Tag Archives: dementia

An incredibly witty title that will entice visitors to my site

So here we are at that time of the week when it’s blog time again. This week I have been out and about a bit but suddenly, on Thursday morning, to my delight and joy, I woke up with a brain. Hello Mary! Welcome back.

Net result I am now close to 3k up on three different projects. Yes I was able to do that real Grown Up Professional Author thing of working on a project for an hour or so until I’d had enough and then going onto another one … three times. Ooo. There are few things better for the all round well-being than when I manage to get some writing done.

Other exciting things, I put the addresses of everyone who’d done the question for Too Good To Be True into the randomiser and contacted the winner. She was delighted, which is always gratifying, and when I gave her a choice of the ritzy Hamgeean Misfit Cup or one of the new Humbertisms set. She said surprise me, so I surprised her with a wipe my conkers mug. To my delight she’s really chuffed. Woot.

This was also the week when I discovered that Zazzle do a teapot. Um … yeh. So naturally we now have this …

For more details about that, just click this link https://www.zazzle.co.uk/im_a_little-180930934370375055.

Naturally, because Zazzle puts the name of everything on the listing I’ve just called it I’m a little … and Zazzle has added, ‘teapot’ which, of course, I find completely hilarious because I’m incredibly mature.

Hear’s some audio news …

Oh ho ho. Did you see what I did there? Yes, other joyous news this week, Gareth is recording Too Good To Be True.

Excuse me while I laugh with manic glee.

Mwahahahahahahrgh! Mah hwahahahahahaahrgh! Mwahahaahrgh!

Thank you.

There is something amazing about listening to someone else bringing the words I have written to life. It’s always a joy, but the more stories I read in forums about audio where people have picked the wrong narrator and aren’t getting on, or the narrator is refusing to do any changes, or the author is being a prig to the narrator, the more I thank my lucky stars. Gareth is a consummate professional but at the same time, not in a scary overly formal manner. He just does stuff when he says he will and if he can’t he tells you why and gives you a revised estimate of when he’ll do it. And he’s decent cove and amusing, and of course, he’s polite enough to laugh at my jokes which always helps.

As we speak, we are up to Chapter 16, the denouement of which caused me to laugh rather suddenly and spray my keyboard with coffee. Oops.

One of the best bits of the process is how each book seems to improve on the last. I don’t think it’s my imagination. I suppose recording audio could be like writing in that you’re always, kind of, in the learning phase and improving but I guess we never notice our own journeys in these things so it’s quite an eye opener to see someone else’s close up. Obviously, I’d expect him to be tinkering with his production efficiency to get the maximum out of his time; you know, the way he works or sends the chapters over, when he does the alts (as they come, or at the end) whether he stands up or sits down to record and stuff like that. And he has. But he’s also found a way to fine-tune the acting, which is a bit of an eye-opener because, frankly, I didn’t think that could be any better than it already was.

OK, so it might just be that he’s more confident with the tech and the process, meaning that his performance is more relaxed, but it seems that Gareth is not content with a product that is merely top-drawer and that his ultimate aim is to get beyond, that, to the top of the whole unit, where his work will sit, resplendent, with the mirror and the hair brushes. What he has done of Too Good To Be True so far is golden, I’m so chuffed with it. From my own point of view, I do think it’s the best thing I’ve written but Gareth is certainly doing it justice. I cannot wait until it comes out and those of you that do audio can have a listen to what he’s done with it. Sometimes you can hear the smile in his voice when he’s reading the bits he finds funny which gives the whole thing an unexpected intimacy and warmth which is great.

Other things, still on audiobooks … when I proof them, I usually listen to the chapters a couple of times, first just to get a feel for the voices, the flow and the narration generally and to get into it I suppose. Then I listen with a fine tooth comb to try and winkle out any misreadings or mistakes. Although Gareth hardly ever makes any, and if there are, more often than not it’s differences in pronunciation. Yes, I obsess over my books as badly when someone else is reading the bloody things as when I write them. Never mind that’s all part of being an author, or at least, part of being this one. This Wednesday, I had some new chapters, so that was a woot as I got to listen to them in the car on the way down to Mum’s.

When I arrived, Mum was in cracking form. I always play it by ear when I visit her. Sometimes, when I turn up she doesn’t really clock it so well but stays in the drawing room with the telly on. Those days, often, she will be too tired to do a whole visit and come lunchtime her words are slury and she’s nodding off. When that happens I pop in and say hello and then do an hour’s detecting and come back in just before 12.00. Other times, she comes out to greet me while I’m still faffing about getting my stuff from the car. If she does this it’s always a good day and so I don’t do any metal detecting. I know she’ll go the distance so I chat to her instead.

Another technique is to bring some gardening homework. She has an arthritic knee which gives way on her so she falls a lot. It’s no fun but it’s also dented her confidence a bit so she isn’t comfortable going out to the greenhouse on her own – we’re not comfortable letting her either. She loves pottering in there, though, she has a perching stool so she can sit and tend to her plants and it’s warm so there’s not the worry that she’ll get cold. Usually the gardening team help her but both the main ones have cancer at the moment and aren’t able to come. The third is keeping the lawns as short as he can and he and the carers are also watering the pots round the outside of the house, the greenhouse and the raised veg beds near the house. There’s another veg garden which we’ve let go this year because watering them takes a while and it’s not really fair to ask the care team to do that or the single garden team member – who is only doing it in his spare time anyway.

One of the pheasants at Mum’s there are two.

I’ve volunteered to grow extra plants so I can bring a few bits and bobs down to Mum’s, tomatoes, four or five broccoli plants, some cut-and-come-again salad maybe, courgettes, cucumbers and some climbing French beans. All those can be planted in the raised beds and watered easily by the carers. If it gets warm enough I can also get Mum out to the raised beds and she can help me sew carrots and lettuces … although we may need more netting as we’ll have the pheasants to contend with.

A few weeks ago, I took a tray of broccoli plants down there and told Mum that her homework was to plant them into pots. I got a big tray and some pots from the greenhouse which I filled with compost and she planted them all. Then I took four home and left five for her. Mum definitely has green fingers. Those four broccoli plants are happier and healthier than anything I’ve potted on so far. That was a huge success so last week I took down some tomato plants – although sadly I hadn’t any homework she could do other than looking after them – but she insisted they be put in the drawing room where she could keep a proper eye on them. This week I’m going to bring a seed tray and some climbing French bean seeds. Mine aren’t growing at all and the ones that have come up are unbelievably weak and feeble so I thought we could see if she has a bit more success.

We set up a big soaking tray on a table with a waterproof cloth at the end of the drawing room for the tomato plants so I can sit her up there and we can plant beans this week. It’s been great doing this because I know she enjoys it and I think it makes her a lot more chirpy. She loves a bit of gardening. It’s probably not quite the done thing but I reckon that if she can’t get to the garden, it will do no harm to bring the garden to her … it’s a pity it’s an antique table but unfortunately all the second-hand, junk room furniture Mum and Dad bought when they got married is now antique. Oops.

Anyway, last week, as I arranged the tomatoes in the tray on the table she was chatting away and she mentioned that she loved my books and asked if I’d written any more. She also admitted that she can’t follow them but thought it might be easier in audio. Could I set it up so she could listen? To be honest, I don’t think she could cope with MP3 files when I’m not there, although I might add them to the tablet I got her to do Zoom church on. But setting that aside, I can play her the odd extract when I go and see her. I told her that I had some with me if she wanted to listen now.

She seemed genuinely delighted at the idea so I played her the chapter from Too Good To Be True with Goldy McSpim – another one where Gareth has excelled himself – and she loved it and wanted to listen to some more. So then I played her the chapter which follows on, with a bunch of surly Grongles doing a house-to-house search while The Pan of Hamgee hides from them and she loved that too.

Her verdict was, ‘Well, darling! That’s as good as anything you’d hear on Radio Four.’ Which is what she usually says, but it was lovely because she was able to follow it and enjoy it. And because for the moment, she knows I’m an author again and that she loved the books I wrote and read them all. So all in all a happy week.

Right. Now I have to go and paint a wall. Two walls actually. A bientot.

One … two free …

Three things … first one free, if you haven’t read any of the K’Barthan Extras series about The Pan of Hamgee’s adventures working for Big Merv the first one, Small Beginnings, is free everywhere except Amazon. Feel free to click the report a lower price button there and ping them a link to Kobo or wherever if you want to. I have been meaning to get them to price match but as I explained last week … On the upside if you enter the code 3SB at check out you can download it free from my site. If you’re on for that you can find links to all retailers here.

Second thing; and second freebie. If you haven’t already done so and you want to hear the first ever audiobook that Gareth narrated for me. Actually, I think it was the first one he ever narrated for anyone that he was prepared to share publicly. He did a great job, as ever. Anyway, if you want to hear it, you can download it for free from my author’s direct account and also from Apple Books and Kobo for the rest of the month. Links to that can be found here.

Third thing. This is the last reminder that, if you haven’t done the K’Barthan invective quiz, now is the time. At the moment we have two out-and-out leaders but the rest is absolutely touch and go. Vote for your favourite! Or add one I’ve forgotten. You can find that here.

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Another fine mess I’ve got me into …

Although also … possibly … out of.

Too Much Information Alert …

OK, this post is, officially, going to begin with Too Much Information. I’m going go talk about one of the last taboos, my monthly cycle.

As a lady of a certain age, who is fitted with an … er hem … coil … I have been spared the joy – a word I use with extreme irony – of periods for the last ten years. Gone are the days when, were I to get appendicitis at the wrong moment, I would simply fail to notice and die. I have had both (although I still have an appendix) and on the pain-o-meter the monthly cramps won hands down.

However, despite this, I still have a, you know, cycle. There are days when I am completely sapped of all creativity and depending if it’s a long or short cycle the creative down times last from between forty eight hours to two weeks. I call this the meh time.

When Meh strikes (let’s give it a capital M) the trick is just not to try too hard until it’s gone. I can do artistic creative so long as there’s zero pressure on myself to succeed. So I can draw or twiddle with things in photoshop so long as I don’t take it too seriously. With writing, I can sometimes do stuff long hand but basically, I have to accept, at that point, that my muse has gone on a bender. I’m never sure if it’s on holiday, relaxing on a beach somewhere or if it’s lying in a dark back alley somewhere, out cold, in a pool of its own sick, empty vodka bottle still clutched in one limp hand. If I give it the time to have a bath and several black coffees it might produce something intelligible but on the whole, at moments like this it’s best left to sleep it off. I let it be and get on with other things. To do so is quiching out in many respects. But I’m not really talking about failing to turn up to the chair and write, this is more about sidestepping burnout.

An interesting aspect of this is that I hadn’t thought to count non fiction in the writing I do. Because despite the muse having fucked off on a bender, I have written quite a lot of things this week and historically, have written a fair bit of stuff in these phases. The bit that’s in trouble is the bit that makes up an intelligible plot then, it would seem. It may be that it’s not all Meh, or at least, not all Monthly Meh. I’ve found it really hard to get back into the saddle with the Sussex run and the whole looking after Mum thing and, as discussed last week (or was it the week before?) we have reached the stage where there is no point in denying our arses off any more. We have to accept that her memory is not what it was or, to be honest, I could probably just leave that statement at simply, her memory is not. It is slightly as if the whole looking after Dad thing has left me too exhausted to carry on. Whenever that thought occurs to me, I just have to accept that it’s probably true, file it in the can’t-be-fixed section and then ignore it and hope it goes away. Think of me as the owner of a 1960s car with a snapped fan belt, looping an old pair of tights round the alternator so it will generate enough juice to get me home. All that increased care and concern does tend to drop an anvil on the fiction-creation centre of my brain.

Usually from a great height.

Possibly even from the stratosphere.

Ideally, what I’d be doing right now is starting some K’Barthan Extras. But what I want to write is the big sweeping epic that will take years to finish and won’t sell (not that any of my books sell) – the Betsy’s Bordello origins story – and of course Space Dustmen. Neither of these will be finished by September which is, ideally, the point at which I ought to be publishing my next book. That said I could give Space Dustmen a go as I think that’s going to be less complicated and easier to split into adventures but in my world of highly-polished, unmarketable literary turds it’s the K’Barthan stuff that sells.

That said there wasn’t anything doing this week so I decided to do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t got round to. This includes the thing for my will which I still haven’t done but hope to have finished today. Fingers crossed. It also included having a go at some of the settings on my metal detector and finally sending Gareth his share of the royalties for this quarter. Note to self: do the royalties quarterly from now on, it makes it look as if there are more of them. Mwahahaaaahrgh! Self-deception is my friend.

