Weary in Wellbeing

January is nearly done now, everyone. Despite having 342 days in it, we stuck with it and we have battered January down. Like most people, I’m finding it all a bit wearying at the moment. I’m in a privileged position I know. I don’t home school. I get to go to work and speak to people (even though most of them are banging on about the same things that I am – Covid etc. etc.) and I am in a position to keep a close eye on my family. Yet still, I find my moods are prone to a drop every now and then – usually for no good reason. And I am really bored of being told to look after my wellbeing.

I am fed up of face-masks, long bubble baths, turning my bathroom into a home sauna and every other suggestion to promote wellbeing. I’ll be honest – I haven’t actually done any of these things. (Well that’s not strictly true as our underfloor heating isn’t working properly and the bathroom tiles are permanently toasty – even when the heat is switched off. It’s good for drying the washing but you can feel a bit faint after a hot shower). The old pamper game isn’t a bad thing obviously. I’m just not sure they are exactly what’s needed for me to float my boat – wellbeing wise that is.

It’s nice of these magazines to think of me, it’s just that I am not convinced that a deep conditioner and putting my hair up in a towel is exactly what I need at the moment. By the way – if you get Woman Alive – were you perplexed at all by the cover this month? It’s a very good issue about being single, and behold we can see a woman taking care of her wellbeing by luxuriating in a dressing gown and possibly a hair mask. (As all single people do during the lonely weekends apparently) She is also wearing sunglasses. Over her facemask. Sunglasses? Am I missing something? (Wouldn’t be the first time) Is she wearing sunglasses because it is very bright in the house? Is it a disability issue? Is she shy? (Probably too much time on my hands pondering such things). That cat doesn’t look as if it has the faintest idea either.

On top of everything else, Aged Parent’s vaccination has been cancelled because she lives in sheltered accommodation rather than a care home. Someone somewhere has decided that sheltered accommodation is actually full of fit as butchers’ dogs 55-year-olds who are trying to sneak under the vaccination wire. Never mind that everyone on Aged Parent’s floor has carers four times a day and she has problems walking to the kitchen – before we even look at getting to a sports hall at the other end of the city. The “powers that be” will not release the name of the doctor who led the team that made that decision. I only want to talk to him and ask a few questions about his thinking. Please do not let this axe that I am holding make you think that I am in any way upset by these anonymous clots.

So, I’m here, asking what you do to promote your wellbeing/good mental health/ability to not run through the house screaming. I have tidied most cupboards in the house but most of them are a bit untidy again because we are in All. The. Time. Anyway, HOH likes to be chief tidier and I don’t like to step on his toes in that area, so doing anymore sorting is out.

I think that possibly what is needed is more awareness when I am actually feeling ok and acknowledgement of when something has done me good rather than so much whingeing and moaning. It’s sort of like the old hymn “Count Your Blessings.” (takes me back to loud verses with tambourines and then putting your hymn book under your arm so you could clap in the chorus). Basically, the idea is concentrating and taking on board when something does you good and holding on to the thought long enough to realise that something good and positive has happened.

In that spirit – could I take this opportunity to recommend The Dig to you. It’s a film on Netflix about the excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial mounds just before the Second World War. Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes are outstanding in it and Suffolk is completely beautiful. It’s not a perfect film. There’s a rubbish sub-plot where it looks as if someone decided “what this film needs is a couple of younger sexier pieces leading up to some unnecessary jig-a-jig” but put that to one side because this is absolutely worth your time and will make your daily wrestle to achieve the elusive “wellbeing” that bit easier.

Just a sharp scratch

Hello. Hope you are all well. How was your week? Been anywhere nice? No, thought not. It seems to be a feature of this lockdown that we are all a bit fluffy and vague than we have been up to now. and struggling to get anything done? No? Just me then.

All our drama this week has been around vaccinations. Firstly, we received a phone call offering vaccination to Aged Parent. I didn’t want to turn it down because we had already refused one because HOH and I were both working and we couldn’t get her there. Also, I kept thinking that people would think it was a very subtle assassination attempt if I kept turning it down. I was dreading it because it would have meant me driving to meet her and then getting on our vaccination minibus. (we are running trips to the vaccination centres for those struggling on their pins and with parking spaces), queuing to get into the hall and then dealing with the inevitable drama that would follow the actual injection. (Arrrrgh! That REALLY hurt!). However, just when my nervous breakdown was reaching a crescendo, we had a call from Mum’s supported living flats telling us that a vaccination team was coming into the building next week to do all the residents and staff and wouldn’t that be better for AP? YES! And they say there isn’t a God. Obviously, I snatched their hands off. AP wasn’t that happy that she wasn’t going to get to leave the building. “I was going to put my rollers in!” but life is full of disappointments. So hopefully all will go well with the best possible scenario being that AP gets a vaccination that keeps her safe and people who are called to be carers as a life choice get to deal with someone who is going to enjoy her day in the limelight – whatever it takes – and I don’t have to! Win. Win. As the young people say.

