Adventures and alarums!

What the fuck is going on?

This last week has been rather fun but it has been a bit like some badly written situation comedy. Then again, most of my life is like a badly written situation comedy. McOther often tells me that if my life were written up as a screen play, it’s so barkingly strange that no-one would believe any of the true life events depicted were … well … true.

In a strange coincidence, two old friends who I haven’t seen in ages have rung up to say they’ll be in the area and could we meet up. To my delight they were around when I am, as well so I met one friend yesterday and another is coming to see me on Wednesday! Woot all round.

On top of that, it’s been an adventurous couple of days. The night before last McOther was due to come home late. He rung and told me he’d be even later than he thought as he was swamped with emails. I could hear the tension in his voice. That was fine though, I would make sure everything was spic and span and try to ameliorate the mess so it was not as bad as sometimes, or at least, so enough of it had disappeared for him to register that we’d made an effort to be tidy and feel loved accordingly. I began by starting McMini’s supper early and also putting McOther and my supper together ready for when he came home.

Meanwhile, McMini was convinced that he had to have a drink and it had to be ‘a potion’. I haven’t a blind clue why but we looked out a jam jar and he made himself a rock shandy (two thirds ginger ale to one third soda with a dash of bitters, ice and a slice of lemon).

Rock shandy made, although he never does the ice and slice, he explained that it needed to be a lurid colour.

‘What sort of lurid colour?’ I asked him.

‘Do you have blue?’

The food colouring is on the top shelf of the larder ever since I discovered McMini, as a three year old, taking a good pull out of the bottle of yellow. Accordingly, I went into the larder and climbed onto the fold away stool thing I use to reach the top shelves. Frankly, I’m too fat and heavy for this thing, so having already broken one, I have learned to stand on it very carefully. It can take my weight but only if I place my feet in a certain way – you know like always stepping on the joists rather than the bit between when you’re up in a roofspace.

The stool creaked and groaned ominously but held up as I had a shufty on the top shelf of the larder. Eventually I discovered the blue food colouring and passed it down to McMini. I was still stepping off the stool with a slowness that only glaciers, or the arthritic, can achieve, when McMini had whipped off the lid and upended the bottle.

Oops.

Luckily only about half of it came out before he realised what he was doing and stopped.

‘Sorry Mum, I thought it would have a dropper like the bitters.’

‘Nae bother sunshine.’

The result was a tall thin jam jar full of the most bizarre blue liquid. We both knew it was rock shandy but it did look like something fresh from hell, or an antifreeze tank, in rat-poison blue. Mmm-Mmm!

‘Please, please, please keep the lid on that at all times and don’t drop it,’ I told him. I handed him the lid which he placed carefully on the jam jar and tightened under my supervision before he went off happily, potion in hand. It really was very blue – I’m thinking Regalian Brandy, StarTrek fans, or certain brands of lavatory bleach, everyone else.

McMini disappeared with his strange concoction, to have a poo, he informed me.

Lovely.

I carried on with whatever it was I was doing, faffing about in the kitchen doing something or other and then I heard a noise.

‘Flabado-do-do-doom!’ It went.

I listened.

Nothing. Then …

‘Mum.’

‘Yes.’

‘Can you come upstairs a minute?’

‘Why?’

‘Something’s happened. Please don’t be angry.’

He’s fucking spilled it, I thought. There’s blue bastardy jizz all over my fucking stairs.

‘What’s up?’ I said.

‘I’ve fallen down the stairs and banged my head.’

Oh, or maybe not on the blue jizz front, I thought hopefully.

‘Oh dear. That sounds a bit grim. Are you alright?’ I was pretty sure he was, it sounded like a small boy version of a terrible injury rather than an actual … you know … terrible injury.

‘Yes I am but … listen Mum, please, please don’t be angry.’

Oh fucking bollocks! He knobbing has spilled it! We have a blue chuffing carpet, I thought

‘Have you’ve spilled rat poison blue liquid all over the stair carpet?’ I asked, just to check.

Long silence.

‘I’m really, really sorry Mum. How did you know?’

Because the klutz gene is dominant and Sod and his bloody law made it fairly inevitable, I thought.

‘Skill,’ I said. ‘I’ll just get some kit together and then I’ll come up to join you and we can clean it up. Where is it?’

‘Outside Dad’s office.’

Oh fuckity fuck.

Dad also known as McOther. The same McOther who rang twenty minutes earlier, his voice full of tension. OK, no matter how disastrous this was, it had to be gone before he got home or he was going to lose his fucking biscuits. McOther is a neat bot and although he tries not to let living with the two messiest and most disorganised people on earth get to him, things like a sudden stain on his beige carpets can drive the poor man buggy. Especially if he’s stressed and he’s had a tough day. Code blue had to be neutralised before McOther got home or the three of us would all have a horrible evening.

As you may have gathered from accounts of my activities on this blog, I’m a total and utter klutz. Or the spill-o-tronic, 3,000 series as I am known. This means I have a library of stain removal products that is second to none. I am also pretty good at removing stains because otherwise, I would have nothing to wear and a house that looked like an ongoing Jackson Pollock project.

I grabbed a bucket and put every bottle of propiatory cleaning product I could find into it, and trust me there were a lot of bottles in there; vanish soap, OzKleen carpet cleaner, white vinegar, washing up liquid, you name it, I equipped myself with it. And sponges. Then I took some old ‘real’ nappies that we now use for just this type of emergency and clanked my way upstairs with it all.

McMini was standing beside a football-sized carpet stain of a lurid torquise colour. To give him his due, the lid was on the potion, so only about a quarter had spilled. As he fell, he’d dropped it and it had tumbled from his hand and landed on its side, the impact loosening the lid and allowing leakage. He’d then tried to wipe it up with his hands, bless him, merely smearing a small concentrated spillage into a much wider area. A bit like the time he used his goal keeping gloves to pick up a poo he’d done in the hall by mistake after he’d waited too long to go to the loo because he had to stand his Lego General Grevious up first and it kept falling over. He’d seen me put on rubber gloves to clear up sick so grabbed the nearest gloves to hand. In other words, he’d got it so right and yet … so wrong.

There was a nerf gun on the floor beside the stain so it was clear he’d been taking too much stuff down the stairs at once and probably missed a step because he couldn’t see or he may not have fallen and have just lost his hold on one bit and ende up dropping the chuffing lot.

We started by putting nappies on the stain and standing on them to wick it away.

‘So were you taking all this gubbins down stairs at once?’ I asked him as I marked time on a nappy that was rapidly turning blue.

‘No,’ he told me. ‘I took the gun down and then I went back for the liquid and got that and then when I was walking down with it I fell.’

I looked at the gun, half way down rather than at the bottom.

‘I see,’ I said.

So that’s a, ‘yes I was trying to carry everything and dropped the lot,’ I thought, but I’m not going to say anything. How could I when he was supremely contrite and nearly in tears.

We put half a bottle of OzKleen carpet cleaner on the stain and scrubbed it, then, when that had almost run out, I chucked half a bottle of white vinegar in with the rest of the OzKleen in an approximation of a recipe McMini had just found on the internet using his phone. We put that on. Then I filled the bucket with water and ‘rinsed’ it out at which point McMini, feeling that he wasn’t helping, left me to it.

After standing on more nappies to ‘dry’ it out a bit, it was better, but still blue. Blue like the touch paper on the firework McOther would turn into when he saw it and went into orbit.

Arse.

