Saturday 28 February 2009

Murder, "Tithing", punishment ....

Dear Mr Postman .. now this looks interesting a bit of local Cornish history .. my mother will be interested in this positive story ..

A murder occurred ... the murderer seeking sanctuary in St Euny Church, Lelant - since sanctuary from the law was then given. It was recorded in 1284 at the Assize in Launceston, capital of Cornwall, some 60 miles away.

Although the judges met at Easter time in 1284, the murder may have taken place years before - the previous Assize had been in 1269!! The judges looked at what had happened and how the authorities at the time had dealt with it.

Crime and punishment was the ultimate responsibility of the community elders, under the unit of authority and administration known as a "tithing" - before the establishment of our English parishes. These were harsh and brutal times - William the Conqueror had advocated that "No-one shall be hanged or killed for any crime, but put out his eyes or castrate him". My Ma laughing on this .. when I said 'I'd rather be hanged '.. said: well you can't be castrated!! They can do worse!!

A record of these proceedings was produced for the Assize judges when they came to Launceston in 1284. They were to judge and review how the coroner and jury had dealt with it .. they weren't so much about ensuring that justice was done, but more about fining anyone and everybody for failing to follow the rules exactly - thus filling the king's coffers!! After due consideration & subsequent fining - the king did very well out of Richard's murder!!

The full story can be read here .. Lelant to St Ives by Sandra Pritchard.

Oh Mr Postman - we are so pleased we live today and not 750 years ago!! .. we had a bit of a chuckle about the story ... 'til tomorrow then ..

Lelant to St Ives, Cornwall ... 1200s to the modern day ...

Dear Mr Postman .. oh excellent another positive story .. we'll enjoy reading and chatting about the contents and have some laughter along the way as we recall things ..

Amazing ... two things ... my mother was happy today .. thankgoodness & seemed in good spirits .. she was 'on her way to Cornwall' (where she used to live and really calls 'home') and I had found an article, through the auspices of this magic machine of a lap top through the interconnected airwaves, on exactly the part of the world she'd been a part of for 88 years ...

We read the lot - 9 pages of quite big print .. with a number of evocative photos .. all of which resonated with my Ma. Isn't that great?! I'll summarise parts of it .. I was really interested in the historical aspects - how they meted out punishment in those days - the 1200s ... will be in the next instalment.

Briefly - there's branch line that was finished in 1877 from St Erth on the main line to St Ives, the picturesque fishing village, now a tourist attraction and artists' colony; fortunately the branch line has been retained .. and the 4 mile train ride is fantastic along Lelant Saltings, past St Euny church, between West Cornwall Golf Club and the dunes, through the hazel nut grove, over tiny sparkling streams, through the wooded valleys, linking settlements scattered over the downs until we reached St Ives.

The area of our holidays and my mother's roots .. so we had lots to discuss and she remembered many of the names without prompting .. a two way process - which is such a pleasure for me - and we both learned so much .. she'll enjoy hearing these stories again: murder, permanent exile, "tithings", a theatrical impresario, historical aspects - a potted history of the changes occurring in the demographics, cultural and modernisation of a tiny part of west Penwith .. the westerly tip of Cornwall.

There's a 3 min YouTube video of the train trip .. only showing the bay side, and unfortunately it's a gloomy English! day .. so if you feel like a real train trip .. please enjoy the short journey .. and the article's details are also here .. and of course Wikipedia gives further information on the Bay and on St Ives itself ...

St Ives Bay Scenic Railway ride ...

Thank you Mr Postman .. have you been on this magical train ride? .. it's so glorious and brings back so many memories for us .. thank you ..

Friday 27 February 2009

Skeleton Coast - Namib Desert - Gondwanaland

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for your letter today .. life is not easy at the moment .. and we need some positive letter input - so we're very pleased to see you ..

I don't often feel so low... my poor mother .. but to cheer us up .. I showed my mother the posters I'd had printed up .. and she was appreciative .. I have to ask a taller person to put them on the ceiling!!

The Smoke That Thunders .. or Victoria Falls - founded by David Livingstone in 1855, and which he named in honour of Queen Victoria. She seemed to really like this picture & I hope she'll be able to weave lots of stories into the plummeting water, the rich jungle rain forest, the rainbow with its surrounding Falls and imagine the African animals in the countryside beyond the Falls.

The other picture is of the Namib Desert. This part of the world is really interesting .. an amazing place - where a footprint will stay in the sand for 100 years .. you don't wander off! About 150 million years ago the supercontinent, Gondwanaland, of the southern hemisphere began to break apart as the African and South American continents slowly drifted away from each other. Identical lava flows appear in Brazil and in Namibia supporting the continental drift theory.

We had a trip into the northern parts of Namibia - to the Skeleton Coast & environs .. it is absolutely fantastic - beautiful coloured dunes - it is difficult to visualise a greater contrast than a desert meeting an ocean: But such extremes can be seen here, where the Namib pushes a sea of hot sand into the cold, cold waters of the South Atlantic. It is so called because of the dismal fate of castaways from ships wrecked here due to rough weather, mirages, hope of land .. but they were doomed to endure searing heat, cold clammy mists, total solitude, and no drinking water or shelter.....

Once again thank you for delivering these happy memories to us Mr Postman - we'll feel better when we see you tomorrow ...

Thursday 26 February 2009

Full Marks .. Helpful Punctuation & Geo Tautology ..

