Gone fishing.

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Apologies for the recent radio silence.  I was on grandparent duty while the S&H and his bride had a break.

Now I am back at the work table I need to get my head down and get on with the dolls. It’s only two weeks to the show and all the details you need are here.

www.miniatura.co.uk

More from me when there’s more to show you.  I am concentrating on 24th scale, which is my favourite because you can have a proper dolls’ house with everything working, that can fit on a windowsill.

Laptop down, needle up.

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2 day

Today is two,
It is Two day
Two day two you
In any way
Read two or fro
A palindrome
Two two 0 going
And coming home.

Two is the number
On Toosday two,
A day for me
A day for you
Two do what we
Would like two do
Choose carefully
It’s up two you.

Remember what you
Choose two do
Throughout your life
Will follow you.
Bairns yet unborn
Will ask of you
What did you do
On day of Two?

‘I was there’
You’ll tell them true.
‘ I honoured everything
That’s two
I taught two toucans
To sing in twone
While I twootled a floowte
At the sun and the moon.

Other stuff I wanted two
Was mostly done
By ten Two two
Two lunches two,
Two teas, how nice,
Two cakes, two Twix
And was quite sick twice
By ten Two six.

I watched two tellies
Two phones, two apps and then
Had two massive headaches
By ten two ten.

We had sunshine and rain
Two kinds of weather
There was BBC Two news
About doing things twogether.’

I then decided
This was enough for me
Because if I keep the numbers up –
Twomorrow’s 23.

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I would have posted this bit of verse about 22.2.22 earlier but I couldn’t get the computer to work, so I went downstairs to work out while I was waiting, and the telly wasn’t working either.  Sometimes I think I bring things on myself, I really do.

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Dolls for the Min

Under normal circumstances, whatever they are, at this point a few weeks before the show I would be dashing around like a mad fool, doing multitasking, other wise known as displacement activity.

The facial injury, however, makes anything other than sitting quietly, inadvisable. So I am getting on with dolls.

The dolls, for new readers, are porcelain. They are my design and manufacture.  I sculpt the dolls in epoxy resin, make plaster of Paris moulds from each part, pour liquid clay into the moulds which absorb the water allowing me to remove a solid casting from the mould.  I then clean the surface of the hollow casting, or insert stringing hooks that I have made into solid castings.  When I have a kiln full of dry castings, which can take several weeks, I then fire the  casts, the high temperature in the kiln drives off the air jacket round each molecule of clay, turning it into porcelain, a different, durable substance.

I then wash and scrub every part, and when they are dry I china paint the result.  China paint doesn’t dry until it is fired again in the kiln.  Once cooled I can then string the parts together to make a doll.

The dolls that I am dressing currently are 24th scale.  They are under three inches tall.

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As you can see this doll is made up of ten individual pieces of porcelain.

I began with a couple of Georgian gentlemen.

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And have just started on the ladies to go with them.

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There are some Incredibles

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And finally for now, some pirates

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It’s wonderful what being forced to sit down can do for you.  If I can only find my specs, I’ll get on with some more.

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www.miniatura.co.uk

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Cracked pot.

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Here it is.  A cracked pot, for which I am grateful.

This morning before breakfast I put out the lockdown library, as usual.  I was in my curlers and my garden overcoat, which has seen better days.  A red warning storm is forecast for tonight and we are right in the eye of it.  Therefore I decided to take the pots full of bulbs off the low wall and put them on the ground.

The pot is large.  Having picked it up I was unable to see the ground, or the handle of the library cart.

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Into which I placed my foot as I pivoted, crashing into the ground, which I cleverly caught with my face.  A lady driving past stopped to see if I was alright, it was kind of her because, as I was soon aware, there was blood everywhere.

I went in and found the OH, who was in the shower.  He got dried and dressed and took me to hospital, clutching tissues which I was soaking through very efficiently.

I hadn’t had breakfast or even a cup of tea but four hours later was back home, having had my knee and my face X rayed,  No bones broken, hooray hooray.  They stuck me together with medical glue and Steri strips.  The scar is a few inches long, right down my neck and over my jaw.  I think it was probably the broken edge of the pot that did it.  But the pot took the impact instead of me and I am grateful to it.  It would not have been clever five weeks from the Min to have broken my jaw.  Everything hurts and is swollen but they say there may be no scar, so my chances of being Miss World are unaltered.