Then I remembered the condescendingly helpful lady in the advert for the Vanish in-wash stain removal stuff. She got it in a small pot and added some water. Then you were supposed to be able to make a paste and spread it onto stubborn stains, scrubbing it with the stippled bottom of the pink scoop that came with it. Leave over night and rinse the next morning. That’s what it said. Yeh. So I did that. Making a vile pot of claggy slime with bits in that wouldn’t dissolve. But fuck it, what did I have to lose? I went ahead and scrubbed it into the carpet. Along with those little white bits like polystyrene balls that they put in to take up space, stay loader as Mr Bol* wash used to call them, which resolutely refused to blend into the rest of the mixture at any cost. Then I left it to work and emptied the water out in the bathroom and left the bucket up there, along with the sponges and the two nappies I hadn’t used which I set aside for ‘wicking’ the slimy gloop back up again (complete with blue hopefully).

McOther rang to say he was leaving the office. He sounded a lot less stressed but I realised that in order to ameliorate the impact on his wellbeing of the blue carpet outside his study door, I now had to break it to him gently so he was prepared for the sight of the blue stain and ready for the shock.

Hmm, how to do this?

Then like lightning, inspiration struck! Of course, I’d just say what McMini did. So I said that McMini had fallen down the stairs and bumped his head but was OK. McOther was all concern, at which point I broke the news that it was only a little bump and that McMini had also spilled blue juice everywhere in the fall. Bless him, McOther was just happy that the head bump was minor as I had been.

Even better, by the time I’d finished cooking dinner and went back upstairs to see how the claggy gloop was doing, the stain had … yes … vanished. OK we have a weird clean bit of carpet that looks like a pale stain but I expect I can fix by rubbing some dirt into it or something.

Meanwhile, McCat has been such a thieving bastard these last few weeks that I feared he may be ill. Like The Blob, he has been eating everything in his path. But he hasn’t been putting on weight, adding to my fears about his health. Some very expensive tests later it turns out that no, he is not ill, he is just a scrounging shite. This morning he capped it all by opening a plastic bag of this week’s vitimin pills. I take several different ones each day and I can’t be arsed to faff around with all the child proof lids that nobody in the house apart from my ten year old son can open. So I decant them all into a plastic bag each week. Only one thing to open. Except this week, McCat opened it. Twice.

McCat likes cod liver oil and evening primrose oil. It appears he’s also quite partial to vitimin A and cranberry cystitis pills.

I cleared up the mess and counted up a second bag. He ate a lot of the actual bag this time, as well as the cod liver oil and evening primrose capsules. He left the rest though. So now I will be putting the pills in a small pot with a very tight lid. Presumably McCat will have a blindingly luxuriant coat for a day or two. I just hope it doesn’t make him ill. Rock on summer when he will have insects to chase and will, almost certainly, become a well behaved cat. In the meantime, as well as vitimin pills he eats sugar snap peas, peas, broccoli, cheese, bread, olive oil, yogurt, pasta and anything else that is not nailed down.

Another eventful week then.

* Spelled the way the bloke in the ad used to say it, rather than the proper way.

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This last three months I’ve been mostly …

Putting my dad in a home.

As I may have hinted, things have been extremely tough since Christmas. Dad doesn’t respond to Christmas so well at the best of times – I suspect he is as ambivalent about it as I am – but he excelled himself this year. Mum flipped from being happy to have him at home to admitting that things were too much to deal with in about three weeks. Fair play to my brother for getting us to pick out a home for him because booyacka, we had it lined up. However, Mum needs care too and this home cost the same, per week, as care for the two of them did, at home.

Then, I realised Dad had run out of money. Dad and Mum kept their stocks and shares separate, which is unusual for married couples. As I’d understood it, when Dad’s cash ran out we were supposed to blat through Mum’s. Then when they got down to their last £24,250 each, they’d be eligible for whatever the state sees fit to give. Except it’s a sliding scale so it’s actually their last £18,250 that counts.

However, after an exploration on the Alzheimer’s Society forum I discovered that each person is taken separately. So I got the process in train for Dad. That was OK but the grist of government grinds slow and we knew it would take time.

Time was not really a commodity we had.

Dad reached the point where he was screaming and bellowing in rage all day every day. He didn’t recognise the house he’d lived in for 40 years but thought he lived in Eastbourne somewhere. He was anxious and angry. I am guessing he thought we’d all kidnapped him. He wasn’t even sure who we were. One visit, he was reasonably with it and asked me,

‘Why do you keep calling me Dad?’
‘Would you rather I didn’t?’ I asked.
‘Yes, please.’

After that, I called him by his name; John, until he suddenly recognised me – the trick is not to make them think about recognising you too hard – and called me by my name. Then I knew we were OK and when I called him Dad again, after that, he knew who I was, and more to the point, who he was.

That was the one decent trip. The rest were terrible. Especially the one following it. As well as shouting and railing at people Dad threw things at them, spat at them and cleared his throat and spat on the floor. His entire record collection was torn from the shelves next to his chair and frisbeed, Odd-Job-style at others. Mum had to sit in the kitchen because it just wasn’t safe for her to be with him in the drawing room. At points, even the carers had to leave him alone. He would be shouting commanding them to come to see him and yelling about what horrible people they were to leave him alone. Then, when they did, he’d tell them he didn’t know who they were to fuck off. He didn’t sleep at night for two months and thus it was that we learned how lack of sleep makes a person totally, utterly psychotic.

And so it went on.

Then, the Community Dementia Nurse came to see him for a scheduled visit. She is a star. I explained we were waiting for the slow machinations of the state and was worried about Mum’s well being in the interim. Mum couldn’t bear to see Dad suffer, and felt that if he was miserable at home, he may as well be miserable in a nursing home where he wouldn’t be keeping everyone else up in quite the same way if he started shouting at night. And also, she couldn’t cope with seeing the man she loved and had been married to for 53 years in this kind of mental state 24/7. The community dementia nurse agreed and promptly got the emergency dementia team to come and look at him.

We discussed sectioning, but Mum decided against it on compassionate grounds, because it would involve too much moving him around. They could also take him away for 3 days for respite but we decided that, too, would be unkind because it would just disorientate him more. However, they did get him off the waiting list for a social worker when the duty social worker stepped up and agreed to take him on straight away, in light of the urgency of his case. They also did what is called a cognition test, which he failed, which meant that the lasting power of attorney over his health was activated. I confess, I’ve never been so fucking glad I did anything as I am that we got that power of attorney.

In November 2017, we had a family get together and when we did, we got Dad and Mum to sign the forms for lasting power of attorney over their health. They’d done financial in 2004 when Dad realised he was going nuts. Discussing the health form with Dad, the week before, was one of to the last times I saw him able to grapple with abstract concepts. I am so glad that we sorted it out in time and more to the point, that I got a firm idea what he would want. Also I have to totally commend the government office that does this. I have dyscalculia, filling in forms correctly is my nemesis but they have a helpline and they were brilliant and endlessly patient with my dumb enquiries.

One of the areas where my brother and I are very lucky is that my parents both have a strong faith. Neither of them is afraid of death, or afraid to use the word, ‘death’. No pussy footing around calling it ‘passing away’ because the word ‘death’ is too scary for their ickle wickle sensibilities, they can look it full in the face. Neither of them has ever been afraid to discuss death, their funeral and what they would like to happen to them if they were ill and unable to outline treatment preferences for themselves. Indeed, they have always been keen to ensure my brother and I knew. They are DNR (do not resuscitate) but if you are elderly and wish this carried over into, for example, not being treated if you have Alzheimer’s and contract cancer or the like, you may need someone to have power of attorney over your health if you know they might have to overrule medical professionals, especially if. you want them to carry out your wishes not to be kept alive.

