explorer, that will show you

‘What’s on the stick?  It’s already there.’

‘Oh.  But if it doesn’t.’

‘But it has.’

‘You asked me to show you!’

‘But it’s doing it.’

‘What if it doesn’t?’

‘It is.’

‘You think I’m….’

And so on for five minutes.  At the end of which the S&H had absorbed the knowledge that I was not cleaning the stick, ejecting it, replacing it and loading it up because I was stupid but because I wished to learn.  I may have generated some knowledge, mainly the feeling that my desire to batter the OH repeatedly with the frying pan, should be resisted in case I didn’t know what I suspect I may have learned.

I always thought that my inability to play the piano was due to not learning to read the music, instead playing the piece by heart, whilst reading a book propped on the music stand, to fool my mother in the kitchen, listening.  On second thoughts the inclination of the piano teacher to last a good five minutes of the lesson before she felt the need to refresh her sherry in the kitchen, may have had something to do with it.  We made do without a metronome, instead keeping pace with the hiccups.

As trainee teachers we were taught that you can’t actually teach, learning happens while the student is asleep, if the knowledge has been presented sufficiently clearly in several different ways.  In the army they cleave to the rule of three:  tell them what you are going to tell them. tell them it and then tell them what you have just told them.  Then drill it.

As a tutor one to one, the necessity for clarity was obvious.

Learning is not aided by shouting.

In an ever changing universe, this may be a universal constant, like the speed of light in a vacuum, or gravity.

Any road up, whether constant or not, knowing something is absolutely no guarantee of being able to impart the knowledge to another, especially not by voluble expressions of idiocy.

It’s like that saying about summoning angels by thinking of them.  You can most definitely summon idiots by shouting for them and at them.

Der.

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On the floor.

This is the second post today, scroll down for a non-dementia posting.

SMIL is not in a good phase.  Her downward progress, when you consider that this time last year she was at home, has been rapid.

I had had the best conversation with her for some months just the day before yesterday.  Her daughter emails that she notices her mother is brightest just before it all goes wrong and she gets worse.  She had been to visit the day before, had taken her mother out for a push round the village and had complaints that there was nothing to do.

The day following this SMIL and I had an almost normal conversation.  She remembered she had been sent photographs and said they were good.  She told me her daughter had taken her out.  I told her about a job interview the S&H had had and she expressed surprise at the possible raise in salary.  She said she was well and enjoying the weather and, after further chat, eventually bade me good bye.

I emailed her daughter with an account of the conversation but that evening received a return email, things had gone wrong.  SMIL had calmly asked for a phone to contact her daughter.  Then she said she was being abducted and that her daughter needed to get the police.  In the background the daughter could hear a member of staff asking SMIL to stop kicking her.  Then SMIL hung up.  Her daughter was, of course, distraught.

Today when I rang, I was told SMIL has taken to the floor.  She is either lying or sitting on the floor and refusing to get up, so the staff are making her comfortable on the floor.  I sent love.

Neither my mother, nor mother-in-law took to the floor, though my mother had phases of refusing to sit in certain chairs and my mother-in-law would only sit in the middle of the settee, which was inconvenient at a time when we had a limited number of seats.  My mother did once fall at home and was unable to work out how to get up.  A senior worker was sent for.  She had a well-practised routine for retrieving the floored, involving holding hands and mirroring the position of the demented fallen.

I am blogging this to let you know, if you are new to this, that any and all behaviour can be expected.  Nothing is unusual if your brain is on the fritz.  SMIL’s daughter was wondering if her mother was trying to tell her that she had been wrong to take her from home and that she needed to return.

Reading messages into the utterances of the demented is not a helpful task for relatives.  I compared it to standing under a neon fish and chip shop sign that had an electrical mis-connection and attempting to find messages in Morse code in the flashing on and off of the sign.  There is no message, the sign is on the blink.  It is faulty and not working.

There is no doubt that demented people do better in their own homes for as long as it is possible or practical to keep them there.  Familiar surroundings confuse them less.  If you had unlimited funds you could just wheel in the private nursing team.

The OH’s aunt ended her days in a facility run by nuns.  My father’s cousin-in-law’s solicitors sold two London properties to fund care in a private hospital.  My mother-in-law was removed every fortnight to alternate family members until she finally went into an NHS hospital.  My mother’s house was re-mortgaged by me to fund private care at home, she then was moved, when the money ran out, to a posh care home in her own little flat.  Because of her geographical situation away from family after her son committed suicide, SMIL was moved early into a nursing home.

But all, wherever they were and whatever stage of dementia they were at, exhibited strange behaviour.  It did not mean that relatives, friends, or professional carers had done better or worse.  It just meant that their brains were not working in the normal way so that normal had little meaning for them.  How can you behave normally if you don’t know what normal is?

SMIL’s daughter routinely beats herself up for sins of omission or commission.  So did I.

To be tasked with caring for someone who would be classified just a hundred years ago, as insane, is to take on a thankless task.  If you are expecting to store up rewards in Heaven, or wherever you are hoping to turn up after life, know that the road to get there will be uncertain of poise and rocky underfoot and that someone will have arranged all the rocks point upwards just as you put your foot down.

But a worse thing in my book, or blog, is to dodge the bullet and leave the task to someone else.  Even worse is to supervise or criticise the person taking on this task from a safe distance.  This happens much more often than you might believe.

