Can I do this in ten minutes? No? Stuff it then.

Yes, that’s been my motto this week. The Chaos fairies are back and I am clinging on to the hamster wheel of life with my finger tips. Everything that could happen to cause me extra inconvenience and time has happened but on the up side, I’ve been editing, primping and generally adding bits to the books in the new series for ten minutes every morning. And ten minutes is better than sodding nothing. Just.

It’s been one of those weeks when the intervention of unscheduled events has been so bad I’ve been railing and swearing at anything that crosses my path. For example, emptying the bin; while waiting for the plastic liner to slowly eek its way out of the bin in the kitchen so I can take the rubbish out and put a new one in I’ve been shouting.

‘Hurry the fuck up! I’ve got better things to do with my time!’

At a plastic bag.

Yelling at inanimate objects then. Probably not the greatest testament to a stable mind or much in the way of sanity but hey it’s the way I roll.

McCat has caught a bird three mornings running at exactly the same time of day, this morning I was not on the school run and so was monumentally pissed off that I forgot to lock him in for the three quarters of an hour of bird death between eight fifteen and nine am. Although on the upside, at least the last two mornings, while there were feathers to hoover up and blood stains to clean there wasn’t a body. If he has to catch people, I’d rather he ate them. Also, it wasn’t either of our lovely dunnocks (hedge sparrows). Once incredibly common, the dunnock population has declined by 93% since 1970 and they are now on the red endangered list.

McMini has been doing exams, SATS, which seem completely pointless and arbitrary and rather harder work than the o’levels I took aged fifteen/sixteen (the joy of  a June birthday is that it falls right in the middle of your exams). The SATS involve McMini having to be in school for a pre exam breakfast at eight am, which, on the back of two weeks having to be up and dressed and ready for the arrival of the painters at seven thirty in the morning has been hard for me but has clearly been a great help to him so, go school on that one even if it was a bit … bleargh for me.

In addition, I’ve been suffering more knee and heel pain which does knacker me out. I’m sure McOther thinks I’m lazy because I tend to batch getting up to do things. I tried to explain that if he knew he was going to get an electric shock every time he stood up from the chair and went to get something, he would probably wait, until he had several things to go and get before weathering the electric shock. I think he got more of an idea after that. I probably ought to go back to physio because while we think the pain is not necessarily arthritic, I’d like to try and find out what is causing it. Who knows, if we did that, maybe I could make it stop.

SATS involve McMini having even less of an idea of passing time, where he is, what he’s supposed to be doing etc and added to my already disastrously shite levels on this front, we have been well and truly home to Mr Cock up. Lurching from one crisis of our own making to another!

The school, in quite a decent gesture, have done a kind of parable of the talents on the kids. They have been put into groups and given a fiver. They have to use the fiver to buy things so they can make something or sell something and turn it into more. Each group of four is expected to try and aim for £25 minimum. McMini’s group split into two couples, both raised £70 last weekend and the other couple are doing a car boot to raise more this weekend. However, ours went like this.

‘Mum, my friend and I are going to sell lemonade.’

‘When?’

‘Now.’

I look out of the window, it’s five to five on a Friday and it’s pissing down.

‘Don’t you think tomorrow would be better?’

Long and the short, I ring friend’s mum who also agrees tomorrow would be better. I then spend an unscheduled two and a half hours making cakes on the Saturday morning and another unscheduled two and a half hours standing behind a table up the street with McMini’s friend’s mum plus McMini and friend, flogging said cakes to unsuspecting members of the general public. It went well and was fun but after two week’s sleep deprivation – that half an hour between six thirty and seven is important to me it seems – I wasn’t hugely endowed with energy for that kind of thing. And all that standing. I did sit on a wall but a sweet man came out and asked me, in the most tactful, kindly way anyone has ever asked me not to do something, if I would mind not sitting on his mother’s garden wall. My leg hurt for about five days afterwards too.

Spool forward to yesterday when I get a text from the school at four thirty reminding me to send McMini in the next day with £2 to spend at the year six cake sale.

‘Cakey what?’ I cry in horror. ‘Am I supposed to be baking something for this?’

Of course I fucking am. Luckily there’s enough ingredients and cake cases from last week’s impromptu cake sale to cobble something together but it’s all a bit shit.

Where the school falls down is a message in the middle. They’re great at warning you something’s coming up an a month or two, but even two weeks is miles away and you’re head down fighting the crises and fires that are blazing right now. They are also brilliant at reminding you about things that are on tomorrow but, unfortunately, they are singularly piss-poor at reminding you on say … Monday … that there’s a cake sale on Friday. McMini was supposed to do that but a) he’s McMini and b) SATS.

At the end of it all, if the kids have made enough cash, their efforts will fund a trip for all of them somewhere. Sounds good. In case there was any chance of a relaxing weekend, McMini has a football tournament today. Of course he does, poor little blighter, because it’s completely bastard freezing again. And it starts at nine so it’s up at the crack of fucking dawn again. I will have to be very careful to ensure I bring one of our fold up chairs or I’ll be walking like an arthritic John Wayne for the rest of next week. Still it’ll hardly make a difference. I look terrible at the moment.

Heaven knows what’s going on, maybe the stress hormones are high, but I’m getting fatter and fatter. It’s as if someone’s shoved a bicycle pump up my arse and they’re filling me with air, except it’s flab. Jeez, I mean, dressing has been like draping camouflage netting over a zeppelin for some time but today’s trousers, which were perfectly comfortable two weeks ago, are positively groaning at the seams. If the button goes, it’ll fly off with such force that it’ll probably kill someone. I’ll be sent to prison for murdering innocent bystanders with a flab powered projectile. Maybe I’ll squeak by with manslaughter and serve a shorter sentence. Here’s hoping.

At the end of next week it’s half term during which we are flying round the country like blue arsed flies, still, at least we’ll get to have a lie in and after that, it’ll be back to school for a chuffing rest.

Phew!

On the upside, on Friday morning, for the first time in three weeks, I got to set the alarm for seven instead of some varietal of Far Too Fucking Close To Six. I woke up at six thirty, had a wee and retired smugly back to bed for another glorious twenty minutes kip.

Chuffing marvellous.

Do you know, I read somewhere that night owls are more likely to be unhappy or suffer from mental illness than larks. The implication of the article was that if you’re the kind of person who, when left to function naturally, wakes at nine and goes to bed at one am, there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. You’re obviously more likely to end up being mentally ill the article posited because if you struggle to get up early you’ve clearly No Moral Fibre and you don’t fit in with Decent People. At this point, while reading, I was giving the magazine the bird and shouting, ‘Fuck off!’ because it’s bollocks.

If you ask me, it’s blindingly obvious night owls are more likely to struggle. They struggle because the entire fabric of society, of the working day and of completely everything is set up for and favours the kind of smug masochistic bastards who get up at six am, of their own volition, go to bed at eight pm – a few minutes before their children – because they get up too stupidly early to be able to hang out with the Normal Humans for an evening. Not that I mind getting up for the dawn occasionally, it can be very beautiful, but half the joy of it, when I do, is the fact that I don’t have to do it every day.

So yeh, been playing catch up this week even more than usual.

On the up side, the new book came back from the first edit today and in an amazing turn of events, despite bastard Real Life thwarting me at every turn, I managed to go through the edits and make the changes straight away. Those two pictures are the artwork from the covers, the orange and blue one is the cover of the new series, the orange bit will be a different colour on each book. The other one is the cover of a free short I’m going to give away to folks on my mailing list. It’s going to be completely exclusive so no-one else gets a copy, it’s not on sale anywhere else either. Now all I have to do is finish the sequence of hello emails people get on joining.

