Last week, I’d made a list of stuff to blog about. I had a particularly productive few days because my brother was down at Mum’s so I didn’t need to ring her every day. I love chatting to Mum so it’s no bother but recently, it’s taken her longer to get up in the morning so instead of being able to phone her at half nine or ten and catch her just after she’s finished breakfast, I’ve discovered that if I ring her as late as half ten, there are mornings where she’s still been in her bedroom getting dressed.
Clearly, I don’t want her to be sitting on the bed in the nuddy with one sock on chatting to me for half an hour. She’ll get cold. The thing is though, I want to ring at the times when she’s alone. She likes some time alone but she also likes a chat during her alone time if someone rings … so I do. As phoning at eleven meant the carer was often there already, I started ringing in the afternoon, after the carer has gone, which is hideous for me because it’s slap bang in the middle of the biggest chunk of time I get to write. As a result, not having to make that call meant I got quite a lot done!
Reading on down my list of stuff to mention, the second entry says, ‘blind in office falling down onto desk and knocking over pint of water. Subsequent (somewhat miraculous) survival of electrical equipment. That was rather a narrow squeak but with distance between the event and me, it’s not one I wish to relive. Suffice it to say all was well and the blind is back up again.
Then there was the joy of bicycling. No really. I am working on making my knee bend as much as possible and trying to get it as straight as possible. While the scar tissue is still healing doing this hurts like a bastard but unless I push it – for push read hurt – it will heal with less movement. The trick is to push it enough to keep the range of movement improving without doing so much that you really hurt it and have to rest up for a day or two – which isn’t ideal because it allows progress to drift back a bit. I fell off the wagon with the physio over christmas so in this last few weeks before I am left with whatever I end up with, I am keen to make as much headway as I can. To that end, I’ve reverted to doing physio but instead of three sessions of ten reps I’m doing one bigger session of twenty first thing and then a bit more later if it seems to be stiffening up.
What about the cycling? Well I have a very nice bike. I saved up for it for about six months, popping £10 or £20 in at the bike shop every now and again until I had enough to buy something decent. The result was a fluorescent-orange, hard-tail Rock Hopper. It’s a joy to ride and it being a mountain bike my knees are about by my ears somewhere on the up pedal. I reckoned this would be a good way of bending my new knee while it was supported but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to bend it enough to actually pedal yet. Turns out I can’t quite … except that, if I just push on through, I can. So I’ve started cycling for about 20 minutes each day because it means I do loads of reps bending it a bit further than it really wants to go and after the first hundred yards or so it’s pain free. Woot. The rides are short – twenty minutes to half an hour – and not physically demanding, I’m going easy on it, so it’s gear down to the granny ring to go up the hills, but it feels wonderful to be drifting along on a bike again. I haven’t used it for a year.
Then there was the joy of getting my iPad back. The keyboard/case may be a bit sub-par protection wise – then again, I guess most things are a bit sub-par when it comes to protecting fragile electrical equipment from the somewhat rough and ready usage to which I subject it – but I’m gradually getting it sorted. I can back it up to the cloud so when the replacement – or scrubbed original, it was a replacement this time though – arrives I can just put in my apple ID and it’ll install everything that was there originally – even the settings. I’m always impressed by this, although it never backs up the file that saves all my passwords which is really annoying as it means I have to methodically visit all the sites and apps I use while I have said passwords to hand so I can input them and tell it to remember them again. It’s very annoying to get caught short at Mum’s unable to get into my blog etc.
On the book side of things, my latest arrived back from the editor and she asked me to give her a slot it would be done by so she could schedule the re-read – she’s well busy. I had to give that some thought so I hung fire on emailing her back.
Also, having got my whizzy new logo and revised book covers, I started uploading them all to Ingram. This went fine until I realised that there’d been a mix up and the designer had put them on the wrong templates. I re-uploaded them. As a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors I have a code to do this for free which is one of the reasons I migrated from Lightning Source (wholly owned subsidiary of Ingram who do NOT honour the code) to Ingram, who do. I input said code, the £50 upload fee reset to £0 and on I went.