I just have to find some teeth that will chew without hurting.  And a cup of tea.

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Ceramics are good.  This brave pot saved my jaw.  Newtonian forces and all that.

www.miniatura.co.uk

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Sleepy.

One of the features of modern life is the effects wrought on a body and mind by modern medication.  The last few hundred years in the West and hundreds of years in the East have seen the ills of the body and mind being ameliorated or potentially cured by the ingestion or absorption of substances derived from plants or animals or synthesised by chemicals.

As the list of non-food items we ingest grows, so does the list of allergies we suffer from.  Drugs and medication of many varieties can have dramatic effects on us.  If we are compos mentis and have been prescribed a drug which causes an allergic reaction, or an extreme reaction, or an unexpected side effect, we may notice this and report it, causing the dosage to be changed or a different medication altogether tried.

As you know if you’re a regular reader, I spent the last decade fetching up in hospital very frequently.  One of the first questions is the one about what it is you are allergic to.  When I broke my arm so spectacularly and was swimming in an ocean of pain, I found it really difficult to answer the question, despite having been asked it routinely in the same hospital on numerous occasions, on which I had previously trotted out the well-rehearsed short list.

The same situation surrounding a demented person with a dodgy memory, an inclination to react aggressively to unfamiliar people or rooms and a long term, tiring illness, means that the patient may be taking a medication which does not agree with them for a very long time before this is spotted.  They can’t tell you if something they are taking is making them feel odd because they feel odd all the time.

It is getting increasingly difficult to talk to SMIL because she has a tendency to put herself to bed after every meal.  When I ring it can take up to half an hour to actually reach her on the phone.  Increasingly I never get that far, as someone in the office will go off through the building only to return ten or fifteen minutes later to report that she is asleep, would I like them to wake her to speak to me? Of course I never want anyone to wake her.  Considering how drastically her life has changed since this time last year, when we were having hour long chats that were lucid and happy, with her in her own home, not diagnosed with anything, I do not want anyone to wake her if she is in a happier place in her dreams.

SMIL’s daughter writes that nursing staff are wondering if her medication is making her sleepy.  You don’t say.  The medication is to calm her, not least because other residents are terrified of her and the terror is affecting their mental health.  It seems so hard to believe that this gentle person, quietly supported by a life-long religious faith, is now running round a care home, smashing windows, hitting staff with a telephone and pointing her stick at other residents.

SMIL’s daughter is summoned to medication meetings with various agencies at the start of next month, and is hoping for a few days away first, to bolster her courage.

I consider a hard aspect of dementia to be: whatever it is various agencies are planning to do to your loved demented person, to make them deal-able with in a residential setting, with other sick people, and your own contribution to that.  SMIL’s daughter has Power of Attorney for medical matters granted to her by her mother.  I did not have that for my mother.  I had Power of Attorney for finance but in discussion early in the disease with my mother we agreed that leaving medication decisions up to doctors would be the route to go down. My mother, of course, craved attention from doctors. A procession of doctors quickly became dinner party guests. To her mind me getting in the way of her, as she saw it, charming the pants off a doctor, would have been undesirable.  Yet I think this decision, by whatever means arrived at, did me a favour.  I had enough on my plate commuting and sorting out the legal problems, running the household and managing the finances. I was grateful not to have to make the medical decisions.  As it was I swotted up on diseases of the brain until doctors asked me where I had done my training and I still didn’t think I knew enough to decide which drug would benefit my mother.

SMIL’s care home are trying a variety of medications, in an effort to find the right one.  It is my personal belief that a procession of differing medications, given to a person who was previously wary of taking an aspirin, might be contra-indicted, to put it in medical jargon.

Whilst there are no easy or obvious answers to this dilemma, what is clear is that SMIL’s daughter, having medical POA, will be let in for a lot of meetings.  The current situation with the pandemic and staff shortages also present a possibility that SMIL’s daughter will nerve herself up for a meeting that gets cancelled, which has happened before.