On the preparing the book front, I’m trying a different editor. She’s more expensive than the ones I’ve used thus far, but she’s local, in fact she goes to my gym and she’s a bit of a word/grammar spud. On the one hand, she charges more, on the other, she charges by the hour so I can ask her to do as much work as I can afford and then stop until I can afford more. Also, she doesn’t have the same kind of waiting list – not for a short story, anyway. Things are looking good so far so I’m quite excited about the work in progress, although I’m sort of frustrated in equal measure because there’s so much homework to do from Real Bastard Life at the same time.

On the Dad front, I had a really good visit this last Wednesday. He was sleepy and didn’t raise his head up but he knew I was there and was pleased to see me because he kept smiling. He smiled and chuckled as I chatted to him. These days, when I see him, I recall things to him that we did as a family when my brother and I were little. He may not remember, I don’t know, but it’s clear that they amuse him. This week it was about being on holiday and finding a field of carrots and how my parents tried to stop my brother and I from pulling up a couple and eating them.

‘It’s stealing!’ Mum told us.

But my brother and I persisted and my parents tried to pretend they were cross but I suspect they were just delighted that we were eating carrots. That memory made him smile. He was alright, and happy within himself, so I wasn’t as worried as I have been. And to be honest, just blogging about it last week helped.

Oh, it’s been half an hour and now it’s time to collect McMini from Boy’s brigade. Apparently he’s going to be painting a pot, I look forward to seeing what colours he’s used by looking at his shirt.

Onwards and upwards! A bientot!

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There may be trouble ahead … #dementia

This week I was going to give you the results of the title poll and show you the new covers and blurbs for my series. But now I have to make chocolate cakes for McMini to sell to unsuspecting victims passers by to try and raise cash for a class outing after their SATS exams are over, so this has to be a brain dump rather than the kind of post I think about.

It’s a bit of a living parable of the talents this. McMini and three friends have been given five pounds to buy stuff to sell, but there are only two in action today and the one with the five pounds isn’t coming so it appears that I must buy the plastic cups and local friend’s mum must stump up for the drinks. There is no publicity material, none of the little darlings has thought to do posters or even price tags … or even about what they are selling. Never mind. We shall see what we can do. The weather is perking up a bit so it may work out quite well. Especially if I end up taking a tray of cakes to the market and haranguing passers buy until they buy one, like some ancient disabled Apprentice contestant. Here’s hoping.

Anyway, when it comes to brain barf the topic at the forefront of my mind is, as usual, Dad.

Dad’s been a bit low the last couple of weeks and it’s been tough. I may have hinted at that.

The thing is, when I went on holiday, I left Dad cheerfully demented, living in the home and convinced, successfully, that his station there was temporary. Unfortunately, he’s become very scared of falling – this may be due to the fact that he kind of collapsed, back in February. That was how he ended up in hospital. So he may have some kind of memory of that. As a result he can’t walk at all and we can’t lift him, which means it’s difficult to take him out, although I guess if they put him into the car, we could take him for a drive. I’ll have to have a think about that. But even if they do, if something happens, it’s very hard for us to get him out so it still makes going for a drive tricky.

It’s strange how people with dementia do remember some things, or hold on to echoes. Case in point my mum. Mum only has a light dose but where it gets her is she will have a bad – or good – experience doing something she regularly does and from then on, conflate doing that thing with it being bad (or good). More on that story … later. Back to Dad.

When I left to go on holiday, early April, Dad was chirpy. He called my name as I walked into the home and as I was having a meeting with the home manager, social worker and some others, I had to go into the office but I popped over and told him that I just had to go to the loo and would be back. He accepted that happily. Meeting completed, he had been waiting for me to come back and still remembered that I was going to come back from the loo even though we’d been an hour. We had a very good visit with Dad. I had decided to visit Dad every other week, so the next week I went to visit just Mum and went on holiday  heartened that they both seemed to be doing well.

Apart from a small blip during the holiday when I thought I’d have to fly home – Mum had a fall and was taken into hospital with a suspected stroke but she was just stiff and cold from lying on the floor against a radiator for two hours. She has an amazing bruise and is in pain but basically a lot better. My dear brother whisked her off to his house for Easter where everyone had a lovely time.

Long and the short of it was, I didn’t see Dad for a month. Sometime in that month, Dad has just kind of … stopped. You see, up until now, visiting Dad has always been like seeing a healthy person, if demented. He’s been full of beans. Yes he dozes but he chats and although he’s completely demented he still makes the running. Dad always knows I’m Mary and understands that he loves me, even if he’s not quite sure where I fit in. Usually, I just let him work it out because it only takes him a few seconds and if he forgets for any longer than that it’s because he’s panicking about it. The only time he has forgotten was a few months ago, when he was still living at home and from the point of view of switched on-ness (is that even a word) was rather worse than now, he asked me who the hell I was and why I was calling him ‘Dad’.

I was a bit stumped, but I reckoned that suddenly discovering he had a daughter might come as a shock at his age so I thought it best to just let him remember in his own time. I didn’t answer the who are you question but just said,

‘Would you rather I called you John?’

‘Yes please,’ he said.

So I did. Within about thirty seconds he had worked out exactly who I was, I made some joke or other and he laughed and said, ‘that’s no way to speak to your father’ and I was able to go back to calling him Dad again. That’s the only time he’s forgotten.

Three weeks ago, just after I’d got back from holiday, when I talked to Mum about going to see him, she told me it wouldn’t be much fun. She explained that he was refusing all food and that it would be lucky if he opened his eyes. I thought it would be Mum confusing one bad visit with all visits. I rang the home to check. It wasn’t.

Yes, they confirmed, Dad is refusing food a lot of the time. They had proscribed a brief course of steroids to try and make him a bit hungrier but his fluid and food intake was very low and he’d lost 15kg in a very short time. I felt very sad and asked what we could do. The manager said that both she and the doctor felt that Dad has probably had enough but to bring things he liked to eat to see if we could tempt him.

When I arrived, I found him sitting in a chair, asleep with his head on his chest. His refusal to eat has caused such a rapid weight loss that he looks like a concentration camp victim. I took his hand and he said, very quietly, go away. I positioned myself so he could look at my face and told him,

‘You know you’ve got a daughter, Mary.’

‘Yes,’ he whispered.

‘Well that’s me, I’ve come to see you.’

‘Oh,’ he said, brightening slightly, and then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep but didn’t take his hand away when I held it.

I offered him Turkish delight, which he loves, and some jelly babies, also a firm favourite. He refused both with a grunt of dismissal. There wasn’t much to do after that so I sat for ten minutes holding his hand. Then I remarked that our hands were getting a bit sweaty and that I was going to let go. He didn’t react.

If I’d thought, I’d have brought some writing and just sat with him for half an hour because I’m sure he’d have appreciated someone just hanging out with him, even if he didn’t have the energy to interact. But I hadn’t.

Unsure as to what to do next, I got out my phone, looked up Gutenberg and read him a Beatrix Potter book that he and Mum had always read to my brother and I as children; the Fierce Bad Rabbit. He made no acknowledgement but Maurice, sitting next to him clearly enjoyed it immensely so at least it wasn’t wasted.

There was music playing, toe-curlingly awful, over produced love songs. Neither songs nor artists were recognisable, it was more of a kind of, ‘your favourite Kareoke artistes sing songs that sound a bit like hits but never were because they’re really shit…’ all with horrible 1980s style electric piano. Pop composed and produced by numbers. Dad hates pop music so I felt very sorry for him but on the flip side not everyone likes every kind of music and there are lots of folks in there, some of whom may loathe the kind of classical music he loves. Even so, it was so awful that half an hour with Dad was going to be a tall order for me. I thought how grim it must have been for him. No wonder he didn’t want to open his eyes.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.

Poor Dad.

On the upside, everyone was up and dressed and sitting in the light airy sun lounge. The staff are kind and attentive, they always chat to the residents and treat them with dignity. They interact with the residents, and one another with good humour and kindness. The staff to resident ratio is good because they are all together. Some stare into space, some sleep like Dad, some are a little agitated, some chat to one another. The atmosphere is happy and if Dad has to listen to a bit of music he doesn’t like sometimes, then, in the grand scheme of things, I’d say it’s probably worth it for the other benefits of living there.