Three small stories that my mother & I found interesting and amusing from The Times Saturday February 21st 2009 - - two letters ...

Full Marks All Round by Ann Stevenson from Stafford: "Sir, My 14-year-old grandson mentioned Facebook to me, and I mentioned Twitter to him. He looked impressed. I said that being a Times reader keeps me up to date and I hoped he would be a reader one day. He replied: "I already am - I buy one occasionally". Now I was the one to be impressed."

Helpful Punctuation by Michael Jones from Rochdale: "Sir, I share the anxiety over the modern scarcity of apostrophes. While driving through Oldham recently, I noticed a sign directing me towards a new business that read "LENS". I turned the corner expecting to find an optician or maybe a camera store. Alas, it was a carwash - presumably owned by Len."

Geo-tautology - by Sally Baker, Feedback p 26: John Symes, a fellow hack, was put out to discover recently in The Times one of his biggest bugbears: a reference to "Sahara desert". He objects on the ground that "Sahara" comes from the Arabic 'sahra' which means, well, 'desert'.
Hot on his heels came another e-mail, from Ian Gordon, pleading to make his own "pedantic remark". The Times occasionally refers to Lundy Island. The word island here is redundant as it is implied by the name Lundy.
All of which brought to mind a former colleague whose own bugbear was Mount Fujiyama because, and you're probably there before me, "yama" means mountain and so it should be referred to as Fujiyama, or Mount Fuji. And don't get me started on Lake Windermere.
So where does that leave us? All these are entirely valid points, but in the great scheme of things does a little geographical tautology do any harm? I think not.

Huggins Cottage - saying Good Morning to Sydney? Why?!

Life hasn't been easy .. either for my mother or me .. and the episode of my being banned, together with the withdrawl of her lemon drink, has definitely 'taken the wind out of her sails' .. she's weaker and introspective - it's very sad. Life is sent to try us .. but this is taking me to my limits - however I cannot collapse or give in and have to maintain a steady heart and attitude to all around me: another rather large learning curve - in the meaning of love ...

A fantastic lady - aged 91 - whose husband met my father during the war in Italy .. and who recommended my school in Oxford to my parents - as Harold was housemaster & taught history at his school, also in Oxford, ... sent up two lovely pictures of her tiny hamlet, down a dead end lane (the sea at the bottom!) .. of the valley covered in snow - quite a lot by the looks of it. Snow in Cornwall, other than on the Moors, is quite unusual .. it's a "warm" climate. My mother was suitably impressed and remembered where Joan's cottage is .. it's called Rose Cottage.

The other was of a wonderful light pink camellia in full bloom against her cottage ... again my mother knew its name - I didn't have to remind her .. !! Joan and Harold hold many memories for me .. and I wished I'd spent more time with them .. and learnt from their wisdom.

Joan tells a wonderful story of my first holiday away from home, when, aged 3, I stayed with them & their niece .. who's a month younger than me; and the first morning when these two little girls tottered down stairs .. no doubt in awe of all around us .. lovely tiny cottage "Huggins Cottage", everything beautifully and tenderly arranged - Joan was fantastic at decoration and home making & still is ... well - I got a shock!! The first thing we had to do was say "good morning" to the solid fuel heater?! had the world gone mad??!! So she stood us in front of the heater .. and said to us both .. now Hilary & Jane .. you must say good morning to Sydney ... well, of course, Jane her neice dutifully complied ... this one just said "No" .. I was three - what a ridiculous thing to have to do .. it was a heater .. not a person .. this three year old was a lawyer's daughter & that definitely didn't need a good morning from me!! I was adamant, I gather .. Joan gave up the unequal struggle!

Their cottage, Rose Cottage, in Cornwall is idyllic .. it is fabulous .. whitewashed stone, repaired dry stone walls, a valley field converted into a vista of a garden, full of colourful shrubs, wonderful climbing plants and trees - spreading out from the scented rambling roses surrounding the house ... & at this time of year .. all the masses of bulbs Joan planted will be shooting up ready for the start of spring and a summer of brilliant cornucopia of scents, colours and just plain luxury of outside leafy green peace .... I've often just thought of wanting to lie there on the sunny grass .. listening to the sounds of the woods, the sea breezes, the insects buzzing around and the birds singing happily in the woodlands and garden around.

Harold had the last say .. he'd bought a magnificent pair of large iron gates - about 12 foot tall and 12 foot wide - and had them painted slate grey ... like the roof of the cottage ... and they were very carefully, I might say, positioned at the edge of the smallish patio .. & through which we passed to get out into the valley garden ... Harold said they are my folly!! I'd better add .. that Joan too is a fantastic gardener .. and they both had such vision and exuded so much life .. - wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to emulate this type of joy for an explosion of ideas and thoughts throughout our lives?

Monday 23 February 2009

Victoria Falls - "Mosi-oa-Tunya" .. The Smoke That Thunders

It's great being back with my mother .. and we will resolve the issues as we go along .. the worst thing is .. - is that Mum cannot understand why she's not allowed her lemon drink .. it is so grossly unfair - but the powers that be .. have got us into this mess & we have to work our way out .. I could do without this loss of energy on the emotion ... & my mother could definitely have done without this .. the results on her have lowered her life expectancy ..

On the bright side .. we looked at a calendar I have on Africa .. with various pictures of the African Bush, the Okavango Delta, the Namib Desert, Victoria Falls, giraffe, flamingoes, lions etc and my mother decided she'd like some new posters for her ceiling ..