Taking care of my mother by engaging a private care firm and re-mortgaging her home, effectively selling her house to provide for her care, had the benefits of reducing the number of lengthy meetings with the professionals.  If you choose to request care assistance from agencies, however many agencies are involved will require a meeting about their level of involvement and decisions reached, and they will keep their own paperwork, and you will be required to inform yourself of it, not least so that everything is transparent and above board to protect the patient and the nursing and care staff.

It is a terrible choice to have to make, do you throw all the money you can access at the problem and, largely keep it to yourself, so to speak, cutting down the meetings, potentially having to run out of money and resort to other means anyway?  Do you embrace the right to social assistance and keep the money, if there is any, maybe for greater care further down the line, letting yourself in for more consultations than you ever wanted with opinionated people, you may not like at all?

There is no right or wrong answer. All I can offer in the way of help is the knowledge that others have been in this dilemma before you.

There are classical stories in which the hero, entering the underworld, stands before three closed doors.  One door leads to eternal fire, one to perpetual agony, one to a rickety stair which may lead up or down.  If you are the hero in this you have the added complication of carrying your loved one over your shoulder; you are choosing the door for both of you.

You may see this as a good argument for having plentiful discussions with your demented relative as soon as possible after diagnosis.

I can tell you from personal experience that cancer and dementia are not diseases that like to be ignored.  The sooner you embrace them, investigate and discuss them with others, the more choices you will have and possibly, the more possibilities to ameliorate the progress of the disease.  I am sure, if you are an avid reader of the dementia diaries, that you will be aware that a vaccine that entirely cures dementia is on the cards in the future. This, needless to say, is a game changer.  The better condition you can deliver your demented person in, to the future, the more future they may have.

But if you fail and the situation only goes downhill and you have every meeting pointlessly with every self-serving official life can serve up, know at least that you did engage with the situation.  Recognise that if it were you with dementia, you would be so glad of a relative going on to bat for you and so bereft if you were abandoned, that any effort to help is a good effort.

And if you are reading this, you are making the effort, good on you.  If all you can do is go and give your demented person a hug, a phone call, a postcard, you will feel better in the future because you did not run away.

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Spring Min.

It is looking as likely as rain in England that Spring Miniatura will take place at the NEC.

Therefore I am working flat out dressing dolls.  When I say flat out, it took me a week to rev up to speed.  There is always a point in starting up an old endeavour when you really can’t believe you ever did that, if it is something difficult.  It has been two years since I had my fingers on the tiny thin needles, it has also been two years since I last poked a needle eye or pointy end up between my finger nail and the finger beneath.  I had also forgotten that silk, being the only fabric soft enough to bend round a limb as thin as a pencil lead, also has a mind of its own and a tendency to faint like a duchess and slide on to the floor with a hissing sound.  You then stamp on it and leave a great big footprint, or bending down smash your head into the table, or, for fun, both.

This is also an activity posing great risk to health because you are basically just sitting, keeping yourself going with chocolate or sugar in some form, and, to save getting it on your fingers, shovelling it in, in one great lump.  A week of this and you will need a couple of valets, one on either side. like Henry V111th essaying a new untried armchair, just to clamber on the scales.  The OH bought new scales, weight watchers ones, which are horribly accurate.  No more standing in the wardrobe with one toe on the scales, arm grasping the rail, breathe in, lift, take a reading, double toe loop and dismount.  If they ever did cheat weighing as an Olympic sport, the field would be VAST. (So would the, for want of a better word, athletes.)

There is no point in the making of miniature porcelain dolls at which you can relax concentration without totally messing it up.  From clay poured so thick it isn’t hollow enough to string, to entire rows of giant stitches in a garment that took half an hour to cut out and fray check, the whole undertaking is fraught with annoyance.  Having spent the whole day getting in the zone, you then go to bed with yourmindbuzzinglikethis, and take two hours to get to sleep.

Nevertheless I am delighted to be doing it again.  You would think after however many years it’s been (I think about 36)  I would be heartily tired of making difficult, miniature porcelain dolls and trying to actually make them look like tiny people with expression and personality while still being very doll-like and not in any way threatening.  But I am not tired or bored, I am still interested.