After twenty minutes I gave him a kiss, said goodbye and left. He made no acknowledgement. I cried a lot of the way home.

The next week visibility was at 100 yards max the whole drive down. It was a horrific and slow drive, the A23 was three into one, the A272 was blocked by an accident just as I turned onto it and when I finally got to the tiny lane that leads to the home Dad is in the fucking gas board were digging it up and it, too was closed. Bollocks, I thought, I’ll go have a look and if it’s near the top I’ll park and walk the rest of the way. I was, I’m afraid, a bit sweary with the workmen who leapt out and stopped me as I turned in.

‘How closed is it?’ I asked them. ‘I’m going to the windmill. Can’t I just park half way up and walk the rest of the way?’

They explained that I couldn’t.

‘Then please tell me how the fuck I get up there?’ I ranted.

‘Listen, there’s no need to use that kind of language,’ said one.

I apologised and told them I’d been on the road for three and a half hours instead of two and a quarter, that every chuffing road I’d come to had been closed and that I had to visit my father who was rather grimly unwell. They were actually very sweet after that, probably because it was becoming abundantly clear that I was on the brink of crying copious tears of frustration and that the sweary anger was merely an avoidance tactic. They explained there were diversion signs. There weren’t, or at least, only in the opposite direction, but luckily my phone had a decent signal and Mrs Google knew the way.

On the upside, the visit was better. Dad hailed me when I arrived, we had a lovely chat, I persuaded him to drink some water. He’s still very quiet though and this time they were playing some teeth-gratingly cheerful rock n roll music (again, not by the original artists). He was just being transferred to a chair and I asked if they could put him in another room away from the music. I explained that playing him pop music was a special kind of torture for him. They put some classical on bless ’em. He has been eating ice cream and drinking a bit more apparently. He asked me questions, the way he usually does, and dozed fitfully in between. He was delighted to hear that his grandchildren, on both sides, are involved in plays – Dad was a great actor, really good. He could have done it professionally had he not wanted to be a teacher, instead, pretty much from the point he was old enough to know what a career was.

Anyway, he was delighted as my brother and I are funny but our minis are like Dad and can act properly, which is rather splendid especially for him. He was very aware who they were, delighted they were acting in things and his face lit up when I mentioned them all. So that was grand.

I didn’t tell him that McMini had a nightmare about the Dolmio couple smashing down the door with axes and telling him he was the special ingredient of their bolognaise sauce. Or about McMini’s solution in the dream, which was to beat the Dolmios to death, with our cat’s help. I also demurred from explaining how ‘Dolmio Couple’ has now become a playground game at McMini’s school! I’m telling you though, because I think it’s hilarious and it these McMini-isms and McOther’s wry humour, have probably kept my sanity in tact over these past few years of dementia grimness. But back to Dad.

One of the questions he asked was why he was there, I told him there’d been a leak at home and a flood and that he couldn’t return until it was fixed so he had to stay in this hotel.

‘Fucking stupid!’ he said but he accepted it.

‘Indeed,’ I agreed.

Lunch arrived, which he refused but I told him ice cream was on its way, gave him a hug and left.

I walked out backwards (rather carefully as I didn’t want to trip over any of the other residents) while waving at him. He waved back at me, both hands, big cheery grin. Suddenly he was Dad again, he waved, I waved and we laughed at one another. We carried on until I was too far away for him to see clearly and assuming I’d gone, he put his head on his chest and closed his eyes but this time, he gave off an aura of quiet contentment.

That was better, and after really not having the energy after her fall, Mum finally made it to see him the next day and had a decent visit, herself. He told her he wanted to go home too. But ‘home’ to Dad is actually a house in Eastbourne that he lived in for a couple of years while he was 8 and 9. He can never go there. It doesn’t belong to us. He understands that Mum lives at ‘home’ but doesn’t always recognise the name of the house when we say it. In short he is stuck in some kind of horrific limbo. Mum said she’d happily bring Dad back to live with her again if she thought it would work but we know it wouldn’t. He would be miserable and confused, the way he was before. That’s the epic cruelty of it, because even if the loved ones were familiar to him, the house would be strange and he wouldn’t understand. He’d go completely psychotic again.

Most dementia patients seem to reach this stage. Partly the not eating is about control, yes or no to food and drink are the only decisions Dad has any power over. But also, there seems to come a time when many dementia patients give up and decide enough is enough.

It looks like Dad has reached the ‘enough’ stage. Both the lovely lady who runs the home and his doctor think he has. In some ways, that’s a positive if he is reconciled to his decision. From what I understand, this stage usually lasts anything from a few months to a couple of years. Even so, while I thought it would be a relief to reach it, now we’re here, it isn’t. Instead it’s heart rendingly sad. And I think that is probably because, for the first time, visiting Dad is like visiting someone who’s ill. Not a healthy demented man but a man who is sick, and hasn’t the energy to engage the way he wants. Except maybe Dad doesn’t want to engage much.

A friend of mine whose mother has Alzheimer’s told me how her mum said that sometimes she was exhausted trying to make sense of it all. And I suspect that’s what happens. It just gets too exhausting and they can’t be arsed anymore. To be honest, I hope that’s where Dad is. That he’s all square with the world, ready to leave it and calmly making his own quiet exit.

The trouble is, it doesn’t always feel as if he’s given up. Sometimes it feels as if he’s still fighting but has lost the battle. It feels different. It feels as if he’s broken. Acquiescence is one thing, but defeat is altogether different. All I can hope is that it’s a case, not so much of defeat, as having reached skirmishing stage. Dad rises to the fight of … being … some days, and wins, but maybe, in order to have the energy to do so, he has to let the disease hold the territory on others. Perhaps he’s pacing himself? Or perhaps it’s just that when he can’t be arsed he seems discontent because he’s pissed off with the whole business, which is fair enough, and logical, and not quite the same as discontent. I hope so.

There’s no answer now and few positives to be made of it. I can only pray for gentleness from the world for Dad, or do I mean a state of grace? If he is experiencing any inner turmoil I pray that it will swiftly cease and that he will live the rest of his days, be they months or years, in a state of peaceful, contented calm.

We’re arranging for his parish priest to come and see him. He’ll probably tell her to fuck off, but even if that’s all he does, I am certain it will help.

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Red alert at Ice Station Zebra … And the Pile Howitzer

This one comes with a profanity warning. It’s not that profane but I do mention piles quite a lot. There. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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The thing about giving birth is that your dignity tends to be birthed along with your child. Not that I even had to give birth to my lad, having a c-section and all. Except while, after it’s all over, they give the child a rub down and hand it over for a cuddle, it seems that my dignity is still in Addenbrooks hospital somewhere. I’d like to think it’s wandering the corridors looking for me but I suspect it’s more likely to be in a drunken stupor. Then comes the menopause/perimenopause/postmenopause. Ladies, if you haven’t yet you do. Not. Know. What. You are in for. If you have … you’ll be laughing along with this.

Basically, when a lady hits mid-life then, if she has any dignity remaining, trust me, the whole change of life shenanigans will knock it unconscious, drag it away, murder it and bury it in a shallow grave.

Motherhood, menopause and adulting. They’ll be the fucking death of me.

Yeh. I don’t really know where to begin this week. It’s manic. The painters are in. For once this is not a euphemism there really are genuine painters painting the woodwork outside of our house. Yes, I’m sorry folks, it’s all our fault the weather had turned to shite. They’re in for three weeks I’m afraid, an’ all so crack out your waterproofs and thermals. The painters start at half seven, which means I have to set my alarm for half six so that I have some thought collection time between waking up and getting out of bed.