So tomorrow I shall get these pictures ordered .. the Victoria Falls and the Namib Desert. A little light history!! ... "Mosi-oa-Tunya" - The Smoke That Thunders - is one of the most amazing sites for those of us who have had the good fortune to visit. Just as an aside .. my Ma immediately said "& that was where I donned my swimsuit and wandered in the rainforest .. while everyone else tried to stay dry under plastic macs!! " She is incredible - nothing puts her off!! Also she could go to places others couldn't reach .. because she didn't care how much spray there was or how wet she became!!

The Zambezi River has a total length of 2,700 kilometres and is Africa's fourth longest river. When it reaches the area just above the Falls .. the river is 1700 metres wide and after a short stretch of rapids, plunges into a chasm 108 metres deep which cuts right across its course. Thus a river of over a mile wide becomes one of only a fraction of that width in a matter of seconds .... no wonder The Smoke that Thunders made such an impression.

To see more .. Enjoy the tour!!

Sunday 22 February 2009

Random facts about my mother and I ..

Dear Mr Postman .. this letter is slightly different .. and perhaps will give you some idea about us ..

I've been asked to provide 25 random facts about my mother and myself, as I don't have a significant other! So here we go ... light relief - positive letters and Hilary's snippets to keep you (& me) amused (at this difficult time):

1. I was born on St Hilary's Day!
2. My mother was born in October - the month of balance.
3. My mother loves sailing ....
4. I prefer the air - gliding over the rocks and crashing waves ...
5. She has high standards
6. I need to maintain these .. eg answering all letters - with positive letters
7. She loves the coastline .... with a rocky coast, waves and splashing water
8. I love the African bush
9. She loves Cornwall, so do I!
10. I love interesting facts - Hilary's snippets
11. She was training to be a doctor before the war came
12. I've been on the administration side
13. She's great carer ...
14. hence she opened a Care Home managing and caring for each & everyone of others' loved ones, including her own uncle and aunt
15. I've learnt to adapt to caring for a dying person & for the elderly
16. she's always unbelievably appreciative
17. I get on with things, I philosophise - turn the challenge round & cope
18. She loves travelling
19. I too like travelling & seeing the world
20. She was always willing to help in the local communities and church
21. I'm a good communicator and keeping in touch with family and friends - positive letters
22. She is always doing things .. & is now even, despite being bedridden .. busy in her brain
23. I too .. get that from her - lots going on & having to be dealt with ..
24. She loved gardening - we were self sufficient at home when I was born .. fresh vegetables, fruit .. all sorts, ducks - before the fox got them!, hens, pigs - smoking bacon, hams at home, pickled eggs, pickled walnuts, bottled fruits and veg before freezers came .. home made bread, croissants = delicious!! It looks like we didn't have a cow & therefore needed to buy in milk, butter and cheese ... but not much else .. oh yes - the fish van came round with fresh fish on a Friday!!
25. I loved eating her produce and her home cooked food!

We both send blessings to you all ..

Thank you Mr Postman - your comments are very kind and I'm glad you enjoyed learning a little about us ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Saturday 21 February 2009

Return of "Prodigal" Daughter ...

Dear Mr Postman .. I see this letter contains some good news .. it must be so terrible for a daughter to be separated from her mother, when she's in her last days ...

Yea .. I've been allowed back to see my mother - she was ecstatic and just delighted to see me ... saying she'd missed me so much - I know I'm her rock .. she's said she'd have never been able to get through if I hadn't been around, by providing her with security, support and obviously a lot of love.

I explained what had happened and why I'd been banned - she took it all in and was surprised too - but as she'd owned a Care Home .. she could understand and relate to the processes. I just wanted to make sure she wouldn't worry .. and her comment was "I can't worry about it as I can't do anything, and I don't need to waste energy". To have such such an attitude in her situation is staggering.

However I can't say I'm happy .. not everything was right - but a family meeting will take place later next week, when a number of issues will be looked at to see how we can sort these challenges out.

The worst is - that we're no longer allowed to give Mum her lemon drink .. it's like giving a child a sweet and then immediately taking it away - I used this analogy and Mum, thank goodness, understood - what an attitude .. I am so lucky!!

On a positive note - I told Mum about Laura's visit with my goddaughter Amy & her brother, and told her we'd walked to the sea front and along to the pier and back home & then had roast pheasant etc .. & that I'd cooked it the way she'd taught me! We had fresh raspberries and Cornish clotted cream for pudding (desert), followed by Laura's brownies and coffee. Mum then asked how Mick was - she remembered Micky's name! Amazing.

Mum then told me to go home and get some rest .. as we'd had an emotional cry .. but that is something that my mother can't do any more .. the stroke has affected the cry mechanism - so that 'expression mechanism' doesn't work. She's always been incredibly concerned about me .. and looking after myself ..

People say that your true self comes out in times like these - I am humbled by her .. a beacon of light in a really unfortunate time ..

Thank you Mr Postman for delivering this letter .. it is good to know that they are together again ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Friday 20 February 2009

Checklist for the onset of a Stroke: FAST .... F for Face, A = for arms, S = Speech, T = Time

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for coming today .. ah I see you're bringing us some essential information - important for us all to know about ...

Today .. I thought perhaps I'd give some gentle reminders of what happens when a stroke starts and how we can all help our loved ones by reacting extremely quickly - even if we are laymen, as I am. I saw the BBC News clip at the time & thought I'd like to share it with you .. so here's the article if you are interested to read more ..