You see, back in the day, the doctors made the decisions. If someone was suffering and weary of life and they got pneumonia, rather than prescribing antibiotics, the doctors might ‘make them comfortable’. They’re not allowed to do this any more. The patient, or the patient’s family, have to make the decision, with their guidance. BUT relatives and family also have to be authorised to make decisions with the relevant Lasting Power of Attorney.

During their visit, the emergency dementia team suggested we check Dad for a urinary tract infection. This we did. He had one, but unfortunately, the only difference it made was that Dad was now more aware when he needed a wee. At the end of that week (and the end of January) I remember dropping McMini off to school one Friday and on the way home, I popped into church, lit four candles; one each for me, my brother, my father and my mother. Then I sat in a quiet corner and cried. I’m not very good at praying and I don’t know exactly what God is, whether it’s an actual entity or just quantum mechanics explained badly to simplistic people a few thousand years ago. But I believe that Jesus was ace and that there is something out there that’s really hard to explain.

Anyway, I just sat there with the situation laid out and asked whatever it is for help. That done, I went home, rang my Mum for a chat and half way through, Dad had a funny turn in the bathroom and the carer called Mum through. I cleared off the line and left them to call the emergency services. A while later I got a call from the paramedic who explained that Dad would be going into hospital for the afternoon as his heart rate was high but that he’d probably be home by the evening.

When Dad got there, it transpired he had a chest infection. He was kept in and given intra-venus antibiotics.

Mum and I had two big questions to discuss.

First, should they treat him? If they’d told us it was pneumonia, we agreed that we’d have asked them to ‘make him comfortable’ but a chest infection is different, he might feel really shit for three weeks and then recover, so he had antibiotics.

We felt that Dad was miserable and not enjoying life any more. While he was behaving like a six year old but clearly enjoying life it was different but now, definitely, he was giving off the vibe that he’d had enough. The biggest one was that he was refusing his medication. If the carers asked him, please, just for me, he’d take it but if they said it was to keep him well he’d refuse. We agreed, with my brother, that there’d be no more heroic medicine for Dad (great phrase isn’t it? This is what things like, giving someone antibiotics to cure pneumonia are called).

All meds that will increase Dad’s quality of life stay but he now takes nothing to prolong it. The doctors at the hospital commended us on this as the most practical, sensible and compassionate path. He is still taking meds to help with his gout, his Alzheimer’s, his sleep etc, things that make him comfortable or make his life easier. Nothing to keep him alive.

The second big question we had to work out while Dad was in hospital was, were we going to have him back home, or were we going to press to get him straight into a decent nursing home from there? In hospital Dad slept lots and while he was still swearing and flailing his arms around when people tried to wash him or put a clean pull up on him, with rest and proper sleep Dad, real Dad, came back to us. He recognised me on sight, knew where he lived and wanted to go home. But if he did return home, then we’d be bouncing him out again to a nursing home. Because he’d soon stop sleeping on home turf, and with the lack of sleep, become completely psychotic again.

After discussing it all with Mum and my brother, we realised we had the opportunity to speed up the system if he went to a home from hospital and it genuinely seemed the kindest course. I told the hospital we could no longer cope with him at home.

He stayed in hospital just under a month while we got his condition assessed, his finances assessed and got everything sorted. Dad is fully funded but as he has a teacher’s pension, he gets little or no actual reduction on his care home fees BUT he does pay the fully funded price, which is about 40% of what he’d pay otherwise. So the horrific prospect of the money running out for Mum’s care within the next six months has been averted temporarily. I reckon we can do a year, possibly two and a lot can happen over that time. Another year and Mum may be happy to move somewhere smaller.

Dad was assessed by a local home, which we wanted him to go into, but was considered too difficult for them to deal with. We had been warned this might happen and so the Social worker explained she’d look for homes with harder-core care facilities.

Mid February, while dealing with all this, I got flu and after five days in bed, while I was creeping about with a chest and sinus infection, we got the call that there was a place for Dad. We were offered two homes, and funded or part-funded places. Something about the way the social worker spoke about one of the homes attracted my attention at once.  I looked at the information about both but the moment I saw the website for that first home, I knew it was a good fit. It was also in the right place, at the back of the local market town, reachable in 20 minutes for Mum. I rang them and they were lovely, which seemed a good sign, but I knew we had to move fast. As it was half term, my brother happened to be staying at the time so he and his little ones and Mum went and looked round. They confirmed that it was every bit as lovely as it looked on the website and the staff every bit as pleasant as they’d seemed on the phone. Also, Dad’s best friend, who died last year, was in there for recuperation after an operation some years ago. His son spoke highly of it.

So we took their fully funded place and Mum and her/Dad’s carer took him down there two weeks ago. It was a while before I threw off the infection and could visit but when I did, it felt like a happy school. There are forty inmates and I’d say all of them were up and about, spread between three rooms. The decor was a little tatty but clearly well looked after. There was a burble of contented conversation and Dad was sitting at a table on his own, quite happy and contented, looking at a tank of fish.

A lady came and cut his hair, apologising that she only had one cape for him to wear because another resident didn’t want to take the other one off! Dad and I chatted to her and that kept him from getting impatient until the very end. I left him about to have lunch. He didn’t bat an eyelid when I went, just waved me a cheery goodbye.

So far, so good. Fingers crossed.

What impressed me most about the home was that they are completely unfazed by Dad’s inappropriate behaviour. When the carer and Mum arrived all the residents were up and about even though many of them are as free of any behavioural filters as Dad. He is so much more relaxed and happy and because of that, he’s so much more with it. And it’s such a weight off knowing he’s there and OK. I hadn’t realised how wound up I was about it all until we got Dad into this place, and I began to relax a bit.

Everyone in there shouts or does odd stuff from time to time because they have Alzheimer’s. When it attacks the frontal lobes of the brain, especially, it can cause the person to become aggressive. And at Dad’s home, this behaviour happens from time to time, but they are really good at dealing with it and settling everyone down again and the attitude is so good. They stop the trouble but they deal with it as if it’s nothing more significant than spilling a glass of water. And that’s the point isn’t it? Because as they’re dementia patients, for them that’s all it is.

Seeing the other residents has been strangely cathartic for us, too. We always tell ourselves that Dad is the same as any other Alzheimer’s sufferer, we are aware that he can’t help it, but sometimes, out there in the world, we still feel responsible. Unacceptable behaviour is still unacceptable, even if the person doing it is not responsible for their own actions. And when it’s your father or your husband, it’s also hurtful sometimes, being told to fuck off. And no matter how strong and calm you try to be, you’re human and this is someone who loves you, it’s still going to hurt.

Likewise, we understand that Dad just has a disability but we still feel the pressure to manage him ‘right’ because to us, these outbursts look like distress. But in the home, with other people all around him who are the same, we realise we are not alone, Dad is not alone and that in many instances, neither he nor they are distressed much either.

Because Alzheimer’s breaks down all the filters, and that’s why many of these outbursts are a lot less dreadful than they might appear, more of a ‘pfft that’s irritating!’ than the cry of existential angst they look like to the rest of us. Anyway, we’ve seen the existential angst: days of shouting from morning to night! Nothing in the home is like that.

