Category Archives: General Wittering

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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Out of the mouths of babes and … budgies.

I’m posting by special request this week, I mentioned my grandfather, my father’s father, in a post on a forum and was asked if I’d say a bit more about him so, fresh from Setting Tripwires for Granny, here is a little bit about him …

Gin-Gin was my father’s father, StJohn Bell (Gin-Gin is pronounced exactly like it’s written, as if someone’s saying the name of the drink, twice. Much like his name, StJohn—which is actually pronounced sin-gin—and indeed, that’s probably where Gin-Gin came from). He was a larger than life character, I think he worked for the Sun Alliance, was chairman of the district council and was full of life. He was always laughing and he had a gold tooth which could catch the light when he smiled. He was known for his draconianly right wing views. That said, despite views which, in those days, put him firmly on the right with Norman Tebbit and company towards the lunatic fringe of the Conservative Party, he would probably be standing a little to the left of centre in the modern version such is the gargantuan crazy-quotient in both that party and politics these days. 

Gin-Gin had white hair which, like my father’s and my oldest uncle’s receded very slowly from the age of about thirty – it never totally disappeared. He had a hooked patrician nose, very bushy eyebrows, underneath which sat a pair of green/blue (I think) twinkly eyes, a ready (and extremely loud) laugh and as I mentioned one gold tooth, his eye tooth. Yeh, if you’re read my books you’ll know exactly which character is based upon his looks. He had a marked and somewhat subversive sense of humour. Indeed, humour was how he communicated with the world. He was not keen on political correctness, citing it as simply reverse prejudice but I never saw him talk down to anyone, ever. He was a strong character, with a great deal of charm and he communicated with the world through humour. He probably should have been a stand up comedian. If it had been more of a gentleman’s profession, perhaps he would have been. Despite having polar opposite political views to me on many things, I found him very easy to get on with because at his heart, what drove him was a genuine desire to be decent to people and to make the world better for everyone. 

He was sometimes, as he told me once, ‘a very bad man’ (although possibly not as bad as he thought he was) in that he had a sense of the absurd and a very satirical bent to his humour that meant anything he said about other people tended to be a little bit close to the bone. Often it would be because he came uncomfortably close to the truth – albeit a little exaggerated – in his summations of people. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and if he thought you were a fool, or didn’t like you, you’d know. Although you could often change his mind by standing up to him, especially if you used humour.

However, having painted him as a bit of a draconian scary dude, the side of him I saw was jovial, always smiling, quick witted, mercurial, constantly joking and brimming with joi de vivre. I liked him enormously because at the bottom of it all, he was simply a natural rebel, like my dad, and so am I.  

As a child he used to tell me stories about his misspent youth which my mother and father, and possibly Gran-Gran, my grandmother, may well have worried I’d try and replicate. In fact I really didn’t need any encouragement from Gin-Gin to get up to mischief although there are a number of stories which had me in awe as a youngster including one occasion when he talked about his time at Lancing College. Strangely, I had completely forgotten about this one until I read tale of something similar perpetrated at a WW2 RAF base.

The loos at Lancing in my grandfather’s day were somewhat primitive, they were fairly primitive in my day in parts of the school, but we’re talking properly primitive here. In Gin-Gin’s time the school was for boys only so most of the loos were constructed along the same model, urinals one side and then a series of stalls. The stalls were, essentially, one long bench seat with partitions and doors. Underneath the bench seat was a channel in which water was continuously running washing away any bombs as they were dropped, so to speak. This channel was boxed in, so you sat on a box, essentially, with water running beneath you. Gin-Gin went into the upstream cubicle, closest to the wall and locked the door. From his pocket he removed a paper boat then he waited until an opportune time when enough of the other cubicles were full. He gave everyone time to sit down, open their books, newspapers etc and then he set fire to the paper boat, dropped it through the hole in his cubicle and swiftly and silently exited. He listened to the irritated shouts and screams as the boat passed under each bottom in each cubicle on the way down. Then he ran away laughing.

Personally, I’ve always thought that public school is an excellent preparation should you be unfortunate enough to end up in prison at any point, be incarcerated in a lunatic asylum or be compelled to spend your twilight years in an old people’s home. I suspect that when, in later life, Gin-Gin did end up in an old people’s home, his behaviour may have been reminiscent of his behaviour at school.