When you have to get up that early, who needs thought collection time, right? Wrong. Why do I need it so badly though? You ask? Well, you may not but for the sake of the point I’m attempting to make here, let’s pretend you did. Er … yeh, why do I need that? Because otherwise a terrible thing beyond our imagination may occur. A rush. Also … brain fog. A rush plus brain fog equals a day comprising one gargantuan balls-up after another, followed by an evening of wailing, gnashing-of-teeth and too much alcohol.

Also it has not helped that since it was constipation and brain fog week last week, it is, naturally, piles, headache and brain fog week this. I confess, the piles bit is, usually, only a mild annoyance but every now and again the little bastards decide it’s time for war.

Naturally, what with it being absolutely the worst week ever for it, this week they decided to declare war. So bad I’ve had to open, ‘that box in the fridge’ and crack out the heavy armour. These things are the mother of all cures, the big hitters and I confess, this is only the second time I’ve had to resort to using them. Privately, in my own warped head, I call them ‘The Pile Howitzers’. Normally their presence, in the box, in the fridge, in the paper bag, is enough to keep the little bastards under control.

Obviously with the painters in, it was inevitable that as well as a hectic week for McMini things would go a bit wrong with Dad, which they’ve done – to the extent that I can’t really look it in the eye enough to talk about it now.

But presumably that’s why this week, of all the bastard weeks I would be forced to do so, I’ve had to deploy the Pile Howitzers. It’s a mis-nomer, too, because it’s more like pile shells. Each one looks like a bullet, made of some candle wax like stuff – I assume there’s more than candle wax in it though. Anyway, these things bear a very passing resemblance to the missiles off one of McMini’s StarWars toys – it’s a Clone trooper transport ship, if you must know – and each one has to be shoved where the sun don’t shine – the medication I mean, not the missiles of scion’s Clone trooper transport ship clearly – after … er … daily motion.

As you can imagine this is not hugely dignified experience at the best of times. But when there’s a strong chance you’ll have to give a painter outside the window, sanding down the woodwork, a cheery wave first, it’s a whole new dimension of ‘interesting’! So as well as needing ‘thought collection’ time, in the morning, I have to have been up long enough for motility to occur before the painters arrive as well, in order that the Pile Howitzers can be deployed safely.

Nice.

As a result of this, we have managed, just about, to make it to the end of the week even if, yesterday, both McMini and I forgot his PE kit. I had to rush back to the school with it. Then, he came home wearing said PE kit having left his clothes at school in the bag. As he’s low on trousers, or at least, as he only has the one pair with knees in, I had to rush back to school with him and get his clothes. When he brought the bag out, I was smart enough to check the contents for once and sent him straight back in to get his shoes. This week has been like that.

Then there’s this morning. Although I’d call this a partially successful session.

Today is Saturday and, like many other small boys up and down the country, McMini has football practise. It starts at half nine so I need to wake up at 8 am or so in order to nag McMini to get ready, constantly, from about then on. If I do that, there’s an outside chance he’ll get himself sorted and ready by about 9.15. Today I was woken at about twenty past eight by a cheery cat who lay on my chest making burrping noises and generally demonstrating how pleased he was to see me. After a brief cuddle he headed off to do Important Cat Things and I went and cleaned my teeth, washed my face, brushed my hair and got back into bed for a moment to warm up. But I was fucking knackered after a week of six hours sleep a night instead of seven. Can you guess what happened next?

Yes. At about ten to nine I woke up. This was not good. Leaping out of bed in my pyjamas I ran down and put the coffee on, whacked a crumpet into the toaster for breakfast – first of two x four minutes – made McMini a cup of tea and grabbed his football kit from the airer, where it has been ‘drying’ since its last wash over a week ago – because I’m not a skanky ho or anything. Mwahahahaahrgh!

Ran up to McMini’s room as fast as the action of arthritically running up stairs while carrying a cup of tea and a football kit would allow and discovered that he was awake. It was he who had released the Kraken cat. Unfortunately, he was on the loo looking at videos on his phone. Fortunately, he was most accommodating about wiping his bum and getting his finger out with the dressing when I told him what the time was (I can only assume he’s all up to date with Dan TDM or that the battery in his phone had died).

In something that must be closely approaching a miracle, McMini got his football kit on in about fifteen minutes; evil, impossible-to-pull-on socks and all. I should imagine the tea helped because I’ve tried the ‘Oh shit we’re late’ approach to getting him up in the morning on many occasions and it’s never worked before. At the same time, I hurled on some clothes, put my face on, dragged a brush through my hair again and ran downstairs. I even remembered to push the toaster down to give the crumpet its second four minutes. McMini requested a tortilla wrap, just the wrap on its own, which I had right to hand. Despite the fact that the morning, so far, was like red-alert at Ice Station Zebra we were rocking this! What was going on?

McOther arrived home just as I was shoving McCat into the box to take him to the vet for his yearly shots. Cat in box, now it was time to find the immunisation card. Could I find it? Of course I fucking couldn’t. Never mind, it was now nine twenty and McCat had an urgent appointment on the vet’s table at half past. McOther was taking McMini to football so I hurriedly kissed the boys good bye and rushed off to the vet’s. Amazingly, I even remembered to take the cat with me.

In the short five minute journey I managed to see sun, rain and hail. Plus there seems to be a permanently gale force wind direct from Siberia or somewhere mind-(not to mention, extremity)-numbingly cold.

Despite a nervous few minutes sitting at the traffic lights which went red just as I got to them, naturally, we made it to the vet’s at nine twenty nine, went straight in, wormed, new card, shots done for another year and that was just the cat (badoom tish). Quick chat, paid … a LOT of money … and went home. I broke the cable for the solar charger I have for my car battery which was a bit of a pisser, but on the upside, I think I can fix it.

Even when McOther rang me at 10.45 to say they were holding the traffic on the main road after an accident, that he thought he might not be able to get from Sainsbury’s to football to collect McMini, and that I might have to, the traffic started to move while he was on the phone. Despite waking up, almost too late, everything had gone according to plan, and rush or not, we had achieved our aim. We were blessed! Yeh.

Mmm … just call me Van Halen.

So here I am now, sitting typing this, breathing a sigh of relief that everything is all done. Then I catch sight of my reflection in the kitchen cupboards.

Now, I may have whinged about my hair before but basically, it’s very affected by what the weather is doing. So when the weather doesn’t know what it’s doing, neither does my hair. So the downside of this? Let me show you.

Yes I’ve been going about all morning looking like the mad bag lady of Ning Dang Po. There’s just no way on God’s green earth that any normal person would look at that and think it wasn’t a wig. Blimey-oh-Reilly. Or perhaps it’s more of a 1980s stadium rockstar. Or is it a cross between Milton whatsisface and Ken Dodd? Ah, if only I was as funny as them! Or am I trying to ameliorate the effects of alopecia with a Brillo pad and some wool? I dunno, I’ll let you decide.

Ho hum, I suppose it could be worse.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and put a thing that looks like a StarWars missile up my arse.

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Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering

What the fuck do I call my new series and other quandaries …

Easter! What an adventure that was. We had a lovely holiday trundling round France. There was a tense few hours, on our first day at the ski resort when Mum ended up in hospital after a fall with a suspected stroke and I thought I was going to have to fly home. Luckily she was fine, just very stiff and cold because she’d been lying on the floor for two hours. I’m also feeling a little guilty because I just didn’t have the stamina to visit Dad and Mum this week, but on the up side, Mum was in great form. I have just had the new cover designs through for my short story series and for the one I’m going to give away so I showed her those, because she is actually really interested in all things K’Barthan, genuinely too rather than just because she’s my Mum. So I told he all about the batch of short stories I’ve written, and we had a giggle about the plots. Then she and the carer and I discussed titles. And having done that with Mum and Katie (waves at them) now it’s your turn.

Yes, this week, I am going to be talking about my books. That’ll put half of you straight to sleep while the others makes their excuses and leave!

