Care home 2

Tomorrow I’m going to X for a cataract op on the second eye and there for a couple of nights. After that I hope to drive better but doubt I shall dare take on the motorway. Impossible to enjoy Y [care home] but it’s a huge relief to have Z [partner] reasonably well looked after by exceptionally nice overworked carers… Sorry such a dull letter but life here is fairly limited!

The VIP went to our old people’s home. No one seemed to recognise him, so he approached one of the more alert-looking old dears sitting around the walls. ‘Do you know who I am?’ he asked. ‘No, dear,’ replied the resident, ‘but don’t worry. Just ask at the desk: they’ll tell you.’

The Mayor’s visit

X has Alzheimer’s and, thankfully, is blissfully unaware of his wife’s death. He’s as happy as Larry in the nursing home, and isn’t, thank goodness, at all difficult to look after. He loves having visitors, especially when they bring him sweets and biscuits!

Life in this place becomes more and more of a horror story – about 90% of the inmates senile and the rest have given up interest in much other than their health and the food. Lucky old X jumped ship in good time to avoid all this… Awful as old age is I can escape into books, libraries and pubs – so far!

His memory is alas extremely short-term but it helps in that he no longer remembers long enough to worry.

I hate the story about your aunt – old age is terrible. Our turn is coming and I’m dreading it.

Herewith new address – a sort of old people’s home with extra nursing care. Rather a drear thing but the lesser of two evils as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cope with X’s problems here. We are there on a month’s trial so may well get chucked out as X is not good at cooperating with nurses.

Oh dear – Xmas – what a bore – I can imagine paper hats at the home. My bed-sit in the home is 12×12 so you can imagine I can’t take much other than a bed and 2 chairs!

I am around elderly people a lot and although most of them are interesting and wonderful I sometimes find myself thinking about old age. I have had some absolutely hysterical lunches with X, when I have visited her at the [care home]. It really makes you think when you see how people are treated in these homes and the amount they cost is horrendous.

Exploits

He’s a gorgeous little boy who has several good friends… he’s beginning to get ‘into things’. The other day I caught him emptying all X’s tin of gambling money into his toy till!! (It is a large tin of coins for playing poker with – it’s all shared out and all returned to the tin afterwards!) Oh dear. Actually he’s got rather light fingers come to think of it. I found a note in my rubbish tin and X mysteriously lost a little bag with a lot of cash in it.

I got a hoax phone call and I got my gun out – to cut a long story short I shot myself! Went in at belly button region and out at left buttock! I got a fright but 24 hours in hospital proved it to be a soft flesh wound! The good Lord saved me (and my fat)!

We had a card from X from Finland this week – she’d just got back from Lapland, where the family of ‘this gye’(!) had taken her. They’d picked 80Kg of cloudberries which they were selling at $35 a Kg and this was paying for the next part of her trip with the money she’d earned ‘doing embroidery things in people’s hair’. Sounds vaguely ominous but fascinating. She earned $600 in 3 days doing all this.

We’re having a horrendously huge BBQ on the 20th. It was going to be a few friends and seems to be about 60 at this stage!

the BBQ

Special skills

Do remember to send me a diagram of your house so I can dowse it for you. It seems to be good for us and especially our friend X… I think when I last wrote I was waiting to hear the result of the drill being done nearby; I went down complete with cans of beer to celebrate only to find X had decided he shouldn’t put on another 10 ft pipe to bring it up to the depth I reckoned he would strike an aquifer and water in vast quantities. He was disappointed too as he was sure I was right. As he’d already gone 3 metres more than he’d been instructed to go I can see his predicament. However, he was happy for me to go and try out the next well which won’t be for a month or more.

 

giving light

I’ve attended a course in this Mahikari I mentioned in the last letter and can now ‘give light’ – it still seems remarkable but anyway. But it seems to attract people who neet it.

My jaunt to dowse a section was interesting. I’d said I had no qualifications, and he assured me it was whether you had it or not that mattered! We marched round this dreary section, which had been covered over with tarmac and used as a car park, and the council had a competition going for the best building that could go on it… It came out very odd, and I suspect there was an old cess pit and a large soakaway, it was over a swamp, in a gully, I think the person who said it was not fit for habitation would win any competition. Then I got a very strong reaction at one point… and since coming home and trying to make sense of it, I got a book (the only one they had!) from the library, which told me all the things I didn’t know… I think the council had cut off all the old pipes which are now holding polluted water, and the big cess pit and soakaway the same, and there is one new pipe right down the new boundary not quite as deep as the old one, so now I wait hopefully! – shall be told how wrong or not I was.