In his twilight years, Gin-Gin was in a home for quite some time, a place called Pax Hill, just outside Lindfield. He didn’t enjoy it but I’m not sure he’d have enjoyed anywhere, to be honest. It was actually a lovely place, the care workers were intelligent, capable people and they were very good to him. Furthermore, some were blokes, which was important for Gin-Gin as he liked and needed male company. Gin-Gin was partially sighted and had a colostomy which he couldn’t sort out without being able to see. Otherwise, he was pretty much on the ball, whereas, unfortunately the other residents were mostly suffering from forms of dementia.

The home was in a house that had once belonged to a friend of Gin-Gin’s. He told me how it had been filled with very smart sculptures and how the house had been commandeered by the Canadian army during the war. They’d used the sculptures for target practice until a friend who knew some big wig in the British Army got a general to talk to their general and explain that the statues were all quite old, some from the Renaissance, and some genuinely ancient. Canadians were considered a bit rum by the locals throughout the area for some time afterwards! Anyway, there was a sitting room downstairs where we used to sit with Gin-Gin and in said sitting room was a budgrigar in a cage. The more mobile of the daft old ladies used to come and coo over it so it was clearly a source of great comfort. Some of them were rather syrupy about their interactions with said bugie and Gin-Gin found it all a bit toe curling. So he decided to do something about it. 

One day I was visiting him and as we sat there one of the little old dears came to talk to the bird. I’ve no idea what her name was but her husband was called Ambrose and had been a priest and she talked about him a lot, lauding his many holy, kindly and generally wonderful attributes. Gin-Gin found her a bit Holier Than Thou. Perhaps she was just high-minded in that way that believes laughter and humour are somewhat disrespectful, not to mention a bit of a waste of time; time that could be used in more weighty and serious pursuits. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that one comes across people like this occasionally, folks with no time for levity. I confess, I try to avoid them as much as possible and I advise you to do the same, but I’m digressing.

As well as not being blessed with much of a sense of humour the lady who had been married to Ambrose was the kind of person who would faint rather than laugh at a knob gag. Gin-Gin was the kind of person who would roar with laughter at a knob gag, Gin Gin liked to laugh full stop and by the time he got into the home his sense of humour was about all he had left. So I suspect the lady disliked his jokes and I suspect that Gin-Gin, knowing she disliked his jokes, was at pains to make more of them whenever she was around. Chalk and cheese, basically.

Some of the lady’s stories about the great goodness of her husband were, Gin-Gin felt, aimed squarely at him in a ‘you’re-a-bad-man-and-my-wonderful-Ambrose-wasn’t’ kind of way maybe he even felt there was a dash of ‘why-are-you-here-when-he’s-gone?’ It may well have been like that but, most likely, she just missed Ambrose and eased her sadness by talking about him. She might even have felt that Gin-Gin and Ambrose would have got on and wished they could have met one another. Who knew. But before long, Gin-Gin had nicknamed her, ‘Relic of the Sainted Ambrose’ Ambrose being her husband about whom she used to wax lyrical.  

One day, she came into the drawing room at the home and started to talk to the budgie while Gin-Gin and I were chatting. There was silence for a moment and then he whispered,

‘Listen to what the bird says.’

So we stopped talking, which, looking back on it, must have made Sainted Ambrose’s Mrs wonder if we were discussing her and must have only fuelled her distrust of my grandfather. She began to chat to the budgie in what, I have to hand it to Gin-Gin, was a pretty nauseating way.

‘Whose a sweet iddy-diddy ickle birdie then.’

That kind of thing.

Gin-Gin rolled his eyes at me. 

‘Gugger,’ said the Budgie. Gin-Gin’s face split into a huge grin and the gold tooth appeared.

‘What was that sweetie?’ asked the old dear.

‘Gugger,’ said the bird.

‘Awww, what are you trying to say sweetie?’ she asked.

‘Gugger,’ said the bird and then it whistled.

After a little more cooing and fussing, and with a daggers look at Gin-Gin, Ambrose’s wife and Relic left.

‘Come on,’ said Gin-Gin and he led me over to the budgie’s cage.

He didn’t have great sight so he felt around for the bars a bit and then gave them a gentle tap and whistled. The bird put his head on one side and whistled back.

‘Who’s a silly little bugger then?’ said Gin-Gin

‘Who’s a silly little gugger then?’ said the bird.

An enormous, mischievous smile spread across Gin-Gin’s face.

‘Bugger!’ he said.

‘Gugger,’ said the bird.