Except I didn’t. The following day discovered that I’d been invoiced £150 for this session and they’d taken the cash from my credit card. I appealed, they agreed they’d refund but then came back to me saying they wouldn’t because the code expired on 31st December. Interestingly, it worked just fine for previous sessions earlier in the week and it appeared to work for this last one. I’m unsure as to whether they are going to honour the new code but I’ve looked it up and sent it to them anyway. I do wish their system was less glitchy. With any other discount system I have encountered anywhere else in the entire world, an expired discount code wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t even appear to work. The system would just spit it out and make me stump up the cash or input a different code that worked. Ingram? Oh no. Make it look like everything’s tickety-boo the customer’s end, lull them into a false sense of security and then take £150 off their credit card. £150 which would have been £25 if it had spat out the code the way any normal, configured-by-humans system should. Because I would have gone straight to the Alliance website to check for a new code and if I couldn’t find one, I’d never have spent more than £25, £50 max because I do not have £150 to spaff up the wall in one go on that! Seriously, though, why the fuck, Ingram? Why?
The Ingram interface is horrifically bug-infested. It might be slightly easier to take if the number of areas functioning without glitches was greater than the number of borked parts. Unfortunately, smooth functionality appears to have been very low on the list when it was constructed, either that or they launched it before it was even half built. When something runs smoothly and does what it should it’s certainly the exception rather than the rule. I haven’t dared try it again in case they don’t refund me the original £150 on the grounds that I put in an old code – because the ceiling is £200 and since I can only go another £50, that will have to be ring-fenced to pay for uploading the cover and innards of Too Good To Be True, should anything go wrong and the code be non-functioning. I appreciate that I get the money back but it has to be in there to go out and it won’t be if I’m not careful.
Anyway, that was the stuff I was going to blog about last week, except in a slightly longer-winded and funnier manner. But then Friday happened.
It started well enough, but then I got a call from my brother who’d been down in Sussex with Mum. He was leaving that morning but at breakfast she’d keeled over onto my sis in law, who happened to be standing beside her, and now appeared to be paralysed down her right side.
Could she speak? I asked him. Yes but it was slurred and a bit jumbled.
Had he done the stroke test things? Yes, Bruv and Sis in-law had.
Hmm. I mentioned that it sounded like a stroke and Bruv and his wife agreed that yes, they thought it was … or a TIA.
Did I need to come down? I asked.
He thought no because his in-laws are both doctors so he’d rung them up. They thought it sounded like a severe TIA at this stage, rather than a full-on stroke. They had called Mum’s doctor who agreed because, as he had delicately put it, she had remained continent and she hadn’t had a grand mal seizure which is, apparently, a frequent occurance when you have a stroke. Also, with a TIA you recover faster. On the other hand, with a mini bleed like a TIA you don’t normally end up with one leg paralysed. Her doctor felt a trip to hospital to A&E to see what was going on would be a good idea and that Bruv should call an ambulance.
The problem is, Mum’s local hospital is riddled with covid so if they took her in for observation she would have to isolate in there for two weeks before she was allowed out again. Bruv decided no and stayed on.
But at the same time, having rallied just afterwards, Mum’s condition seemed to be worsening as the day wore on. At three thirty Bruv rang me and said she was worse, that he’d called the doctor again, and that the doctor had stressed, again, that she should go into hospital. Bruv ascertained that while they’d give her a brain scan, they wouldn’t be doing any clot busting or similar – she’s very frail and it would probably do for her. So while nipping down to A&E and having a brain scan was one thing, nipping down, having a brain scan and being kept in was another.
The thing is. Mum is DNR, which stands for Do Not Rescusciate. If she ever has a stroke, her wish is to die at home without any intervention. I knew that she wouldn’t want to go anywhere near a hospital and relayed this to Bruv. Bruv and Sis in-law were aware of it and totally agreed with my reading of her wishes. I told Bruv where the paperwork was (Lasting Power of Attorney over Mum’s health) and explained that if she couldn’t speak he’d have to wave it at them and speak for her. No hospital. (Say that in the same voice the suit designer in The Incredibles uses to say, ‘NO capes!’ for extra effect.)
Bruv agreed but what neither of us could tell is how serious it was which made the decision tricky.
Dad went into hospital with a chest infection towards the end of his life. If it was pneumonia, I’d have said make him comfortable but don’t treat him. However, withholding treatment for a chest infection is different. Sure if we did, it might turn into pneumonia and carry him off (he was DNR/no life extending treatment too) but it was a step over a line that I can’t cross. Also it might just have meant he felt really shit for three weeks and got better anyway, which is unkind to an elderly gentleman who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and has enough to contend with already. The problem we faced with Mum was twofold. One: we didn’t know if it was chest infection-level serious or into the DNR zone. Two: we did know that if Mum was stuck in hospital at the rock bottom level she was at now, a lady who was already a bit confused from time to time and for whom, since she’d just had some kind of brain bleed, that confusion was currently compounded … she was unlikely to come out again.