I think Dad’s arrival sums it up. Mum and the carer brought him in and a little old dear sitting near the door looked up and smiled at them.

‘Hello,’ said Mum’s carer.
‘Fuck off!’ said the little old dear.

Yeh, Dad fits right in.

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Knowledge comes when you least expect it …

This month, I have mostly been ill.

That isn’t the entire sum of it, obviously. I mean there weekend at the end with the dig where I found the howling beastie and there was a rather jolly week after that plus a weekend when we had visitors and I danced arthritically on a table, remember. McMini was ill on the Sunday our guests left and off school the entire week. Then it was half term and he gave whatever it was he’d had to me in time for me to be ill over the school break, obviously. McMini threw it off in a week or so, but felt a bit weird from time to time during the half term holiday. McOther binned it in about twenty four hours. I felt as ill as I’ve felt since I was ten, and had the highest temperature I’ve had since I was ten too, a mighty 103.9 but it was only for one day and on the up side, I got rid of it in four days. On the downside it’s kindly left me with a chest and a sinus infection which I foolishly believed would go on its own. Needless to say I’ve managed to get the one that involves experimenting with multiple courses of antibiotics and some steroids. I have two friends who are ahead of me having completed my current regimen of eight pills plus a blue and white capsule every morning.

Upsides? Well, to be honest, anything is better than the way I felt with the flu AND I was well enough to creep out for a half term outing the day my flu subsided, despite feeling very dizzy and post feverish, so we got a quick day trip in before McOther went back to work on the Thursday and Friday of half term. We all ventured out again on the Saturday so at least we did have a half term that felt like it actually was a holiday, sort of. Neither McMini nor I was up to much on the Thursday and Friday anyway. He was much better but still fatigued and post viral, I was, thankfully, back to normal human temperature, albeit feeling a little tight across the chest and laughing like Mutley as the chest infection began to take hold. We chilled and relaxed together which was lovely, he screened (probably too much) and I read a stack of books! I even discovered a Jim Webster short from the Port Naain Intelligencer series that had escaped my notice. Bonus!

The half term trips out were both to air museums. The first, I had discovered quite by chance going to a dig back before Christmas. First I passed a farm selling raw milk from a vending machine outside. It also had what it called a cheese window. It was obligatory that I photographed that for McMini who loathes and detests yet also obsesses, slightly, over cheese. A few hundred yards further on and suddenly, in what looked like a pub car park.

Aeroplanes.

Not just any old aeroplanes either. Jets. I had passed it by the time it registered and stopped the car.

‘Did I just see that?’

I backed up.

‘Bloody hell. Yes I did!’

I took a photo and squirrelled it away for future reference. So it was, that ‘Future Reference’ turned out to be my sickly Wednesday half term day out.

It was a cracking museum. Not only were there some excellent and interesting planes but there was a fascinating collection of pieces of plane that had been hauled up in the nets of the fishing fleet based around Lowestoft, Gorleston on Sea and Great Yarmouth. This stuff was amazingly well preserved, yet a lot of it was crumpled and bent because it got into the sea by being blown apart. There were wonderful planes, helecopters and there were rooms full of artefacts, models and what I tend to call shed finds. All of it was free to look at and staffed by knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers. The loos were lovely too, clean, well stocked with loo roll and soap, the towel dryers worked and they were warm! Ah bliss.

While we were there, I discovered a shed find of my own. First let’s spool back a few years. Er hem, about thirty eight, to be precise. I was a nipper and my brother and I had a rubber dinghy which Dad would inflate, laboriously, with a foot pump when we went to the beach. A rubber dinghy, friends from other nations, is basically an inflatable rowing boat. Nothing to do with sailing. Anyway, back to the story.

The inflation process was pretty lengthy, so the dinghy was only wheeled out on day trips. Days at Stiffkey salt marshes when we were on holiday in Norfolk, or trips to Cuckmere haven; that kind of stuff. But back home, on a Saturday morning, or after school, when we wanted to go to the beach for a quick swim, I still wanted to be able to scull about on the waters. To this end, one holiday in Greece I bought a thing that was a cross between a surf board and boogie board, made of polystyrene. You couldn’t stand on it and surf, it would break in half, but it was ok to lie on it and scull with your arms or you could sit and row with a double ended oar. Except I didn’t have one and the only oars were to be kept with the dinghy on pain of death, after arriving somewhere and discovering we only had one.

Blue oar … the varnish has turned brown, which hasn’t done it any favours, it was a much prettier colour.

So it was, on warm afternoon ferreting about in my grandparents’ shed I discovered some of my grandmother’s toys, which she let me have, and an oar in a pleasing shade of blue. The oar had a brass bit in the middle and had clearly come apart into two halves at one point, before someone had drilled a couple of holes and put a some screws in to keep it together. OK so it wasn’t double-ended but it would be better than nothing for sculling about on my crap, polystyrene neither-boat-nor-surf-nor-boogie-board. Could I have it? I asked Nye, my grandmother, and when she agreed that yes, I could, I was stoked. I bore it triumphantly home.

As my mother made a space for me to put it in the car, she explained that it came from her and my uncle’s rubber dinghy. Said dinghy, like ours, had been used to great effect but, like ours, was also somewhat reliant on the stalwartness of those available to pump it up, and, of course, the time available. At the point in my mother and uncle’s life when it was in use, my grandfather was working in Greece and my mother, uncle and grandmother would take a two day flight out, in a Dakota, to join him for the long summer holidays. This meant that the only people available to pump the thing up each time on beach trips during term time weekends or half term, were my grandmother and Grand Nan, Mum and Uncle’s nanny.

Mum then went on to tell us about a trip the four of them made to Newhaven beach with the rubber dingy. My grandfather was still in Greece at this point, trying, on one hand, to help set up the new Bank of Greece and general economy in the aftermath of the war and on the other hand, making concerted efforts not to be killed in the revolution. He saw a fair few atrocities perpetrated by both sides – quite a lot of lining people up and shooting them down with machine guns – and at one point he had to defend the Bank of Greece from a communist attack. I never got the full story of this one, I should think it took a fair bit of balls from all of them, but he always spun it as less to do with courage and more about an ardent desire to avoid being put up against the wall, alongside his staff, and machine gunned. He and the staff held the bank and he was given an OBE. Needless to say the OBE, itself, has long since been nicked from a relative’s house in Kew, according to the police, by drug addicts burgling small shiny things to sell for the next fix – although we still have the box (there’s always an upside).

Anyway, Grand Nan, as she was called, and Nye (my grandmother) worried about the possibility of their little charges floating out to sea while they were engrossed in their reading or their conversation, had an ingenious idea. They took a long piece of string and tied one end to the dinghy and the other to Grand Nan’s wrist. Grand Nan was wonderful; tiny, twinkly eyed and gentle. She had a great sense of fun, and humour, and she was still around when I arrived on the planet. I’m not sure quite how effective she would have been as anchorage but clearly she felt she would cut the mustard. She is another of the people from my Sussex past who turned out to come from near my Suffolk present. She was from Thetford and her grandfather was head gardener on the Elvendon estate, I believe.

Sorry, gone off on another tangent again, where was I? Ah yes. Grand Nan and Nye sat back to chat, or read books or generally chill on the rug while the joyful chatter of Mum and Uncle told them all was well in the dinghy. They were soon so engrossed in their conversation that they didn’t notice a large ship come out of Newhaven harbour and sail rather close to the shore. Neither did they notice the wash, which presented itself in the form of a couple of very large waves heading for the beach.