‘That’s right, you’ve nearly got it!’ He turned to me, ‘I’ve taught their bloody budgie to say bugger.’

Guffawing evilly, we returned to our seats.

Later I told Mum and Dad and they started giggling and told me a similar story.

Miss Watson, another lady in the home, the only one Gin-Gin got on well with, happened upon him in the drawing room, standing in front of the cage going, 

‘Bugger! Bugger! Come on! You, can say it! Bugger!’

Stifling her laughter, Miss Watson crept away before he’d noticed her and got the matron, because Miss Watson knew that matron would find the whole thing as funny as she did. Which was true. The matron then passed this on to Mum and Dad remarking that she was very glad the bird couldn’t handle the B sound and the other old ladies seemed to be too innocent to appreciate what it was actually saying. 

My parents and my brother and I reckoned it was a lucky choice of word since if he’d gone for fuck or sod it would probably have managed to repeat him verbatim – even ‘gollocks’ would have been less subtle. 

However, his efforts with the budgie did come back to haunt him eventually. He had also taught it to wolf whistle, something it did very well, and one day, as he sat in one of the comfy chairs, minding his own business, one of the prissier inmates came into the room and the budgie wolf whistled. To Gin-Gin’s horror she rounded on him and accused him of harassing her! Matron was called to intervene and in the end ruffled feathers were smoothed down but only when the budgie wolf whistled again, at a point when it couldn’t possibly have been Gin-Gin. But, poor old boy, his name was mud with the ladies after that, except Miss Watson, with whom he got on well. That said, he probably didn’t care that the ladies didn’t like him. From what I gathered they were a bit stuck up and I got the impression Miss Watson wasn’t that keen on them either. Certainly, she only seemed to chat to Gin-Gin and did her own thing a lot of the time, going for walks or arranging trips out with friends.

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You need to know the truth about the elephant in the room.

This is a dementia related post I’m afraid, but it’s also, kind of, a warning. As I’ve probably said before, but I’ll say it again, the reason I write the posts about my dad are because most of us have no idea what happens when a person gets Alzheimer’s. Usually, we hear that someone has been diagnosed, they tell people, you meet them around the place and they have memory problems but seem more-or-less OK otherwise, and then they disappear. The next thing that happens is that five years later, you learn they have died. I’ve never known what happened between that point when they stop going out into society and the point at which their death is announced.

Now, I am learning, so I am sharing, as I have done all along, because I hope it might help someone.

Dad tipped suddenly and completely into full on swearing, spitting, shouting lunacy last week. So much so that the dementia nurse who came to see him called in the emergency dementia team. We looked at removing him from the house at once, for respite, but they could only do 3 days and we thought he would merely return even more disorientated and crazy. Then we discussed whether we should have him sectioned and taken to a psychiatric ward somewhere. Mum vetoed that one and certainly, it seems to involve a lot of moving the person about which is not what we want. We were asked how long we could go on with him at home and I told them ten days at the absolute outside.

Obviously, he needs to be elsewhere, fast but he doesn’t realise where he is at home – he asks Mum frequently if he is supposed to know this place and it’s been his home since 1974 – so it’s not going to help him if he’s moved from pillar to post before he’s settled somewhere new. We are hoping we can get him somewhere where he will then either stay, or if it’s miles away, only be compelled to move homes once, when a place crops up somewhere nearer. All this is complicated by the fact that he’s only just run out of cash so the financial assessment hasn’t been done yet – that’s for Wednesday, while his care needs will be assessed on Tuesday.

On the upside, Dad has a urinary tract infection and now that is being treated he may well be a little easier to deal with – UTIs as they call them are well known for exacerbating the symptoms of dementia because they affect kidney function so you get all sorts of stuff building up in the system that shouldn’t be there. However, the fact is, the shouty thing we have seen this last week is where the disease will go next and ideally Dad needs to be out of his home environment and settled in a care home somewhere before that hits full time.

Worse, if we get no progress by the end of the ten day deadline (end of next week) I will have to have him sectioned because he is violent, in that he shoves people and throws things and this presents a considerable threat to someone fragile such as Mum.

There’s a very good bit in The Contented Dementia Sufferer, which has, kind of, been my bible in this process. It talks about how you spot when it’s time to put the person into a home. It explains how you turn your house into a nursing home for this person with dementia and then the moment comes when you look around you and think, ‘hang on, this is ridiculous!’