Chatting to Gareth via whatsapp this week, he was talking about his singing lessons and how he is trying to alter some of the physical aspects about the way he sings so it’s more natural – and is therefore more effective – I think that’s the gist. He was worried about sounding ‘wanky’ snortle – one of my own favourite descriptors, that one – so he didn’t go into too much detail.

However, it did strike me that talking to Gareth about these things is very like conversations I’ve had with an ex triathlete friend, who now mostly rides a bike. Both are extremely talented, but a big part of it, I suspect, is that they are also very aware of absolutely everything that they can do to maximise that talent. They have learned every shortcut that will speed their progress from bleargh to perfection. Actually neither of them is starting from bleargh, they start from exceptional and kind of go on from there but you get the picture. I love that artists and sports people are as insanely geeky about their various theatres of operation as any scientist – although Triathlon Man is a scientist so perhaps the geekery is slightly less unexpected in his case. But I’m drifting from the point which is that this intensity, to me, is what separates the men from the boys and, probably, me from the professionals. I have those short cuts but … I dunno … I still seem to get nowhere. I spent the last three years doing a ground-up rebuild on how I produce and think about the books I write. Maybe it hasn’t worked so well, or maybe it’s just that the background stress levels are going up again so, once more, I’m having to fight harder. I’m at a bit of a loss. Again, I’ve reached a stage with my writing where I should accept that I’m not in a situation where I can have a career of my own. I should stop and give up but I just … can’t. On the other hand, I’ve just read an article by Robert Webb during which he stated that having said he wanted to be a novelist he has realised, after staring at a blank screen for the last twelve months, that he might need to give himself some other options. Ah Robert, Robert … I feel your pain. Welcome to the writing pleasure dome.

For whatever reason, writing, for me, seems to take a huge amount of emotional energy, and after years and years of grinding, spirit-sapping stress with Dad and now Mum, a whole decade plus of playing to everything I’m shit at in life and existence – thanks a fucking bunch there, God – I just don’t seem to have that energy any more, or at least, only in very small amounts. I am so, so much closer to burn-out over that than I was with Dad, because I’ve already done ten years of worry – including five of the kind of high intensity stuff I expected to have to maintain for three or four years at the outside. Right now, after a brief dip, I’m looking at another five or ten years of the same thing again. It is not … yeh. Let’s just leave it at … it is not. But having time off in lockdown, while handy at the time, might not have helped to be honest. Not at all. It just gave me a glimpse of what could be, but which I’m beginning to think never will be. There will always be someone with dementia I need to look after, until I reach the point where it’s me. I am really, really struggling to get back into it all. At the start, I remember thinking I probably had the stamina for three years or so, five at the outside. I guess the basic gist is, I was right. But there is no option for the battery to run flat. No way out. No end in sight. Just more and more and more admin, my mother’s, my son’s, my own – blimey but I’m a miserable bastard today aren’t I?! I just have to get better at pretending it’s not happening and carry on. Tights round the mental fan belt. I can do it. I might need a bit more CBT. I’ll look into some options.

Additional Meh factors might be the fact that it’s April, a month during which I traditionally sell fuck all books but I’ve had the worst month for book sales for five years. I’ve up to earn 40 dollars this month. All on Amazon. Usually I earn over a hundred. The fact that I can no longer construct a Facebook ad of any description that gets out of the learning phase isn’t helping either. The frustrating thing with those is that I had an ad that was working well, inadvertently edited something and had to reload it and now it can’t get out of the learning phase. That said. People are signing up it seems so maybe I should just leave it. My Facebook ads always go tits up around Christmas, Halloween and American Elections. But there’s nothing worse than spaffing a load of money up the wall for zero return in a field of operations at which you used to excel. I don’t understand it. If I narrow it down it says my audience is too small to have any hits, but it’s saying my audience is to small to achieve any hits if I choose people in NZ and AU who like Terry Pratchett and Books. According to the numbers, when it bothers to say something other than that my audience is to small, that’s well over a million people. At the same time, I’m getting three sign ups a day for my two bucks so I dunno, go figure.

Out of the Meh came forth Merch …

Back to the point. Meh. I decided that if writing was difficult I’d do something book related that didn’t feel like pulling teeth but needed to be done. So it was that out of the Meh came forth Merch. I spent Tuesday and a lot of Thursday making products which featured Humbert the Parrot quotes. I also did a couple of K’Barthan swearing things. So far I’ve done a couple of badges – oh and one sticker! Mwahahahrgh. Despite feeling a bit Meh, I observed that I was still able to do stupid product descriptions. Well, they made me laugh anyway. Then again, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are funny. Still after anticipating a rather flat couple of days, I had a remarkably amusing time with myself. Mum was on good form too, on the Wednesday, which always helps and we went to the beach yesterday for a walk and it was beautiful light with bright sun.

I think these Meh periods are probably part of life for every creative. OK some folks seem to be able to produce hundreds of books and I salute them. I could do that if literary creativity was like painting. I can paint like ringing a bell just … not as well as I can write. The fact is though, I seem to be so adversely affected by every little thing that sometimes, I’m surprised I produce anything at all. What I do manage is the result of hours of analysis and effort into the how and why of my ability to create so I can squeeze the maximum juice out of each tiny drop. I suppose if you want to be good at something that’s what you do. Maximise it. But … I dunno … it’s as if I have a few drips of potent creativity and I have to make it cover each book. While everywhere I look other writers seem to be just vomiting out books. Really good books too. Burp! Oooh there’s another one. I am probably looking at the wrong people and in the wrong places.

Talking of books, Gareth is hoping to start work on Too Good To Be True soon, singing-related shenanigans permitting. Which made me think of something else and that is, how intensely physical the performing arts are. I remember reading somewhere how people who are in a production full time often have to do an extensive range of weird and arcane physio exercises to keep all sorts of obscure body parts in trim. It’s amazing how much of something that seems large cerebral is, in fact, physical when it comes to doing stuff with your voice or an instrument. I do remember talking about this kind of stuff with my violin teacher when I was small and good at it. Body posture and stance are a huge part of it because you’re not just playing the instrument, you’re part of it because the sound is resonating through you. And that’s why the way you stand or breathe can make a huge difference.

That got me thinking more about writing. There seem to be three important factors that can fuck mine up. The first is pressure. Can I make up stories under pressure? No. This is probably why I am struggling writing more K’Barthan extras. There is pressure to finish them whereas there is not any pressure to finish the other projects which are ticking along nicely. Well … not really. So I have this strange dichotomy where I can write an 85k novel in about six weeks but only if a) that’s not what I’m actually trying to do, b) other stress is reduced and c) the six weeks are spread out over the course of about a year. It’s like learning to fly Adams style. Except instead of throwing myself at the ground, getting distracted before I land and missing, I have to throw myself into writing the next book, forget why I’m writing it and just … enjoy my K’Barthan holiday.

Getting the first set up started is the difficult bit. Once that’s there, if it’s a simple story with a main character and not much else, it will get from beginning to end reasonably fast.

Second thing … admin. If I have something looming, like a tax return or, in this case, some bits and bobs for my will, I feel pathologically compelled to do it before I write. But when I come to do it, because I want to write, I get bored and my mind wanders and I stare at my computer and get distracted and before I know it a day has gone by of me staring at the screen doing … I dunno what. The way round that one is to do a short burst of writing before I start the admin. Then at east I’ve done a bit of what I’m supposed to.

Third thing, hormones. There is the one week in every four where I’m never going to write anything. This is the time I use for editing or to drop writing and have a pop at other stuff; newsletters, writing ads, booking promos. Downloading the graphics and sorting all the links I have to share … that kind of stuff.

Fourth thing, I need to take the right measures. If that means giving up on it for a day or two and doing other things so be it. Yesterday we went to the beach for a day. We spent an amusing hour having lunch in a pub garden and the conversation included inventing euphemisms for going to the loo. Starting with the well known ‘I must go siphon the python’ we built on the theme and finally ended up with McMini calling it, ‘I just have to go and deal with some yard trimmings,’ while I preferred, ‘I just have to go and fly-tip a sofa’. Yeh, I know but we thought it was funny. McOther just sat there with a contented, these-are-my-children kind of smile on his face.

picture of the sea
I must go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky. I left my socks there yesterday. I wonder … continued on page 94/…

Thing is though – going back to my ongoing fight with my muse – for most of 2020, pandemic aside, I was in post op recovery or a great deal less stressed. I couldn’t do the Sussex run for a lot of it and in many ways, Mum’s well-being was out of my hands – or at least, I didn’t feel as painfully responsible for it and I was able to let so much stuff go. It was awesome. I didn’t need to take measures, or follow any of the protocols I usually have to follow to write. I ate exactly what I’m eating now, but I lost weight instead of putting it on. There was no need to keep a daily word count and do the ten minutes a day thing. Now there is. Now, I’m back to the place I was in 2018. I need to pull every trick in the book to keep the tiniest trickle running from the creative well. I need to keep it alive because if I don’t the other stuff is going to get a bit overwhelming and if I get overwhelmed, I’ll be no good to anyone. I need another holiday – already – and since I can’t have a real one, I have to pretend. And if there is any talent in me, it seems that I have to support it with a lot of painfully convoluted mental gymnastics. It’s a a gargantuan ball ache but it is what it is. I just have to accept it and get on with it. I guess part of it is simply that I’ve reached a perfect storm where everything writing related is going dismally badly at once. I just need to grit my teeth and push on through. And do those bloody lists for my will. Ugh.


On a lighter note … K’Barthan invective poll results! Phark.

As discussed here, last week … K’Barthan products. Mmm. Last week I asked if you’d like to vote on your favourite Humbert phrases. Many did.

Congratulations.

As you may have gathered from my previous wittering, I took the recommendations and ran with them, well, OK, it was more of a case of, I shambled crazily for a few metres, went purple in the face and had to sit down for a minute or two … but it’s a start!

The runaway winners, if that’s the right word, were ‘Wipe my conkers!’ and ‘Bite my winkey!’ but there were many more, here are the top six:

  • Wipe my conkers!
  • Bite my winkey!
  • Windy trussocks!
  • Jiggle my tumpkin but don’t touch my drink!

Extremely close behind ‘windy’ and ‘jiggle’ were:

  • Arse!
  • Shroud my futtocks!
  • Bombs away!
  • Gits in a bag!

After talking to Gareth, I realised that I’d completely forgotten to offer ‘Futtocks away!’ as an option which is, apparently, his particular favourite, and one of mine, too. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all. If you’d like to see the resulting merchandise you can find it here:

This week, K’Barthan swearing is under the spotlight. So if you wish to vote for your favourite piece of K’Barthan invective, you can go right ahead and do that too. The ‘voting’ form is at the end of this link. Enjoy.

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Ouch …

Well it’s that time of the week to write a blog and as I sit here, tapping at my keyboard, I see from my BBC Newsfeed that the Duke of Edinburgh has died. It kind of reflects my mood. I sat down, determined to share a couple of stories about him, which reflect a warm, kindly fellow with a sense of humour. Except really what I need to write about today is Mum. Since one of the stories about the Duke is an encounter with Mum I guess it kind of ties in then. This should probably come with a trigger warning. If you do not want to read me whinging about dementia cut this one and wait until next week.

Random picturesque illustration for M T McGuire's blog, in this case Arras Grand Place.
Random picturesque illustration because I’m all out of – shrugs – y’know … pictures.

Right, those of you who are left, on we go.

We’ve had a bit of a time of it with Mum yesterday. First one of the loos at her house has broken and needs fixed. It does need fixed too because it’s the one the guests and the carer’s use. Well, it was put in 48 years ago so it doesn’t owe us anything. It needs a new siphon but odds are, we are better off buying a new loo. As sis in-law said, ‘it’s a rubbish flusher’ and she’s spot on. We could have limped on with it, but now it’s actually bust, I think it has to go. That evening, the night carer turned up to discover Mum sitting downstairs in the kitchen having breakfast. She thought it was morning.

Pretty much anyone who has a relative with dementia will recognise this. I think most of us reach this point in the journey when there is absolutely unequivocal, incontrovertible proof that the person with dementia really has dementia and that it’s getting worse, a lot worse. Not better. That’s so hard.