Obviously old age stroke is probably unavoidable .. but so many younger people have strokes or brain surges (that's not the correct term ... but I hope you'll understand what I mean in the context) .. as we experienced in the Acute Brain Injury Unit in London - in our 4 months - most stays are 6 weeks or so - we had a 21 year old, a 26 year old (who died tragically once she'd got home to France), two +/- 40 year olds, a 52 year old (who could not speak English - & whose stroke left her unable to speak) .. so even in our 6 bed ward .. the % of younger people was incredibly high. So please read the BBC article above - for your own edification.

Fast Stroke Test: This is from the above BBC site ... F A S T - react to these symptoms:
  • FACE - Has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?

  • ARMS - Can they raise both arms and keep them there?

  • SPEECH - Is their speech slurred?

  • TIME - call the ambulance .. if you see any single one of these signs

It is better to be safe than sorry ....

However - there is a bright side .. & even I've experienced this with my mother .. the brain does heal itself amazingly .. there will be improvement over two years certainly .. probably not completely - but things do get better: a positive story.

The most important thing that I've taken cognizance of as far as care is concerned .. is that stroke victims need to sleep & the body sorts itself out when it needs to get active (wake up) .. often in a very short burst & then a long long sleep period - the bursts of wakefulness will get longer, and obviously the sleep patterns will change and become more normal. So as soon as the medical matters have been clarified and discharge can happen .. then, if possible, get the patient home & let them slowly recover in their own time frame .. don't push them too much. They'll never be completely the same .. but the rest and recovery will help them enormously.

I'll do some more notes like this .. that I hope everyone will find enlightening - even if only in a general overview way ..

Dear Mr Postman - thank you for this letter .. and I'm glad you think that these notes will be helpful to others ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters

Thursday 19 February 2009

Start of our 3rd year ... First Gardening Magazine 1826, today's world ...

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for delivering this letter .. and letting us have a few snippets ..

As today is the first day of Mum's third year as a stroke victim, and bearing in mind the situation I'm in at the moment, I thought I'd find a story she'd like that I can read to her when I get back to see her again - and keep the positive attitude at the forefront.

I bought a book for Janice, our Healer, to have something to dip into to read to Mum ..and mentioned it in this post: I have the book at home .. I can give you an idea of one of its contents, which I've set out below. The Bedside Book of the Garden by Dr D G Hessayon, who is the author of the best-selling Expert gardening series .. a highly respected book series in this country.

There are lots of Hilary type snippets! .. short articles, poems, pictures etc within the different chapters .. on Gardens, Linnaeus - the inventor of the modern Naming System, Gregor Mendel, etc .. and the one I'm going to mention now -

The first popular Gardening Magazine published in 1826 by John Claudius Loudon. He was a shining example of the Great Victorian Era which was soon to dawn - incredibly industrious, highly knowledgeable, serious-minded and devoted to the new technology ....

What's changed? Here I am .. providing positive snippets to my mother and loving telling everyone and anyone who will read my positive letters blog .. and how am I doing this?? - well of course with new technology ... what a wonderful world we live in: & as my mother is always saying to me .. "have you looked it up yet on Google?" .. this a definite thumbs up for the new technology and the fortuitous changes and friendships it's bringing to those that embrace it.

Thank you Mr Postman for letting us have this letter - with the useful information it contains ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Attitude at times of ghastly periods in one's life .. I didn't think it could get worse ...

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for this update .. it is a difficult time ...

It's 2 years now since my mother had her strokes .. and I've learnt really quite a lot in those two years - including writing lots of letters! This has included developing new friends and contacting 'relatives' that I'd never really been in touch with, coming across the most amazing items of interest that I never thought I'd spend time on!

Today obviously is not so good for me .. I just hope that I can get back to seeing my mother as soon as possible - & I hope she's not too distressed by what's been happening .. especially as a social worker went to see her yesterday without a family member present. Janice, our Healer, had been in .. but what happened afterwards? Janice has also been in today. Tomorrow the social workers come to see me - that'll be interesting.

Yesterday I had some friends I met in South Africa come down for 24 hours .. I'm godmother to Amy & have had a lovely time .. just nice to have a break .. but a bit of nuisance as I couldn't fully relax .. as the 'incident' is hanging over me.

The next chapter tomorrow .. I'd love to get back to my positive letters ..

Thank you Mr Postman .. as you say it's been good having some friends down to give me moral support and I'll have something to talk to Mum about when I get back ....

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Banned from visiting ... this tests my resolve ..

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for coming today .. this is one from me ..

Life occasionally delivers you a whammy .. well yesterday was one of those days .. at 9.30 am I was rung up by the Manager of Kestrel House .. to be told I could not visit my mother - as the incident last week was so serious that they'd reported it to the Health Authorities! Well to say I was shocked was an understatement ..

The 'incident' occurred one day last week .. & frankly I can't remember when .. anyway .. when I was leaving, having given Mum her lemon & chatted to her for an hour or so (from the left side of the bed), I noticed that the PEG stomach feeding tube was on the floor on the right side of the bed. I stopped the feed .. as I've done in the past, & as I do when the bag runs out & the alarm starts ringing .. initially 16 m ago I checked & no-one's ever told me not to & I always tell the nurses what I've done .. so normal procedure.