The thing is, despite the picture you may get from my release schedule, and my blog – which is normally about pretty much anything other than my books – I am actually an author – you’ll notice about 99.9% of my posts are labelled, ‘off topic’ if you’re new here, now you know why. I write stuff. And amazingly, after three years in the wilderness, I finally have some work ready for publication. Woot. I’m trying to release it properly this time. I mean, I’m supposed to build a buzz, although, while I’m stoked, I doubt anyone else is particularly excited but I do, at least, have a big enough email list and enough webtastic contacts now to be able to involve my audience in the process. This, again, is hugely exciting for me – probably rather more exciting for me than for them. So at the moment, I’m bouncing around like a rubber ball in a jam jar. We are nearly there. I have the mailing list freebie ready to go, the covers are shaping up beautifully, one story is edited and two more are ready to be sent to the editor. In the meantime, there are conundrums facing me. Three to be precise.

1. The covers.

This is the least conundrumy of the three. When I speced them, it seemed smart to stick with the incredibly cunning plan that I would use the same image and then have different colours – pretty similar to the K’Barthan Series, then, which did that, except book two was set in London so the city was London. Mind you, the city on the other books is London too, although a different bit, but I digress. Also, since drawing is expansive, I want to get the titles, series name and art work finalised first. This stuff costs less if you batch it. I sent the designer various photos and sketches and an outline of what I wanted. This is what he came up with.

New M T McGuire cover; paperback version

New Series, Ebook cover

Naturally, I am completely stoked with these.

OK, so ignore the words on the front, they’re just to give a feel for text type and where it’ll go.

Having read that book covers and adverts with people in them are way, way more effective – if you look at indy book covers you will notice I am not the only person who has read that research – I wanted a figure in the cover, but at the same time, not too much drawing. Since the stories I’ve written are about The Pan of Hamgee’s adventures after he arrives in Ning Dang Po but before the events of the main series begin, it seemed smart to put him on there, complete with trademark hat and cloak, seen from behind because … less drawing and also more scope for ritzy view and a glimpse of the SE2 because … flying cars! The colours will vary so the final item may well be brighter than this. More like the prequel shown below, for example – although this one is still in progress so I’ll probably ask the designer to remove the white outline round the figure.

There’ll be four short stories in this batch, three at around 20k, one at 10k but I’m working on making that one longer so it ties in. There is also a starter at about 12k which I will give away exclusively to people who join my mailing list, or as a free paperback at any events I do. That is one that works equally well as a prequel to both series; the main, K’Barthan Series of of full length books or this one.

So far, feedback on the covers is good but a couple of folks think that although it ties in with the overall M T McGuire brand, these are bordering on a different genre to comedy. There are two ways to fix that. One, change the font or brighten the colours or two make sure the titles are properly comedic. More about this in a minute.

Second thing about the series … I suspect there will be more stories, both about The Pan of Hamgee and possibly about other characters. So this is where the second conundrum comes in.

2. Series Name

To make sure nobody muddles stuff up and that everyone reads everything in the right order, I’ve called the short stories, ‘K’Barthan Shorts’. Clearly, though, since these ones are all about The Pan of Hamgee and others may be about different characters or settings, with different covers, I need to qualify it a bit. I do have ideas for a series of short stories about events at The Parrot and Screwdriver and I’d quite like to write one about that assassination mission Deirdre Arbuthnot goes on when she ends up getting ambushed but manages to escape by blowing up the Grongolian first minister with a lorry full of custard.

So, I was thinking that K’Barthan Shorts would be the umbrella name and then I’d qualify it with a secondary name so it would look like this: K’Barthan Shorts, Misfit Hamgeean: Part 1.

3. Book Names

Bearing in mind the comments on the covers so far, I thought funny titles were probably expedient. Normally, when I name my books I take my cues from Sir Terry since he’s probably the nearest thing to my demographic. He tends to do three things:

  1. Snappy phrases that are already in use – or sound as if they are – such as, The Light Fantastic, Lords and Ladies, or Feet of Clay.
  2. Two words, for example, Wyrd Sisters, some of which are also short snappy phrases, for example, Interesting Times or Soul Music.
  3. One word titles, such as Thud, Nation or Snuff.

With the original K’Barthan Series I went for titles which fell into the first group. Since the stories in this series are shorts I thought I’d also try pithier one or two word titles. They tie in both with the main series and with the free short, Unlucky Dip. In fact they pretty much come between the two. But after some of the comments about the cover, I wonder if I should go the phrases route again, to make the genre clearer. So what we have are the following:

In the one word corner: Jump, Drop, Pastries, Switch/Punched and Flight/Spiced (but spice is a drug here in the UK so I’m a bit ambivalent about using it).

In the two word corner: Night Swimmers, Small Beginnings, Special Delivery, Close Enough, Spice of Life/Blind Flight.

In the three/four word corner: Night Swimming, A Poor Start, Nothing to See Here, A Spot of Bother and Too Good to be True.

What do you think? Your thoughts are hugely appreciated since you are my readers, after all, and what is comfortable, to you, will be fitting to other new, untamed readers who are encountering my books out there in the wild for the first time. To make it easier for anyone who wants to give feedback, I’ve made a quick survey. Which should be embedded, below. If it isn’t, follow this link:

https://poll.fm/10305095

Enjoy!

 

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, General Wittering, Humorous Fantasy Author

And now for something completely different!

This week, once again, we are striking out in a different direction, although, clearly it’s a slightly less different direction than it was last time because we’ve done this once before. Today, we will be taking a pleasant and rambling detour to Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas with our friend and poet from a couple of weeks ago, Tallis. This week, I’m sharing a complete tale. As well as appearing in the Port Naain Intelligencer series, Tallis also appears in his own series and on his own blog, no less. I have no idea how Jim Webster finds the time to write all this stuff but as you know, I always enjoy Jim’s books, so a chance to share this one was too good to miss! It also has an extremely apposite title for the condition of yours truly, pre holiday. Enjoy!

Unfashionably Tired …

There are disasters that can strike even the most well organised entertainment. Some you can plan for and seek to avoid. Some you can watch out for and step in immediately to nip trouble in the bud. Others seem to strike out of the blue.

If I was apportioning blame, the temptation would be to give a generous helping to Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren. There again Almas Slackwater cannot be held innocent of blame. Finally I would point the finger firmly at Bethan Phloom who was the hostess and failed to keep control.

To be fair, everything started well enough. The hostess was gracious, people were pleased to be invited, and there was a genuinely pleasant atmosphere. Then Madam Mudfold arrived in a nice dress. It was in silk with a rather interesting floral pattern. The hostess commented on it, others passed equally flattering comments, and Madam Mudfold was delighted. To be fair, she was entitled to be; it was a really nice dress and suited her perfectly.

Five minutes later, with Madam Mudfold barely out of the entrance hall, who should arrive but Madam Cockeren. Now I know these two ladies have had their differences in the past. I am willing to admit that the term ‘feud’ adequately described their relationship.

Still, of late they have been genuinely restrained, behaving with reasonable dignity and even some decorum. Personally I suspect husbands ended up getting involved, mainly due to the risk to life and limb that the feud occasioned.

Still the arrival of Madam Cockeren wouldn’t have been a cause for concern, but for the small, but hardly trivial detail, that she was wearing exactly the same dress as Madam Mudfold. The same silk, the same lines, and to all intents and purposes the same dress. Admittedly there was a little more material in Madam Cockeren’s dress, but this is merely because there is a little more material in Madam Cockeren. But still, it was a delightful dress and suited her perfectly.

Now at this point Madam Phloom as hostess should have done something. As it was she merely had a fit of the vapours and left me to deal with it. Still, that is why I was there. As tactfully as possible I explained the problem to the two ladies, separately, and they agreed to remain in separate rooms and to let me know if they needed to move from one room to another. Thus they need not ‘accidentally’ meet each other.
It’s a scheme I’ve used a number of times and with good will on both sides, it works nicely. I personally had no doubt that it would work equally well on this occasion. Madam Mudfold was in the first floor parlour; Madam Cockeren was in the first floor salon.