The thing about dementia is there is no way back, no getting better, no relief, no recourse. Nothing but deterioration and death. I try really hard, but it’s difficult to see that any which way but grim. The only thing you can do for a person with dementia is try to ensure that their days are filled with kindness and sympathy, that the moments they live in are happy and that this will amount to a feeling of overall wellbeing, even if they don’t remember why or where it comes from. Oh and that they experience the least fear possible. There is nothing else to be done. There’s a honeymoon period from the first signs to this point, where you are all denying your arses off and telling each other that it’s just old age and that a gentle peaceful death will intervene way before madness does.

Thing is. It won’t.

And when you hit the point when you realise that, odds are, there’s going to be no mercy. That’s when it’s really, really hard to stay … well … chipper. Truth be told, I do far more snivelling at this point than later on.

But you have this horrible dichotomy when you want the person to carry on living, no matter how ill they are, because you love them and you don’t want them to go. But at the same time, you know they can’t and that if they do, the person with you won’t necessarily be the one with whom you are familiar. So far, Mum is still, mostly, Mum. We are lucky in that.

Mum goes to bed very early. This is partly because if someone helps her to bed at six and she sits and watches telly in bed all evening there is less risk of her falling. She is self aware enough, in her good moments, not only to have mentioned falls but explained that avoiding this risk is a big part of her original decision to get to bed earlier. Later she was always a bit more wobbly, especially if she’d had a sleep in the chair. Now, even more so, it’s a case of doing it while she has someone to help with the buttons and to remind her what she’s doing. It’s also partly because as she becomes less mobile, she is far more worried about lighting the fire in case a log falls out and she can’t get to it or isn’t strong enough to wield the fire tongs and put it back. It’s cold downstairs without the fire and a lot warmer upstairs. Another reason to get to bed early. She is also smart enough to know the extent of her disability and realises that if a log fell out and the hearth rug caught fire, she might not be able to remember how to use the phone if she became flustered or panicked. The third thing is that she often nods off in the afternoon and she didn’t like it if she nodded off and woke up, confused and disorientated, downstairs. She found it easier to combobulate, so to speak (or is that re-combobulate?) if she was already in bed. Hence she started going to bed earlier, straight after she’d eaten her tea at half five, sixish. That way if she did wake up she was already in bed, which reduced the WTF factor when she woke up.

A couple of months ago she rang me at about half past five in the evening asking for help. She’d got herself into a right old muddle, she told me, and she didn’t know what time it was or what she was supposed to be doing. It was easy to tell that she was afraid and it was horrible. I reassured her and explained that it was about time she got herself her supper – which the carers usually leave out for her.

‘What do I do after that?’ she asked me.

‘Ah well, then, usually, you draw the curtains and go upstairs to bed where it’s nice and warm and toasty. You sit in your bed, in your room and watch telly and doze for the evening.’

‘Oh, I see, I’ll do that then.’

‘Good plan. Do you want me to stay on the line and guide you through it all.’

‘No darling, I’ll be alright. Just remind me though, curtains first then supper and bed?’

‘Yes and don’t forget to put your eye drops in.’

After that one, we upped the care so the carers now pop in at half five or six-ish and give her supper, have a chat, help her get undressed and help her to bed.

We’ve had a couple of dodgy episodes since, usually when she knows she’s got something on and insists on getting up and getting dressed if she wakes up at four am to go to the loo, so she can be ready in time. Then there was the moving to higher ground because the news on the telly about Covid was bad and her worry that I’d been trying to persuade her she hadn’t been living in the house very long – that was the other way round. She was saying she moved there in 1986 and I was trying to explain she had lived there over the holidays from 1974.

This one though. Waking up and thinking it’s morning, I’d guess that nearly everyone looking after a dementia sufferer has experienced this. It’s an unmistakeable marker, if we didn’t know it already, that Mum is leaving us. It’s more than an imagined shape in the mist this time, it’s clearly delineated shadow.

We’ve done this with Dad and do you know, I thought it would be easier. Why on God’s green earth did I think that? It’s just as shit. Except that actually, it’s worse, because it makes me miss Dad. I miss Dad with all my heart because THERE’S NO SANE ONE. There’s nobody Bruv and I can talk to who can reassure us we are doing the right thing. It feels as if it’s all guesswork. But worse than that; the most horrible thing of all, is that even though she’s still here, I miss Mum. The time I spend with her is very precious because she’s still there when I’m with her and when we live in the moment. But just as Dad got to the point when he couldn’t really talk so well phone any more, so Mum is beginning to have days when, if I give her a call, I know we aren’t going to have much of a chat. Those are the days when I’ll ask how she is and have a few brief words and then sign off. Kind of a relief if I’m strapped for time, but sad in other ways. And hard now because it’s one of the few things I can do for her and it was something she really enjoyed. But I also miss being able to ask her for advice, because she could do advice and she liked being asked and being able to help. It made her feel useful. Incidentally, that’s a really, really good thing to do in the early stages. Ask them advice. Ask them lots of it. It helps them think as well, which is also good.

This is the hardest bit really. I’m not very good at it. I thought that if we got to this point with Mum I might cry less, but I don’t. I’m not hardened to it at all. It still hurts like a bastard and if I’m going to look after her properly I have to let it, which is a bit of a pisser. The thing is, it’s light and shade, the shadows are there and we can all see them clearly now. Hence the tears. But there is also light and I just have to concentrate on the good days. And possibly up the care a little or have the night ladies come a little earlier. And exorcise it … elsewhere. Doubtless I’m going to be giving The poor old Pan of Hamgee a completely shit time in the next Extra. Either that or the series about Ada, Gladys and Their Trev at the Parrot and Screwdriver is going to get very dark.

Never mind, I have a fun quiz for you to do in a minute and since I’m here I may as well share those stories about the Duke of Edinburgh as well.

Duke of Edinburgh Stories.

The Duke of Edinburgh is controversial in many respects, I know but as someone with an inate and similarly powerful ability to cause unwitting offence he was a man with whom I could empathise. There are folks saying they are glad the Duke has died. The way others see it, the Duke of Edinburgh was the product of a generation which had seen the world very differently and whose intentions were clearly good since, while he might have seemed old-fashioned and insensitive, he had done good things, like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. I remember Dad going to the Palace with one of the boys in the house who’d got a gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. I think the Duke presented the gold awards personally until very recently. He did good stuff and the Duke of Edinburgh Award is both class and colour blind, exactly the way it should be. There’s a good article about it here. So his legacy there is not the way some people, and here-say, paint him.

Already, I know of a couple of people who’ve had a spat over this. Person A believes HRH to be a racist and stated that if Person B didn’t believe the same thing then they were a racist too. Person B said they felt that was a rather black and white interpretation. Especially in light of the fact that all they were saying was that they felt it was not compassionate or humane behaviour to be glad at someone’s death. Person A told Person B that they needn’t bother staying in touch. Person B’s other friends are now taking the mickey out of them for being a racist. Apparently there’s an awful lot of quoting Father Ted.

‘So father, I hear you’re a racist now!’ (best delivered in the voice of Mrs Doyle).

It would be hard to find a more laid back, less judgemental person than Person B, who takes everyone as they come but it does herald the kinds of comments I’m going to get from those who are a little more intransigent about their views than I am for trying to be even-handed here.

Note spud in hand …

Going back to the Duke of Edinburgh. Whatever his faults, he appeared to me, as an outsider, to be a reasonably intelligent man, with an enquiring mind who was interested in many things and, for the most part, wished to do good. He also had a sense of humour, which is a hugely underrated attribute. It’s surprising how many people, if you ask them, have a Duke of Edinburgh story. Well, it was a long old life he lived, and he did get around but that is the point. He tried to promote and help a lot of people and took an interest in many things. Hence I have a picture of Mr Potato, McMini’s godfather, seen here waxing lyrical to HRH at some agronomy do about … well, yes, potatoes. And believe me, this is a man who can wax extremely lyrical about potatoes to the point where HRH may well have been late for his next appointment.

I also look at the Duke through the lens of someone who knows that, as people age, they lose a lot of filters, or unthinkingly say things that would not have turned a hair when they were younger but now do, especially when those things are taken out of context. But I also notice that we, as people, are becoming more literal. I suppose it’s because everything is written down on the internet these days so there is no non-verbal aspect to so much of our communication. But I remember people taking the piss out of me about my looks and not being bothered at all because I understood the spirit in which the remarks were made, while other folks could say the same things in a slightly different way and I’d be extremely angry. I do understand that you can’t say a lot of stuff because even benignly meant, it could be taken out of context and will always be read as nasty rather than cheeky should that happen. But in many ways this loss of judgement and appreciation that there is a middle ground between the black and the white is unlikely to better things or make us happy. Anyway, here are the stories.

Story number one. Back in medieval times, when I was at school, a friend’s mum was big in to scurry racing. This is micro ponies with equally micro light weight traps raced round a course of twists and turns, hills, slaloms etc. Her mum was at some big event, probably the Surrey county show or the like and doing rather well, except there was one point on the course where she kept muddling her left from her right and almost going the wrong way. Friend’s dad was trying to think of ways that Friend’s Mum could remember which her left and right hand were – I so identify with this because I’m absolutely clueless at telling my left from my right. Anyway they were waiting to do their run and still talking about this with the ‘solutions’ suggested by Friend’s dad getting sillier and sillier as he tried to calm her nerves. While they were talking a Random Fellow nearby, overheard them and chuckling, he said.

‘Maybe you should try tying a red ribbon round your right wrist.’

Quick as a flash friend’s dad retorted wryly, ‘Why? Do you do that to your wife?’

There was an almighty guffaw and that’s when friend’s mum and dad clocked that Random Fellow was the Duke of Edinburgh.

Other quick one. Mum was a debutant and as such you get presented at court. I asked her what the hell happened and I wrote it down somewhere but needless to say, I can’t remember where. Basically there’d be a few days of it when hundreds of young ladies gathered in groups in the White Drawing Room, I think it was, at Buckingham Palace, to be herded through into an adjoining state room and PRESENTED AT COURT. No judges or juries involved. You were put into groups and then you were called forward, one-by-one and introduced to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh who were seated at one end. Your name was announced and you walked up to them, your name was given, you curtseyed and I think the occasional pleasantry was exchanged after which you went off and the next person came in. Mum had the same knee disease as I did and had surgery aged seventeen. I think she walked with a stick until she was about twenty five although, I suspect, not for this. I remember, as a wee nipper, that every time we knelt down at the altar in church, at communion, Mum’s knees would crack. It was always the same noise, and always quite loud. I could hear my mother kneeling down in another room and know who it was from that crack. Hmm, thinking about it, that probably is quite loud. Indeed every time she bends the dodgy knee, said crack still rings out like a gunshot – only marginally less noisily than it used to.

So there was Mum in her best bib and tucker, walking the length, breadth, diagonal or whatever it was of either the White Drawing Room or a state room into which it led. There was H M The Queen and the Duke at the other end. Mum walked over to them in stately, demure fashion in her smashing debutant’s dress, curtseyed and of course, off went her knee. Crack! She was very embarrassed and as she turned a gentle shade of puce and tried to maintain her shredded dignity the Duke gave her a massive smile and winked at her. It doesn’t sound much, but remember this was the late 1950s so things were very much more austere and proper in those days. Mum assured me that wink was like a giant get-out-of-gaol free card. It was just enough to let her know it didn’t matter, and put her at her ease, without drawing attention to it and embarrassing her even more. I’d have liked to have met the Duke, if only to thank him for being kind enough to put my mum at ease, but I wouldn’t have wanted to meet them like that. Luckily all that malarkey had been done away with by the time I hit eighteen so I didn’t have to do it.

I always felt that The Duke was a man with a sense of humour – and as far as I could tell, from the anecdotes I heard, which are mostly stories like these, he clearly had a somewhat acerbic wit on occasion, and I suspect he may not have suffered fools gladly, but I can also imagine that he was a very much more well-meaning and dignified person than is made out.

And now for something completely different …

Yes, it’s quiz time … again.

Hamgee University Press Logo

OK, so I had an idea that it would be fun to use the black on white and white on black versions of the spiffy new HUP logo to make some print on demand stuff on Zazzle, Society 6 or somewhere similar that will feature favourite K’Barthan centric quotes.

In particular I like the idea of a set of mugs with the things that Humbert shouts. What could be more fun then wowing your work colleagues with a mug that says, ‘Bite my winkeyi!’ Yeh. OK, possibly quite a few things but … you get the picture.

Alternatively, some mugs or possibly even t-shirts and badges/pins featuring K’Barthan swearing would be fun and a Great Snurd (of K’Barth) Company Limited baseball cap.