Interestingly, though it is my distant sight that has been mended, the cataract surgery has helped so much, that, with appropriate magnification, I can see every single mistake in great detail.  Lovely.

So I’ll get on with this and when I have something to show you I will.  I’m currently making 24th scale dolls because it is my favourite scale.  I have a hoard of thin articulated ten piece porcelain under three inch dolls to be getting on with, so I’ll do that then.

www.miniatura.co.uk

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The Min.

It is two years since I was writing about Miniatura.

Just in case you are a new reader, please allow me to enlighten you.  Miniatura is the miniature art show that has been in existence since the eighties, of the last century.  I visited it then and have attended as an exhibitor for about thirty years.  There have been a couple of years that I missed recently with broken arms, cancer and the disastrous aftermath of surgery.  The disaster coincided with the pandemic that caused the show to be cancelled at the last minute two years ago. I wrote about it up until the cancellation and showed you the dolls I was making for the show.  Miniatura began again last autumn but I still wasn’t really well enough to do the show.

There have been shows of numerous kinds for the dolls’ house hobby, in its current flowering since the 1970s.  This hobby has flourished like a weed for several thousand years.  The first inklings of it that have survived can be glimpsed in museums across the world which house ancient Egyptian tomb artefacts.  The Pharaohs of long ago liked to face the afterlife well provided with everything they had enjoyed in life.  Where the items they would require were too big to be accommodated in a tomb, modellers provided all that was necessary in miniature.  Buildings, boats, people, animals, everything in scale and as detailed as was required to ensure the artefacts would be correct on the other side of life.  They were a wish list.  Whilst you will undoubtedly find samples in a big museum near you, I have found the Ashmolean museum to have a good a collection for our purposes. the many models of buildings, livestock and people are made with such love and care, you only have to look at them to see the work of an undoubted miniaturist.  The care with the modelling, painting and details is not just paid work, it is obviously work in which the delight in the construction has eliminated all drudgery.  I write as someone who has made in miniature for thirty years and interviewed artisans for a long time; there is always a point at which the art takes over and there you are, lost in a little world of your own making, making it as perfect as you can because only that will do.

Ancient Roman households had small altars with figures of gods, offerings and oil lamps.  These miniature models of heaven were found wherever the Roman Empire flexed its claws. Not dolls’ houses as such but sufficiently widespread miniature modelling to ensure that you could consider going into production as a job.

The weed then sprang to life in various famous examples of villages and individual houses. Five hundred years ago the miniature house was a teaching aid for any aristocratic little girl whose future was to be running an important household.

Between the first and second world wars Queen Mary sought to lift the spirits of the nation by commissioning a dolls’ house, which still resides at Windsor Castle.  She ensnared the famous in various disciplines, who produced in miniature whatever they were notorious for in large.  Writers wrote miniature books, painters painted miniature paintings, furniture makers made furniture and so on.  This high profile interest has nourished the weed for a hundred years to date, and took what had become a Victorian children’s toy into the realms of legitimate adult interest miniature art.  Which is where the hobby was when I found it, or it found me.

What makes Miniatura so very good, in my frequently banged on about opinion, is that it was founded by Muriel Hopwood for the purpose of giving miniaturists a place to exhibit in the Midlands of Great Britain that was easy to get to and didn’t cost a lot to exhibit in or visit.  Wonderfully, the show, now run by Muriel’s son, Andy, has never lost sight of the original intention that it was a show by miniaturists for miniaturists. At one point, about twenty years ago, the show itself became very famous, at which point the organisers were besieged by tradesmen wanting to make money and urging the organisers to expand the show or wedge another few stands in by the toilets or on the way in.  The organisers stuck to their guns, exhibition was by qualification  by committee examination. No mass cheap imports, no stands that have nothing to do with miniatures.  Nothing that’s not good enough. The entire show is about miniatures and miniaturists and always has been.  It’s a great day out because every single stand is relevant to the hobby.  Aware of the variety of miniaturists, the aisles have always been wide enough for wheel chair users’ comfort.  There is always a place to sit and eat your sandwiches.  The focus is on the miniatures and seeing the miniatures.