I checked to see if I could feel any wet on the bed & round Mum's left (stroked) side .. nothing - so I'm unsure what's happened. I then call the nurse to tell them that the feed had fallen on the floor. There was a white patch where the feed obviously leaked more quickly, which the nurse wiped up, & there was a darker patch further under the bed .. which was damp - as I was also on my hands and knees checking - as I couldn't understand why there was no wet in the bed.

When the nurse checked the stomach input tube .. it had its stopper in. I had no idea .. as Mum was surrounded by a large pillow on her left side & was very comfortable I hadn't looked any further than for a leak. The other nurse was called who'd actually been the person responsible .. & she said she didn't know what happened. This nurse had just come back from a month's holiday back home on the other side of the world & I think it was her second day back - they do long hours: 12 hour shifts.

I didn't think anymore about it .. as a number of times the feeding tube has come unplugged or popped out & I always call the nurses and it's sorted .. occasionally by tying it up with elastoplast to hold it in place. It's also been on the floor before ..

So I am somewhat shattered by what's taking place - & why is it so serious now? Why didn't they ban me on Thursday, or Friday last week? As you'll see from the para above .. it's happened at other times, but there've been a few other much more serious incidents .. once where they didn't put anything into Mum's stomach for 17 - 21 hours = that is serious in my opinion!

Anyway this can of worms has been opened .. the positive is - I can get on with some work & today I have a friend from our days in South Africa coming down, with my goddaughter and her brother .. so that'll be great. The sad thing is Mum will be deprived from seeing them & they were all looking forward to the visit.

The worst part about it is .. it is depriving my mother of the one person she relies on .. & her human rights are being affected in her dying days - my sister in law, who's a lawyer, agrees with me that it's probably been instigated by the Deputy Manager as she & I have never got on .. & she's the one that's made the major mistakes that I've had to write complaints about in the past, which have got brushed under the table.

The other interesting comment by the Manager was that "we have a duty of care" .. I think the wheels have got crossed somewhere in translation?? I can't say I'm happy but we have to get on with life & that's what I'm doing .. and positive stories, letters and posts will come out of this experience.

Thank you Mr Postman for listening .. it's good to be able to talk about it .. it's not an easy time ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Monday 16 February 2009

New laptop ... more importantly though "Snail Mail"

This weekend .. I've been sorting out a new laptop - that works & doesn't cut me off half way through things .. positive letters don't flow easily from machines that one wants occasionally to throw out of the window!! So now I'm on the road to the 21st century!

Mum and I laughed lots .. as we usually do - her comments are "just so" .. completely pertinent to the subject matter .. - she's enjoying her lemon .. but it leaves less time to talk, as she gets pretty exhausted swallowing her 7 half teaspoons .. still the most important thing is she's enjoying them.

I took the time out - as my old laptop was also on its last legs .. so I couldn't easily do much pc work .. - however, I have not been slack!! I have written over 60 letters to friends and family .. I do a sort of round robin (every 8 - 10 weeks), which gives all the information, stories etc, and then send a card too with personal notes in - replying to pictures we've been sent, letters we've had, or cards etc .. they're always very appreciated ....

.... & there's method in my madness .. it generates mail back for my Ma!! More information to feed off, share and discuss!! I have a few left to do .. and a few emails to send overseas. It's been one of the best things I've done .. people like to know what's going on, & they can learn things from the experiences - I also did a couple for my uncle when he was in hospital before he got home .. & his friends and relatives all loved the positive take on the stories & knowing what was going on .. & I'm still the main source of contact at times?!

Friday 13 February 2009

Dogsbody ... and snail mail ....both are huge pluses!!

Isn't it lovely to be sent a letter.. by snail mail??!! My uncle has thanked me profusely for giving him a memorable day .. when we went to the Church and paid our respects to his wife of many years. He is always so appreciative and enjoys the laughter.

He also very generously gave my mother some bulbs and flowers this week - which she is loving as they smell so wondrously .. the narcissi, cyclamen & the hyancinths - & Mum knows she's got them within her vision. So a snail mail from both us will be winging its way a few miles north - he loves his missives from me too .. I constantly send positive letters through .. often things I've talked to my mother about .. eg the No Left Turn Story .. he said that's exactly what he did to keep his driving skills up while his wife was ill!!

It's a major factor in my life .. that I'm her "Dog'sbody" .. her "Emmanuensis" ... & I said I think I'm a bit more than just a dogsbody ... with all the letters I write .. about 100 as a batch (Mum acknowledged that was a lot!!) & then there's obviously more at times .. and the personal ones as we go along .. remembering all the points people have made & commenting on them ... I am kept busy!! Let alone the visiting ...

Thursday 12 February 2009

Paying Respects to my aunt .. Churchyard visit ..

My mother had exhausted herself and slept through yesterday! When I went through she admitted she'd worn herself .. I do wish I knew how the brain worked - her condition seems to be completely different to most other patients with strokes.

We had a lovely sunny day, without the snow or icy paths & so I was able to take my uncle to his wife's grave at the Church and lay some flowers for her .. my mother always asks about my uncle .. they were married to brother and sister - so no relation to each other as such. We had a good lunch .. I took pheasant and all the veg, and we had roast pheasant - which cooked while we were up at the Church and then left him a treat for the evening - prawn cocktail and a chocolate trifle .. he was very grateful, as he loves his food!!