Mum, in the dinghy, realised something was amiss but too late. The dinghy breasted the first wave and her and my uncle bobbed happily over it, unscathed. Then the second wave came and washed them onto the shore. Mum said she remembered seeing Nye and Grand Nan looking shocked with the the wave which had broken and reached the fluffy white stage now, sloshing over them, and the rug, as she and my uncle, in the dingy, floated gracefully past them. Mum and Uncle were deposited on dry ground a little further up the beach and left there as the wave retreated. Grand Nan and Nye scrambled about in the undertow rescuing rug, lunch, thermos, shoes, books, towels and their clothes. To their impressive credit, I believe nothing was lost. I suspect Mum and Uncle were less than sympathetic. Mum says that even at 85 years old, having seen a lot of funny things, the sight of her mother and nanny scrambling for their belongings, as she and my uncle were floating gently past, still ranks as one of the funniest things she has ever seen in her life.

This one’s in the museum.

How can you discover something about your mother and uncle’s rubber dinghy at an air museum, I hear you ask? Ah you’d be amazed at the things you can learn in the most unexpected places if you are prepared to explore. While I examined the exhibits in an area devoted to rescues at sea, I found an oar which came apart into two halves. It was painted a pleasing shade of dark blue. It was exactly the same as mine.

That is how, by going to an air museum in Gorleston, I discovered that my mother and uncle’s rubber dingy was the escape raft from a B17 bomber. The rubber ‘dinghy’ that went with is long gone, but even so, it transpires I have the oar from a B17 bomber’s escape raft in my shed.

This bit of plane was used in the film, The Dambusters.

On an end note; if the person who stole a red-ribboned medal from a house in Kew in the late 1980s/early 1990s is still around. OK no they’re probably dead but if they got clean or or if anyone out there bought an OBE that was given to R B T Castle from someone who looked quite high, do get in touch because I’d love to buy it back.

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Blog Tour: Everything going swimmingly ~ Jim Webster

I don’t usually do reblogs as such, but I’m this case, but I thought you’d like to read the last installment!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Previous chapters in this tale can be found scattered across the blogosphere….

1) For want of a knight
​​2) The eyes have it
3) The miser and the demon
4) Just one more glass
5) Occasionally one has to do the right thing
6) Consummate artistry
7) Something fishy
8)The ethical choice
9) Delicate work
10) A cup of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou?
11) An Appropriate Boy
12) Embarrassing​​

Everything going swimmingly

Mutt had barely reached the Ropewalk before he met Nail and Tolsin. Nail was tall for his age, lanky and could run faster than anybody else Mutt could afford. Tolsin was short, even for an eight year old and was still chubby in spite of living on the streets. Mutt regarded him as an apprentice. He could see the boy’s potential but realised he had a lot of learning to do if…

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Let me take you by the hand and lead you …

Through the streets of Port Naain.

Yes, this week we are doing something a little different. I am posting an excerpt from the latest adventure penned by Jim Webster. This one is from Port Naain in the Land of the Three Seas and features Benor, apprentice cartographer and Tallis, poet, who meet and have numerous adventures in the Port Naain Intelligencer series. If you don’t know these guys, you should, they’re fun, some of my favourite indie characters. The series is well worth a read as are Jim’s longer books – which are about Benor when he is older. But what do I know? Read the excerpt and see for yourself!

Embarrassing

Tallis, with a tight grip on the hand of Young Vortac, ran down the alley, frantically trying to think of a safe destination. He glanced over his shoulder, realised the pursuers were temporarily out of sight, and dived down a side alley and kept running. A cry from behind of,

“There they are,” showed him his subterfuge hadn’t worked.

He knew this neighbourhood; they were now approaching an area where he had patrons. Still he didn’t want his patrons faced with a horde of ruffians. He glanced behind him; their pursuers were more spread out than they had been but some were getting very close to them. Then he recognised a house. He’d performed there but as an anonymous participant in an affair organised by somebody else. Without hesitating he led the boy through the side gate off the lane and burst in through the servants’ entrance. Hastily he slammed the door and barred it behind him. He was just in time. Somebody shoulder-barged the door even as the bolts slammed home. Ignoring the outraged cries of cooks and miscellaneous downstairs staff he led the boy, still at a run, through the house, out of the front door and away down the road. He reckoned they’d gained over a hundred yards before somebody thought to go round the front of the house to check the other doors.

Now with a better lead he had chance to think. The boy, Aea be thanked, had got the hang of it now and they were running side by side. Not having to pull the child had made things easier. Tallis ran in silence, considering and rejecting options. A glance over his shoulder showed him that he wasn’t going to outrun the thugs behind him indefinitely. Then the brainwave struck him. To the boy he gasped,

“Another hundred yards, then into the Institute.”

They accelerated as they approached the tall red-brick building with the imposing façade. Tallis ran in through the open door and slammed it behind him, then at a brisk walk made his way up the grand staircase. They had reached the top of the staircase before the first thug hit the door. Tallis didn’t have much confidence in the lock, a feeble thing. He reached the first floor landing and opened the door to the art class. Below he heard the crash and the door gave way.
As quietly and as unobtrusively as possible he made his way past the various ladies painting. Then to his delight he realised their model was a boy. Gently he drew Young Vortac to him.

“Go through there to the side room. You’ll find tea and cake laid out. Help yourself; I’ll join you in a minute.” The boy nodded and disappeared.

Tallis made his way to the model who was looking at him nervously. Tallis leaned forward and said softly, “When a mob appear in the doorway, point at them and shout, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Why?”

“A good question. Because I’ll give you money.”

Tallis reached into his pocket, but the boy suddenly looked up, pointed at the door and screamed, “Tallis, they’ve found us.”

“Good boy, now run and hide behind the most formidable ladies you can find.”

Tallis turned to look at the fracas that was developing. One ruffian found himself standing very still as a young lady held a palette knife to his throat. The man obviously wasn’t sure how sharp it was but didn’t feel the urge to experiment. Others had gone down in a cursing heap of thrashing bodies, paintings and easels. Tallis ducked down, and hidden behind a phalanx of indignant artists, made his way to the side room. There he found young Vortac tucking into the cakes. Tallis helped himself to a couple and then led the boy down a side stair to the kitchens and then out into the street. Tallis and the boy walked casually together through the suburb heading generally south. Tallis pointed out sights of interest; finally Vortac asked a question that had obviously been troubling him.

“Excuse me sir, but who are you?”

“Why me? I’m Tallis Steelyard, the poet.”

It was distressingly obvious that the name meant nothing to Vortac. “And the other man, the one who rescued me?”

“Benor? Oh he’s a cartographer.”

Vortac touched the ring hanging round his neck. “So you know my father?”

“Never had the honour, I’m afraid to say; but I’m sure Benor knows him.”

They walked along companionably in silence for a while, and then Vortac asked, “So where are we going?”

Tallis pointed towards the estuary, visible now. “We’re going to the barge where I live. Benor will doubtless get fed up of looking for us and come back to the barge. Then we can take you back to your father.” Tallis glanced down at the boy. “I think it will be better to take you back to your father than back to school.”

“But my father is assumed to be dead.” The boy sounded uncertain.

“I’ve been assumed to be dead occasionally,” Tallis replied. “So long as you don’t actually die, it’s a useful way of stopping people hunting for you.” With this they walked on again. Not far from the Old Esplanade, Benor caught up with them.