And then Almas Slackwater arrived. Alas, she too was wearing the same dress. Unfortunately Almas, is almost a full generation younger than the other two ladies. Now I have heard her described as winsome. Personally I would describe her as charming, witty, and fascinating; others have used the terms ‘frenetic’ and ‘maenadic’.

So whilst the other two ladies could feel assured that they looked elegant and attractive, Almas looked stunning. When she walked into the room one elderly gentleman muttered to me it was as if spring had arrived two months early.

Unfortunately, she arrived just as Bethan Phloom had recovered from her fit of the vapours, and had returned to duty welcoming her guests. She took one look at Almas and fainted clean away. We carried her to her room and she plays no more part in the proceedings.

Almas proceeded to blaze a trail through the house like a comet. She swept through every room, leaving the ladies feeling inadequate and the gentlemen feeling overwhelmed. To be fair to her, it’s just something that happens in her presence, she doesn’t need to work at it. Finally I met her on the hallway and asked her about her latest work. She is a very promising young poet. This distracted her and allowed the rest of the guests to get on with enjoying themselves, until the bell rang for supper.

Now supper needs some explanation. Bethan Phloom had inherited a cookery book from her grandmother. Whilst Bethan and her mother had done well in the grocery trade, grandmother had been in service as a cook and was apparently a really good one. The book Bethan had inherited was the old ladies collection of custard recipes and Bethan had decided to have an evening of custard. We would have a chance to taste over fifty-seven different flavours and textures of custard.

It was then, as custard was served, that everybody had to move into the same room and mingle. Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren were careful to ensure there were always people between them and so they weren’t forced to acknowledge the other. To be fair to them they managed to achieve this without appearing to snub anybody, and frankly I was rather proud of them for achieving this and making my role so much easier.

The Almas arrived in the dining room. Not only did she go and stand right next to Madam Mudfold, she even examined the other lady’s dress to see if the stitching around the neck was the same. Madam Mudfold was mortified. It wasn’t merely that Almas was wearing the same dress, she was wearing it infinitely better. I felt sad for the older lady. The dress suited her. I suspect she had loved it, but I knew that she would never wear it again.

Then as Almas moved away, she seems to have inadvertently bumped into somebody, who in turn stumbled and knocked somebody else. The upshot of this was that strawberry custard was poured down the front of Madam Mudfold’s dress.

Madam Mudfold didn’t hesitate. She put two fingers into her mouth, emitted a piercing whistle which caused everybody, including Almas, to turn round. She then hit Almas full in the face with a carefully hurled bowl of caramel and ginger custard. To be fair, it was an excellent shot. People applauded.

Almas rallied, fell back to another table, and proceeded to send volleys of thick-set summer-fruits custard tarts in the direction of Madam Mudfold. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the custard dripping down her face, Almas’s aim was not perhaps of the best. Whilst all the tarts hit, not all of them hit Madam Mudfold. Others joined in, a number of younger ladies rallied to Almas, whilst Madam Cockeren led a party to rescue the now much beleaguered Madam Mudfold.

The older ladies drove their younger opponents down the stairs, but at the kitchen door Almas rallied her forces. Re-equipped with individual custard pies, they counterattacked. The battle raged up and down the stairs, into the kitchen and out of it, until at least, vanquished, Almas and her legions retired, gloriously custard-besmeared, into the night. The older ladies, realising the damage that had been done to their garments, bid each other an affectionate goodnight, and also decamped. The last to leave were Mesdames Mudfold and Cockeren who were arm in arm as they went to find where their sedan chairs had got to.

This left me with Sina the maid and Cook. Bethan Phloom remained firmly in bed, so it fell to the three of us to clean up. It took us nearly nine hours. I washed custard of the walls and shovelled it into bins whilst the ladies cleaned the floor behind me. Then Cook retired to clean the kitchen whilst Sina worked her way through the other rooms that hadn’t been plastered with custard, whilst I finished off washing carpets and similar.

Finally, long after dawn I went into the maids’ parlour to find Sina had put the finishing touches to the fire there. She was preparing for a new day. I went into the kitchen to discover that Cook had made coffee but had fallen asleep before she could offer us any. So I took two mugs of coffee, added cooking brandy to both and went back to the maids’ parlour to give Sina hers.

As she drank half of it she leaned back in the chair.

“Mr Tallis, yesterday my young man asked me to marry him. I told him I’d think on it.”

I waited whilst she emptied her mug in one long swallow.

“You know what, Mr Tallis. After last night I’m going to tell him, yes.”

I congratulated her, took the empty mug off her and went back to the kitchen with our two mugs. On my way out again I glanced through the door of the parlour. Sina was fast asleep.

¶=========================== ¶

And the hard sell!

Welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his tales.

So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run their soirees.

These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is here, and perhaps even a little more.

Firstly:-

Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?

Click on the picture to find out more or use the link below!

http://getbook.at/DeepWaters

And then there is:-

Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories.

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?

To find out more, click on the picture or the link below.

http://getbook.at/PlayingTheGame

Finally …

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to Jim’s Amazon page by clicking on the link below, it should take you to his page on your local Amazon:

author.to/JimWebster

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to Jim’s Amazon page at
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/
https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/

 

 

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Filed under General Wittering, Interesting

This will end in tears … the chaos continues

It was Mothering Sunday lunch at McMini’s school yesterday. I know, bit late but who cares. Incidentally, before I go on, folks in the rest of the world, Mothering Sunday is a UK thing and part of the church calendar. It was when people in service were allowed to go home for the day and see their families during Lent before the Easter rush – yes they got one day off each year. Looking forward to labour laws like that post Brexit, still at least Farage, Reese Mogg and Johnson will have left the country so it’s not all bad. Mother’s Day is something different and more to do with legislature than tradition as I understand it, but I’m probably wrong and I digress, as usual.

When I booked a ticket McMini was completely horrified, telling me that I might be the only mother in his group of friends who was coming. Then I discovered that, no, another friend’s mum was also going. Phew! When I revealed this fact to McMini his horror at my impending visit was lessened considerably, indeed, he hid it well but, at the same time, he clearly quite liked the idea of my turning up as long as he wasn’t the only person lunching with Mum. I texted the other mum to make sure she was still on for it and she’d forgotten so that was lucky!

Needless to say, I left a bit late because I managed to drop a whole load of receipts out of my back pocket as I pulled my trousers up after a last minute wee. Obviously there was absolutely nowhere in the entire world that they could land other than in the lavatory and obviously this was just before I flushed so there was a few minute’s hiatus while I fished them out of the wee water and washed my hands. What a joy that was.

Clearly, this is the only picture I could post here!

As I left the house I discovered that someone had left an absolutely hugantic turd in our drive. A couple of the dog owners in our area are terrible, letting their animals crap all over the pavements and seeming to work on the theory that the more chance some poor bugger has of standing in it, the better. But no dog could have laid a cable this large.

It’s human.

I have absolutely no idea why people feel compelled to shit in our drive but every now and again they do. They do drugs there, park there to take ‘legal high’ capsules, leave stolen goods and their used syringes … I even turned up at midday once and discovered two young people having sex against the wall, although I’d pressed the open sesame button for the garage door while still out on the main road so they were, at least, rearranging their clothing by the time I got there – he zipping up, she pulling up her jeans. I always blip the button in the road now, in the same way my Dad used to cough a lot in certain parts of the school when he was a housemaster, to alert anyone in the vicinity breaking the rules of his impending arrival.

