We are going for it

I have been sitting here for an hour eating mince pies while choosing Christmas presents online and working out my Christmas entertainment. I have decided to break the habit of a lifetime and go for Christmas a bit early this year. This is because (a) I am enjoying looking forward a bit and (b) I could do with being a bit more organised about Christmas for a change. (I have no sensible reason to excuse excessive mince pie eating at this time of year – except that both they and I are in the same room alone). If you are a member of my family by the way whether by blood, marriage or soon to be marriage, you should know that I will be issuing a three line whip for one of the Christmas Musicals that are on the big screen this year. Singin’ In The Rain is probably favourite but I have a few in mind. Get your diaries ready kids!!

Anyway – it’s only eight weeks to Christmas and we will be a bit busy in the run up. Our friends on the Crisis Care Team (Honestly – I am so grateful for them, I could lick them sometimes) they think they have found somewhere for Aged Parent. It seems very nice but we are going to look at it properly next week. The only issue is that it is twenty minutes away in the car. I was very exercised by this (AP isn’t bothered – she wants to go and go now). However, HOH has pointed out gently that maybe the idea is that we are a little further away so we didn’t go quite as often now she has more support.

She may feel that she could do without my support to be fair. I brought her washing home as usual this week but I am not really up to speed with the new fangled washer-dryer. I’m more of a line dry woman myself but we are not allowed washing on the balcony – that will get us up before the Residents Association I suppose and anyone who has seen Rosemary’s Baby knows that never ends well. Anyway, I have to do AP’s underwear in the dryer because HOH is not too keen on having it all on airers in the apartment. Not because he’ll be overcome with lust or anything. It’s just that he is dealing with ladies pantaloons etc. on the ward for a lot of the day and doesn’t like to see it at home. Fair enough. I seem to have gone overboard with the washer temperature and I am sure everything has come out smaller. Not Brazillian thong smaller you understand but definitely smaller. Ah well – she is talking about de-cluttering.

I’m watching His Dark Materials again and not enjoying it as much. Firstly because (probably because of BBC budget constraints), not everyone has a little cute CGI animal following them around. I thought everyone who had a soul was supposed to have one? I’m finding it a bit annoying. Also, as someone else said, why are all the daemons either cute or exotic? Why does no-one have a cow or buffalo or a pig? Also, and this just may be me, but I don’t think anyone has successfully produced anti Christian polemic that isn’t a bit clunky and obvious. I think I can probably see where it’s going. I think my daemon would be a big pig. Possibly a greedy one. Back to the mince pies.

The Five

The Untold Lives of the Women killed Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

In 2015 there was a bit of a hoo-hah in the planning department in London’s City Council. Planning permission had been granted to convert a Victorian house into a small museum which would examine “Women’s History”. As this subject had been woefully under-represented, this seemed an excellent idea.

The planning department, therefore, declared themselves somewhat startled when the covers came off at the new attraction and they found it was named “The Jack The Ripper Museum”. It seemed the only “Women” who qualified to have their “History” examined were those who had died horrible, brutal deaths in and around Whitechapel in 1888. When questioned as to whether they had been somewhat economical with the truth in their planning application in order to get a dodgy old screams and bloody bandage type place past the planners, the proprietors declared themselves shocked and offended. Indeed no – they said. This was just a slight change of focus and the Ripper’s victims would have their lives examined in forensic detail and we would all get to see them front row centre for the first time.

Probably against everyone’s better judgement, the museum was allowed to open and the women’s lives were examined using the medium of several pieces of A4 paper with a bit of descriptive detail but, unsurprisingly, these have not proved as popular as the room which is described as “not suitable for children.”

This is a long introduction to this book which takes the exact opposite approach. (Please forgive photo of book next to remains of lunch – slovenly behaviour). It is about the canonical five women who were killed over a period between August and November 1888. You will, however, find no description of their deaths or the state they were found in, the murderer is not described and there is no speculation as to his identity. Instead, there is discussion around the women – their backgrounds, their families and their lives – and it’s a bit of an eye opener. Despite the way the women are usually described – only one, Mary Jane Kelly was actually a prostitute. The others were women who, when things began to go wrong, found that females had little or no support to get back on their feet.

One lady was an alcoholic and despite the love and support of her family (who sent her to a sanitarium to recover) eventually she relapsed and left her family because the drink became more important. Another, whose husband found the charms of the lady next door irresistible to the point that he moved her in, left her children because she had nowhere to take them. Her husband was supposed to pay her some kind of financial support but, once he proved that she was with someone else, which anyone living on the street needed to be to remain safe, he stopped the payment.