At one point I became quite famous too, writing the funny column, and anything else for a variety of magazines.  I was then begged by other show organisers to do their shows elsewhere.  I have not done so, except for a couple of small charity shows, for a friend.  Part of the problem is that everything on my table is hand made by me.  I usually have close to a thousand items, certainly many hundreds, mostly porcelain.  If you are visiting my stand I like to have a lot for you to look at and to know you cannot get it anywhere else.  And I think that’s the point of a hobby day out.  I keep my prices very modest because when I started the only money I had to spend on miniatures was gathered by missing meals.  I once worked out that I was working for 43p an hour.  It’s just as well I’m not employed, I’d have to sack myself.  But you know if you like my style of miniatures, which have always been naïve and doll-like (because I like dolls and it is the dolls’ house, you know – when they’re made of porcelain, you’re just temporary), you’ll be buying something you cannot get anywhere else in the world for a pocket money price.

Because it is about the hobby. It is about the collecting, the making, the absorption into a smaller, better world of your own designing.

Only occasionally does reality intrude.  Such as, for example, a global pandemic.

I will keep writing about the show and hope to be there and see you there.  It is the weekend of the 19th and 20th of March 2022 at the NEC, if the pandemic does not do another surge, if the government does not change the rules.

If you are a miniaturist exhibiting at the show and would like to be featured here, please get in touch.  For details about the show which is still an astoundingly original, modestly priced day out with a hall full of world class original artists working in many disciplines (it’s good, it’s really good) please click on the link below.

www.miniatura.co.uk

www.ashmolean.org

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Careers Advice.

The new Head, opening his study,
Said, ‘Welcome to you, Mr Toddy,
Mrs Toddy put your body
In this chair.

There is no need to appraise me,
You really can’t surprise me,
I already recognise why
You both are here.

I assume that Toddy Junior
Is why you are in this room here
You hope I am the new broom here
To sweep the dust away.

I have just got his report
It is long, it is not short
Not a teacher yet got caught
With nought to say.

His maths teacher, Mr. Frisson
At some length is really wishing
He believed in long division
Or being neat.

His gym teacher, Mr. Merit,
Says he’s lacking in team spirit
And does not know how to do it
With his feet.

His form teacher made remarks
On things he does for larks
On the school field, and in some parks
In any weather.

Other stuff from other tutors –
‘Quite despairing’, ‘Has no future’
I think I will read them to you
All together.

“He does things I cannot mention
Right outside of all convention
Absolutely with intention
To annoy.

He is arrogant and haughty
He far surpasses naughty
He’s a layabout – not sporty
For a boy.

He likes to snap his braces
And pull rude and silly faces
And have worm and beetle races
All at once.

We caught him smoking and sniffing glues,
Wearing other children’s shoes
And I regret to have to tell you
He’s a dunce.

He’s a well accomplished liar,
He is an idler – not a trier
He’s no ambitions to aspire
To get a job.

We have often caught him fighting,
He steals other children’s writing
He will fart right through a night in –
He’s a slob.”

‘Oh dear!’ cried Mrs Toddy
‘If Junior’s a bad boy
Should we put him in the Navy
All at sea?’

‘Or the Air Force?’ asked his father,
‘Unless, that is, you’d rather
Send him off to be a soldier
Advise me.’

‘Please leave him,’ said the Head
‘This is not a thing to dread
Cuthbert Toddy is the lad
We think we know.

We have had his type before
Walking right in through that door
In fact, there are many more,
From long ago.

They are haughty and repulsive
Lying and compulsive
Ruthless and subversive
To a man.

When they graduate to College
With huge bribes but little knowledge
(Because we like to stir the porridge
If we can) –

On these wooden plaques we add here
The name of any lad here
Who does well when he’s left here
Later on.

Look! This lad, Junior Purviss,
Now runs the Civil Service
He is devious and churlish
Loud and fat.

This boy, Siddiq Brabinet,
Has three times lead the cabinet
Whilst possessing all the intellect
Of a gnat.

There’s a mover, shaker, wheeler,
A very rich arms dealer
This one heads the Met – the Peelers
A long time.