I also had my first vaccination today. (It’s to do with my employment. They are trying to stop us from passing on anything nasty to the old people we work with). All seemed very well organised. We all queued for a long time but it moved very quickly. I would say that an extra hand would be helpful. I was struggling to hold my i.d., my driving licence, the paper you had to fill in, balancing my glasses on my head, stopping my mask from pinging off and generally holding it together while it poured down. (As far as I could see no-one in the queue had thought to bring a brolly). However, once inside, it all seemed to go well. There were several medium-sized crises because none of us had brought a pen and the gentleman in front of me decided he was unhappy that other people were unhappy about that.

“No-one told us to bring a pen! I am reading the form here and I have seen it on Spotlight news and it says nothing about pens.”

Nurse/admin type person – ignoring him completely – shouts down the line.

“And can you please make sure you write legibly otherwise we can’t read your forms and you won’t get a call back for your second vaccination!”

This is too much for the man in front who, having purloined a pen is now struggling to fill his form in by lifting one leg up and writing using his thigh as a makeshift table – fairly unsuccessfully.

“And just how are we supposed to do that? Have you tried filling a form in on your backside? (inaccurate and frankly physically impossible but he was worked up).

The nurses in the actual vaccination pods were helpful and kind and I was very proud of myself because I held it together and to all outside appearances appeared to be a normal person. (Remind me one day to tell you about him much I struggle with any kind of medical intervention since my illness – much to the surprise of the dental hygenist who looked down to see me crying silent tears because she had to give me a small injection). All went well and despite how painful my arm is, I am being a brave soldier because I am very grateful for the kindness and straight-up genius of the people who have got us to this place.

Anyway, all I have to do now is wait for the second dose which, by my calculations, should be done around May 2023. It’s all going very well.

Check-In

Hello All. I’m just checking in to see that everyone is alright. Death bringing pandemic notwithstanding. This is me, taking shopping to Aged Parent this week. She’s a bit bad-tempered about the extra lockdown and not being able to go out. (Don’t believe her. She goes out. Frightens her carers to death when they can’t find her but she definitely goes out). This week the sheltered housing is having something done to the rendering and apparently, all the hammering made a picture fall off the wall. HOH and I arrived with her shopping to find that she had taken ALL the pictures off the wall just to be on the safe side. We left it. There was no point in putting them all back. The scaffolding is still up so she will only take them down again when the builders come back. AP has always erred on the side of caution. She unplugs all the plugs at night because she doesn’t trust electricity. It’s commendable in a way but it does mean that the heating doesn’t come on in the morning because all the timers are out of sync. Fortunately, she can’t reach the plug to the fridge.

I think she gets this from her mother. I remember as a little girl that my Nana used to put tea cloths over mirrors during thunderstorms. And also over the budgie’s cage. The mirrors were to stop the lightening reflecting back into the flat. I’m not sure about the budgie. To be honest, it didn’t end well with the budgie. My Nana accidentally sat on him when she was bending down to put her boots on. She was very upset but, I would think not half as upset as the budgie was.

My Nana and Grandad lived in a huge tower block in Salford. If she ever looked after me when my parents were working, she would wrap a pair of tights around the handle of the door to the balcony. This was to stop me or my cousin getting out and having a terrible accident. She was a big worrier with nervous problems Some said it was because my cousin and I would shut ourselves in the wardrobe and burst out and shout “Boo!” when she was looking for us. She did jump. We thought it was very funny at the time. Kids are horrible sometimes.

However, my Mum told me that Nana was frightened of the balcony because one day she had seen someone fall past her flat who had thrown himself off the balcony much higher up. And, for a horrible split second, she had actually caught his eye. My cousin and I felt bad about that. Although not bad enough to stop using the bed as a trampoline and then denying all knowledge when it broke.