****

Back at the barge Benor found some bread that had been left too long, and some cheese that was harder than is normally considered pleasant. With the bread toasted and with the cheese heated and spread over it, it made them not a bad meal, enlivened with a splash of spicy fish sauce to give savour. They finished with coffee and Benor reached behind a pile of documents on the dresser and brought out the silver drinking cup made by Young Vortac’s father.

“Do you recognise this?” He handed it to the boy.

“Yes, it belongs to my mother, my father made it for her.”

“I’ve sent a message to your mother, telling her I’ve found it.”

“She’ll be glad of that, she loved it.” Then more eagerly, the boy said, “And I got a letter saying she was coming to Port Naain on business and she’d see me soon.”

“How soon?”

“She should be in the city now; I was to meet her tomorrow.”

Benor glanced at Tallis. “We’d better get this boy back to his father now.”

They walked the boy back through the city. He carried the silver drinking cup wrapped in some rags.

At the door of the house on Togger’s Gyll, Benor knocked. Eventually it was opened by Vortac. Immediately his son rushed to him and threw his arms around him. Benor and Tallis stood back to give the father and son space, until finally Vortac set his son down on the ground again.

“So?”

Briskly Benor said, “There was an attempt to murder him and we thought he’d be safer here than at school.”
Vortac nodded slowly. “Then you have my deepest thanks.”

Benor continued remorselessly, “But probably not for the next bit. According to your son here, his mother is in the city and expects to meet him tomorrow.”

Vortac looked shocked. “So what do we do?”

“I know what I’m going to do. There’s a plot to kill your wife and daughter as well, so I’m going to find them and try and prevent it.”

With that Benor turned on his heel and strode off down Togger’s Gyll. Tallis murmured to Old Vortac,

“Don’t take it personally, he’s had a difficult few days.”

****

Katin, the Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep and her daughter Natisse sat in the office of Raswil Muldecker the usurer. They both sipped small glasses of wine as Raswil himself checked through various papers. He looked up,

“Excellent, excellent. Everything balances and the inventory agrees with the contents of the chests.”

Somewhat haughtily the Chevaleresse said, “Shouldn’t it?”

“It’s a rarer occurrence than you might expect madam.” Raswill allowed himself to smile. “But yes, your funds are now deposited in the accounts as agreed.” He passed across three papers, “The top one is yours, the second is in your daughter’s name and the third in the name of your son.”

She scrutinised the papers and passed the second to the daughter. The others she folded and tucked into a purse hanging from her belt.

“Thank you Master Muldecker. Everything seems to be in order.”

“Thank you madam.” There was a note of sincerity in the man’s voice. “We have a reputation for reliability to maintain, we value our customers from Partann. We aim to provide security and anonymity.” He raised his glass, “To the continued good health and prosperity of you and your family.”

The mother and daughter raised their glasses dutifully and sipped. There was a knock on the door. The miser looked displeased.

“Who is it?”

“Santon Gilfell, sir, a matter of some urgency sir, concerning the ladies.”

“Oh well, you’d better come in.”

The young clerk entered looking flustered. I’ve just had a letter from an ex-colleague, Sir. You remember Wast Divot who used to work here?”

“The young fool who left a good job with prospects to become the clerk to a mercenary company?”

“Yes sir, well here’s his letter.”

The miser took the letter and read it in silence. He looked at the young clerk.

“Can you vouch for it coming from Wast Divot?”

“Yes sir. Admittedly it’s scribbled in haste but it’s still in his handwriting. On top of that he and I had a code. If he needed to prove a letter was from him he’d call me Sant in the greeting. I call him Waston when I write to him.”
The miser turned his attention to the two ladies.

“Does the name Ulgar-Zare mean anything to you, and would he try to kill you?”

The two women looked at each other. Eventually the mother said,

“Yes, if he thought he could get away with it.”

“It appears that young master Divot and his companions met one Ulgar-Zare in a wayside tavern. He was riding north with a dozen men in his train. There seems to have been drink taken and he overheard a couple of the men talking about the problems of finding you and killing you in a big city.”

Hastily Santon Gilfell added, “With your permission, I think I have a solution. I handle the account for Jorrocks Boat Yard and they have a boat, the Flower of Partann, which is ready to sail. It’s just been in for a refit, and they would leave tonight without taking on cargo, on your assurance that they’ll be able to trade with Windcutter Keep without tariffs to get a return cargo.”

The two women looked at each other again. Natisse whispered in her mother’s ear.

“I don’t like running.”

Her mother whispered back,

“Neither do I, but this way we can be home before he knows and mount our own strike whilst he is still in Port Naain looking for us.”

She turned back to Raswill and his clerk. “Thank you, we will take you up on your kind offer.

****

Benor went first to the house in the Merchant Quarter which the Chevaleresse had previously rented. Alia the housekeeper was there. She remembered Benor and was friendly in a somewhat guarded manner. She couldn’t tell him where the lady or her daughter were, but did tell him they’d sent her a note to ask her to close the house up for a while because they had to travel back to Partann unexpectedly.

Benor ran to Rapscallion’s Wharf where ships to Partann normally sailed from. As he passed along Fellmonger’s wharf, Mutt, still wearing his borrowed school uniform, fell in step with him. The boy had obviously been waiting for him.

“Benor, I was meaning to ask you summat.”

“What?” To his own ears this sounded a bit curt, so Benor added, “If it’s something I can help you with I will.”

“Am I still an apprentice cartographer?”

This question was so unexpected that Benor nearly stopped in his tracks.

“Yes if you want to be.”

“Good.”

Together they made their way down the Ropewalk. Evening was falling as they dropped down to Rapscallion’s Wharf. From that point on Benor moved cautiously and tried to stay hidden. He finally saw the Flower of Partann. There were a handful of crew on deck and the gangplank was still out. He made his way closer. It was there he noticed two sedan chairs travelling down the wharf. They stopped opposite the end of the gangplank and two ladies, the Chevaleresse and her daughter, got out of their chairs and walked up onto the boat.

Benor glanced down at Mutt.

“Can you go and get Tallis and old Vortac please? If those two women sail in that boat they’ll be drowned. Somehow we’ve got to stop it.”

“Nail and another lad are supposed to be waiting for me on Ropewalk, I’ll send them, Nail’s quicker.”

“Fair enough, send them to Tallis first, Tallis will know them and listen to them.”

Mutt slipped away and Benor turned his attention back to the Flower of Partann. The ladies were being shown into a cabin set under the poop deck at the stern of the boat.

Then he noticed two other figures watching the Flower of Partann. One was a man he didn’t recognise, the other was a women he did known. It was Minny. He moved forward, keeping a pile of sacks between himself and them. At the end of the pile there was an open area, but once he crossed it, he’d be able to get close to them by walking round the other side of some barrels. He made his way silently across the open area and reached the barrels. Here he stopped and listened. He could hear the voices but not well. He moved closer and peered round the edge of the barrels. He was now almost within touching distance of the man. He heard the man say, “You got them to go on the boat. If I was a betting man I would have put money against it.”

Minny replied, “Easily done if you know her. A forged letter which told of a serious threat, then an opportunity to avoid the threat and strike a sharp blow at the person who was threatening them, she couldn’t resist it.”

The man nodded, “Cleverly done. Anyway we got the boat ready, Minny. We’ve done our bit, so we want the money.”
Minny replied, “Yes, Ardal, you’ve done your bit, so I’ll do mine. Here’s the money.” She passed across to him a heavy pouch. The man opened it, looked in and shook the coins up a little. “Ah gold, don’t you just love it.”