Cuthbert Toddy, I assure you
Is the lad in whom to put your
Faith, he has a solid future
As P.M.

He’s a mendacious, idle boy
Unsurpassably annoy
ing, they will welcome him with joy
At Number 10.

####################

I appear to be suffering from intermittent doggerel.  Who knows when it will end?  Do you?

Me neither.

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Downward.

It seems that SMIL has been moved into the wing of the care home for the most demented residents.

When she first went into the home her daughter argued that she didn’t belong there, and, at first, this seemed true.

I try every day to talk to SMIL on the phone but this is not always possible. Sometimes she is violent and phone calls are perceived by staff as making matters worse.  Today lunch was late, so I phoned afterwards but was advised she had taken herself off to bed saying she had run out of energy.  Her daughter reports SMIL as frequently lying or sitting on the floor.  Last time her daughter talked to her SMIL said she was about to be raped and burst into tears.

All of this seems so far from the situation at this time last year, that I would not have believed you if you had been able to predict this future.  Then SMIL’s son was still alive, visiting two or three times a week, taking the groceries and staying for a few hours.  He came round at the weekends and they had a nice meal.  When I phoned every day during the week SMIL begged me to stay on the phone, often putting her lunch to one side, even though I said I would ring back later, in order to have a long chat.  Nowadays ten minutes is about the most SMIL can manage.

I have found other ways to communicate.  I send cards I’ve made, often with pictures of the grandchildren, or little bars of chocolate.  On Sunday SMIL said she was short of underwear, so I got a couple of packs of M&S’s finest, embroidered her initials on them and sent with a card and some chocolate.

I sent and took cards and pictures to my mother. Some years ago to an uncle, when my aunt died, I sent postcards, as he found letters threatening.

In an unfamiliar place, especially when that place is the inside of your head, any sign of home, especially a sign that you do not have to make the effort to interact with, is grounding and a reminder of who you are. It takes an effort to keep up, especially in the face of no response. I did not go to my uncle’s funeral, there were mitigating circumstances, mainly that the previous day a radiator in the lounge developed a hole and a fountain that destroyed the carpet before it was discovered and the plumber could not be in attendance until the following day.  All of this sounds like an excuse, true as it is, with hindsight it is the hardest thing to keep pouring care into a void.  After a couple of years I’d had enough.  I am, like us all, a work in progress.  I have learned and improved as circumstance has taught me.  When I was younger I tried to rescue people and if I could not, gave up.

From the other side of care, I was horrified at the number of people who deserted my mother after saying they would not be strangers.  I have no idea how many dinner parties my mother had given, it must have been in the hundreds.  She was a great joiner of societies, also notable by their absence.

SMIL’s daughter, who has been let off visiting duties for some weeks by Covid, has an appointment with her mother on Friday and, I believe, is dreading it.

I am sure I have told you before, (I have certainly told SMIL’s daughter,) the story of my aunt and the sprouts.

My aunt, my mother’s oldest sister, who saw my mother, despite her fangs, as her cute little sister, did a good thing. She was not put off by the word ‘dementia’, instead ringing my mother regularly.  She only checked in with me a couple of times but told me she was finding the conversations difficult.  Accordingly, at the start of the telephone conversation with my mother, she informed my mother that she wouldn’t have long, because she had just put some sprouts on to boil.  If the talk took a tricky turn, my aunt would announce that she could hear the sprouts boiling over, and quit the conversation in some haste.  It was fully two years before my mother said that she didn’t know what was the matter with Vera, who had lost her cooking skills and was living almost entirely on sprouts.  My brave aunt continued to talk to her little sister until she died, even through some of the worst phases when my mother was ringing late at night and swearing at her, before I asked the carers to pull the phone plug out of the socket at night.

I don’t think my aunt, crucially, promised anything.  I tend not to promise, in fact the only promise I ever made was my wedding vows. Promises are dangerous.  I had to barter with the vicar to get the words ‘obey’ demoted – he allowed me to say them under my breath, but did not observe that I was doing so with my fingers crossed. This at the time was a lot to do with my mother – she who must be obeyed – but from this perspective, promising to obey an alcoholic would not have been a wise move.