We have reached that point. Actually, we’ve reached the moment when all three of us have hit that point. My brother has probably been up for having Dad in a home pretty much from the get-go, I have been from about November last year but now Mum has come round to the idea too. He’s unable to express it but I think that even Dad is up for moving to a home. Much of his challenging behaviour could be put down to boredom. Dad is always perfectly manageable when we go out, he hardly swears and is polite and chatty to people. In a busy dementia wing, with lots of folks wandering about, I think Dad would actually thrive. The care team are agreed that he’s bored. So we’ve all reached the same conclusion. Dad needs to go into a home.

Next we have to make it happen as quickly and compassionately as possible for all parties concerned.

Now there are ways and means to homes. With Dad we have tried to strike up a relationship with a lovely home nearby. We were hoping to get him in there for a day’s care each week first so he ould get to know the staff and when the time came, the move would be seamless. But they don’t do local authority rates, which means we’d have to pay at least £500 a week and of course, now that Dad’s assets are gone, we don’t have £500 per week. I think this strategy would have worked if we’d had a better understanding of the benefits and care system since we’d have chosen from one of the homes that takes funded residents. It’s excellent if you are self-funded since that’s not an issue.

Obviously at the time we started it off, Dad was self-funding but also, I was unaware that Dad’s income and Mum’s income are seen as separate for this purpose and therefore, Mum’s assets are hers and now that Dad’s have gone he is eligible for funded care, regardless of whether or not Mum has any money of her own. Dad will have either Local Authority care or (if applicable) National Health Continuing care – although that is a bit of a lottery – but we will have him assessed for it, anyway.

So, big lesson for the future here, couples. Keep your capital investments and your bank accounts separate; his and hers. A joint account is fine, but you also need one each of your own. And if you are looking after a brace of parents and only one of them is ill, it’s the ill one’s cash that is being assessed here, not the well one. Plus, if the well person owns a house with the ill person, it cannot be sold to fund care while either of them is living there. In other aspects, the rules of engagement seem to differ from local authority to local authority. There are check factors for NHS continuing care and certainly Dad’s symptoms would fit those, but he has Alzheimer’s so it’s not always a given, even if, legally, it is supposed to be.

Modern medicine being what it is, Dad has lasted a very long time. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just over 5 years ago but has been experiencing cognitive and memory difficulties since 2004. By 2010 Dad was unable to read a full length novel. By 2014/15 he was unable to read at all. He has needed live-in care since 2016 – actually he needed it well before that but Mum did it all herself, refusing, point blank, to accept any but the smallest amount of help until 2016; March, to be precise, which was the point at which her health finally broke down and she ended up in hospital. We had seen it coming at Christmas and so we had been working with the local ladies who came in during the day to sit with Dad while she went out into the garden. We’d been trying to get a 24 hour rota together. We came close but couldn’t cover weekends.

Obviously, when Mum ended up in hospital, neither my brother nor I was available to sleep with my Dad for more than a week so we got live-in care then, against my mother’s wishes, initially, but she did come round eventually.

Dad is still going strong, even if his mind isn’t and I could see him being hale and hearty, if totally batty, in three, four or even five years’ time. The pace his Alzheimer’s is going, if it is the disease that kills him rather than time, nature, or something else, he has a good eight or nine years of twilight to come, minimum.  Even if he’d been a millionaire, his cash wouldn’t have lasted long enough to see him through. As it is, Dad wasn’t a millionaire, far from it, but his life-time accrued assets have amounted to three years of live-in care, with extra night cover, a fair few extra hours during the day and so on.

One of the things about self-funding is that many homes will need you to be able to guarantee residency of two years from the funds you have. Obviously if the person dies, it’s different, or if they ask you to remove the person. But it’s worth thinking about if you’re looking at a home. If you have say, three or four years’ worth of funds for care, I’d think hard about making sure you find a home that will accept local authority or NHS funded places. You and your loved one with dementia may well hope that they will die long before it gets to the point where they need the home. It’s true, they might, but you can’t bank on that. You have to plan for them being like my poor dad and having to endure every single last horrific minute of Alzheimer’s as they grind their way on to a slow, tortuous and frankly horrific end.

To that end, it’s worth finding a home that will provide respite care or do some kind of day care/club so you can get the person with dementia going there regularly and get them used to it. Either they have to agree to go into a home while they are lucid and able, and get to know the place first, or you have to make up an elaborate ruse as to why they are going. In Dad’s case, one of the carers came up with a totally inspired one that he was going to a social club where there were a lot of very bored people who needed someone to talk to. Dad is basically well-meaning and was only too happy to oblige, chatting, turning on the charm and generally being very well behaved.