There’s a lot going on that would make any sane person frightened at the moment. Real things involving death, destruction, empty supermarket shelves etc. Everyone – including me – is talking about anxiety. Low level, knawing anxiety. In my Nana’s case, it led to her being afraid of so many things – her life became very difficult. Most things you read now encourage us to be mindful and look inside ourselves for answers. I’m ok with being mindful if it’s about noticing the sky and trees and how nice Jammie Dodgers actually are. I’m not so keen on too much looking inside myself at me – at least not for too long. All I seem to find inside myself is more of me. I’m also not sure that I have any answers to fear and depression. But I found this. It’s Psalm 94

When I was upset and beside myself,
    you calmed me down and cheered me up.

or more poetically

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Because you see, I’m not sure that I am capable of dealing with my fears on my own. I would rather go to someone who understands better than I do myself and ask for calm and consolation there. Safer that way I think.

Books

WWW.LMKMEDIA.COM.

Hello. Apologies for the delay. The blog had a critical error or something which I have sorted out myself without having to phone Bill Gates. This is good because he is very busy controlling all the 80-year-olds who have had the vaccination. This must be a full-time job if you think about it. I know trying to keep Aged Parent under any kind of control is very time-consuming. Especially at the moment. The lift has broken down. “Well, they will keep putting fat people in it and they insist on bringing their wheelchairs.” She is getting quite a lot of stir craziness and last week took a taxi to Asda again without telling anyone. She came back to a place full of carers who were panting slightly because they had been running around trying to find her and trying to keep the rising levels of panic under control. She was, of course, completely unrepentant.

Right. So, as promised, my favourite books of last year. I think you would be expecting some magnificent and in-depth list because of all the extra free time I have had. (Spoiler alert. I have had NO extra free time and I know I am not alone in this). It was not a vintage year for books for me. This is not a reflection on the books. It is a reflection on me. I have been almost permanently distracted, with a poor attention span and a lot of perfectly sound books have just got on my nerves. I think I have spent a fortune on books as well this year – only to be three chapters in and suddenly think. “Blimey, this is annoying” and chuck it onto the Ziffit pile. Many of these books are not new but they are mostly new to me. I have re-read a couple of old favourites. I make no apology for re-reading a few Barbara Pyms when the going got really tough but these are the standouts.

The Thursday Murder Club. This was the publishing sensation of 2020 and for good reason, I think. It is part of the “Cosy” murder mystery genre and although it wasn’t that cosy – there are quite a few bodies – it was really enjoyable. Cometh the hour – Cometh the book. Lovely characters. A sympathetic study of old age (If you have the dosh) and written by Richard Osman who may well be the cleverest, nicest man on the planet. Apparently, Mr Osman has film rights and there is lots of interest around – possibly from someone with the words Spiel and berg in their name. I think it is crying out for a decent treatment. I just hope the characters are played by older people – not Lily James and Idris Elba on walking frames.

I also enjoyed The Windsor Knot in which her Majesty the Queen (yes that one) solves murders. It is a lovely read and the Queen is sympathetically and believably drawn. I enjoyed it more than The Crown, some of it felt more believable (apart from the murder bit) Philip, in particular, is well written and the bond between them is touching and you understand what binds them together. I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction. On a negative note, the murder solving is a bit rubbish and I can always do without a high heeled, kick-ass assistant but I loved the book and I love Queenie. So there you are.

Favourite book of the year was Amor Towles A Gentleman in Moscow. During the Russian Revolution, an aristocrat is sentenced to life imprisonment in the Metropole hotel. He has to leave his luxurious suite and is taken to a small room to live out the rest of his days. Count Alexander Rostov, though is resourceful and determined and he carves out a life for himself full of friendship and love and his life takes in unexpected twists and turns. It must have been quite daunting to write a novel in 95% of the action takes place in one building but he sorts that brilliantly. it only feels claustrophobic when it is meant to. Sometimes he is in danger but you are rooting for him all the time. This is also ready for a film treatment and I have decided that he should be played by Ralph Fiennes. (see above). Please also feel free to look at “Rules of Civility” by the same author. Set in a depression-era New York – the characters, the story and the setting are all outstanding.