I didn’t realise you needed another licence [for a motorbike] as I imagined that you had a full driving licence, but I suppose that sort of thing went out after the war or some time ages ago and one takes it in bits now? I still rejoice that I can drive a tractor or a heavy van or something (all without taking one at all and I would undoubtedly fail a test!!) What this elderly lady does about turning round on a push bike and signalling and so forth is extremely vague – I usually try to turn round – find I am a bit bad at twiddling my neck/shoulders – take a hasty glance and not really see anything and then stick out a wavering hand and proceed rapidly across the main road to the safety of the lane. Alternatively I suddenly hop off at the crossing and run across at my fastest speed as cars zoom up a hill quite blind and suddenly appear ready to run me down.

Non-sequiturs

Actually X plans to work in NZ next summer. She has worked in Oz so can’t get another work permit for Australia so NZ is the place! Did you hear that Y’s [totally unrelated person to previous] husband committed suicide last New Year – a terrible time for them all.

It’s best to be there when they begin to hatch in the night to keep the crabs off the baby turtles. Mrs. X ailing, so I may not be here for my whole 2 years.

We are hopping

[from child] We used to have 2 rabbits but one ran away, and we are hopping [sic] to find her the one that ran away was named Thumper and the other is named Midnight. I better go know because I are going to help mummy tidy my room.

My favourite dinosaur is Apatasaurus. I got a sellotape for Christmas.

He had a career choice dilemma which he solved thus: ‘On one side I’ll be a fire engine driver and on the other I’ll be Father Christmas.’

I wish I was better at living alone and that people would stop telling me what fun it must be looking at Sainsbury’s! [Flat is in block opposite the store.]

Taking advantage

Many thanks indeed for your letter and all that most useful information – I’m now hoping I didn’t give a fortune away when I gave [away] D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Last Poems’ 1st Edition…a rather unworthy recipient and I don’t suppose I shall ever hear from him again. He was so enthusiastic that I thought perhaps he should have it! I’m now going to order the Guide to 1st Editions before I do any more…

I think your friend should get quite a bit for D.H. Lawrence if in good condition [Oh dear!], also for Katherine Mansfield, especially the Hogarth editions… Dust wrappers are important, if the books were originally published with them.

Life has been a bit thwarting here. I was heavily conned by a clever salesman who came when I was sleepy after lunch and not thinking. He managed to make me think he came from the Council and was offering to add to the loft insulation on a grant for the poor and aged… I said I would have it done. Why I didn’t ask the local Council whether they were reliable or not I don’t know, but there is still time as needless to say they gave me a day when they were in the area and I stayed in on tenterhooks from 9 to 5 and not a peep out of them. Was I mad? Yes.

But, as you can imagine, X [the tutor] enjoyed the holiday and did some painting himself but the tutoring was virtually Nil – I can hear you say I told you! We all complained finally.

But these estate agents! There was one X had grave doubts about buying anything from on the grounds that he wore elastic-sided shoes – and when we met him I saw what she meant. He ought really to have been selling the sleazier sort of secondhand cars. The one who was dealing with the house she is angling for seemed a very pleasant and apparently honest man, and yet he swore blind that the electric wiring had been renewed – which I found it impossible to believe, because there was not a new switch or plug in the house.

Having the terminal at home means that his boss rings him up at weekends or even when he’s on holiday to ask him to sort out various problems! … The next day, I unplugged the phone… Now I just take messages but don’t pass them on if it’s out of office hours! … One of the big problems of the recession is that people who have jobs are so scared of losing them they work longer and longer hours just to hold on to them, and employers like to take advantage of this!

a wife is determined to stop business interference in home time
pulling the plug

 

Significant other

He’s very nice (well, obviously I would think so). He’s very outgoing and has a good sense of humour and is a very caring sort of person too. He gets really involved in what he’s doing and will try his hand at most things. If he’s playing a game he’s quite competitive.

…she was never an amicable woman and made his life a misery and I do not know why he stayed with her at all.