Mum promised Dad that she wouldn’t put him in a home and as a result neither of them thought to pick one out one just in case. To be honest, Mum and Dad have always assumed they will die before the time when many of these tricky decisions have to be made. Now that Dad isn’t really cognitively able, Mum has done her absolute best to honour the promise she made. However, neither she, nor Dad had any clue of the horrors they were to endure. Let me elucidate.

Your Alzheimer’s suffering loved one will gradually regress. First they will lose their memory, forget things, then they will start to lose their understanding of social skills, they might swear, say inappropriate things, especially sexually inappropriate things and like small children, will ask people to marry them. As an example, some of the choice phrases I have overheard.

‘Have you ever been fucked up the cunt by a man?’ to a nine year old who countered,

‘Pops, I know what those words mean, but you really shouldn’t be saying them in front of me.’

Inappropriate sexual suggestions may be made to said nine year old.

Alternatively, your patient will shout,

‘Fucking hell you’re fat!’ at people who have come to help them.  They may spit at them, throw things and tell people to, ‘fuck off out of my house! You fucking awful fucking woman.’

On other occasions, while trying to actually be helpful, they may tip their food on the floor. They will think that scraping the leavings off their plate onto the carpet at their feet is helpful because they will have completely forgotten about the middle bit where they take the plate to the kitchen and scrape the leavings into the bin. As they realise it gets a result, they may relearn that it’s wrong but continue to do it to get a reaction.

Tiny things will cause them to completely lose their biscuits. You have no idea how bizarre it is watching an eighty six year old man throw himself to the floor and lie there kicking and screaming because he doesn’t want to get dressed, in the exact same manner as a very spoiled and unpleasant two year old having a trantarum. Except, of course, you can’t just pick up fourteen stones of eighty six year old and carry him off under one arm. It’s fucking surreal, I can tell you. You can’t reason with them the way you can reason with a two year old either, they lack the cognitive capacity.

The Alzheimer’s patent in your life will do completely odd things like decide they hate their walking frame and pick it up and throw it across the room as soon as they sit down. If it happens to hit the sufferer’s frail and elderly wife, things could get pretty grim. Thank god Dad can’t walk about, he’d probably have fucking murdered someone! But seriously, an aside on that, one woman did get attacked by her father who had forgotten who she was and thought she was a robber. He was chasing her around the house with a kitchen knife when she texted his neighbour asking for help. The neighbour came and knocked on the door. Her father stopped the chase to answer the door and explained he was looking for a burglar who was in his house. Meanwhile his daughter slipped out of the back door, climbed to safety over the garden fence and into her neighbour’s house, through the back door, which he’d left open.

Other things Dad has started doing, he chucks stuff. His chair was next to his record collection but after an afternoon where he sent the records spinning across the room at Mum and the Carer, Odd-Job style, these have been removed. He tears up and throws books. He spits at people. He clears his throat, leans forward and spits on the floor (we have Lino in our drawing room now).  He asks for tea and then tips it onto the floor. This means he can’t have his water cup near him, either. If he wants water, he will ask.

‘Will someone kindly get me a drink of water?’

Unfortunately, he has no sense of time passing so if the cup is not in his hand before the question has left his lips, sometimes before he has even finished the thought, he will believe he has been sitting, thirsty, for hours and he will ask again, more forcefully this time.

‘I said will somebody kindly get me a fucking drink of water.’

Say, heaven forefend, he has thrown his sippy cup at someone earlier, or lobbed it away at some point and it takes a little time to find, or its landed on its side and it’s empty, the Carer may well say.

‘Oh dear, it’s empty, wait a minute and I will get you some more.’

While she is walking to the kitchen, filling the cup and bringing it back, Dad will think he has spent many hours neglected, waiting for his water and will have worked himself into an apoplectic state of rage.

‘I hate you fuck off! You fucking horrible fucking woman!’ he will be shouting. ‘I want. A glass. Of fucking. Water! Is that too much to ask? Get me some fucking water you fucking horrible people. I hate you! You fucking stupid bloody woman!’ And so on.

As a Carer, you need to time your return since if he is too angry, he will spit at you and try to push you away, or throw something at you; this may include, a vase, place mat, handkerchief, glasses or even in one memorable instance, a clock.