And if you are a long term reader, you know before I write it that the best reason for stepping up is that one day it might be you.

If you are able bodied the best way to avoid it being you, that we know of so far, is to move that able body.  All the blood in you goes charging through your brain every seven and a half minutes, taking out the trash, bringing oxygen to the bits that need to grow and live and keeping your brain, where you live, a nice place to be.

Don’t just sit, scrolling through a device, put your device down and leap around shouting that you are sane and wish to continue.

And if anyone gives you a funny look, you can tell them I’m going to do it too now!

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Vegan patches

I am attempting to distract myself with work.

The OH announced he has booked a holiday without me in September, so I am keeping busy with work and trying to forget that it is at least eleven years since I had a holiday.  I have not had much experience of holidays; if someone is taking a holiday in a pub every night there is no money left for anyone else to go anywhere.  There was money when the mortgage was paid off.  We went to Rome and I took notebooks with me expecting to interview someone for a magazine.  I really don’t have the concept of holidays.  Christmas is a festival of work for women, in my opinion.

So, I am keeping busy.  I have just had another do with my intestines, so the busyness is confined to stuff I can do sitting down, for a while.  The S&H and his bride and children inherited a green leather Chesterfield sofa from my mother.  Last autumn the bride decided the sofa she had had since she graduated had had it.  Having sat on it, I am able to confirm her opinion.  So I offered to buy a new sofa for Christmas and they found a very good one, leather, just about half price in a sale.  It is very nice and very large but not green like the other sofa.  It is light tan.  It lives in a large lounge but you can still tell that the two sofas are very different colours.  One is dark green, one is light tan.

I thought perhaps that leather cushions in a mixture of colours might marry the two, so I am going to make them.  I had bought from a shopping channel sale ten six inch square leather pieces in varying colours but had been thinking about it for a long time.  Then the OH announced (more announcements) that despite his armchair having been renovated about five years ago and the cushion re-stuffed a couple of years ago that his seat, much like some politician’s, was becoming uncomfortable and that he required new padding.  There is a place in the next town that provides safety foam stuffing and has a suction machine that can shrink it and pop it in so that the end result is tighter than (please provide your own simile here, thank you.)

However when we examined the cushion, the fabric underneath was split, rendering the cushion unstuffable.  The OH was in  favour of duct tape but I cut a piece from strong woven curtain leftovers and machine sewed it right round the edge on to the leather turnings.

The cushion, repaired, was taken and stuffed tighter than a turkey (you can have that one for free), so that now the OH complains he is sitting on a mound.

Well, just as long as he’s happy…..

Encouraged, I got my leather scraps from the loft and the box I use for doll shoes and got started cutting.  As the existing squares are six inches  the rest would have to be too, as I believe my machine might be good for straight lines in leather with the correct needle and thread but I have doubts about any fancy pattern with strange corners.  Strange corners are the bugbear of patchwork, in my opinion.  Moreover, a six inch square is quite a large piece to find in scraps.  To get enough I have had to utilise some leather skins inherited from my father.  Like everything he did, these are extremely substantial; I anticipate problems machine sewing leather of varying thicknesses together any way.

So one way and another, square patches it is.

I thought that on two sofas you really need  two cushions per sofa.  At present the DIL has twenty-four inch square cushion pads without covers.  They do look quite big, so I have settled on eighteen inch cushions, which require nine patches per side, eighteen per cushion, thirty-six per pair, seventy two per set.

Yesterday and last night I cut sixty two six inch squares and marvelled at how easy it is, even with a squared cutting board, a six inch quilting ruler and a sharp rotary cutter, to deviate from an exact square.

I have done that bit but may need to cut surrounding strips to make up the full size, once the turnings are allowed for, and the zip.  Of course, the cushions will not need washing but in time they may suffer from flatness, or even hollows, and I can’t see anyone else unpicking them to get at the cushion pads.

There is another problem that makes me feel now is the time to do it.  Though, to be fair now is often the time to do anything, if you want it done.

I am suffering from creeping veganism.  I am already piscatorial, by this, in the absence of a swimming pool, I mean that I eat fish.  For a month I have replaced my marine collagen capsules with vegan collagen capsules.  What I have got for this is painfully splitting skin.  So I am on the edge of a dilemma anyway.  Should I have qualms about using the  left overs from the fishing industry to bolster my ageing carapace?

I was brought up by a Boy’s Own Paper reading father, weaned on The adventures of a five guinea watch and tales of derring do in Darkest Africa (or the Pole, or the Equator, anywhere other than Sheffield), all of which featured guns and some poor livestock getting shot.  Throughout my childhood there was a shotgun in the hall cupboard.  My father thought leather was wonderful.  On the floor we had Bertie Adams, a real poor dead leopard with a green felt fringe and a stuffed head.  I loved Bertie Adams and was upset when my father put him in the window of his retirement antique shop and even more upset when he sold him, regarding him as family.  (Bertie Adams, that is.  Once a dealer….my mother had been warned not to stand around in a bath towel in the winter when she was a bit pasty just in case she was mistaken for a statue and sold to the highest bidder. Opinions were mooted that this would not happen once she opened her mouth, other opinions asked when she had ever closed it.  Wit in families can be quite cutting edge.)

This therefore is the time to embrace the leather before I start feeling very sorry for long gone cows or have to have a funeral and bury the three piece suite in the garden.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

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