That said, I think a first wave of Humbertisms, to test the water, would be best to start. To answer the question click the button or click here.

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Filed under General Wittering

That was … a hell of a week.

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.

Yeh.

Friday.

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.

Oh.

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

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Dunce hats on casa McGuire … yes, once again #youstillcantfixstupid

There are only so many interesting headlines I can give to all these blog posts about my, apparently limitless, ability to fuck things up. Meanwhile I appear not to have come anywhere close to exhausting my ability to bomb in flames, even if I have run out of witty headings to put on my blog posts about it. No matter how earnestly I repeat to myself that we are not at home to Mr Cock-Up, life continues to prove otherwise. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Mr Cock-Up appears to have taken up permanent residence in our spare room, as my professional life lurches from one embarrassing faux pas to the next. Never mind, if I write comedy, living something like a bad sit com is probably excusable, it might even just be part of the job description.

First up, a moderate success. In the absence of an open shop, my iPad with its broken screen has been whisked off by courier for evaluation. I’m told they are normally fixed but that, since it’s a pro, they’ll probably just replace it with a fixed up second. If anything fails QS at the factory the offending part is replaced, a new battery, back and and screen are put on and then it’s sent out as a ‘new’ replacement for the cracked iPads of clumsy dunderheads or heavy cat owners such as myself. Fingers crossed that will be OK then.

In other news, there was a couple clearing out a house across the road and with their kind permission I liberated a table lamp and a couple of giant candle holders for a friend, which turned out not to be the thing she had asked me to liberate. I liberated a table lamp and a couple of other candle holders for us, too and a table lamp for her.

Cleaning the pair of giant ones ready to offer them to a different friend I thought I’d use a brush to gently sweep the gritty bits out from inside. Very carefully I swept the bits out of the first one. Started on the second and … managed to smash a hole in the glass with the top of the brush.

Twat!

Kicking myself.

So now I only have one to offer to my friend. She may not want it anyway but ho hum … my life really does seem to be one balls up after another at the moment. Often all that is necessitated is my mere presence for things to break. I don’t have to actually drop them myself. Clearly I’ve taken my eye off the ball. I wouldn’t mind if the off-ball view was even marginally more interesting than the shite the rest of me is seeing.

On the books front, the odd small success and some salutary learning experiences – or as I like to call them, absolute fucking disasters.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that, what with the length of Too Good To Be True, I should bite the bullet and change the name of the series from K’Barthan Shorts to K’Barthan Extras. To be honest, this makes sense but I can’t really do it properly until I have new covers for all of them with ‘Extras’ instead of ‘Shorts’. I guess the thing that really tipped me over was discovering that I was able to change the name of a series on Amazon a great deal more easily than I’d realised. After years of being told by Amazon that they would not change K’Barthan Trilogy to ‘Series’ they gave us options and I changed it, I thought, but this simply resulted in them calling it ‘K’Barthan Trilogy Series‘ Arnold’s pants! I managed to change it properly, to ‘K’Barthan Series’ last week, although I didn’t find a way to edit the series name so I just removed all the books and set up a new one. So the original four-and-a-short book series is now called K’Barthan Series everywhere! Woot.

On the down side, I’d quite like to do sub-series so they’ll all be K’Barthan Extras but cross reference. You know the same way all Terry Pratchett’s books are Discworld but some are the Tiffany Aching series and some are the Witches etc, I was hoping to do K’Barthan Extras Hamgeean Misfit and K’Barthan Extras, Tales from the Parrot and Screwdriver or whatever. My cunning plan was to add books to two series. Sadly it seems this isn’t possible. That means they must all be K’Barthan something. That’s because, as I may have mentioned last week, no fucker can spell McGuire the way I do, therefore it has to be K’Barthan something so I can tell everyone to search for K’Barthan and my books will pop up.

There is a fair bit of work involved in changing the series name, it means changing it in the back matter of every single ebook and paperback, and of course in the opening and closing credits of the audiobooks. Then there are the covers of everything too, including the paperbacks. So essentially, I’m looking at reloading every file. Except with the audiobooks.

In March, Ingram Spark, who do the paperback print on demand thing for my books, are going to raise their prices. They always do this and it was never a problem but these days, if your price is different to the one on your book – even if it’s lower than the printed one – they simply remove the book from sale. Then you have to change the price which you can only do on one particular day once a week and it takes several days to show up – so often you can’t tell if it’s worked before the next week’s deadline for submissions has passed. This is an issue because, due to the unfortunate fact that I’m a bit of a moron, my book covers have the retail price on and after the next price rise, if I stick to that retail price, there are going to be some titles on which I’m going to be paying Ingram for each sale. The upshot is that I need new covers for the whole lot without the prices on. That’s not so bad. I have a new book looming so that’ll need a cover anyway and I can get the designer to do them all when he does those. Also, I wanted replace the shiny covers on the K’Barthan Series Books with matt ones and that requires putting the design on a new template. Now seems an excellent time to do that as well, and as I have to change the K’Barthan Shorts to K’Barthan Extras in addition to taking the prices off those and take the price off Escape From B-Movie Hell.

Since I have to have new artwork for all my paperback book covers anyway, it occurred to me that I could have a proper logo for Hamgee University Press to go on the spine. Clearly the obvious candidate for that is Humbert the Parrot. So I had a go at drawing Humbert.

Humbert in black and white but with one claw on the frame

On the one hand, I’d never have credited myself with the ability to come up with an expression of sarcastic intelligence quite like that. On the other, Humbert is pretty bald so either this is a very young Humbert or he has been photo-shopped extensively. Or maybe it’s just the artist doing the portrait, who is flattering his subject the in the manner of Joshua Reynolds and his ilk.

Humbert in colour but minus the claw on the frame

While I’m mentioning books, remember that one I gave away, Nothing To See Here? Well one of my lovely readers contacted me and said she’d downloaded it from Bookfunnel and got Small Beginnings. I checked, and sure enough, the Kindle/.mobi version was, indeed, Small Beginnings.

Gulp.

I’d asked everyone to post a review on Google too. That’s going to look good. People swearing blind they are reviewing Nothing To See Here but patently obviously describing Small Beginnings.

Bum.

Then I had an even more alarming thought. On the whole, I get the .mobi file from Draft2Digital. I upload an epub there and they convert it to a number of different formats and distribute it to libraries, about 101 tiny ebook sellers and of course, Barnes&Noble and Apple Books. What this meant was, that I have, very possibly, had Small Beginnings on sale as Nothing To See Here with all those sellers. Thinking it wise to double-check that, I had a look, and … joy of joys … was it Small Beginnings? Of course it fucking was. It would be wouldn’t it?

Erk.

OK on the downside, that was quite embarrassing. On the upside … actually, no, thinking about it, there is no upside.

Bollocks.

Since I was going to have to redo it as an ‘extras’ anyway, I decided to revisit Nothing To See Here a.s.a.p. and sort out some of the other glaring errors it contains. First of all, we know The Pan of Hamgee was blacklisted aged sixteen. There’s a scene in there where I talk about him being blacklisted three years previously but then I’d put that he was twenty years old. Fuckwittery entire or what? Never mind, I changed that back to nineteen. I also managed to describe the security forces uniforms as black and white with the odd red flash on the collars epaulettes and cuffs when they’re black and red. OK so the officer in question had the odd flash of white on the epaulettes, collar and cuffs because he’s an intelligence officer. Shit. And Gareth’s done the audiobook and everything.

Head Desk.

Except hang on … I’ll have to get him to record the intro and outro anyway because they have to be K’Barthan Extras, now, instead of shorts. So there’ll be some cock up-mending recorded bits to add on the bill for the next book anyway so he may as well do those couple of sentences can do them all at once. OK that’s probably going to work then. He should be able to start recording mid March. Hopefully he’ll be alright with that. At least it won’t be too unexpected. After all, he knows I’m nuts.

Then, of course, having fixed the book, I had to reload the pukka version to Draft2Digital … about fifty times because I kept finding glaring howlers I’d missed and of course I ticked the box to supply it to Overdrive by mistake when it’s already going to Overdrive from Kobo. Then I downloaded the correct Kindle version and uploaded it to Amazon, uploaded the correct epub to everywhere else just in case, and corrected the special word document I have to submit to Smashwords and uploaded that too … and the epub. And then I realised I’d spent the whole day fixing the horrendous results of my never-ending twattery and then I realised THAT is why I write so slowly lovely peps. Because I’m an absolute knob and I have to keep going back to fix stuff I have fucked up. If I could get back the time I spend fixing the dog’s breakfast I make of most things I’d be producing books a lot quicker. Rather in the way that if I could get back the time I spend looking for my keys – which are usually in my pocket – or my mask (ditt0) or my glasses – mostly, they’re perched on top of my head – I’d have so much free time I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Then there’s Facebook. Pestering me to make a shop to sell my ebooks and audiobooks. So I spend Monday making a shop and they approve everything except the ebook and audiobook of The Wrong Stuff and Looking For Trouble. I reapply. The audiobook version of Looking for Trouble is turned down again on the grounds that it’s a digital download and they explain that selling digital downloads of any description through Facebook shops is against the rules. Then they approve the ebook versions of both. Nothing is said about the fact I have 14 other approved products in my shop which are also, all, digital downloads and, therefore, breaking their rules. The obvious answer is to delete my shop, except they’ve approved it, so what’s with that? Do I keep it or will I end up getting rumbled and thrown into Facebook gaol forever somewhere down the line. Did I spaff Monday up the wall for nothing? Head desk again.

Why is AI so unbelievably shit? And if it is demonstrably bollocks, which it clearly is, why do Facebook, Instragram, Amazon and a whole host of others insist on using it to do jobs that it’s just too fucking moronic to be left to do at this stage?

Ugh.

Never mind. Onwards and upwards. Next week, if I remember, I’m going to talk about my latest writing aid, my Remarkable 2. If you ever wanted to feel like Captain Kirk should feel when someone hands him one of those kid’s plastic drawing things to pretend to sign that’s how I feel using this thing. It’s the thing the TV people wanted us to believe Captain Kirk was writing on. Except this one has a glass screen and in light of my current rate of smashage for such things – not to mention McCat’s – that’s a bit of a worry.

____________________________________

And now for something completely different

Last week I had the joyous delight of being interviewed on the Slice of Cake Spot on fellow author Clair Buss’ blog. It was great fun and although it was quite long, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it.

If you think you’d like to have a look at it, click here: http://butidontlikesalad.blogspot.com …

While I’m mentioning it, I have to say that ‘ButIDontLikeSalad’ just the best name for a blog ever!

There you go, anyway! Enjoy!

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What? More twattery? #youcantfixstupid

So a lot of time has passed and there’s not been much blogging. To be honest, I’ve been feeling a bit meh and I have learned not to do things when I lack the energy. It’s cold and I’ve just binned the crutches so I’m tired, and sore and a bit stiff. I popped out for a walk round the garden while I spoke to Mum on the phone so I’m even more stiff now! Never mind.

The fur is not enough. Other people are cold too.

Jeepers it’s freezing out there. She hadn’t slept well so she wanted to talk. She had popped into a different room to the one she usually sits in to put the phone away and ended up chatting to me. While we were talking she sat down, on the wrong kind of chair. She was clearly bored and up for a chat, but it was only after she’d sat in it that she told me she was sitting somewhere from which, I know, she has great difficulty getting up. Oops. I think she was a little mithered as well – she often is after she’s had a bad night. I was rather pleased that I’d managed to ring at a time when she was bored and wanted company.

Mission accomplished.

So we chatted for a while and then, since she was in the wrong kind of chair and I was a bit worried she wouldn’t be able to get up again, I suggested she kept me on the line while she got up and went through to the drawing room. That way if she encountered any difficulty or fell over I’d be there to ring for someone to come and pick her up (or warn the team so the person on their way knew we had a woman down, so to speak).

‘Alright, I’ll just see if there’s a stick around here somewhere,’ she said, in answer to my suggestion.

‘Haven’t you got one with you?’ I asked.

‘No.’

Uh-oh. Why the hell not? Had she forgotten it? Yes, probably.

‘Well … how did you get in there from the kitchen?’

‘You know, the usual. I just hang onto things and move from one thing to another.’

‘You didn’t use your walker or a stick?’

‘No,’ she said, a little sheepishly and we both giggled a bit because that meant she’d been a Bad Pensioner.

‘Is that wise?’

‘No,’ she said and then cut off any further argument by adding, ‘I’m going to put you down now while I stand up.’