My uncle was in the room next to my Ma over Christmas of 2007/8 as he'd fractured his hip and had other complications. During that 4 months I lived in his house and travelled to the hospital/s, visited my mother and at times went to my own house!! Anyway he's home safe and sound .. & we installed an outside platform lift, as the house is off the ground, and put in a disabled bathroom - so he's set for the future .. he already had a stair lift. He enjoys the stories I share with my mother .. and is very good at supporting her with cards and notes.

He needs support & we work together .. I'd like to be free .. but at times in life it's just not possible and I think how would I like to be treated in their situations? .. I'm tired, at times exhausted, but so many others are so much worse off than any of the three of us .. and if I can bring some light and laughter into my elders' lives and pass that on to others .. via my positive letters and positive stories .. that's such a plus to all: our relatives and friends also enjoy my long updates & comment on their positivity & informative nature = it supports me too!

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Stimulation for stroke victims .. cards being easily accessible

Now that my Ma has to be 'upright' in order to have her sips of lemon .. she can see the walls* of cards, pictures etc .. loads of them! Her eyesight is really not bad - it's quite difficult perhaps to work out which card she's talking about .. as her descriptions may not be quite right - but she knows what's there!! I've put them up on threads (Christmas card type) with gold & silver pegs, or with velco strips & the cards are stuck on that way ... so I can take all the cards down & read them as Mum selects them: & we always laugh .. the most important bit ...

We've filtered the cards .. Mum selecting which ones she wants to keep .. & the others I've given for therapy or craft in the Home; she does seem to 'roam' around looking at them .. but quite often asking about the same ones .. it's a useful tool, as it keeps Mum interested in her friends and relations. We can only use two walls .. as Mum can't see the rest of the walls due to her left sided neglect and the strokes have affected her neck muscles.

Yesterday morning while Mum was so 'busy' she'd received a letter ..but didn't want me to read it - however I did & showed her the card - you'd think she'd forget wouldn't you? When I returned in the afternoon Mum asked me to read Anne's card again .. the one with the 'tree' .. amazing she could remember what the card look liked & that a letter had arrived! She was still "terribly busy" and in fact didn't want all her lemon, as she was so busy. Today - who knows?!

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Who's going to give me my lemon drink tomorrow? Busy brain ...

Yesterday when I was leaving .. my Ma wanted asked .. "who's going to be here to give me my drink! ?" Today she's 'doolally' .. with a difference, as perhaps by now you'd expect! Half with it & half not .. most half not .. but still we laugh.

She had (I hope it's gone! .. I left her to sleep it away) a bee in her bonnet ... & when she gets one of these it's very difficult to shake it off .. so this time she wanted to get out of bed, but mind the puddles, put my boot, one leg's strong! (I think the torrential rain we had last night must have gone into her subconscious), & mind the poor woman .. I'm lying on her - I laugh & Mum gets very cross with me & says you mustn't laugh - "it's serious" .. oh dear .. the more I laugh - Mum laughs too & then laughingly says I mustn't laugh - it's very difficult to keep a straight face .. well I don't. Then immediately I've made some comment - she says "don't be facetious" .. absolutely correctly in context: addicted to or marked by pleasantry or joking!

She's surrounded by people .. she was very cross my brothers hadn't been in to give her her lemon drink this morning!! .. & she's very concerned about 2 small children whose faces had been injured by 2 nasty animals .. and they needed to be caught ... Gosh it can get busy up there .. and she's not to be rationalised with .. .. I tried by saying the children were with God like her parents, or in a different time frame .. but she's having none of it ... so I came away somewhat exhausted by her brain going at a 100 miles an hour ... & hope some sleep (perhaps!) .. may bring her back to earth again by the time I get up this afternoon ...

Monday 9 February 2009

Exam for teaspoon drink feeding - all passed!

Well success today ... now the whole family can offer our mother a drink (thickened) & this includes Janice, our Healer .. who gives my Ma & me! so much support - spiritual, wise words and massages etc So now I can get a little relief by not having to be there twice a day.

Our volunteer visitor, Hilary, turned up .. she was fine and at least was able to meet Janice & said she'd soon come again. I told my Ma & she remembered her: amazing this memory. Mum was discussing the flowers with my younger brother, who wasn't much interested I regret to say, and remarked about the anemones coming from Israel .. so she doesn't forget!!

Mum wanted to ask the Speech & Language therapist about my diet!! I said she was really there for you, Ma, ... well she's concerned I'm not eating properly (I am - probably better than most!!) and wanted me to get it sorted as it might help my tiredness ... saying she couldn't do much to help .. but she wanted to put her spoke in!! Bless her! - but I obviously can't say why I'm so exhausted .. that wouldn't be fair?

Then she asked if I'd seen Granny & Grandpa .. I explained that Granny died in 1972 or thereabouts .. and Grandpa in early 1923!! So you see we do cover a lot of ground .. & I really do need my wits about me.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Stimulation for stroke patients .. what does the patient want - they're the most important ..

Yesterday we didn't start off too well but Janice, our Healer, and I were there together & my mother was very grateful and said it was lovely we were there for her & were such patient loving souls and thanked us profusely. We still laughed gently together too.

Janice had asked if there was a book on flowers - something that she could chat with my mother about .. as now she will be giving my Ma her drink .. & there'll be time for interesting discussion in between, while we check each teaspoon, or few teaspoons have gone down properly.

So I've brought up a box of gardening topics = as they're in card format - my mother can hold one of those up & look at it .. she hasn't got much strength for anything else - they are divided into various categories .. so will educate Janice! & my Ma will add to our education .. as she corrected (as I thought) my spelling of Alstroemeira (the Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas)!!