Marriage troubles were pending I knew; finally I slept in the flat for 6 months and threatened my husband ‘we see a counsellor, or move out!!’ Anyhow we have had a breakthrough, although at present I wait for friends to arrive as he won’t see the counsellor any more.

 

he might still be smoking but he's not fat - yet
comparing negatives

I found he had cigarette stubs by his bed again. She says she’d rather he smoked than get fat.

 

We set off after the first night of Club Pairs which I’m playing with a v. pleasant woman this year as X and I seem to be out of step bridge-wise. I think we both do too many psychic bids as we know the other one won’t mind!

X had his hair cut and looked much more presentable – said he was getting a complex as everyone was commenting! It was not I might say at his family’s behest but his girlfriend’s – he sounded quite worried at how obedient he was being!

She is into a great romance with a nice bearded young man who runs a very large property for his father (who is horrid) and will no doubt inherit eventually. Do you think I am very mercenary? But I do like to think of my little darlings being in a stable financial situation and not having to fret over electric bills etc. Of course it may come to nothing!

Children

X always thinks he’s right, very bossy and very little tolerance especially to Y. He seems to be under the impression that all of life’s incidents are like a mathematical equation and have one correct answer – he, of course, always works out the right answer so differences of opinion are rubbished vehemently and loudly!… at school he’s apparently a veritable angel as he got the class ‘citizenship’ prize which means general nice guy, good manners, courteous etc.

[Child of 9] I was so nervous my knees were chattering.

well, why shouldn't knees chatter
chattering knees

X brought over the 2 younger boys. Before she went she warned me to wash Y’s pillow well and truly as she’d just seen he’d got some visitors in his hair again! Of course ever since I keep feeling itchy.

I’ve been particularly careful with X, but she’s so on the defensive – especially about the children who must be admired and never thwarted – it’s not been easy.

We discovered, rather belatedly, that we were about to be parents in the plural… I gave birth to twins… However [a month later] we were of the belief that sleep had been abolished as they ate (or drank) every two/three hours since they were very little and trying to catch up.

He had a grotty week while we were at camp. He was teething and walked round with a mouthful of spit all week (occasionally dumping it, once on one of the chaps who then called him Waterbomb!) Then he fell out of his cot and banged his head and either bit his tongue or developed mouth ulcers as well. And then he got the blisters. Poor kid. However he was back to normal by the end of the week.

X has found one good friend in the class, whose word has become law! Some of said ‘words’ are rather unlikely but he’s a nice little boy. We have to check his bag when he comes to play – the first time they took some of our tools up the tree house and dismantled two locks and a peep-hole cover. They then made plans for pulling the whole house down and rebuilding it in 4 storeys with umpteen decks! Next time he came he had his drill set and three of his father’s brand new paint brushes with him. A bit of soapy water to paint with distracted them from the drill thankfully!

X has been right into volcanoes recently. He and Y (who has walked on an erupting one, you know!) have been allowed their heads at school to pursue it for their reading topic for a while, which was nice. They have an ongoing game about special Powers they own who do various things (like swapping the roofs round at school over the weekend!) and have names and characters of their Powers and visit various planets. Also invisible snakes and tarantulas! All rather fun.

Church / religion

One of the more interesting details was the hairdo of the smaller of the two candle-bearing girls. I suppose she might have been fifteen. Her hair was short and dark, but with most of the ends well-blonded. It just struck me as unusual as a combination with serving in church.

There was an interview on TV, on Sunday evening, between one of our better known TV personalities and Lloyd Geering. The first is a declared (almost militant) atheist, and by the end of the interview I did rather agree with his view that Lloyd Geering is an atheist too, though he disguises it under what the interviewer described as gobbledygook … when he said things like ‘God is a word which we use as a symbol for possessing a system of values’… Actually he has lots of good ethical ideas, but like most humanists seems to think that if he can get people to agree on what are the right ‘values’ all will be well, ignoring the fact that no one manages to live up to their ideas (even with the grace of God to help them, let alone without). But you can’t help liking him!

Too cold for church

In the cold weather I have temporarily abandoned church – it is too freezing cold to get out of bed in time for the 8 a.m. and the church is so cold for the longer 10 o’clock that I go numb during the service. We have our new vicar starting this coming week so I shall have to reform soon and become a faithful if inattentive attender.

