Operations

[Child’s new word – will all the staff being trained need an operation, I wonder?] Apprenticitis.

…a pleasant visit to X who was recovering from a hysterectomy; recovering very well actually, which she is putting down to using a couple of arnica tablets before and after the operation – she said it felt a lot better than when she had any of her Caesars.

I’ve had a series of operations, some major, most minor. I have more in prospect. It has left me rather weak and I have no idea when I shall be able to return to work.

One of my many symptoms, as yet undiagnosed, is that both hands are in an arthritic condition, still and painful. So you’ll understand that I can’t write at length.

X eventually ended up in Ward 3 of the District General Hospital, with the prospect of some mysterious cross between a replacement hip and a pin – it is a prosthesis of sorts and the houseman could only describe it to me as half a hip-joint, which sounds very queer. The surgeon is said to be clever but brusque and pretty unapproachable, but as long as he does it well we shall be happy.

I was thrown into confusion last week by the surgeon’s secretary offering me a bed this Friday! I will do a phone call when I am back with another new lens and all ready to see out life with just one more pair of glasses I imagine.

Cattaracts [sic] – Yes, both done now and spot on so far.

cattaracts

The surgeon is frightfully busy this summer I gather (what with a long holiday and such like!) and she seems to think it may have to be in about September if she misses June, but is resigning herself to this by degrees and it will be his verdict when she crawls in to see him at the beginning of next week – by then I hope she will be able to face the walk from the hospital car park to outpatients!!

Encouragement

[Thanks to the people who sent these letters! All were lovely folk and sadly missed.]

[Quote from Unknown: A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.]

Thanks for the pictures – I am fascinated by them and wish I could do anything as interesting. Please, if it’s not too much trouble, could I have a photo of ‘Tribute to Mr. Campbell’ – I long to see it. I have a feeling that you are developing into quite an impressive artist and that you will soon get wider recognition.

This is to thank you again for the very great pleasure it was to me to meet you… It is a very long time since I have had such a happy afternoon, of so much interest and intense enjoyment… My interest and appreciation were so great that I actually felt a lifting of the weight of years – one of the hazards of extreme old age is a kind of creeping inertia and withdrawal from the present, and you have certainly thrust that aside for me. To see you again is something to look forward to.

creeping inertia

Do not NOT let other artists or critics disturb you – let them rabbit on – pick and choose that which you find of help and do your own thing… I don’t know what you are trying to achieve – be yourself !!!

I saw this gorgeous painting of irises of yours in the window. It really is lovely… When I went past the shop on my return there was a different picture in the window – lovely too of poppies! It seems to me your painting has developed enormously with fabulous colour. Why on earth do you have some people anti, I wonder. It is so refreshing to have flower paintings so full of life and colour which after all is the characteristic of flowers not the neat ladylike little bunches with most colour drained out of them.

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.

Ageing

My father died early in the year. It was a sad event, but a release in one way. He didn’t really know what was going on any more… My mother did seem to realise he had died, although she cannot communicate. She just cried and looked very depressed on the day of the funeral. She seems to have recovered her spirits: with dementia it is just impossible to tell what they are thinking.

Did you know that mum’s two brothers died this summer? I’m afraid we are in those years when people who seemed immortal suddenly are not!

Here not much happens so it becomes increasingly difficult to make it happen – staff shortage but no shortage of confused residents. They are now building on in order to take day centre people thus adding to still more confusion!

X has had a minor stroke I think, so shuffles along like a 90-year-old and gets lost for words and gets so annoyed when I can’t guess what he means – I am getting better at it, I think! He still drives to the local shop when I don’t go out – he must have his daily paper! He takes the dog round the garden and worries where the cat is all day and at night too! It is rather trying!

a bit doddery

I got an unexpected phone call from a writer. He’s written a biography of Mary Wesley who was among many things in MI5. Apparently I’m one of the few – in fact only person – old enough to remember her when she was married to her first husband. Having discovered that I’m ninety he was in a great hurry to see me!

I’m getting so dotty that I shall soon have to get a Carer which is depressing – all my old friends seem to be either dead or in nursing homes and not liking the intense loneliness which goes with most old age.

I was so sorry to hear of your mother’s sickness and dying, it’s a hard time to through, the best comfort is to be thankful she has no more suffering and problems. I sometimes wish my mother could see something then I realise she is far better off and happier where she is anyhow!

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

 

Infirmity

… two nights with the old 93-year old cousin, full of woe as the family home has to be sold and she is miserable although she can’t live there without a ‘keeper’ as she will keep falling down on her arthritic legs.

Scottish Dancing is his passion in life which she cannot do because she has a back, or something. [We know what you mean!]

Yes, how X needs a break… I remember her as the Golden Girl with everything going right for her.

A good resolution for the winter will be to type for 20 minutes each day to make my fingers work right, but I may have left it too late and I shall never get out of the habit of using the wrong fingers when the correct ones bend the wrong way! But if I could make them a bit more pliant it would help.

I seem to be getting the rheumatics in my shoulders and arms and my hands look pretty peculiar and some fingers leave go of things at the wrong moment and although my toes are permanently numb and blue they don’t actually seem to be falling off.

A thorn in my side this year has been my temporary assistant. The present occupant works about quarter time at best. She is always ‘sick’, and never even apologetic or worried about it. Personally I think a good shaking would do a great deal to improve the situation, however it doesn’t feature as a motivator in any of the personnel manuals. .. We are unable to terminate her employment as she continues to bring certificates.

It is a bore and very ancient-making to be crawling everywhere like a decrepit crab instead of stepping out!

Like a crab

 

Time flies by

This year I have been prescribed my first set of reading glasses. I can read quite well without them, however at the end of the day I have to say the world did have very fuzzy edges. So, off I went, and was told that many people required glasses by middle age. How very cheerful. My eldest sister is 60 tomorrow. I have to say that the realisation of this made me pull up with a real jolt. I never thought it when she turned 50: even though I am somewhat younger, that didn’t sound anything like 60 sounds – sort of aged. So there, you have another 10 years of being young.

I am glad that you are doing new things.

new ventures

 

I have to say that as one gets older ones group of friends seems to dwindle, or you see them less often, or something. I too have felt the need to do something different and meet new people.

 

I must admit I also worry a little about how quickly the years seem to be going, the birthdays coming around much more quickly than they used to and the realisation that middle age is not so far off! However I always think of X who bought and started a sheep farm at the age of 50. She is in her mid-70s now, with the farm quite successful… How one avoids or copes with the bodily ills rather than those of the mind I don’t know.

…a year since we set off from Southampton. It is amazing that time can go so quickly. I keep thinking of what we were doing a year ago – getting up and having rolls on deck, having dinner with that dreadful man (remember the sardine appetiser?), charging up and down B deck.

I surprised everyone, and not least of all myself, by having a stroke in middle of June. At least I was sensible and was able to rest and recover lounging in the garden – I felt like the last of the Colonial Empire – laying back under the trees for hours on end. Don’t be shocked at being 50. I was 70 this year – whatever next!

X’s surviving brother, 89, came over from Spain in the summer and while here did two stints on television – one in ‘The Bill’ and one for a new series of ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judi Dench – great for his morale but stressful.

I thought I felt old when the children of friends started getting married, but it’s even worse when people my age announce that they’ve retired or are thinking of retiring. Where have the last fifty-two years gone to? X’s father died just two days after his eighty-seventh birthday. Although he’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years, and his death was, in fact, a happy release from his torment, X and I were suddenly acutely aware of having moved up a generation, as it were. It’s not that we feel any older (or wiser!), just nearer to the other end of our lives.