The Bedside Book of the Garden .. will provide Mum with some interesting eclectic snippets of information .. including "how to mow a lawn" .. something we did a lot of at home! Then there's a booklet on our top 50 UK birds .. which for some reason I had to index!! So we didn't know if Skylark was in there .. one of my Ma's favourites at the moment .. so Wikipedia came to the rescue as it does quite often.

It is one of the most important lessons I have learnt .. is to keep my mother's brain stimulated and interested .. so all kinds of ideas get put by for me to read to her as we go along .. = Hilary's snippets .. keeps me occupied (as if I need it!), and interests me & our friends and relatives .. who always comment on my positive letters ....

Friday 6 February 2009

Smell the flowers .. spell the flowers! .. tell a funny story or two ...

I've put yesterday behind me .. & my Ma was fine & wide awake on arrival ... so she had her lemon drink before Janice, our Healer arrived. I'd brought fresh flowers up yesterday .. some scented narcissi, with lovely egg yolk yellow centres, daffodils (which take a few days to come out - so we spread the viewing), purple anemones & astrolomeria (Alstroemeira) (spelling is not right! - I'll have to ask my Ma later on! It is now!). We smelt the flowers and discussed them .. & I said guess where the anemones come from ..??? - they are grown prolifically in Cornwall & we all love them ... Israel, I said: straight away my Ma responds "how ridiculous"! .. and starts laughing.

When Janice arrived she told us a funny story .. which had Mum laughing again .. A radio show host asked what's the shortest time you've ever worked in a job? .. and a chap rang in & said 2 1/2 hours .... so the presenter asked why .. what happened, did you walk out? The man said .. no .. that wasn't the problem .. he was picking tomatoes & had done really well - his basket was full of green tomatoes ...- he was colour blind!! So he was sacked!! We all laughed.

Mum piped up and said Tim, when he was at Uni, was asked by a good friend if he liked his new suit .. Tim was a bit non-plussed as he with visual horror looked at this brand new shiny suit and was completely taken aback .. & said to his friend .. well if you like pink!!! .. it's fine!! While she was telling this positive story .. Mum was laughing all the time.

Isn't it great to be able to have such a great take on life .. & each day .. I do not know what's coming next!!

Thursday 5 February 2009

"God of Thunder" lives here ...

Today is not a good day .. but I'm sure tomorrow will be better. Janice, our Healer, showed me how to do reflexology on my mother's hand .. so that if she has indigestion I can help counter it. I understand that this is one of the side effects of being PEG fed .. & after 20 months I'm not surprised frankly.

Still despite being uncomfortable .. and while we waited for the carers to come I read her some positive stories and had her laughing a great deal .. she is so wonderful that she has such strength of mind to put adversity, uncomfortableness, etc out of her mind .. & be able to laugh with me.

One of these positive story snippets .. "A reveller returning from a New Year's Eve party, dressed as the Norse god Thor, found a burglar in his house - and frightened the daylights out of him. Torvald Alexander, who was wearing a suit of armour and a winged helmet made from tinfoil, discovered the intruder creeping around his Edinburgh home. "As soon as he saw me his eyes went wide with terror,' says Mr Alexander 'I went mad and charged at him, my (red) cape flying behind me. He hadn't counted on the god of thunder living here'. The burglar jumped out of a first floor window."
Courtesy: Weekly Digest Of The British & Foreign Media

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Tales from the Skeleton Coast, Namibia 1990

My mother is so enjoying her small sips of lemon .... so far that's what she prefers .. though I did make her some tea yesterday .. which she said tasted of tea and passed muster. It's a bit of a palava .. as we cannot go into the kitchen & asking people to make the drink as you want it .. is really very difficult & some of them can't speak English .. - so we persevere .. We've tried apple, but then needed to add sugar .. that has to be diluted in a tiny quantity of water, so that the drink isn't diluted too much!!

Today - I read part of a letter I'd written about our trip to the Skeleton coast in Namibia in 1990 - she enjoyed it .. though said .. 'not everyone would understand' - quite true .. as the letter started off with the geological discussion & how Africa & South America split away. But at least we remembered the colours and the rock structures, the rough coastline and ephemeral rivers .. - it's an amazing place ... in 1990, only one Group was given a licence to go in the Skeleton coast park - so the delicate pristine land wouldn't be disturbed ... sadly that hasn't lasted.

We've had a few laughs this morning .. my mother is amazing that she can laugh at herself and with me, and her comments are so pertinent .. thanks for reading our story!

Tuesday 3 February 2009

"No Left Turns" ... how many?

I found this story in by Dr Irene of The Self Improvement Blog .. and I laughed a lot when I read it and knew it would lighten up a few peoples' lives with lots of amusement and giggles .. so I'm going to let you read it .. my mother started giggling almost immediately ..

I'm sure this isn't quite the right way .. but no doubt I'll find the right way sometime ...