Gads …

Mum did manage to get up and then one of her lovely carers arrived for the next shift and shepherded her back to the drawing room where her chair is. I had a quick chat to say good bye and left her to it. She was slightly at sixes and sevens but this week she’s been on really good form. I suspect it’s more to do with the fact she’s had some good sleeps and has had people standing over her to make sure she eats her supper (in the nicest possible way, obviously).

Mum is needing a bit more care and she’s not coping with this lock down so well so I’ve started the weekly visits up again. A kindly friend found a Q&A on the BBC website; Health England answers your questions and sent me a screen shot before it disappeared again. Someone had asked if they could drive 90 mins to see their elderly mother, with whom they were bubbled. The answer was yes so I decided I can too.

That’s a bit of a weight off. Bruv came down to see her as well.

Lockdown seems a bit meh this time. I guess the weather isn’t helping. I am bored stupid with being cold and being pleased at how warm it is when we get 2 degrees. Ugh.

Also I’ve managed to smash my iPad screen … AGAIN. Another ten-out-of-ten for fuckwittery there then. I discovered it yesterday when I looked at it and noticed a hair stuck to the white bit at the edge in one corner. Closer inspection revealed it to be a hairline crack, rather than a hair, with another tell-tale crack on the white bit at the other corner, indicating that it goes right across.

Fucking arse!

Sure enough, it does. On the upside you can only see it if you look carefully. Clearly a stress fracture then, but I’ve absolutely no clue when it would have happened which is annoying. It is insured but the shop is shut for lock down so I can’t take it in and I suspect the insurance end date will come and go before lock down ends, which is a bit of a pisser.

The case is a bit useless that way. It’s a hugely expensive Belkin Slim Combo keyboard and hard case. The keyboard is excellent, really comfortable to type on. However, when the case is closed the lid part slides around and if you’re not careful the corners press on the screen and if it gets bashed they smash it. Putting an elastic band round it helped sort that out, although for £150 you expect a bit more. Worse, the iPad clips into a protective shell but it’s able to work its way out of that sometimes. Not so it falls out but just so that it no longer has the protective lip round the sides and it’s surface is flush with the edges of the case. Then pressure on the middle of the lid will crack the glass. I am guessing that’s what happened. Indeed, I’d lay bets that faticcus caticcus stood on it at some point while it was sitting on my desk with the lid closed.

Why do they put glass on these things? My Remarkable and my lap top have plastic screens. Yes, the picture isn’t as crisp but I’ll take that if it means it doesn’t smash every time a gnat lands on it. Bummer, because I love my iPad. I do have a phone number for the insurers so hopefully I can ring them to make a claim and they will honour it when they are allowed to …

On the books front, I’ve been adding the alts to the final version of Too Good To Be True. The last beta reader sent comments in today so I should have those done and dusted ready to send to the editor for a mid Feb slot.

Cockwomble that I am, I’ve ballsed up the name of this series the way I stuffed up the last one.

Originally, I had this idea that I could cross reference series. So I could have K’Barthan Shorts, for shorter reads (under 40k) and K’Barthan Extras for longer ones. Then I could class the books in … sort of sub series … by theme or character, ie Hamgeean Misfit. So the current set of stories are K’Barthan Shorts, Hamgeean Misfit Number … whatever. It seemed a good idea because I thought shorter stuff would be good as entry-level, cheaper, try-me-out kind of books. It wasn’t. Being short bars it from all sorts of stuff promo-wise even though there may well be books the same length included because their authors have not been stupid enough to call them ‘shorts’.

The next Hamgeean Misfit is not a short, it’s a novel, which makes it a K’Barthan Extra. So the title for this one should go, K’Barthan Extra, Hamgeean Misfit: No 4. And that’s the point where I realise I’ve put Hamgeean Misfit in the wrong place because as a K’Barthan Extra it’s number one. So now I have a conundrum.

The KDP series button came too late for this so neither Amazon nor Audible will be changing the name. It doesn’t look like I can change it on Ingram either – which is a bummer because on Lightning Source, I could (and did).

However, I can change it on Nielsen by the looks of things, and everywhere else, as far as I recall – after all I’ve done it before – and as I have to take the prices off the covers, and change the shiny ones to matt, now is the time to make changes, if I’m going to. Sure, they’re humorous books and I can make a joke out of the fact the ‘short’ is a long but I’m inclined to simplify things.

Plus points for changing it from shorts:

  1. I have to change all my paperback covers because Ingram’s prices have reached the point where I will have to pay them to publish a book, come March, if I don’t.
  2. Calling them shorts is too specific – if it’s an ‘extra’ the long ‘short’ is, suddenly, eligible for a bookbub – which it isn‘t now because they don’t accept shorts and I doubt being a novel called ‘short’ will cut any ice.
  3. When the more commercial straight sci fi series is finished, a section of those readers might enjoy the K’Barthan stuff and want to read these books so they probably are worth sorting out.
  4. The 20k ones can still be useful as toe-dipper, try-out books at entry-level pricing for folks wishing to dip a toe in the world of K’Barth for less cash.

Plus points for keeping it as is:

  1. Amazon will refuse to change it (series predates the KDP series button). Therefore Audible won’t change it either.
  2. In the last six years, I’ve only had two international bookbubs anyway, for 99c rather than free, so getting a bookbub featured deal is probably not a consideration I need to factor in.
  3. If Ingram insist on a new ISBN I’d rather not waste one.

Third alternative:

Just switch the names round so Hamgeean Misfit is the main series title but then the subsets become the main series and I could see that becoming a mess … or do I mean even more of a mess.?

Fourth alternative:

Just take the K’Barthan Shorts bit out and leave it at Hamgeean Misfit. I might get away with that on Amazon and could add the subtitle ‘a K’Barthan story’. All these books need to have ‘K’Barthan’ in the series or book title or in the subtitle. This is because of the number of other McGuires now writing stuff means readers looking for me by name have to wade through pages of books by my fellow, way more successful McGuires before they find me – in my defence, I was the only one when I started. Additionally, there is the fact that most people can’t spell McGuire – even if they see it written down – and search for Maguire, MacGuire, McGwire or even (shudder) McQuire instead. One lovely person leaves glowing reviews on many of my books but spells my name ‘Maguire’ in every single one.

Everything is a lot simpler if I can tell folks to search for the word, ‘K’Barthan’ and even better it works. As a result, I think I’m going to change the series name to ‘K’Barthan Stories’ and leave it at that.

_____________

On a different note …

I’m giving away one of my books until 31st January – because I feel like it. That means you have just over twenty four hours to grab your copy, if you want one. Obviously, the book in question is the Christmas one, Nothing To See Here. If you haven’t got it, now’s your chance. Here are the details.

Nothing to see here

It’s midwinter and preparations for the biggest religious festival in the K’Barthan year are in full swing. Yes, even though, officially, religious activity has been banned no-one is going to ignore Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, especially not Big Merv, who orders The Pan of Hamgee to deliver the traditional Prophet’s Birthday gift to his accountants and lawyers.

As usual, The Pan has managed to elicit the unwanted attention of the security forces. Can he make the delivery and get back to the Parrot and Screwdriver pub in time for an unofficial Prophet’s Birthday celebration with his friends?

Just in case you’re havering, it got this review, which is about the best review any of my stuff has received, ever:

‘It is a gem of a story, polished and with every facet cut to just the right angle.
A real joy.
This is the wardrobe entrance to a whole new world
Thanks Jim Webster. 🙂

I’m giving this book away from my online store. Here’s how to get hold of a copy.

Go to my shop and download it – this may sound daunting but it’s OK, Bookfunnel will also send you the book by email so if you have any problems loading it you can get it from them AND they will help you. To grab your book, just go to my payhip shop, here: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz click to buy and enter this code at checkout, exactly as I’ve typed it exclamation mark and all.

WipeMyConkers!

Download page: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz
Code: WipeMyConkers! – it’s case sensitive so cut and paste and remember the exclamation mark on the end.

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There is no end to my unending twattery.

Christmas has come and gone. Christmas is usually about other people but this year, thanks to COVID, we got one for us. Not that we had a choice but it was wonderful, just this one time, to ditch the travel. Our lovely rellies will all be there next year and we’ll be into the car again and creeping through the packed motorways to their various houses and I’ll be whinging about the travel even though I love them and wouldn’t do anything else. Mum’s turn next year.

Meanwhile, COVID aside, I was kind of congratulating myself for managing to limp through this year without making an absolutely monumental fuck up of anything. Or at least, nothing stupendously moronic enough that others could specifically point to, while going, ‘bloody hell! Look at that!’

However, it turns out that is not what I have done. Indeed, quite the opposite. After managing to avoid overt wankerdom for quite a lot of this year, I pulled some absolute blinders out of the bag at the end to ensure that my reputation as a vacuous airhead remains untarnished. Yep, I may be dim but my reputation for knobbery is shining as brightly as ever. Since I can’t so anything to ameliorate my twattery, I feel we may as well have a chuckle about it here. It’s good for naught else after all! Off we go then …

First, I managed to arrange an extra special shit show for myself over a couple of hours on Christmas Eve …

Six o’clock; it was dark and everything was closed. Time for shower and pjs. Got undressed, replied to a couple of texts and dumped my phone on a chair in the bathroom next to the shower. As I put it down a solitary card fell out of the case. An M&S card. I picked it up and checked the floor around, nothing else had fallen out.

Good.

Putting the card back in the wallet bit of the phone case, I discovered the reason nothing else had fallen out. It wasn’t there.

Not so good.

Indeed, more like aaaargh! Yes, a handful of business cards were gone and I was happy to lose those but I was less happy about the absence of my debit card and my driving license, which was only in there temporarily anyway because I keep having to do things that require ID and it was pissing me off having to go and find it.

Shit.

I scrabbled round under the chair but there was no sign of the cards.

Double shit. Now what.

Well, I decided, since I was already in the buff and the water was running nice and hot it was a pity to waste it. Yep. I may as well have a shower. Then I could put joggers over my pj bottoms, an anorak over the top and trace my steps round the town to see if I’d dropped the cards during the walk I’d taken earlier to deliver Christmas cards. I sent about three, the ones I could deliver on foot, and that was it.

Why did this stuff always happen after I’d run out of time to fix it? I asked myself. Why indeed. Thank you 2020 for a final fuckery fuck. I hate you. Except I sort of don’t because lockdown has been very, very kind to my stress levels.

Showered and changed I went downstairs to the McOthers, grumpy to a point where I might just possibly have been the grumpiest bastard on earth at that moment, and explained what had happened.

‘When did you last use the card?’ asked McOther.

‘Pffft! Yesterday, the day before, last week? How should I know?’

I could see the enormous concentration it took for McOther to stop his eyes rolling. Obviously I’d not the blindest, chuffing clue when I’d last seen the cards, natch. We decided that I’d search my office, and look down every sofa and chair I’d sat in since June. No wait, no need. McMini remembered that they all fell out the previous evening and he climbed over the back of the sofa to retrieve them for me as I lay on the cushions like a giant fat baby bird making pathetic noises, arms, legs and crutches akimbo and ice pack applied to my knee. Thank you McMini.

We started the search and McOther, god love him, donned his coat and retraced my route round the neighbourhood to see if he could find the errant cards on the pavement. Why to god do I not keep these in my wallet? He asked me before he left. I explained that I have a wallet but there are slots for cards on my phone case and so I split my cards between the two. Bag snatched? Never mind you still have money. Phone lost, never mind, you still have a credit card in your wallet in your bag. Left one or the other at home? Never mind, you are still financially functional.

McOther returned from his search of the streets empty-handed. Having searched everywhere while he was gone and also found nothing, I resigned myself to the horrors that had overtaken me. I was going to have to pay twenty quid, or whatever it is, for the pleasure of losing my driving license and I’d have to stop my debit card.

Ugh.

Maybe I should take one last look in the bathroom, I thought, even though McOther and McMini had both looked there and found nothing. I went up, and looked at the chair. Underneath it, standing neatly against the side of the shower cubicle are a couple of bottles of spray cleaner. One was slightly skew whiff. Could that be? Maybe … yes! There were the offending cards! Still bunched together in a fat oblong, jammed in between a bottle of Cillet Bang glass cleaner and the side of the shower cubicle. I put them in a different part of the phone wallet, where they cannot fall out.

To begin with, having been forced to make some unscheduled after-dark perambulations, McOther was unamused. However, he did eventually see the funny side.

Christmas almost ruined but thankfully, not, after all.