Reverting to the enormous Richard in question, it was about as wide as my wrists so as McOther remarked when he came home, it was definitely a copper bolt. Frankly, I hope the trauma of doing that one tore the stupid bastard’s arse in half. I mean fine, sometimes things happen and you are caught short and it’s better to whip your trousers down and poo in the street than in your pants but seriously? How much of a fucktard do you have to be to take a shit in someone’s garden? I like to think that even I, at the height of my self-destructive punk, fuck-you-world phase would have had more style, panache and general humanity than to do that.

We human beings can be truly monumental wankers can’t we? I mean look at the rise of Marxism and Nazism oh I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to call that second one by it’s actual name, am I, even if they are following Hitler’s playbook and their ideology appears to be identical, I have to call them the alt right. The ones who bang on about how we fought a war … yes against a bunch of people like them. Waves at Nigel Farage. Oh the irony.

Sorry where was I? Ah yes, well, on the upside, at least I didn’t do my usual trick of managing to get my rucksack, with its many straps, hooked up on our stupid garage door handle. That handle kind of sums up life really. It moves a full ninety degrees but only the last one and a half degrees of that full, ninety degree swing actually moves the latch. The result is that you tend to find is that you attempt to open the door, only to find you haven’t pressed hard enough for that last millimetre of travel and therefore haven’t opened the stupid fucking thing after all. I hate that door, I hate it with a venom and passion that surpasses even the ill feeling I currently harbour towards the cockwomble who shat in our drive. But the door handle does make quite a good metaphor for adult life; an awful lot of effort seems to be required to do the tiniest thing and most of the time, it seems you are doomed to get absolutely bugger all done.

Here’s an example. Remember how McMini came home with the wrong trousers? Well, we effected a swap and McMini’s trousers arrived back washed from his friend’s mum last week. When I unfolded them, I discovered that at some point during the day, before his PE session, he’d gone through them at the knee. Never mind, there were only four days of term left. He’d get through those with the last pair of trousers wouldn’t he?

Er … no.

He arrived home on Wednesday with a massive hole in one knee. Such things tend to go under McOther’s radar and I arrived home from Sussex after the shops were shut. There was nothing for it but to compare trousers and send him in to school the next day wearing the pair with the smaller hole. Then I had to go and buy another pair for him to wear for the last day of term and his Boy’s Brigade awards evening. I bought the last two pairs in the shop and now I’m thinking that may have been unwise as they’ll probably be just below the knee by next term.

At about the same time this was going on, I also noticed a strange rough patch on my left hand. It took me a while to work out that it was not some rampant skin disease taking hold, or some horrible alien affliction gradually turning me into a scrofulous space zombie but was, in fact, the remains of an act of such incredible rank stupidity that I am feeling rather guilty for my castigation of the phantom turd burgler now. Read and weep …

Oh no M T you total wanker …

Last week we did dinner for some friends and we decided to make creme brûlées (woah! My iPad put all the right accents in there! Magic.) with a blow torch. So far so good, we have a chef’s blow torch and have had it for years. I filled it up with gas the night before but, when I came to use it, I discovered that contrary to expectation there was no gas. Further efforts to fill it revealed that smething in it had broken so as the gas went in one end, it leaked out of the other. By filling it up and then using it for about twenty seconds at a time, I managed to do two of the four creme brûlées but progress was slow. Yes, I checked my watch, I’d been at this for ten minutes already and I still had two more to do.

Hmm. I sure as hell wasn’t going to make seconds.

I turned the grill on, toyed with the idea of using it to make the last two. But putting aside the fact that the average electric grill takes about twenty minutes to reach optimum temperature, even when it does it isn’t hot enough to caramelise sugar. A friend of mine once researched ovens back in the noughties and discovered that, unless you spend three or four thousand on a La Conche oven, every single element in every single electric grill and oven is made in the same factory in china. The upshot of this is that if you have an electric grill and you want to make creme brûlées you will get this weird scrambled egg thing and all the fruit will cook and the juice will rise to the surface and combine with the sugar to make this kind of sticky slurry on top with a kind of curds and whey style thing that used to be soured cream underneath.

Trust me, the real thing is even less attractive than I make it sound.

There was no other option, I had to use the effing blow torch but surely there had to be a quicker way. I had a think and hit on a cunning plan, I would stick the butane refill bottle on the bottom and turn the thing on so that gas was always coming in. Yeh the plan was Baldrick cunning.

Oh yes, cracking idea, I thought, that’ll get it done in no time.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? My cunning combo did, indeed work long enough to complete the other two creme brûlées but it wasn’t real cunning, it was Baldrick cunning. Flushed with my success I went back to the first one, which was looking a bit gritty still, to give it another blast.

Unfortunately, what I hadn’t quite grasped was that the seal around the butane refill nozzle and the intake valve on the blow torch wasn’t as … um … airtight? as I’d anticipated. A large cloud of gas had been building up around the blow torch and my hands and eventually, the inevitable happened and it ignited. There was a noise.

‘Whump!’ it went.

A large pale orange-white fireball engulfed the butane bottle, the blow torch and my hands. In my head there was no time for words, merely a picture of the refill aerosol exploding. Luckily the picture came fast enough for me to cease all pressure on the release valve of the butane refill bottle at the W of whump, actually it was probably at the first V of the W or maybe even the first \. Quickly enough for the fire not to be sucked into the aerosol canister anyway, so no actual explosion occurred. Which was nice.

In the aftermath of this substantial ignition, there was a very strong smell of burning wool and I noticed that the fluff on the jumper I was wearing was considerably shorter in the area closest to the fireball. I was mightily glad I had worn a non-combustible wool jumper that night, rather than a fleece or something made from highly combustible man-made fibres. As I thanked my lucky stars for that, I noticed that the first and second fingers of my left hand were smarting mightily and rather red. I ran them under the cold tap and to my relief the burns stopped at second degree and by the end of the evening I’d forgotten about them, until a few days later when, like all sunburn, they peeled.

So yes, my cockwomblery is confirmed, but it could be worse, it could have ended in tears. My tears. Still, at least I’m not turning into a scrofulous space zombie.

Is there a moral to this story? Possibly. I mean, thinking about it, a lot of us are struggling. A lot of us have lives like the stupid bollocking garage door. Lives where it seems to take the most gargantuan effort so shift the needle while other folks stroll on by making it look simple. We want those things, the adverts tell us we can have them now, and society tells us that if we haven’t earned enough or got X, Y or Z we have failed. But that isn’t real, that’s just advertising and fashion. It’s no more real than my books. But still we persist in applying these unrealistic standards to ourselves. Then when we ‘fail’ we look for someone or something to blame for that failure, brown people, gay people, people of a different religion.

And what’s so stupidly ironic is that it’s all stuff and it isn’t stuff that makes us happy, it’s people and relationships and experiences. Money helps, and it makes things easier, but if there are no true friends to share it with it seems pretty pointless to me. As for the ‘failure’ in question, sometimes it’s down to having a hopelessly unrealistic dream, sometimes it’s us but most of the time, I think it’s random luck.

Whatever the reason, it isn’t easy to give up on a dream when so many folks on line appear to be living it. But I do think being happy takes work. You have to focus on what you have. And taking myself as an example then yes, it’s true, I don’t have the several million I’ll need to pay my care fees when I’m elderly and leave something for McMini, but I do have McMini and McOther. I have a loving family and a cracking bunch of friends and for the most part, I have a good time.

Is that what’s wrong with us all in Britain, too many broken promises, too many broken dreams? We can’t all be rich and famous, and it’s becoming ever more apparent that fame isn’t much fun. Maybe what we need to fix is our attitude. We have a parliament full of MPs who seem to have forgotten what they’re there for. Meanwhile Brexit rumbles on and the government sneaks cuts to essential services through under the radar.

We’ve had another big row on about Brexit this week, lots of outcry and resignations, lots of talk about loyalty to the party and betrayal of party values from all sides of the house. Oh I know there are MPs who care and work hard for their constituents, but what shocked me most about this week’s row was how it was all party politics, throughout all the reportage I heard. The idea of anyone doing anything for the good of the nation didn’t make so much as a blip on the radar.