This is absolutely standard for Alzheimer’s patients. A few escape but it’s only a tiny handful. It’s best to assume that your kindly gentle loved one will go thought the violent, paranoid shouty phase with as much energy and conviction as everyone else. And when you hear stories of Alzheimer’s affecting people like this, it is never accentuated as the norm. Nobody ever dares mention the elephant in the room and if you’re a blind knob, like me, you miss it.

Obviously, you don’t want your loved one to be at home when this phase of the disease hits especially if their spouse is still alive. Timing it is very difficult, though. Clearly, you want your person with you while you can appreciate every last tiny flickering spark of who they were and still have them happily ensconced in a home before they reach the point where they have transmogrified into a rather less amusing and a lot more dangerous version of Father Jack.

But there may be a waiting list for the home you like and the patient’s name might not have reached the top yet. Furthermore, you may well feel that you don’t want to peak too soon so a spot may come up while they are still perfectly manageable at home and then, suddenly, days after you’ve turned it down, you will wake up and find your hitherto placid – if forgetful – loved one has turned into a spitty, screaming rage ball.

If that happens, the most important thing for you to take away is, it’s not your fault or theirs, but it has happened and now that it has, something must be done, at once.

Ideally, you will have picked the home together way before that, and the patient will move in while still cognitively able to think altruistically about their loved ones. But ideal and real life are so different aren’t they? My parents did not do this. Neither of them expected years of twilight lingering, they expected to snuff it quickly, but twilight lingering is clearly their lot. If in ten year’s time I am still writing posts about Dad’s latest antics, I will not be remotely surprised. The way I feel right now, I wouldn’t turn a hair if he outlasted me. But my point is this, I think my parents had absolutely no idea what they were walking into and I think if he’d had the slightest clue what the shouty stage entailed Dad would have been a lot less intransigent about dying at home and Mum about letting him. In fact, Dad would have probably booked the home and moved in, himself.

Even so, it’s impossible to get the timing right, there will never be an instant place the moment the need arises. You will either be incarcerating your loved on a bit before they are ready or a bit after. Or the downturn will be extremely sudden and you’ll be having them sectioned.

It may be that when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s there is all sorts of support that helps walk them through these decisions, helps them and their family to prepare for the point when the person becomes mute and the only thing that speaks is the disease. Because however distressing and horrible it is, you need to see that, need to be aware that it lies ahead for everyone.

But although Dad was diagnosed in 2012, nobody actually bothered to tell Mum or him until 2017. By that time, his memory capacity had fallen from 80% to 40% and my brother was already pressing for Mum to put him in a home – my brother’s wife was a care worker for a time so maybe they knew more about the screaming, spitty anger ball phase looming ahead of us than we did. I mean, we all knew Dad would go nuts but there’s nuts and … NUTS.

Even so, it was only in 2018 that Dad’s personality began to really change. Suddenly, he became a little more child like, a bit spoiled, had to be the centre of everything but even that was bearable, although I started thinking about respite care for him and because I didn’t have the right knowledge about how Dad’s care would be funded I was nervously husbanding our resources, knowing that there was only a year and a half of care left when we went over to Mum’s assets, or about six months if Mum was at home with carers and Dad was in a home. As it is, Mum’s funds will see her for about three years if it’s just her care (much less required than for the two of them) or if Dad is funded.

People talk to you about ‘nursing care’ and you don’t really know what it means, you think it’s continence or ability to walk and dress, or maybe waking up in the night a lot and not knowing what time it is. Nobody points out that what ‘nursing care’ is really for is that bit between the not-being-able-to-remember-things stage, and living-corpse-open-mouthed-gaping, end-game. Neither does anyone point out that during that bit, your relative with dementia is going to go completely, fucking bat-shit crazy.

I’m talking about The fucking Shining.

That’s why I’m telling you now.

Because you need to be prepared.

You will not find your loved one in crazy.

There’s no reasoning with crazy.

There’s no living with crazy.

By all means try and keep your loved one at home for as long as is humanly possible, but don’t be fooled by the vaguaries and pussy footling about from people who are too British and awkward to tell you the truth.

When someone says that your relative with dementia is going to need nursing care and need to go in a home, what they are telling you is that your loved one is highly likely to go absolutely, completely, fucking off their rocker. So much so that, if you’re at home at the time, they might kill you.

If you’ve followed my posts about dementia,  you’ll know that I have learned this via a somewhat circuitous route. Now, I’m telling you, so you don’t have to.

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