Further news, I decided to buy myself a pair of spiffy new boots this week. I duly searched for them on line and, finally, discovered a pair in a colour I like and a size that would fit. Joy. As usual when I came to buy them the ruddy site wanted me to join. I get so fed up with this having to join up to everything. Yet more emails I don’t want and another password for an ‘account’ I’m unlikely to use ever again; a password I am even less likely to remember. The worm turned and I gave my address but wrote my feelings in the name box. I paid by paypal so they’d be using those details anyway. Right?

Hmm. Apparently not. Now they keep sending me emails addressed to, ‘Dear I don’t want to join anything I just want to buy some shoes’.

All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t swear. This made me unaccountably giggly, which just goes to show how much of an idiot I am, because it’s not funny, except that I find it chuffing hilarious. Presumably because I’m a twat. As well as arsey. An arsey twat, then. But we all knew that anyway.

Well … Tis the season to be merry, after all …

Originally, I thought I’d have a new release to share with you. Yep. I was hoping I’d have managed to get a story in this year’s Christmas Lites. However, after a horrific two months for the producer, which included her getting COVID,  it will, most likely, be postponed until next year. I will keep you posted on that one. In the meantime, there is always last year’s which you can find here. It’s great as always; beautifully presented and full of cracking stories although not one of mine that time.

There were also glitches in the admin. There are times when I think it would be really great to actually be able to remember something occasionally. The kind of shite normal people don’t even think about having to remember. Stuff they remember as easily as they remember to breathe. Clearly it is not to be. Lorks though! Imagine if you did have to remember to breathe … every … fucking … breath. How much mental time and energy would that take up. You’d get fuck all done right? Yeh, right. Well, that’s where I am with admin. And there is a LOT of admin in my life. I need to speed up my mental cogs, I need to think faster so I can write faster and be, if not on top of then, at least, a few inches off the bottom of my admin.

On the upside, after about 21 months, West Sussex Social Services has finally got round to invoicing me for Dad’s care home fees. Luckily, I had the money ring-fenced and I have paid so that’s the last of the Dad stuff … er hem … except interring his ashes but we’re going to batch him with Mum so at the moment his mortal remains are still with the undertaker.

Further strange adventures on Tuesday. I received a mysterious email from DPD warning me that they were going to make a delivery today. I was surprised to discover they were delivering to Mum. I have a lot of stuff on order so I pinged a message to the lovely folks on the care group warning them that I may have sent my bras to Mum’s in error. This was particularly annoying as I am not now going to Sussex for the foreseeable so I was wondering about the logistics of getting whatever it was, but I was pretty sure it was bras, back to me. I spent some time going through all the ‘your order is dispatched’ emails and discovered to my horror that yes, there was one. Mum sends gifts out to all her nephews and nieces. There are a fair few of us and so depending on the status; vegetarian or not vegetarian, they get smoked salmon or cheese. At the moment, although there are two vegetarians, one eats fish but the other doesn’t so I send her cheeses from a fabulous company which used to come to the Ely Farmer’s Market. I order them with Mum’s card but I always put my number and email address because Mum doesn’t look at her emails anymore. I used to do it for her but now that everyone who matters knows she doesn’t read them there isn’t really much point.

Bollocks. It was obvious what had happened. I’d somehow managed to stuff it up and have the cheese sent to Mum instead of my cousin. Arse-ity arse, arse, arse! Yet, when I looked I had got the delivery address right. Bum. Now I’d have to complain. Except that, hang on, hadn’t my cousin had her cheese? I was sure she’d mentioned it. What was going on then?

Before I could investigate further the phone rang. It was Mum.

‘Darling, something’s arrived. I don’t know what it is.’

‘It’s OK Mum, I think it’s cheese,’ she starts slowly and deliberately reading the label.

‘Do not leave, deliver or return to depot, open at once …’

‘Mum,’ I feel guilty about interrupting her but we’ll be there all day. ‘Are you able to bring it inside and open it?’

‘Of course, good idea.’ We chat about this and that as she makes her way into the house and takes the parcel into the kitchen. I hear her put it on the table. ‘I’m going to put you down now while I open it,’ she says.

Clonk. Scrabbling sounds.

I wait.

‘Are you doing OK?’ I shout after a minute or two.

‘Yes he’s coming this afternoon,’ she bellows back cheerfully.

Riiiiight. OK so she can’t hear me. I wait, and wait, and wait … Then after a little while, I wait some more. Hmm, has she forgotten I’m there, I wonder. A couple of days before, while we were chatting on the phone, she fell asleep. Luckily I made the call so I was able to hang up and redial, the ringing phone woke her up. No, wait. She isn’t asleep there are still scrabbling noises. It’s just the sound of someone with arthritic fingers trying to cut through sellotape with a kitchen knife. Please God don’t let her cut herself.

Clunk. Ah she’s picked up the handset again. ‘It’s jolly difficult to open!’ she says. Clunk, I hear as she puts the phone back on the table and starts sawing, afresh, at the sellotape before I can reply.

I wait … and wait … and wait a little bit more.

‘Oh …’ I hear her say.

‘Yes?’

Clunk scrape click, ‘Darling, it’s definitely cheese. One with red writing on, one with green and two blue.’

‘No, Mum, I think the two blue ones are the biscuits.’

‘Oh so they are. And there’s a jar of something.’

‘Onion marmalade?’

‘I haven’t got my glasses but yes … I think so.’

Arsocks! Now I know it’s my cousin’s cheese.

At this point the carer arrives, and she does have her glasses with her so she’s able to read what’s written on the packets. Then we discover a note in there.

‘Many thanks for your support at this difficult time. We hope you enjoy your cheese. Stay safe. Tim Jones.’

Well … that’s not my cousin’s cheese. But they’ve sent Mum the same cheese selection she sent my cousin. Bless. Part of me is delighted for Mum, another part of me is green with cheese envy and wishing it was sent to my house. But the biggest part of me is extremely concerned. I know that these guys do a number of farmers markets in their area, Stamford, Oakham and similar. Ely must be about as far east as they come on a regular basis. They also come to the Bury Christmas Fayre, they must sell a tonne of cheese there, and doubtless they do Norwich Cathedral Fayre and many others round about – they come from Rutland so I’m guessing they do everything within a 100 mile radius. Those events were all cancelled this year and just talking to the chap on the huntin’/shootin’/fishin’ stall at the market who makes 12 bore cartridge Christmas Lights, it’s a lot of revenue to lose.

So now I’m rather worried about Mr Jones and his holstein cheesemaking helpers. I hope they are OK because their cheeses are absolutely fabulous. I’m going to go and buy a big hamper of cheese from them right now. Because they are awesome and I want to keep them going. And if you want to try some of the best cheddar cheese in the world – I kid you not, this stuff is gorgeous – just visit www.lincolnshirepoachercheese.com It’s expensive, but it’s worth it for that sort of quality. I also notice they won a gold medal at the 2019 Artisan Cheese Awards in the Hard Cheese category. I find that unaccountably amusing, although I suspect nobody says ‘hard cheese’ anymore. I’ll have to put the phrase in a book so it’s preserved for posterity. But an award would be anything but hard cheese I’d have thought.

There we are, it’s all go here at locked down towers. I have to go to emergency code red London on Monday for an appointment with the knee consultant at London Bridge Hospital. I’ve decided that public transport probably is a bit dicey so I’m going to drive. They do let you park there in situations like the current one. Woot for the vaccination when it comes. In the meantime. Wish me luck.

_____________

On a different note …

I’m giving away one of my books until 31st January – because I feel like it. Obviously, the book in question is the Christmas one, Nothing To See Here. If you haven’t got it, now’s your chance. Here are the details.

Nothing to see here

It’s midwinter and preparations for the biggest religious festival in the K’Barthan year are in full swing. Yes, even though, officially, religious activity has been banned no-one is going to ignore Arnold, The Prophet’s birthday, especially not Big Merv, who orders The Pan of Hamgee to deliver the traditional Prophet’s Birthday gift to his accountants and lawyers.

As usual, The Pan has managed to elicit the unwanted attention of the security forces. Can he make the delivery and get back to the Parrot and Screwdriver pub in time for an unofficial Prophet’s Birthday celebration with his friends?

Just in case you’re havering, it got this review, which is about the best review any of my stuff has received, ever:

‘It is a gem of a story, polished and with every facet cut to just the right angle.
A real joy.
This is the wardrobe entrance to a whole new world
Thanks Jim Webster. 🙂

I’ve decided to give this book away from my online store for the whole of January. Here’s how to get hold of a copy.

Go to my shop and download it – this may sound daunting but it’s OK, bookfunnel will also send you the book by email so if you have any problems loading it you can get it from them AND they will help you. To grab your book, just go to my payhip shop, here: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz click to buy and enter this code at checkout, exactly as I’ve typed it exclamation mark and all.

WipeMyConkers!

Happy New Year, and Happy (belated) Prophet’s Birthday. Here’s hoping you and yours stay safe and well and warm, or cool if you’re mid summer right now. For the rest of us, here’s to spring! Let’s hope it hurries the fuck up!

Here are the details for the free book again:

Download page: https://payhip.com/b/nYoz
Code: WipeMyConkers!

Blurry Pyramid Orchids at Mum’s

 

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Ouch. Post surgery blues … they come to us all

Today, I’m going to talk about pain management. Because pain management is quite a big part of my life right now. It does feel as if my full-time job is doing physio, three times a day. Having pathetic walks – three twenty-minute walks a day. Little and often works, but one big walk just makes it stiff. It’s particularly irritating when you have to get the anorak on and wrap up warm for a pathetic amount of time. Then there’s icing my knee. This has to be done five times a day for twenty minutes with the swollen limb higher than my heart. So that’s lying like a beached whale on the sofa with one leg in the air.

The hardest thing about the five 20 minute icing sessions is that you have to keep the swollen thing higher than your heart. That means lying with your leg above your head icing your knee and I always bloody go to sleep. Which is not really helpful because I need to be dog tired to sleep at night … and there’s only time for four. I’m probably supposed to do one when I wake up.

Then there’s three – or ideally four but I can’t squeeze the fourth one in – physio sessions every day. And of course, if you go for the third walk after three thirty, you’re going in the bastard dark. And it’s damp and the crutches slip on the sweaty pavements – or the ice (insert as appropriate) – so you have to be careful. Note to self, if I ever have to put myself through this purgatory again, I must do it in summer.

That’s the first golden rule then. If you’re looking down the barrel of major surgery with a long recuperation period, and you have a choice, do it in summer. Especially do not do it when you are looking down the barrel of a five hour car journey way before you are well enough. It’s got to be done but it’s going to hurt. Thanks for that Boris you honey monster-shaped git. And for keeping the window nice and small so the entire chuffing nation has to go at the same time thus clogging the roads. Never mind it hurts awyway so that probably won’t make much difference.

Seriously though, how do people do this? I mean, if I add in the odd household chore here and there, which, because I’m on crutches, I achieve at a pace slightly slower than that at which continental drift moves. Doing the washing up in the morning, and putting a wash on, hanging it out and folding it up is pretty much all there is time for over and above the stupid recovery routine. Then I have to ring my Mum, every day, and it takes an hour, and I wouldn’t begrudge Mum the time or the call, it’s just that it’s another thing to remember when my brain is addled, first with pain meds, and now that I’ve kicked those into touch, with … well … pain.

That’s been interesting this last couple of weeks.

The day before lock down a friend of Mum’s popped round for a visit. They had a lovely time except the following weekend, friend in question discovered she had covid. So as she came out with it less than five days after seeing Mum, Mum had to go into isolation for two weeks. Except that then someone looking after her on the Thursday also got Covid within five days, so the isolation period became even longer, moving from the Tuesday to the Thursday.

It’s been coming, in fact it’s miraculous it hasn’t happened but obviously it had to happen now. Three of Mum’s care team got Covid. Two testing positive and one with exactly the same symptoms but testing negative. I still can’t drive and so we decided it probably wouldn’t work if it was limpy looking after dotty. Instead my lovely sister in-law went down there, along with the one remaining carer still standing. During this time, Mum had an eye appointment on the Sunday which none of us clocked was actually a five hour laser surgery session. Meanwhile I was getting regular calls from Track and Trace asking how Mum was getting on with her isolation. Did she need help?

No, I expained, she was fine and sis in law was there. Finally one Sunday, after trying a longer walk, I’d dropped off, as usual, during the post perambual knee icing session. I was rudely awakened by the phone. Someone wanting to talk to Mum. I explained I didn’t live with her, but I could give them her number, except she would be off out to the hospital for an eye appointment soon. To my horror the voice on the phone told me she hoped not because Mum was supposed to still be in isolation. There would be a fine and legal action if she had.