Benor heard a sound behind him and felt a tap on his shoulder. He spun round just as a fist struck him on the side of the head and everything went dark.

======================================

And now the hard sell

I’ve thought long and hard about blog tours. I often wonder how much somebody reading a book wants to know about the author. After all, I as a writer have gone to a lot of trouble to produce an interesting world for my characters to frolic in. Hopefully the characters and their story pull the reader into the world with them. So does the reader really want me tampering with the fourth wall to tell them how wonderful I am? Indeed given the number of film stars and writers who have fallen from grace over the years, perhaps the less you know about me the better?

Still, ignoring me, you might want to know a bit about the world. Over the years I’ve written four novels and numerous novellas set in the Land of the Three Seas, and a lot of the action has happened in the city of Port Naain.

They’re not a series, they’re written to be a collection, so you can read them in any order, a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories in that regard. So I had a new novella I wanted to release. ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure.’ It’s one of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’ collection and I decided I’d like to put together a blog tour to promote it. But what sort of tour? Then I had a brainwave. I’d get bloggers who know Port Naain to send me suitable pictures and I’d do a short story about that picture. It would be an incident in the life of Benor as he gets to know Port Naain.

Except that when the pictures came in it was obvious that they linked together to form a story in their own right, which is how I ended up writing one novella to promote another! In simple terms it’s a chapter with each picture. So you can read the novella by following the blogs in order. There is an afterword which does appear in the novella that isn’t on the blogs, but it’s more rounding things off and tying up the lose ends.

Given that the largest number of pictures was provided by a lady of my acquaintance, I felt I had to credit her in some way. So the second novella I’m releasing is ‘The plight of the Lady Gingerlily.’ It too is part of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection.

So we have ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure’

View or download the book from your local Amazon here.

Benor learns a new craft, joins the second hand book trade, attempts to rescue a friend and awakens a terror from the deep. Meddling in the affairs of mages is unwise, even if they have been assumed to be dead for centuries.

And we have ‘The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily’

View or download from your local Amazon here.

No good deed goes unpunished. To help make ends meet, Benor takes on a few small jobs, to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house. He began to feel that things were getting out of hand when somebody attempted to drown him.

======================================

Lastly, if you’d like to read yesterday’s excerpt you can find it here on Ken Gierke’s blog: https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/

While, tomorrow the thirteenth and final episode will be posted on Sue Vincent’s blog, here: https://wp.me/p1wss8-hR3

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This week I have mostly been … unmentionable.

At some point I will have to talk about the next stage of Dad … but I can’t do that right now so instead, highlights of the other bits!

This week has been … interesting. The noisy cricket is playing up again, this time, its indicators have stopped working along with one of the daylight running lights. It’s as if it’s driving around with a permanent wink, its driver’s side daylight running light refusing to cooperate. Perhaps it’s having a dirty protest, it is filthy and I haven’t washed it. Then again, a few minutes on the motorway network does that to a car in weather like we’ve had lately. It’s like a brown pod. I have to keep cleaning the muck off the windows to see the wing mirrors. I have to keep cleaning them and all, and the numberplate has long since disappeared under the grime.

Luckily, the mechanic I use is very good and after looking at it he realised that one, it’s an intermittent fault and two, if I have the headlights on dipped all the time the indicator starts working again. He said that the probable fault was a dodgy connection or a dirty contact and the ECU was worrying it would knacker itself and was trying to protect it. With these electrical faults, he explained, he and his colleagues spend a lot of time arguing with the car. If the Noisy Cricket’s ECU is like the AI system that came up with the designs for love heart sweets you can see in the nearby picture, I feel I may be avoiding expensive repairs by driving with my headlights on for some time. Low beam and high beam only, the side lights don’t work either. Maybe I’ll get it fixed if I sell the car. BTW, on the picture, I particularly like the second love heart from bottom, for Scotsmen everywhere! Get yer hole! Snortle.

What else is happening? McMini has been ill all week, except the day I had to drive to Sussex to see Dad and Mum. So it’s been a bit full on because I haven’t managed to get out of the house. Except this morning when I got to ride my bike up to the school and collect McMini’s lunch box. Didn’t fancy leaving the uneaten chicken sandwich to fester over half term week. Mmm Mmm. E-coli anyone? I have developed a kind of low down cough. It’s like wheezing and I only realised, last night, that it’s just the usual cough tickle except it’s further in. No deadening this one with mouth ulcer cream then. Pity. I thought of going to the Doctor’s but when I get to the what colour is your snot question I’ll have to say that I don’t know because it’s still in there. So they’ll just tell me to go and have a lie down.

On the metal detecting front, things have been a bit freaky. I managed to find a bucket list item, a stirrup mount. They

A Norman stirrup mount.

used to put metal bits on to protect the stirrup leathers so they wouldn’t wear out and fall off. I only dug it up because I was on a job to remove the iron from the fields. The signal sounded like iron and when I flipped out the clod of earth a massive nut rolled out (to go with the massive nut digging it) but alongside it something green and triangular pinged into the grass a few yards away. Ooops. I retrieved it, not daring to hope that I’d found a Saxon stirrup mount but the artefact was too claggy with mud to tell.

It being me, this was not Anglo Saxon, although it was the same style and mechanically mounted the same way, but the design is Romanesque, which puts it from 1060 to about 1140. It’s an early one, I reckon, because it’s a similar shape to the Saxon ones (to my untrained eye). It’s known as howling beast style. I was dead chuffed as had I not been digging everything, I’d have left it.

Another howling beastie! Woot!

The following weekend I had a lovely flu bug but the one after was a club dig on some interesting land where I’ve found good things. To my amazement, the first signal I had was a kind of high-pitched screechy one that usually means can-slaw or lumps of lead (although lead can be interesting so I always dig it up). Recently I’ve had a few squeaky signals like this and they’ve been Roman coins which was a surprise and also spurred me on. I dug a hole and out popped another stirrup mount, exactly the same as the previous one, except this time the howling beastie was pointing the other way. Woot! Two consecutive signals, albeit fifty odd miles and a couple of weeks apart and I have a set.

Sadly I got nothing else that day, indeed, it was slightly difficult because after about an hour I became aware that I was very much in need of a wee but there was no cover. I have bought myself a thing from the internet (Where else?) that allows me to stand up and wee, like a bloke, but I do prefer to take my trousers down beforehand because … you know … wiping. But there was nowhere to wipe in privacy. A few hours later and I realised that a) I’d dug up just about every piece of metal buried in the vicinity of the stirrup mount and it was all junk and that b) the need to find a secluded spot to have a wizz was getting somewhat critical. I looked around and decided to trudge across the field and up a hill across another field to a small copse.

Having trundled up there, bitching and complaining about my sore knees the whole way like some ancient crone, I found a secluded spot behind a hedge. Well, I say secluded since it was a spot that couldn’t be seen from the fields my fellow detectorists were working on but in the other direction it was an open invitation for anyone looking on from anywhere in a 180 degree radius to see parts of a middle aged woman that are best left unexposed. And bum wiping.

Never mind. Needs must. The glorious thing about being middle aged is you cease to give a flying fuck about anything. This is especially true if you’ve had kids because then you will, of course, have given birth to your dignity, never to see it again, with the first one.