Promising to always be there for a demented person would be similarly foolish.  All we ever have is today.  Promising to make things better would be an impossibility.  You cannot get into the brain of another human and change it for the better, or at all. There are more potential connections in the human brain than there are atoms in the known universe.

What you can do, is what you can do.  A four hour visit to someone very ill is not a visit that will benefit them at all, it will just tire them out.  Feeling that you have done your duty and then not getting in contact for another few months is not very good, and certainly does them no good.

Little and often is the key to it all.  If you leave things for a long time you will build up the difficulty in your head to mountainous proportions.  Talking to a demented person can become an impossibility faster than you can believe.  So don’t do that. Do five minutes just saying hello to someone you love who has now become ill.  Just pop a card in the post.  It does not have to be a long letter. A postcard with ‘thinking of you’ on the back in your proper handwriting is a comfort and a help.

How do I know?  Having had cancer twice, I remember two or three instances of interaction vividly.  After the death of my mother-in-law I had just been diagnosed when my father-in-law came to stay.  I told him I had been diagnosed with cancer.  He replied, ‘I don’t want to know about that,’ turned on his heel and walked away.  Then there was the recent time after surgery when the OH came in from the pub when I had just, post surgery, vomited a litre of blood, he chucked it down the toilet, told me I was playing the sympathy card and walked away.  But in the recent post cancer difficulties, two old schoolfriends clubbed together and sent me a wonderful bouquet of flowers, in a vase, with a lovely card to say they hoped I would get well soon.

A little sign of care or concern makes all the difference in the world.  I send Christmas cards now to my two old schoolfriends and keep in touch. Happily, gratefully.

So if you are having difficulty staying in touch with someone demented in your life, buy a postcard, write it, stamp it, put it in the post box, a work of a few minutes in your day that will make a huge difference to the recipient.  Buy a few postcards while you are at it, and a book of stamps, then, when you already have the postcards and stamps, it will be easier next time.  Put on some sprouts and pick up the phone.  Never doubt that any small kind contact is a help.

Incidentally if you were wondering about SMIL’s talk of rape, I will, when I next talk to senior nursing staff just check that all is well and that SMIL is not receiving unwanted attention of any sort.  I always ask when I ring, if SMIL has any pain anywhere. Last week she had hurt her foot, so when we finished the chat I rang the office and got someone to go and look at her foot, having asked her if she would take painkillers if they gave them to her and received consent both to look at the foot and take the painkillers. It is worth remembering that care homes have residents that have arrived there by many routes, not all will be lovely old dears.

All of which is, of course, a good argument for keeping your demented relative in their own home as long as you possibly can with whatever help you are going to be able to muster.  It cost me half a house the first time and a whole house the second time, frightening but worth every penny each time.  Because, when you get down to it, on planet Jane what goes round comes around, it’s just like the lottery, it could be you.

When I had cancer the first time, it was relatively rare. Now, forty years later, one in two of us will have it at some time in our lives. It begins to look as if dementia is following similar statistics.

The path of a disease for which there is no cure yet, is a downward one with dispiriting lurches, bumps and sudden plunges off unseen precipices.  But if it is not you on this journey, let your gladness and relief take the form of being the good occasional companion, who is the bright spot in a day.

Invest in a postcard to polish your soul.

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Digging for rhymes.

Alexander Pope
Went to buy some rope
The shop was closed,
“Would that I’d knowsed
I’ll have to use string, I suppose
Or else, give up all hope.”

Pope Xander A
Went to buy some hay
The empty barn
Was huge and warm
He snored inside it until dawn
And then he went away.

Pope Xander Celled
(Same guy, misspelled)
Devised a plan
To purchase from
A market stall at 8pm
When the market wasn’t held.

A Pope –  that boy there
Tried to make a chair
He hired a saw
Pulled up the floor
Boards and sawed them up some more
Then threw them all away.

Pope Ander Alex
Wondered: What do next?
Called his friend true,
Said “Listen Boo
It goes wrong what I try to do –
Is it some sort of hex?”

Boo analysed the thing
Of not buying rope or string
Or marketing, or making chairs
Or buying hay or other wares
He thought while sitting on the stairs,
Until his brain went ping.