Fucking fuck. Why does this stuff happen when I’m so ridiculously under par.

Ah, I said. I explained that I was addled and recovering from knee surgery but thought the folks down there would be sensible to put two and two together and not go. Did I want to ring and check? She asked me. Yes, I said, I probably did. She was actually lovely about it and said she or one of the others would call back later.

I rang Mum. No answer. Sod it, they’d already left. Rang Sis in law, brother and everyone else I could think of. Finally sis in law answered. Hopefully we didn’t break the rules but she had to go in to explain what had happened, at which point she discovered that what we all thought was a routine eye check for Mum was a 5 hour laser surgery. Oh shit. Hopital team were very understanding and Sis in law returned to Mum, who, thankfully, hadn’t got out of the car, and took her home. It was like a French farce!

Mum was very cross and wanted to make a complaint but I guessed that since the carer who would have originally taken her was one of the ones off with covid, she probably was waiting to tell Mum nearer the time so she didn’t get all of a dither. Over the course of this week the plague carers – and the non-plague plague carer – have gradually returned and everything has gone back to normal.

Meanwhile Mum is in a dither about plenty of other things, getting the right prayers for this week’s church so she can look at the right readings on the right day, and increasingly phoning me to explain that she can’t get the phone to work. She has started to muddle it up with the TV remote. Yesterday she hung up on me twice while she was trying to turn the telly off, eventually, I managed to talk her through using the right one. Then there’s trying to do proper admin on the group of authors campaigning for fair treatment from Audible, I’m not pulling my weight there at all.

I’m just a bit burned out because Mum … and I didn’t see the Mum stuff coming. I should have known, Dad would always take nose dive every November, but because Mum hadn’t reached that stage until now … and because we think she has vascular dementia … I had kind of hoped it would be different. Maybe she hasn’t. Maybe hers is Alzheimer’s. On the up side, I have now convinced her to have it investigated. The Doctor wanted to start the investigation into Mum’s mental health with some blood tests and offered these about a year ago but she decided against it. However, now she is finding her lack of memory a right pain in the arse and decided she’d like to know. I’m guessing if he’s starting with blood tests he might be wondering about kidney efficiency. She has told me she needs to go to the loo rather suddenly and can’t always get there. How brilliant it would be if the lion’s part of this turned out to be a UTI.

‘I really don’t expect to have to go changing my nappy in the middle of the night! It’s very irritating!’ she said yesterday.

Bless her. I also understand why she refused to have this knee op in 2012 when I was urging her to do so. I can’t imagine what it would be like looking after someone with dementia in this state. Well no … I can … that’s why my sister in-law did it! Thanks Emily! 🙂

It hasn’t been a huge help that all this has co-incided with the bit, five or six weeks after any big injury/surgery etc when I get weepy. This is like when I tore my ACL. It was so painful and it went on and on, grinding, awful, spirit-sapping pain. It was six months before I could walk without a stick. There would be points where I’d get really blue and just want to cry at how mind numbingly slow recovery was. This … this is very like that. And there were a couple of days this week where I just wanted to cry. It is a bit disheartening waking up every morning with your leg set in position like a brick and having to gradually work on it. Over the day, I get to the point where I can straighten it and bend it just over ninety degrees. Then it’s back to bed and the same shit the next day. I wouldn’t mind if straightening it all out wasn’t so effing painful. But it is. And of course that means the pain now is slightly worse than it was two weeks ago, which feels particularly bloody if I’m honest.

Having a of sense of humour failure with the speed of recovery is perfectly natural. I know what’s happening, I know what it is. I just wish I could shut my eyes and fast forward through this bit, or crawl into a hole somewhere on my own, away from other people until I was done so I didn’t have to be a pain in the arse to anybody.

For anyone doing major surgery, it is important, going in, to realise that you will feel less disheartened sometimes, and that you’ll get to a soul-crushing bit where you are just dragging yourself through each day and feeling as if you aren’t getting better (you ARE getting better but because it’s so slow you aren’t noticing).  It’s a pain in the arse but … yeh … I know. I’ll be 8 weeks out by Christmas. If I can just work hard enough now, I should get the ambient pain levels far enough down to cope with the Christmas uplift. Because they will rise over Christmas, they can’t not, because you can’t spend five hours each way in a car – on the two single days when Boris has doomed the entire long-distance-Christmas nation to have to travel at once so it may be more –  go to someone else’s house and spend the entire day putting ice packs on your knee, going for pathetic walks and doing physio … and if the loo is at the bottom of the sweeping, majestic stately-home-sized staircase, and your bedroom is at the top, you’ve got to suck it up. But that’s probably part of my frustration now. Because if I can get it right enough before I go, it should be fine. If. And if it isn’t it’s no bother. I just take a sleeping bag and an airbed and I can always kip downstairs in the dining room if it starts playing up and getting really stiff at night or something. It will be OK, it just adds to the frustration.

________________________________________

Want something to take your mind off the nightmare that is 2020?

The lovely people at Kobo have a Black Friday/Cyber Monda Extravaganza Audiobook sale this weekend. If you’re in Canada and the US, many audiobooks are reduced to $4.99 or less, including mine. Likewise, you can pick up Small Beginnings there for the princely sum of 99p. Woot. Find out more here: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/audiobooks

Or if you really want to push the boat out, there’s something else. There is the Bury St Edmunds virtual Christmas Fayre.

🎄The Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre is one of the largest in the UK, and this year it’s online! Head to https://exploreburystedmunds.com/the-virtual-bury-st…/ to browse for fantastic Christmas gifts – including books! Yes, the Suffolk authors are back, with a virtual stall and signed books for all the bookworms on your list, delivered to your door*.

Choose from a series of crime adventures set in Suffolk, a tale of dark magic in a mysterious English village, a life-affirming journey on the Greater Anglia rail network, a near-future UK-based dystopia, and a comedic sci-fi fantasy series. Or buy them all, and treat yourself! 😁

Tell your friends, tell your family, tell the person two metres away from you in the queue at Sainsburys. Christmas, sorted! 🎄👍

* Please note delivery for some of the books is UK only.

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Well … that was weird …

Lancing Beach. Just to throw you when I’m talking about Suffolk beaches later. Some guy found a gold coin here.

A strange week all round. I was going to share some of the questions and answers I’ve been doing with Gareth, because they are hilarious but a couple of bits happened that I thought I’d share instead.

First up Mum. As you know, Mum has dementia. She passed the NHS memory test with flying colours but then, everyone does. My Dad did, even after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in 2012 As far as I know, they were still giving him this stupid memory test until 2017 – because nobody told us or the Doctor about his diagnosis until then so we still didn’t know what he had – and he was still passing the bloody thing with flying colours. It’s not just the patient who is in denial for ages when dementia rears its head, it seems. The NHS also.

As well as dementia Mum has arthritic knees. A while back, in 2015, she had them looked at. The surgeon thought a new knee would be too complicated and that the requirements of the recovery process too taxing but they did give her a new hip, which she also needed. To be honest, I think the knee was more the problem but half was better than none and it did remove a fair chunk of pain so that was good.

Off I go wandering from the topic again … back to the point … the result of not having had her knee done is that Mum has one particularly dodgy knee which tends to give way on her. The other day it did and she ended up on the floor and hit her head – I blogged all about it here. Quick recap: because she’s on blood thinners, she had to go to hospital and have a brain scan. She had to go in alone because … Covid … which for someone with dementia who has banged their head, is not ideal. They were great with her, though, and she did well too. They took her in at three pm and was ready for collection by six. But she explained that her knee had given way and she’d grabbed the nearest thing for support which was, unfortunately, a door handle, so the door opened and she slid gently to the floor where she ended up wedged in a small space and so she couldn’t get up.

Having had this mishap, I thought that maybe it was time to get her something a bit more stable than a walking stick to use in the house. A Zimmer frame wasn’t much good as she’s quite frail and couldn’t lift it. She uses a fold up thing with wheels and a seat when she is outside which, I believe, rejoices in the name of a ‘rollator’. These are great because the wheels make them easy to push, the seat provides welcome respite from standing too long and they have breaks to help you control them. This one is ideal for outside but she needs one that’s smaller for use in the house. I had a look … God bless the internet … and found some that I thought might do.

Three Wednesdays ago, I sat down with Mum and the Carer and we looked at three wheeled light weight rollators. There wasn’t one with a seat, well there was but it was about £200 but I found one with a bag that she could use to get from one part of the house to the other. She can still put the secateurs in it lay flowers across the top of the bag etc. Having found it, I showed it to her and we had a chat and she decided it might be a good thing to have so I ordered it, there and then.

A week later and one of Mum’s carers found one that another lady wasn’t using. It wasn’t light weight but she thought it might be useful. I agreed it might be and suggested she bring it round and I’d cancel the other, except of course that the other then proceeded to arrive. Usually when you buy these things you get an email saying it’s been despatched. In this case, we didn’t. So it turned up without warning.

The Carer looking after Mum that day opened it, set it up and Mum … went into orbit.

I kid you not. She rang me, incandescent with rage, asking what the blazes I thought I was doing buying stuff without even consulting her. It was rubbish anyway, she fumed, because it doesn’t have a seat. How could she sit and talk to her friends if it didn’t have a seat?

I tried to explain that it was to use in the house, to replace her stick because it was more stable but a bit more compact than the one with a seat which she uses outside. There was no point in having it then she needed to do various things with it and without a seat she couldn’t.

‘But your stick doesn’t have a seat …’ I said.

‘No and so I can only sit in the kitchen or the drawing room because I can’t get in and out of the chairs anywhere else.’

Fair point but she doesn’t go anywhere else and she uses a shower stool I bought her (God bless you second hand shops in Galashiels). Sometimes though, Mum’s now is not the same as ours. I think she was at some point where she needed a walking aid but was still quite spry and doing stuff about the house. Things like cooking, and sending and replying to emails on her computer. She hasn’t done any of that for ages. I hadn’t properly clocked that her perception of when she is is changing, or how extensive her dementia is because she’s still so normal to talk to … usually.

I asked her if it might not come in handy?

Anyway, She told me in no uncertain terms that it bloody well wouldn’t, that it must be packed up forthwith and sent back.

After gently explaining to Mum that we had ordered it together and that she’d had a very hectic week and must have forgotten, she finally simmered down but wasn’t keeping it, oh no,  she wanted it sent back and replaced with the version that had a seat. Now.

This is where I cocked up. The way you do this with a demented person is not to set them right on the facts, you just say, ‘oh dear, they’ve sent me the wrong one,’ or ‘oh dear, how did I manage to order the wrong one,’ and leave it at that. It would have saved a lot of angst filled explaining.

Never mind, let’s get on with it shall we. I’d bought the thing online with her debit card, because I have power of attorney, except the bank don’t know that or they won’t give us a card so I did it pretending to be her. Easy then, I’d ring them up and sort it out but … they were not answering the phone unless it’s really urgent because … covid. Ugh. So I emailed them. Yes they would take it back. No they would not be able to replace it with another one with a seat, have me pay the difference and swap one for another. Oh and the cost of return would be £16.

Sixteen quid! The fucking thing only cost £48.

Bollocks.

The Carer who’d found a similar one hadn’t brought it round yet and seeing the chat about this on the … well … chat, she asked if she should.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but hide it, she may come round to using it. We’ll have to see.’

In the meantime, since the company that had sold me the new one didn’t have the one with the seat in stock I just thought it best to hang fire for a bit. The carer packed the new walker away and hid the box away where Mum wouldn’t see it.

Two weeks on, and during this week’s visit, the Carer told me that she’d managed to get Mum to use the second hand one for a bit on Monday but she’d suddenly refused on Tuesday. I thought I may as well give it a go, so I wheeled it in to the drawing room and asked her if she’d like to try it. She quite liked it but wasn’t sure because … well because she uses her stick to pull things closer, pick things up, press buttons and light switches she can’t reach, point at stuff etc. That said, after a short test run during which she really quite liked it, I left her with it by her chair.

Thursday morning and she told the Carer how wonderful it was and that maybe we should get it cleaned up.

‘We could but d’you know Mary ordered you a new one, I think it arrived the other day.’

‘Did it?’ Mum asked.

The Carer said that yes, it had and asked if Mum wanted it set up for her.

‘Oh yes please.’