Except that Bruv suspected he did know the answer to that how-serious-is-it question. He said he thought she was dying, that he might have to call an ambulance and that, should he do so, he probably would have to let them take her to hospital if they insisted. He suggested I came down because it wasn’t just him who believed that, if Mum went into hospital, she wouldn’t come out again. Her doctor agreed. I said that if he dialled 999 he was to stall them and not let them take her away until I had got there to say goodbye. Then I packed a bag, leapt in the car and set off.
I had no clue what the Covid rules were on my bubble with Mum impinging on Bruv’s bubble with Mum. It was probably a Bad Thing of the highest order. Then again, he believed Mum was dying and to be honest, I did too. A hurried consultation with The Rules online and I discovered that they do make an exception for visiting dying close relatives. I decided that if it was a choice between staying here or saying goodbye to my mother it was a no-brainer. If Mum was about to die, she was going to do it with her loved ones gathered round her bed, and, come hell or high-water, I was fucking well going to be one of them.
I packed a bag, and my metal detector because I reckoned I might need the odd sortie in the garden to restore my mental equilibrium, and went.
Unbeknown to me, at about 4.30pm, as I was joining the M25 at the bottom of the M11, Mum rallied and had a biscuit and a cup of tea. Bruv and Sis in-law constructed a make-shift commode using a loo seat riser and a couple of buckets and she had a wee and felt a lot better. By the time I arrived she was very frail and her face had an unpleasantly grey hue to it, but she could move her leg again, even though she couldn’t walk unaided. From where I was standing, she looked as if she was about to peg-it any minute but I could tell, from the huge sense of relief emanating from Bruv and Sis in-law, that she was a great deal better than she had been. Bruv confirmed that she’d been completely unresponsive at half three when he called me. To the point where he and Sis in-law took her pulse and put a mirror in front of her mouth to see if she was still breathing. We got her to bed and she spent the weekend in bed.
I took my nephew and niece metal detecting on the lawn and we found a fifteenth century hammered coin from Spain … in a ex farmyard in Sussex. Well it was a big commercial area until cotton supplanted wool but I was intrigued. The only other hammered coin I’ve found on there is a 17th century Portuguese one. Bizarre. There’s also a bit of Mum’s lawn where I joke to myself that HG Well’s time machine fell to bits. It’s full of brass bits of what was clearly, once, some kind of Victorian piece of technical equipment.
As for Mum, she’s is still here. Which is an enormous relief, even if it means I’m probably in breach of The Rules and liable for a hefty fine for going to see a dying person who wasn’t dying after all. I’m not sure what the view on death bed recovery is and I couldn’t find anything about it on the Government site. We looked after Mum and on Sunday afternoon I left and came home. Bruv left Monday morning and she got up and got dressed when the carer’s came in and went downstairs. She has been frail but on better form as the week has progressed. I went to see her on Wednesday as usual – that is allowed because she’s in my bubble. She was very quiet but also calm and relaxed and I went out and detected on the lawn again for twenty minutes and found a couple of interesting bits which she was intrigued to see. She’s better but not right yet which, according to her doctor, probably means that it was a small stroke she had, rather than a big TIA.
It was also wonderful to see my brother and sis in-law and spend some time with my nephew and niece. We also cooked up a storm, or at least sis in-law mostly did, including these hilarious mutant yorkshire puddings! Bonus! I’ve had similar results, myself, from doubling the number of eggs but this was her usual recipe and they have never done it before. All very strange.
In the end we had a lovely weekend, even if we were all still rather worried about Mum. I guess every cloud has a silver lining, light and shade etc because while the situation with Mum was horrible at first, once she was on the mend it was just a case of taking stock, sorting everything out and enjoying being together until it was time to go home!
I feel … how do I feel? Well it was really lovely to see my brother and his family, really lovely. But over all I guess I’m a bit shocked.
Dad’s death was a good death, it was clearly his will and there was nowhere else to go. It’s hard to explain. But with Dad it was very clearly the end of the road. He had extreme unction (which is a phrase that always makes me chuckle because of the way the word ‘extreme’ is used about other things, ironing for example). He was ready and he was OK. That week before he left us he was in a state of grace, he was calm and I know he was totally at peace, and ready, and alright.