The women moved in and out of the workhouse to get medical treatment and guaranteed food. No-one stayed in the workhouse for very long though because conditions were, intentionally, very harsh. The idea being to discourage anyone who felt that a week in the care of the authorities was preferable to a week of hard work. In reality, for the poor, neither in nor out of the workhouse was a good option. You lose some, you lose some.

These were women who had lived through terrible circumstances and been unable to get out from under them. These women certainly weren’t perfect and they made bad choices but they were not who we often think they were. Under different circumstances, they could be you or me.

I thought this was excellent. The women are interesting and sad and they feel like what they were – real people. There is social commentary – women had few rights and this made their circumstances so much more difficult to overcome. It’s not a preachy nagging thing though – it tells stories about the women and it’s important that they are heard.

Dipping toes back in

Hello All. Hope you are well. We have had an interesting week. We are still tripping over our memories of Morecambe but it has only been a week so that is only to be expected. Thank you for all your messages of support. They were truly appreciated and helpful. We are not too bad most of the time, apart from our habit of dropping leftover chicken onto the kitchen floor. Firstly because it’s a bit heartbreaking when you realise he’s not going to pick it up and also because it’s a bit dangerous as chicken is a bit slippy on a wooden floor. You can’t be too careful.

We have dipped our toes back into bits and pieces of life as the week has gone on – including (see above) a church. It’s a church on our new road and we went to the Morning Service today. Obviously it is very early days and we are not here to pass judgement on anyone but everyone seemed nice. We did just go to the meeting and ran away afterwards – they all seemed to be sitting down to a full on Sunday roast afterwards which we were invited to but we weren’t ready for that. We will go again I think. Softly, softly.

I’ve also watched the first episode of His Dark Materials, which is very clever I think. I had never been too bothered about the books because of the anti-Christian rhetoric but, watching the first episode, that bit is so clunky and obvious it hasn’t troubled me so far. It’s beautiful to look at and HOH is very taken with Ruth Wilson’s presence (can’t argue with that to be fair).

Last week, Aged Parent finally got her diagnosis after her brain scan and it is Alzheimers. Because of the circumstances of our life over the last three years, no-one – Aged Parent included was too surprised. Her approach is “I don’t feel confused therefore I am not”. And, at this stage, that is enough I think. She has been under the care of an NHS crisis team since her sustained attempt to beat the International World Record for most ambulances called out in the shortest time period (extra points are awarded if they can’t find anything wrong with you). When I called the chief paramedic of the team to let her know the diagnosis – she shouted “Yes!”. After immediately apologising she said “It’s just that we can do so much more for her – and you – when we have a rock solid diagnosis”. So the idea is to move AP, as soon as they can’ to a housing scheme with 24/7 carer support, although she will still have her own front door. AP is properly thrilled with this development as she says that loneliness is her biggest problem and the place she is moving to has a thriving social scene.

A strange thing that happened was that the consultant apologised to me for the amount of time all this had taken. She had read back on APs notes and my emails and was horrified by what we had been doing alone. I don’t think we are anything special – in fact I know we are not. We know a few people dealing with families with these issues but it is nice not to feel so guilty all the time for falling short. Meanwhile AP is holding court like Princess Margaret as carers, Occ. Therapists, Physiotherapists and other assorted support workers come and go and she has never been happier. (Especially because her physio is a 6 foot tall black man who she has particularly taken to). I was musing the other day about how I had never really inherited my mother’s supreme confidence in her own attraction for the opposite sex – not that she ever did much about it – but it must be nice to be that happy in your own skin.

The times they are a you know whatting and we are slowly inching forward with them.

Morecambe – a good dog

They say that when you buy a dog that loss is always on the horizon. They don’t live as long as us generally and (if all goes according to plan) in the end the day will come when you say good-bye.

This week, we said good-bye to Morecambe. Those of you who have followed our travails over the last few weeks will know that he has struggled with separation anxiety and we weren’t quite sure about the way forward. Especially when someone kindly pushed an anonymous note under our door basically saying “Shut Your Dog Up”. (Are Christian Curses unacceptable? Asking for a friend).

It was a long weekend last weekend. We tried a dog behaviourist, a Doggy Day Care lady (she ended up with a bitten thumb for her trouble) and lots of friends and we had to reluctantly accept that there was no way forward. The vet said that he felt that there was a neurological problem and that his age meant that to put him to sleep was the kindest decision. Well it might be for Morecambe buster but we have been devastated. HOH – who took him to the vets to do the deed – has been particularly traumatised.

People are very kind aren’t they. You watch 15 minutes of Brexit coverage and you could be forgiven for thinking the country is full of self-serving lunatics who don’t care about anyone but themselves. Well I have a house full of flowers and bagful of “so sorry” messages that prove otherwise and I for one am jolly grateful.