I have a couple of Christian type books to finish on. However, I have to say that I have struggled with this this year. Some of my fondest memories were reading books like Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll, What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald and Father Heart of God by Floyd McClung. And that’s to name a few. I just can’t find anything like these books. There’s a lot of stuff hectoring me about how I should reduce time on social media (you think?) or telling me about Christian mindfulness, but nothing that made me cry on the bus as the Yancy did. It could be me obviously or maybe I am looking in the wrong places. I very much enjoyed Equality is Biblical by Pen Wilcock. It’s scholarly but very readable. A lot of things I have taken for granted were challenged but also it is a warm and encouraging read.

I also enjoyed Miss What Does Imcomprehensible Mean? by Fran Hill. It’s not a “Christian” book – it’s about a teacher who is a Christian. It’s funny and touching and I never want to be a teacher. I don’t think I could take the pace. Honourable mentions to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, The Mirror and the Light by Hillary Mantel (bit long for me though sorry) and Broken Harbour by Tana French. Next year I hope to read a few more 40s and 50s murder mysteries because I like ’em and find more Christian books that aren’t helping me to lose weight. Any recommendations gratefully received.

The Trust Deficit

Happy New Year! I don’t know about you but seeing the New Year in was a very low key affair round here. I was dozing off by 10.30 and the telly wasn’t helping. The choice was an old Bond, Graham Norton making me confused about what day it was because he is usually on the telly on Fridays or Jools Holland. Jools Holland was particularly depressing because of the lack of an audience and, although that meant that we were spared the spectacle of boozed-up newsreaders dancing to “Baggy Trousers”, it did mean that the party atmosphere was less impressive than it could have been. So, we watched a film on Netflix, opened a bottle of fizz and dozed off a bit. All very appropriate in the circumstances I think.

Here in the Uk, we are all very excited by the appearance of a vaccine and it is this appearance that is helping us all to ignore the overwhelming DEVASTATION that Coronavirus is wreaking here at the moment. I am sorry but I am going to a be a bit (a) political and (b) old fashioned in this blog and so, if you are not happy with that, you can leave but please come back next week when I will be looking at my favourite books of 2020.

I read something about Boris Johnson this week that gave me more pause for thought than maybe it should have, Someone who works on the floor of a TV studio said that when Boris Johnson arrived, he looked smart and every hair was in place. However, before he went on camera – he looked in a mirror and deliberately messed his hair up. And I wondered what it is that he thinks he is selling to the British people. A mate? Someone you can have a laugh with? A buffoon? And really, I think we would rather have a leader. If I was going to define a leader in this case, it would be someone who was better than me. Someone I looked up to. And, I have some problems with our current government in that area.

If Christmas had been in March this year (bear with me – it gets clearer) I don’t think that there would have been the huge discussions around whether people were going to stick to the rules or not. In the main, people would have stayed with it I think until the Barnard Castle event. If, when the Prime Minister’s special advisor was found cheating the rules, he had sacked him or at least told him off – I think we would have gone with it but all we were met with was silence and a shrug. Polls show that, since that moment, we have maybe thought that this government does not have our best interests at heart. This was followed by incidents with Pritti Patel (Breaking the Ministerial Code and bullying) Gavin Williamson (Incompetence) and Robert Jenrick (Building up a long list of people who have financially benefitted from his decisions). In the olden days, these people would have been dismissed – because what has been done just isn’t right. Now, I’m not foolish enough to say that previous governments were whiter than white but, in the main, when you got caught out, you put your hands up and said – it’s a fair cop and someone had to go. Not anymore. The trouble is, when you are seen to side with bullies or dishonesty or even incompetence, then people start to ask themselves what it is what you DO stand for exactly and can they trust you to make the big decisions about them and their families. Polls are showing that support for the government and Johnson, in particular, is falling sharply. In the olden days, that would be neither here not there. Governments come and go. But tomorrow parents are being asked to trust this government and send their children to school – even though – no-one can provide them with any convincing evidence that it is safe – for pupils, teachers or their families.

So far, the government’s reaction to this has been to try and paint teachers as workshy, troublemakers who fancy a few more weeks off. In fact, everyone with even slightly functional eyes in their heads knows that teachers are at the toughest forefront of all tough forefronts possible at the moment and we are not being fooled by that. The other way to deal with the schools’ problem appears to be to do last-minute handbrake turns in policy that do not encourage faith in The Plan. No-one is saying this is an easy time. No-one is expecting faultless government. What we have a right to expect though is a level of integrity or failing that, a teeny tiny bit of integrity.

I think, if I had children, I might not be sending them to school tomorrow because I am not convinced it is safe – for children, teachers or the population at large. Basically, it’s because I don’t believe them and that’s a shame