The cruellest blow is that it’s our fault. We elected these idiots. Heaven knows how we go about engaging normal people in politics again, people with life experience outside the political spectrum, people who will put their nation first and their party second, people who have had careers rather than career politicians, but we have to do it, fast. Making it to cabinet is not the same thing as getting promoted at the investment bank or making partner at the law firm. One is a job promotion, the other is a service to a nation. There’s a subtle difference and it’s one our current career politicians seem to be missing.

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How does this even happen?

This is McMini’s work.

Obviously there are points among the mayhem when I try to write a sensible post about something, but this week the madness continued so I felt I may as well just give in and tell you about it. To be honest, I was worried, a few weeks ago, that I was losing my sense of humour. The good lord has clearly decided to rectify this by making my life as surreal and bizarre as possible. The appreciation of oddity centre of my brain is definitely fully satisfied at the moment, anyway.

First, Dad.

Huge relief this week. After a meeting with Dad’s home, his social worker and the community dementia nurse on Wednesday, they said they were happy with his progress and thought he was settling well. The manager of the home confirmed that they will be able to look after him permanently. Since we were happy with the home, too, this is a huge relief. They addressed most of the doubts or misgivings we had before we got to the asking questions stage which was also a good sign. The home are taking it slowly and letting Dad settle, he flips from charming to very much not charming and has to be placed carefully since he is able to raise his voice to the kinds of levels required to be heard by rowdy teenagers. As the manager pointed out, that kind of volume, like hearing someone play the bagpipes in a small room, can be a bit much for the other residents in a confined space.

At the moment they are working out who Dad gets on with and who he doesn’t. Residents with dementia do irritate each other from time to time, apparently. Like life then. But they’re more like kids so there’s a lot more of the kind of nursery school exchanges. Go away I don’t like you, you’re smelly etc.

A highlight was when the lovely lady who runs the home was trying to get into the computer system to show us Dad’s record. The meeting room was just off the main hall/lounge where everyone sits. She forgot her password. So she opened the door and called for one of the other staff.

‘She’s gone,’ said an elderly voice from a chair nearby. ‘She got into the taxi.’

‘Did she?’

‘Yes, I don’t know where she’s going.’

The staff member appeared from the office next door and came in to join us. In the background I could hear a cheery commentary from the same resident.

‘Look! They’ve both got into the taxi.’

‘Oh,’ said someone else.

‘Yes, I don’t know where they think they’re going,’ said the first voice.

Very Alan Bennett.

At another point I heard a resident shouting and then the familiar voice of Dad bellowing, ‘shut up!’

There was a slight pause in the meeting room.

‘That was Dad,’ said Mum.

‘Yes,’ I agreed, ‘still, at least he didn’t say, “fuck off!”’

It sounds a bit grim of me but I’m afraid I actually found it hilarious. Luckily everyone else laughed too.

If you want to survive stuff like this, I sincerely believe there is no other option than to see the funny side. Were he still wholly himself, I’m certain it’s what Dad would have done. There is something gloriously, surreally random about listening to a background of conversation between demented people. Furthermore, Dad is much more settled and much more aware so we are happier because he is and therefore, so is Mum. She is a bit of a worry. We are standing at the top of the hill we were on with Dad three years ago, except with her. I’m hoping the cajoling, the getting extra care and all the other baggage that comes with getting people the care they need, rather than the care they want, will be easier to handle the second time.

Business in casa McGuire is mayhem as usual.

McCat is behaving abominably. As if his complete obsession with my evening primrose oil capsules wasn’t enough, I turned my back on the kitchen work top this morning only to discover he’d leapt up there and was drinking the dregs of McOther’s tea. For the love of the almighty was there ever such a skanky cat? I swear he’s suffering from species dysmorphia because he is clearly a labrador. I have discovered that screaming at him makes him stop and run away, and it also clearly communicates to him that I am displeased and he’s been bad. It doesn’t stop him, though, because not only is he mischievous but he also has a sense of humour and I suspect he thinks it’s funny.

Midweek, a friend from way back rang up out of the blue. She was up here on business and asked if she could stay over. Yes she could, I said. So after a grim journey home from the care home on Wednesday – a lovely 39 minute delay at the Dartford Tunnel and other shenanigans – I got home a few minutes before she arrived.

We had supper and there was lots to talk about, we’re in very similar situations with elderly parents although it’s just mum in her case and we managed to talk the hind legs off every donkey in the vicinity until we realised it was one am.

Nooo I forgot the soldiers in the bog!

I didn’t really think it through, since I had metal detecting club the next night and McOther is hoping to start a wine tasting group we had the first meeting round ours the night after. Long and short, I really can’t do late nights any more I have been recovering from Wednesday’s excesses all week.

When we had the wine group round, I spent the day trying to change my mindset to that of a person who does not live with a ten year old and to notice, and remove, some of the bizarre items that have come to rest around the house. A lot of nerf guns, bits of biro, headless action figures and other detritus later, I thought I had them all, only to discover, while having a nice relaxing wee during the wine evening, that I’d completely forgotten about the row of toy soldiers in the lavatory. Still, I suppose it could have been worse. The scale on our water here is brown and I did, at least, remember to give the lav a good treatment with descaler so it was mostly white.

Meanwhile, McOther had blithely imagined that he’d be home from work in time for us to eat a meal before the wine evening on Friday started. In fact, the first of our guests arrived about two minutes after McOther did. I chatted to him while McOther had a wee and unpacked his work bag before leaving McOther playing host and haring off up the hill in the car with McMini to Boy’s Brigade. Needless to say, because I have a tiny car and McMini is, himself, a microdot, he has elected to play the bass drum in the Boy’s Brigade band. To give him his due, he’s pretty good at it but it means I have to schlepp up the hill with it, or borrow McOther’s car. It’s only a matter of time before he takes up the double bass and the tuba I suspect … or possibly the euphonium or some other hugantic instrument I’ll need a luton van to ferry him about with.

On the recovery from my persistent socialising score, the fact it is the part of my monthly cycle which I privately refer to as Constipation and Brain Fog Week hasn’t helped either, but this time the brain fog and seems to have extended its sponge like caress, not just to my brain, but also to McMini’s.

On Fridays he has PE. Thank heavens he no longer has to go into school dressed in his kit, with his school clothes in a bag, but he tends to come home in his PE kit with his school uniform and school shoes stuffed into his bag. However, he also has Boy’s Brigade on Fridays so he has to put the school trousers and shirt back on again. Bless his heart, I took his uniform out of his PE bag, popped it on the sofa beside him without really looking at it and asked him to put it on. A few minutes later, I heard a shout of dismay.

‘Muuuuuum!’

‘Yes.’

‘These aren’t my trousers! They’re huge.’

He was standing in the middle of the room, sporting what looked like clown trousers. He held the waistband out from his stomach and there was, indeed, about three inches of extra room where, presumably, they usually sit snugly round a very much larger child. Luckily, I’d already washed the other pair of his own trousers and it was hanging over the airier in the utility room so I didn’t have to creep up the stairs on my shonky knees. Even more luckily, it was dry!

The week before last, he managed to get changed back into his school uniform but he came home with another child’s hoody. I didn’t find it for five days. The wee lad’s poor mum was probably wondering where the hell it was. At least I managed to wash it and get it back to her in time for the next PE lesson.

So now we have a pair of mystery trousers and some other child has McMini’s. As far as I recall, McMini’s are named, I’m not sure though, because he went through about six pairs in the first three weeks of term playing something which he called ‘human chess’ and so in the whirl of rapid acquisition and destruction of trousers I may not have named them. Still, I should thank the world for small mercies, I mean, it makes life interesting and at least he still has a pair to go to school in on Monday.

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