At the moment, we still miss him like mad. We miss walks, cuddles on the sofa (if he was in the mood) and saving the last bits of food for him. But we know that we gave him a fantastic life and eventually we won’t feel like this. Eventually.

Just be a bit kinder eh.

I am so sorry if you are bored with all this but I feel a pull to update everybody who is following all this with bated breath. We feel like the stars of a Dickens serialisation at the moment. If you want to read something else I have a couple of book reviews in the pipeline for the next couple of mid-weeks. More edifying hopefully. (Actually thinking about one of the books – no probably not that edifying. Still, at least it’s not about me).

We have re-arranged the appointment for Aged Parent’s scan results for the end of the week. Actually, that was close run thing because on receiving the letter with the new appointment time, AP promptly rang the Doctor’s secretary and cancelled it – saying she didn’t think she would be well enough. I rang her support worker with a VERY wobbly bottom lip and she rang the hospital and re-instated it. AP was told in no uncertain terms that she had to go. She pulled a strop which I then dealt with by telling her that she wouldn’t be moved to a new flat without these results. Cue miraculous recovery. We shall see.

Life with Morecambe took a turn for the worse when someone kindly put an unsigned note in our letterbox which told us in no uncertain terms to sort our noisy dog out. I mean, I have sympathy for their position but couldn’t they have knocked on the door and we would have been able to explain what is going on. Now, I am just giving everyone the evil eye in case THEY were the person. (I’m quite enjoying it really. It’s releasing tension) It’s not just us either HOH saw a note on a car in our underground car park whose driver had parked it badly. They had asked for a bit of grace for a week because their partner was disabled and they were trying out the wheelchair. Someone else had left a nasty note basically saying that wasn’t good enough. Again unsigned. I mean, what is wrong with people? I am aware that the best way to deal with this is to destroy this kind of stuff with excessive kindness. And when I am ready to stop swinging Thor’s Hammer of Death at everyone in the building, that will almost certainly be my next move.

We went to see dog lady trainer and when we eventually found it (Cornwall – would a couple of post 1963 signs actually kill you?) we found she lived in heaven. A country house with a couple of paddocks, donkeys, goats chickens and her own “neurotic” dogs. She was lovely but taking into account Morecambe’s age, she wasn’t sure if her strategies would work and, if they did, they would take several months to kick in. So now we have to find Doggy Day Care as they call it for the couple of days a week when we are both working. At the moment, we cannot find anything that is not in the centre of Dartmoor but we are working on it. On Doggy Lady’s advice we have also approached FOW 1 and 2 to see if they can dog-sit alternately once a fortnight so that we can go out in the evening once a week. They have been really nice and are happy to do it. According to Doggy Lady, this is important as we need to have a life so we don’t start resenting the dog. Am hoping that ship hasn’t already sailed.

The one thing that is really doing our head in is that we can’t really get to church. Our kids can’t sit for Morcs on Sunday morning for various logistical reasons, so we are stuck. As we were going to try a new church down the road, neither of us feel comfortable approaching the vicar for ideas. Have actually found myself thinking – Why would God do that? (Answers on a postcard please)

Anyway – to finish this laugh a minute I thought I could tell you what we had been watching this week. HOH is very exercised by the the return of Spiral which is a French detective drama where everyone looks like they could use a flippin good wash to be honest. I keep getting told off for saying things like “She looks like she smells”. I don’t watch it myself, although HOH assures me that that the body-count is disappointingly low. Yes – I’ve heard that before. Last programme he said that about, an eighty year old lady had a hood over her head in the first ten minutes. We also watched a documentary about Leonard Cohen and a lady called Marianne who was apparently his muse. I didn’t think I could actually whistle a Leonard Cohen tune but it turned out I knew quite a lot. The whole film was a huge advert for not doing drugs – ever. Everyone had been taking loads of stuff that made them act horribly and ignore their children until they also went bonkers. Also everyone in it had terrible teeth and – well I’ll be frank – looked like they smelled. Also, being Leonard Cohen’s muse seemed to involve cooking and cleaning for him while he rolled around the world experimenting sexually with every woman with a pulse while all his friends described him as a feminist.

So to end on the joy that is Great British Bake Off. I didn’t watch the first season when it moved to Channel 4 but I watch it now because everyone is just so lovely. (I take no notice of the judges. I’m not entirely convinced that Paul Hollywood can bake at all. Have you ever seen him make anything? Without Mary Berry that is.) I just love the contestants. I love how much they support each other and smile and laugh and hug. I love the way they hold hands when the judgement is coming. And Henry makes me laugh. I even laughed at a Noel Fielding joke this week which is a first. They are just kind to each other. Not that difficult.