He said, “Xander, carry on
Don’t despair, stay strong
I’ve thought about it quite a lot –
Just feel my forehead, getting hot
At last a great idea I’ve got –
I know what’s going wrong.

A great idea at last,
It came to me not fast
My brain it waved,
My friend I’ll save
The problem is how you behave,
You’re living in the past.

Look at that first verse!
It could not be much worse!
You’re wanting rope or bits of string
Or other antiquated things
What’s with the hay and marketing?
I see that you demurs.

My friend, you need the Net,
It is the place to get
Your ready-mades
Your help and aid
Your books, your clothes, a winsome maid
Even a fluffy pet.

Horrible drugs
Matching mugs
And plates and bowls
And trainer soles
And other stuff loved by the proles
And even knotted rugs.

And exercising plans
And small electric fans
Curlers, crowbars, sticky tape
Bulk packs of tissues, paper crepe
Adopt a lion or an ape
Or buy tickets for Le Mans.

Ask the doc what’s wrong,
Or listen to a song
Or see a photo of a tick
Or teach yourself to guitar pick
Or even read JaneLaverick
(More than ten years long.)

Alexander Pope
Said, “Though I’m glad you spoke
Curtail the list
I get the gist,
I’m feeling really tired of this
I only wanted rope.”

“Well you are not alone,”
Said Boo, scrolling on his phone,
“There’s nylon, cotton, hemp and twine
Ten small coils or half a mile
Pink, blue, striped or Eau de Nile
Or green or red or brown.”

“Please shut up Boo!” screamed A
“I wish you’d go away
The rope was for this dinosaur
I’ve dug up underneath the floor.
I need to pull it up some more
And excavate it all before
The term of rent is nearly o’er
Which is happening today.

And I must not forget
To mop up all the wet.
I need the hay
To round it lay
To make the water go away
And save my damp T Rex.

I really need a chair
It’s hard to kneel down there
My knees are shot
My hips have not
Much strength, I’m going all to pot
It isn’t very fair.”

His friend said, with a grin
“Call Alice Roberts in
She has cute trews
She cannot lose
She’ll dig up anything you choose
As neat as a new pin.

She knows the BBC
(She has them round for tea)
She’s got a tent
That’s free of rent
And full of air and very vent
Ilated, by the sea.

She has bright shiny eyes
A biker jacket, nice –
A Roman spoon
A gold doubloon
A bit of plaster, from a room
And a theme tune ‘Coins for the eyes.’

If she would only lend
Her weight to this ‘twould bend
The rent around
The tricky ground
The Rexasaurus would be found
Quite easily, my friend.

They will sort it all
Out, no probs at all
They’ll help you with your decoupage
Excavating’s all the rage,
We’ll get in English Heritage
I’m giving her a call.”

To cut the story short
He called, she came, she sort
Ed it for free
The BBC
Filmed hours of dig for all to see
And wrote a long report.

So Alexander Pope
Became a famous bloke
The next to fame
With that same name
Though not, of course, at all the same
As the poet, was he? Nope.

Today he owns the block
Of houses, lock and stock,
In central Leeds
It meets his needs
He purchased each one of the deeds
Financed by those who flock

To see a dinosaur
Underneath a floor,
They file in behind a rail,
In the lounge they see its tail,
To see its face a trail they trace
Under the bathroom door.

Alexander was not slow
To make the money flow.
The gift shop he did not forget,
Buy stuff there, or on the Net.
T Rex T-shirts, shoes and hats
T Rex cat food (it’s for cats)
And loads of things you know.

T Rex ’jamas, T Rex socks
Dinosaur gloves, T Rex locks,
Dinosaur carpets, tiles for floors
T Rex vices with gripping jaws,
Brontosaur jugs, long necked, of course
And huge Jurassic clocks.

I could tell you so much more
Of things discovered underfloor,
A trilobite squashed very flat
An ammonite, that curled, like that
A thing looked like a lizard rat
(Not really very sure).

Well done for reading all this verse,
It could not have been much worse,
Longer than some Shakespeare plays
But stopping now without delays
Because we’ve got to where it says
I posted it in Werse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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