The thing with Mum is that this feels the same. She’s calm, quiet and in a similar state of grace to the one Dad was in. That’s good but also a little unnerving. She is not afraid and we have talked a great deal about her wish to die at home and what to do if she’s taken ill. Two or three years ago, I told her that if something happened when we were together I’d have to call an ambulance and that they’d probably ask me to do CPR. Her reply, which I may already have posted,
‘Well, you can try if it makes you feel better but I won’t be coming back.’
So I guess I’m worried because I’m aware that folks who have a small stroke often have another one soon afterwards. I suspect she is aware of that too, although she doesn’t seem remotely bothered. Like Dad, it’s more a sense of waiting. Also like Dad, she has a very strong faith and she’s totally unafraid. But I suppose the biggest thing is that Mum’s dementia is very different to Dad’s. She may not remember stuff and that is incredibly sad sometimes, but her personality has stayed pretty much constant. She’s been a bit more brusque than usual at times over the last two years or so, as she’s realised how much of her memory she is losing, and I suspect that’s because she’s been a bit scared. She has always said she wouldn’t like to ‘lose her marbles’. Also, she was as traumatised by the way Dad’s dementia ravaged him as were Bruv and I. She doesn’t want to be like that. Although luckily, the nature of her dementia is such that it’s looking increasingly as if she won’t be.
This means that, in some ways, it’s easier because the dementia side of it, while grim, isn’t as utterly heart-breaking as Dad’s was. But in other ways it’s harder because Mum is still very much herself so there’s no difficulty keeping close to her, she can follow a deep conversation, or a light one. I admire my mum hugely, just as I admired my dad. The way I see it, Mum and Dad are/were everything that is right and good in a human being. We know Mum may not be around for long and I know, on paper, that when she goes it will leave a huge, huge hole in my life, and probably my heart. But I haven’t thought about it head-on much so I think that, though we are all prepared for events like this, it was the most serious so far and was quite a shock.
Then there’s the fact that I have reached a point in the care for vulnerable parents process when I am quite exhausted – doubtless Bruv is too. When you have a duty of care to someone and you are worrying about them, sometimes you forget the point of what you’re doing. So, I think it was a bit of a wake up call for me, because in all the planning and trying to look after her and ringing her every day and worrying about her I’d slightly lost sight of the fact that the whole point of it, the whole reason I do all that stuff, is because I really, really love her.
It feels like …
I’m at boarding school during the term when I’m not enjoying it, and she’s just dropped me off, I stand at the window, waving stoically, as she drives away. I’m trying not to cry, and in the car, though I don’t realise it at the time, she’s probably doing the same thing. She’s reached the end of the drive. The rear lights of the car glow a brighter red as the brakes come on. She’s waiting for a gap in the traffic to pull out. I see the lights of the cars on the road passing in front of her in the autumn twilight. I want to run after her. Tell her to wait. Beg her to take me with her. But I can’t. She goes and I’m left behind. I turn and walk slowly back along the empty corridor.
So yeh, bit of a rough week in some respects.
Other news, despite not being sure what would be happening this week, I managed to go through the first run of edits on Too Good To Be True. I emailed the editor from Mum’s to say I hoped to have it all back to her by this coming Tuesday – well … I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the event, I got it done by last Thursday. I thought I may as well send it back in case she had time to look at it and, to my delight, she had some space to make a start before Tuesday so with any luck we will get it to and fro enough times to sort it totally and get it uploaded to the stores in time for launch and to send to Gareth when I actually said I would … It is going to be a bit touch and go and I will probably have to delay it a week on Smashwords. It won’t hit the launch date for the print book either but that’s OK, I haven’t entered anything on Ingram. I know not to do that or it’ll glitch and I’ll find it’s locked and going to take me two weeks to change the price or something.
Anyway, that’s been my week and that’s why you didn’t get a blog post last week. I’m off to write to Mum’s vicar now, just to let her know what happened!
If you’re interested, and you feel like it …
Too Good To Be True is out on 18th March, fingers crossed. Amazingly, I have, finally got my shit together and it is live for pre-order everywhere – if buying from retailers is your thing. Or you can pre-order it from my website or my web shop for a whole £1 less than it is everywhere else! Mmm. By Grabthar’s Hammer! What a savings!
Anyhoo, here’s the gen …
Too Good To Be True
When the finger of fate points … hide!
When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.
Suggested UK cinema rating for this one PG (parental guidance) there’s a slightly saucy bit and a bit of light violence.
Even so, this is a humorous science fiction fantasy story set in a parallel reality.
To find out more, and for links to pre-order it if that’s your thing, go here: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/infotgtbt.html