This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. It is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed.
My father never drove a car. Well, that’s not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car. He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.
‘In those days,’ he told me when he was in his 90s, ‘to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it.’ At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in: ‘Oh, bull—-!’ she said. ‘He hit a horse.’
‘Well,’ my father said, ‘there was that, too.’
So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars — the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford — but we had none.
My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines , would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.
My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we’d ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. ‘No one in the family drives,’ my mother would explain, and that was that.
But, sometimes, my father would say, ‘But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we’ll get one.’ It was as if he wasn’t sure which one of us would turn 16 first.
But, sure enough, my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown. It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn’t drive, it more or less became my brother’s car.
Having a car but not being able to drive didn’t bother my father, but it didn’t make sense to my mother. So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father’s idea. ‘Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?’ I remember him saying more than once.
For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps — though they seldom left the city limits — and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.
Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn’t seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage. (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)
He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin’s Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish’s two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home. If it was the assistant pastor, he’d take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests ‘Father Fast’ and ‘Father Slow.’
After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he’d sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I’d stop by, he’d explain: ‘The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored.’
If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out — and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, ‘Do you want to know the secret of a long life?’
‘I guess so,’ I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.
No left turns,’ he said.
‘What?’ I asked.
No left turns,’ he repeated. ‘Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic. As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn.’
‘What?’ I said again.
‘No left turns,’ he said. ‘Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that’s a lot safer. So we always make three rights.’ ‘You’re kidding!’ I said, and I turned to my mother for support ‘No,’ she said, ‘your father is right. We make three rights. It works.’ But then she added: ‘Except when your father loses count.’ I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.
‘Loses count?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ my father admitted, ‘that sometimes happens. But it’s not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you’re okay again.’ I couldn’t resist. ‘Do you ever go for 11?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he said ‘ If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can’t be put off another day or another week.’
My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving That was in 1999, when she was 90. She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102. They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom — the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)
He continued to walk daily — he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he’d fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising –and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.
One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.
A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, ‘You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred.’ At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, ‘You know, I’m probably not going to live much longer.’ ‘You’re probably right,’ I said. ‘Why would you say that?’ He countered, somewhat irritated. ‘Because you’re 102 years old,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘you’re right.’ He stayed in bed all the next day. That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night. He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said: ‘I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet’
An hour or so later, he spoke his last words: ‘I want you to know,’ he said, clearly and lucidly, ‘that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have.’
A short time later, he died. I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I’ve wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long. I can’t figure out if it was because he walked through life, Or because he quit taking left turns. ‘
Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.’

Monday 2 February 2009

Nail Cutting in the snow ... what next??

My Ma seems to have a 'new lease of life' since she's started having her lemon .. and we had a daughterly session this morning .. having her drink & cutting her nails .. in the bright, white light of the snow! Drink first she said .. & we had interludes .. I cut one hand .. then more drink .. I need to make sure it's gone down properly .. anyway I moved to the other side of the bed to do her stroked hand .. & Mum comments .. well you'll find it easier now .. you're not standing in your own light!! Her comments are always so apposite!

She sent me on way to see my uncle & make sure he was ok in this weather .. it's really not too terrible down here .. but we were meant to have a meeting today so the rest of the family & Janice, our Healer, could pass the test to give my Ma her lemon drink - that was cancelled as London & Brighton were 'snowed in'!!

So it's me x 7 x 2 or 3 .. for another week!! Mum said I'll try your apple & we discussed the various sorts .. she was quite keen to have my slightly thick one .. & was quite keen that I should puree some raspberries she could have a raspberry drink - she decided she didn't like the sound of tinned ones .. but having had sugar in her tea .. I do not know?!

Sunday 1 February 2009

The effort of a throat swallow ....

Following on my post of 26 January .. I've been able to give my mother small teaspoons (half ones) of thickened lemon drink .. she is so grateful & is thoroughly enjoying the pleasure. It exhausts her however .. which sort of brings home ... how much effort one swallow is for her .. after 'having' to swallow, because I need to make sure the 'liquid' goes down tires her out after 5 - 7 swallows. We tried some tea (thickened) yesterday .. it wasn't such a success .. as Mum wasn't really awake enough.

Last year .. why she couldn't have had this pleasure a whole year ago I do not know .. as nothing has changed in her ability of talking etc over the past year & she's been happily swallowing voluntarily all year.

Anyway .. when we were discussing it & I said the powers that be had said nil by mouth .. and I was telling her that if I gave her something - water or tea - I'd be had up for possibly killing her .. my Ma just said .. "ring Barbara up" .. why? "so that you can get an Affidavit drawn up which can be signed by me exonerating you of all blame" ... well, well ... again there is this brain still functioning & its positive attitude & desire to live!!

Informative Snail Mail & emails .. enlightening others to the possibilities of this situation ..

The most important thing when someone is ill is to be positive & some of my jottings, notes, thoughts, chats with my mother and others I convert into letters out to family & friends, which cause positive letters back to us, & I hope get others to think differently about life in troublesome times & generally make me think about life. We have lots of laughs too .. I try and keep ahead of the game, by being ready with interesting bits of information which will amuse my Ma.

I'd love to know how the brain works .. my Ma is quite extraordinary - she is so positive and tells me what to do with the bulbs that I've brought her so she can see the real thing grow .. eg snowdrops (put them in the cold!!), & a hyancinth bulb .. I thought would have a scent .. but I suspect is going to be unscented. She knows the names of flowers .. telling her Healer, the names when Janice kindly brought some winter flowers in from her garden, when I was away.

Today we watched a bit of the Australian Open Mens' Final .. & Mum was saying doesn't the umpire look like Steve Redgrave our 5 times Olympic Rower!! Then she said hasn't he (the rower) got diabetes .. & isn't he lucky having a wife as a doctor .. where does her brain store these things .. after 3 major strokes & 2 years in bed? Also she remembers Federer & Nadal & she asked about Andy Murray .. the British (Scottish) player ...