Apparently it is now a hit. So much of a hit that, nine days on from ringing me in a fit of something approaching rage at its arrival, she rang me to say thank you and tell me how wonderful it was.

That, people, is dementia. Light and shade, rain and sun, on and off: random.

The obligatory seal pup picture taken on the beach I was actually at this weekend. 🙂

On a personal note, remember I did an entire day’s metal detecting without sitting down for lunch the other day? Yeh. Well that was a bad idea, I did my back in. It recovered after two days so, happy that all was well again I did more metal detecting on the beach (only for an hour and a half) went for a walk etc. We saw a seal pup and I took the obligatory Norfolk (well … Suffolk) coast seal cub picture. Awww or what. Then we went and had supper at friends. At which point, back fully recovered, I was able to remove the pain relief pad while I was there and felt oh so much better. What a relief.

Or not.

The next day, the back pain was back a little and starting to get a bit worse, but nothing major. Thursday morning. Arnold’s dingleberries! It was hideous! Friday; also hideous, and even today it is still evil. Needless to say the first day anyone who might be able to fix it can see me is Wednesday next week. Of course. And needless to say the first day I can see anyone is Friday. It could be worse … I had a club dig scheduled for tomorrow, which I don’t think I’d have been able to go to, and now I have a week to get better, or at least, well enough to do an afternoon of metal detecting without three days of scream ab-dabs afterwards.

The pain levels have been pretty grim. Up there with breaking my collar bone in the constant nature of the pain and, when it has subsided a little, the ease with which the slightest of movements will set it off. Also, at the risk of being a bit personal here … weeing. Or more to the point wiping. Fucking hell that hurts. How, in the name of the almighty do women with chronic back pain wipe their arses every day? Is there a lot of screaming? Is there a … surgical device? Jeepers. It’s alright for you blokes, all you have to do is wave it about a bit and shove it back in your trousers. We ladies have to get our hand a great deal further round and fuck me that smarts. I never thought I’d envy the ancient Romans their communal loos with the sponge on a chuffing stick, but frankly, even the prospect of wiping my personal bits with device of dubious provenance that had been used by multiple others – and probably not washed particularly well – would be preferable to the pain of doing it my bastard self. I have, at least, reached the point where I don’t dread going to the loo but it’s still about as much fun as sticking cocktail sticks into my own eyeballs and possibly slightly more painful.

Yeh so … maybe little bit too much information there. Yeh. On that note … I’ll leave you. Don’t have nightmares kids.

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If you need to take your mind off that last paragraph …

You could always pop over to Kobo or WH Smith and download my latest audiobook from the Kobo Sale. It starts officially on 9th September but it has been reduced from £5.99/$6.99 to £2.99 and $3.99 the kobo link, among others, is on this page … here.

Small Beginnings is not quite out at all retailers but getting there … slowly. More on that story … here.

Read by Gareth (The Voice of K’Barth) Davies to the usual extremely high standards. If you want to see what it sounds like, you can catch a listen to Chapter 1 from my soundcloud page here. Or click on the picture.

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Dementia too, because obviously dementia once wasn’t shit enough

Yeh, I selected that heading from Whiny Titles R-Us but it does sum up the way I felt at the start of this week and the feeling I’m trying to describe.

The slough of despond; rain and yellow lines …

Bits of this week have been tough. I’ve had a couple of down days, mainly because I suspect I have had a mild UTI but also it’s the time of the month when I can’t remember my own name without cue cards. Worse, I’d forgotten to put the morning HRT gel on for two days running and that does make a difference. The traffic is back to normal so there has been the usual 40 minute delay along the bottom of the M25 on the way to Mum’s. This last two weeks, the journey time is back to three hours down and two and a half back, so long as I am on the road at half two sharp.

Worse, I’ve been finding it really hard engage with Real Life. To care about the little things that other people need me to care about. Silly stuff. McMini’s bedroom curtains need hemming but it’s difficult to do that while he’s in there with them attending his virtual lessons. It’s the last day today, so that’s fine, I can do it tomorrow, but it’s been a long time and both he and McOther have been eyeing them impatiently. Meanwhile, McOther has a favourite beanbag. The material is completely rotten and sewing it up is a thankless task that I have to repeat every three weeks or so, unless he does it. It’s bust again and so the choice of thankless tasks was twofold: try to get him to understand that the material is rotten, which, itself is a hiding to nothing. Or I fix it again when I know it will break in a few weeks. But fixing it is a duty of love, so perhaps it’s a bit less pointless than it seems. Quietly, without saying so, I know McOther feels unloved if I say I’ll fix it and then take ages to deliver. It’s not good to feel so meh I can’t do anything. More on that story later.

This Wednesday, then, I was not in the right place to drive 288 miles, not even in a Lotus. I felt unbelievably meh. I was teary about the state of Mum, teary about the state of myself and feeling miserable. Then the radio proceeded to play some of my favourite songs. Things which are in my record collection but which I haven’t heard for ages because most of my music equipment assumes that anything I’ve ripped from my own CDs or vinyl is a pirate copy and refuses to play it.

Hearing all these songs again, it seemed that something out there in the ether was trying to tell me to cheer up. Finally one of my very favourite songs as a teenager; Big In Japan, by Alphaville came on. Despite being in very slow moving traffic jam, the gauntlet was thrown down. I was going to sing. I rolled up the windows so, in theory, nobody would hear me, jacked up the volume and joined in. This involved full on pop star style gurning and a selection of ridiculous hand actions, I kept going, even when everything started moving. There’s nothing like giving zero fucks to cheer yourself up, and it did, at least for long enough to realise what was wrong.

You see, lockdown was quite easy, it was like a little six week holiday from the administriviative  shit. I worried about Mum but I rang her every day and I didn’t have to go anywhere or organise anything except my books! I just hung out with the McOthers and sat around in the sun writing. Woot.

Pseudo lockdown is insanely difficult. All the admin has returned with a vengeance, except because of Covid19 it’s about six times harder to do all the things you should be able to do by making a phone call. It’s the hard bits out of Real Life plus extra duties of lockdown, like the calls. All the hassle but none of the convenience. I did manage to get the scan I was due at the hospital but now I need to try and get the cat some shots. As usual, every piece of admin which should involve nothing more than a phone call involves several, and a protracted, drawn out effort, posting things, sending things. Case in point, I’ve just stuffed up my chances of opening a Barnes and Noble vendor account by transposing two numbers in my bank account number. It’s gone into ‘pending’. Probably forever. I can’t change it and I know their help desk is offline until after covid. I think they’re the only site where I have to have a W8EN still too. Everyone else you can just add your tax number and it works. I don’t know much about it but I suspect I have to get another W8EN as mine’s probably expired. Sadly, I do know that this is a great deal more complicated than it was because Americans don’t really understand what a sole trader is.

Meanwhile Mum is still shielding so she can have a few people round but not everyone. The lady who cuts her toenails has started coming again. Yes, when you’re old and arthritic you can’t do that anymore and you have to have someone come and do it for you. The lovely lady who cuts her hair came and gave her an appropriately socially distanced ‘do’ this Wednesday as well.

However, a lot of her friends are shielding, too, or can’t come to see her because she is, so she’s still bored stupid. Hopefully, as the small things that structure her life return, like the hairdresser visiting and the foot lady, she’ll gradually be more grounded again. Just as Dad did, she thrives on social interaction. My fingers and toes are, therefore, crossed. Although I have to accept that there is no guarantee of this. Because I think the main source of my malaise this week was realising that Mum is going to take the same path as Dad. Her own version, but the same horrific journey into oblivion. And I’m going to have to walk beside her; because I love her, and because, if I want to be a decent human being, that’s what I must do.

Please do not feed the animals

As we take these first steps, I guess what struck me down, temporarily, was the renewal of that familiar pain. It still hurts. Even though I’ve done it before and I am aware of the cost. I should know by now. I should be strong. But I’m not. I really wonder if I have the courage to do this a second time. I don’t want her to die, I don’t want to lose her but I pray that she will enjoy a kindly easy passing before it gets too bad. Yet, at the same time, I know she won’t because that might actually be kind to all of us and God forbid that my family should be shown a scrap of mercy over this. Instead, it seems life brings whatever will cause the maximum amount of misery and pain to all of us. Sorry Mum.

I have wondered about consulting my doctor and seeing if some medication might be in order. The trouble is, I’m pretty certain that any kind of medication for depression will merely make me even more forgetful than I already am. And since three quarters of my insane frustration is with my inability to remember a single fucking thing for more than about two and a half seconds, I suspect it would be a bad idea. And anyway. I’m not depressed. I’m sad. There’s a huge difference. When Dad died, there was grief but the sadness went away. It was a liberation.

Now that Mum is showing more acute signs of dementia, it’s back. If you wanted to present me with the perfect storm of things I am shit at dealing with, there are parts of my life over the last eight years that would be an excellent fit. I can do level-headed, clear thought in a crisis. Yeh, I can do that. But long, slow, sustained suffering. No. Not very good at it to be honest.

As I sat there, singing in the car, I realised that I’d started to withdraw completely into inner space. I lost myself in K’Barth, where my characters were suffering but where, I knew, eventually, they would be OK. I made them suffer in the faint hope their pain would somehow alleviate my own. I gave them a happy ever after in the hope that maybe if I did that, I could have one. This is an approach which works really well for me, but, unfortunately, not for those around me. That was another cause of the misery, the misery I was inflicting on my very much loved McOthers. Withdrawing helps me but it hurts everyone else. Small doses then.

As I drove, something happened. I don’t know how, but something in me fixed it. The blinkers came up again and I saw what I needed to see. I saw what was there in Mum rather than what wasn’t there. I stopped seeing drudgery and saw small acts of love. And I remembered that I have done this before. And suddenly, I slipped into the coping strategy. Short bursts of activity. An hour at the computer and then half an hour doing something else around the house. Tiny steps. 10 minutes a day. Pigeon steps, inching forward one tiny step at a time. Lists. Lots of lists. Each project broken down into manageable tiny items which are ticked off as they are done.

Don’t be a … or maybe do be one … or work smarter not harder … or something.

Lockdown was a luxury. Lockdown afforded me big chunks of time in which to write. My work came on in leaps and bounds. But lockdown is over. I need to see the me time as brief moments of something else among the admin. I need to see life as peppered with acts of love, which is what the housework side of stuff really is. Except it’s a horrible phrase … very ‘putting out love and keeping it there’ but until I can think of something better it’ll have to do. And anyway, because it sounds like fake Oprah, it’s sort of funny and that helps. As for the worry about Mum and the trying to sort things out for her. I need to call all that something different too. Same thing? Ah why not?

Duty is a crushing, heavy suffocating word, calling it an act of love makes it feel a lot lighter.

It’s amazing how, always, always, always, holding onto your sanity is about how you look at what’s happening, how you frame it to yourself. That simple switch and I’m cheerful again, and reasonably happy. I feel the weight, for sure, but it’s lessened. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is a chuffing marvel. If you are struggling with anything heavy and millstone-like in your life, I urge you to look it up. I never cease to be amazed how I can actually do a PR/Propaganda job on myself. I know what I’m doing, I know I’m just putting a different slant on it, yet it works.

You may consign the coping strategies to the past when you don’t need them, but it’s slightly miraculous how quickly they came back when you do. I feel better, a lot better. To be honest, I still don’t really don’t know if I can do this a second time. But there’s no point in wondering. I swam through the dark waters with Dad and came out the other side. I’ll just have to take each stage as it comes, strike out into the void and give it my best shot.

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If you are feeling a bit meh, yourself, you could always pick up a good book! Indeed, if you’re feeling really lazy you don’t even have to read it. Choose one of the audiobooks and Gareth will do that for you. Indeed anyone who signs up for my audio mailing list gets two books free; Unlucky Dip and Night Swimming. That’s two hours of glorious K’Barthan lunacy for zero pence. Yep! Night Swimming comes later on, although I may switch it so it’s the story people get first. It’s just that suddenly I have very little time so for now it’s Unlucky Dip first, then a week or two and Night Swimming.

Anyway, Gareth played a blinder on both but the really lovely thing about it is that Unlucky was the first one he did and Night Swimming is his most recent. You get to see what he’s learned in the interim. So there you are, if do want a listen, just go here, sign up and they should both arrive in your inbox over the course of about three weeks: https://www.hamgee.co.uk/audio1fb.html

Unlucky Dip Audio Book


If you do join in, and it’s not obligatory or anything, but if you do, or if you have and there’s any stuff you want me to ask Gareth about how he did the recordings, let me know and I’ll ask him.

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