We went in the evening to the Salvation Army. The new Captain and wife, only recently arrived, started dead on time and finished in 50 minutes. They collect most of the congregation in their car and a van, which gives them the whip-hand in the matter of timing!

In the morning service, X declared (in a whisper) that she wouldn’t sing one of the hymns because she didn’t like it so she was going to sing something else. She didn’t, of course, but the funny thing was that on the next carol, Y did! He started singing the second verse (which he swears always used to be the first)!

Telling it how it is

X remarked how well we all looked: retirement must be good for us, and he really must try it some time. I said, ‘What a good idea’ and hoped afterwards that I had not sounded too enthusiastic. But it is really high time that he did – he’s sixty-nine, and so conservative that John Bull would look liberal pink by comparison – and by and large he’s about 80% responsible for whatever failings in morale there are among the staff locally.

You said you thought I might be too young to see the hang-ups, I can see the hang-ups and aren’t blind to them but if a person grows up looking at what they might be getting out of life had they done something else they wouldn’t enjoy the decisions they have made. Anything works if you try. If only you could be here to see… you’d understand. I am young but am really quite grown up too and I like to look at things in a positive sense ‘cos if I always think negative I’ll be a negative person when I’m older.

I proposed an amendment which supported the declared intention to help poor people … I wasn’t allowed to get away with ‘poor people’ – it was variously described as Dickensian, patronising, etc. and ‘lower income groups’ wormed their way in instead.

That reminds me of a decorator that was here just before we moved in. He was meant to re-varnish the windows which were heavily water stained and badly neglected; so what does he suggest? ‘You’re wasting your money on these windows – you’ll never make them look good. Why not re-paint the kitchen instead?’

In the course of the day I managed to drop my old glasses, and broke the frame, which was convenient in that it saved any question of trying to use the frame again (which I did the last time I had a change of prescription). The nice young optometrist looked at it and said it had been a nice frame once – all the rage about the time he was starting work twenty years ago.

the frig

Men are wonderful inventions – X gaily went off leaving the refrigerator full of an odd chunk of bread and a bit of cheese and various jugs of orange and milk – I suppose he hoped Y would deal with it, or perhaps he imagined it would keep for a month. The house seems to be having the clean-up that can’t be managed when he is there, and the sheds have lost a lot of treasures by my unkindly hand. 16 old tobacco tins for storing hypothetical screws and nails went quite firmly… I hope he doesn’t notice that a pair of waders that had rotted over the bunion spots have gone from the shed as I am sure they were very treasured but weren’t ever used judging by the spiders and cobwebs surrounding them.

New acquaintances

I’ve also got myself a visiting job – a doctor who has fairly recently lost his sight. I was told he could do with someone to read to him from time to time. We started on the newspapers, and have now progressed on his suggestion to the Book of Revelation – but we don’t generally cover much as we slide off into mutual comment and anecdote!

Misunderstanding

I found her very kind, interesting and easy to get on with. It was difficult she spoke so quietly and I hear so quietly – if you see what I mean! but I trust we didn’t talk at cross purposes too much. One we discovered – I thought she was speaking of Russia and she was in fact speaking of Sweden – I was quite amazed at some of her statements!

 A real time waster today was a call by X who dropped in on his way home and effectively filled the time between lunch and tea with talk. He touched among other subjects on stress in the halfshafts of Land Rovers, the method of construction adopted for the interior walls of his house and its relationship to the problems of fitting sliding doors and extra power; plus common misunderstandings of the rates system and other equally enlightening subjects. In fact, he is a crashing bore. A pity, since he is obviously a kindly man, and it is very friendly of him to look in on us.

We were invited next door… She has a very loud voice, and is a great talker, so X was sitting there for about two hours trying to keep her finger in her ear on that side without it being obvious. I was feeling battered at one remove by the end, so it must have been very painful for her. Every now and then we tried to make it a conversation by starting off, ‘That reminds me of…’ – but not with much success.

I liked him better than her really – but a few words at the top of ones voice in the middle of a party is not much to judge on.

However she’s quite pleasant, and he is, but is very outspoken if he feels like it and calls a spade a b. shovel: last week we missed Bridge and evidently he and our ex-president flared up (he’s a Union man and a pain in the neck) and X raised a fist and asked him to step outside – X retired with a heart and last year had a triple bypass op. and Y had a stroke earlier in the year, and both well into the 70s – it must have been quite a show!

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