It was cold so I was wearing skiing trousers and wool long johns and was layered up with shirts so it took me a while to pull my pants down. Just a bit, not so far that you’re going to be shaking your lettuce at anyone who sees you. Then I got out my she-wee. The she-wee is a fantastic invention. No, not fantastc, it’s chuffing magnificent. It’s basically a er hem, lady shaped funnel with a hose that you can put on your bits. At the doctor’s there’s no more peeing all over your hand, or missing the silly little jar completely when you’re asked for a mid flow sample ladies, no sireee, no more spending twenty minutes wiping the piss off the seat in a motorway services so you can sit down – ladies with arthritic knees do not hovver, anyway when I hovver it goes sideways and runs down my leg – oh heavens did I just say that out loud, I did didn’t I? Never mind – where was I? Oh yes. The she-wee.

The she-wee lets you wee like Martini; any place any time! With this thing you are golden. Ah, yes, I could have used a better word there. You are not golden, obviously, because that’s the point. I use it all the time and I can thoroughly recommend it with two caveats.

One, you have to put it under your … ok, I’m going to go right ahead and say it … labia, ladies, because that’s what makes the seal, you see. Labia (Lorks a lordy I’ve said it again) to edge of she-wee. Then when it’s all snugly fitted in with no gaps you can start but …

Two, you need to start off gently just in case you’ve got the angle wrong or it’s not tucked in all the way round or something, because if you begin at horse’s pace and then find you’ve got the seal or the angle wrong it’s going to be ugly. You don’t want it all coming out over the back and going on your pants, and the skiing trousers and the long johns, which are wool and not absorbent and which are merely going to allow the wee to flow, unhindered, into your shoe. Obviously, this is not the kind of golden you want to be in a she-wee situation.

Unfortunately, I had a she-wee failure of gargantuan proportions and spent the rest of the afternoon walking like Billy Connolly when he does the incontinence trousers sketch. Then I dug up about fifty signals, still while walking like the Mummy out of 1970s Dr Who and every single sodding one was a shotgun cartridge. People who shoot lob those fucking things absolutely anywhere but in a bin. The littering bastards.

What I’m saying is that after a great start, the day did fall off somewhat. But not too much because salopettes keep the smell in and work in a very similar way to incontinence trousers and, anyway, washing machines, and baths, and the set of howling beasties … Yeh.

Other highlights this week. I danced on a table. I am too arthritic to dance, let alone climb on a table so once on the table I had to be helped off, howling with laughter as I went – I’m a classy lady but you knew that and on the up side, I managed not to fart. It was like the encore of a James Brown concert me dragging myself back, with the help of my acolytes, but rather than onto the stage for an encore, it was back to the safety of the chair. Never mind, at least I didn’t try and sing, Sex Machine.

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Farting around …

Today I’m cheating, I have twenty minutes to write tomrrow’s blog post before my lovely bruv, wife and kids arrive for the weekend. It’s going to be short.  I was going to do something quite deep and metaphysical but as it is, it’s going to be an excerpt from one of my works in progress. So here, from Tripwires, is more wittering about my past I bring you …

The Kitchen Fart

One of the things I love about my parents is that while they taught me that it was important to show consideration for others, they also taught me another very important art, that while consideration is key, there are other instances where it is very important not to give a flying fuck.

The love of farts. What a way to start, but even for British people, my family seems to be peculiarly obsessed. Perhaps it’s just that we share a love of the absurd and there is so much of that to be mined from farts. When I was a teenager, one grandmother, Nye and one grandfather, Gin-Gin, were still around. Gin-Gin was in a home but Nye lived on her own for a while and during that time, she would sometimes come to stay. Obviously, our house wasn’t really ideal for an older person who had trouble getting up and down.

Nye often had to be helped out of our arm chairs because they were a bit too low. When this happened the exertion would often result in her letting loose a thunderous fart. Obviously, despite having a bit of a sense of mischief, Nye was clearly of a view that there are some things a Lady doesn’t mention – and farts appeared to be one of them. So of course, everyone would pretend that the incredibly obvious high-decibel report hadn’t happened. Nye would be handed her sticks and with a quieter fart to mark each stride she would shuffle slowly across the room. Luckily, what the good lord was kind enough to give her in volume, he left out in aroma. We would hear making her way through the hall to the downstairs loo, still farting quietly all the way. Once we heard the door close we would explode with giggles and when she came back after her wee, we’d tell her some terrible joke to explain away our red faces, streaming eyes and uncontrollable laughing.

Amusingly, my Mum’s farts sound exactly the same as Nye’s did, less amusingly, so do mine.

However, while Nye pretended, against all odds, that her farts didn’t exist, Mum has never had any qualms about making some remark about it, or just giggling if she accidentally let one go. One of the most used phrases in our family is, ‘where ere you be let your air blow free, I held mine in, twas the death of me’. If think it comes from a Scottish tombstone somewhere (although the original uses the Scottish dialect ‘gang’ rather than blow which has a slightly different meaning – go/wander – but hey, the sentiment is similar).

The other day, I was with Mum in the kitchen and since it was Mum and it would make her giggle, when I felt one bubbling up, I didn’t bother to ease it quietly out but let it go. Several minutes of childish giggling ensued and Mum said, ‘Good heavens! That sounds exactly like one of mine.’

To which I replied, ‘Just imagine it, if one of the carers has heard it, they won’t know which of us it was!’

‘Or they’ll think it was me,’ she said. ‘I’m worse than Nye these days, I fart every time I stand up.’

After we’d finished chuckling about this, Mum reminded me of an occasion when Dad was still a housemaster. We were in the kitchen, me doing my homework at the table, Mum baking. Two of the girls in one of Dad’s sets were having trouble with some of the Greek they were learning so he had offered them an extra lesson, to explain it all again. They were with him in the next room, the study. Mum had offered them a cup of tea of course, which, Mum being Mum, came with flapjack, home made cake and biscuits. The girls had accepted Mum’s offer so now she had put a tray on the table opposite me and was laying out cups and saucers. She and went to the larder at the other end of the room, to get the biscuit tin. As she made her way across the room she let out what might be the loudest fart I’ve ever heard. It sounded like someone dragging a heavy chair twenty yards across a tiled floor in a room above.

‘Ooo that’s better,’ she said once the furniture had stopped shaking enough for me to be able to hear her, and then both of us fell about laughing. Suddenly, I remembered Dad’s lesson in the next room. On the down side, the doors to both the kitchen and the study were open, on the up side, though ‘next door’ the actual entrance to the study was about four metres away down a corridor.

‘Oh no! Mum, what if the girls heard?’ I asked keenly aware that the attitude to farts displayed by myself and my mum was not standard among females.

‘It’ll be alright, they can’t possibly have heard it from there.’

I thought about the number of times I’d heard my mum fart in the kitchen while watching TV in the drawing room which was a lot further away from the kitchen then the dining room, where the girls where.

‘Seriously Mum, I think they will have done, it was impressively loud.’

‘I do hope not,’ said Mum and we began to giggle some more. ‘Never mind,’ she said as she filled the teapot, ‘we’ll soon know. I’m going to take this through now.’

She came back a few minutes later looking a slightly chastened, but only slightly.

‘I think you’re right,’ she said. ‘Your father clearly didn’t hear a thing, but the girls did, because when I went in with the tea they got the giggles.’

Later I attended reunion at school for women in my house and to my delight, I met the two girls in question and after much giggling as I related the story they confirmed that yes, they had heard the fart loud and clear.

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Filed under About My Writing, General Wittering