"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Monday, February 08, 2016


Years ago, people used to talk about ‘passing away’. I remember when I was about eight and my grandfather died, my grandmother saying to someone who enquired, “Oh, he, er,  passed away” which I thought was an impressive, grown - up way of talking about a death, so when my teacher asked me how  my grandfather was, knowing that he had been ill,  I too replied with, “Oh he, er, passed away” and felt terribly grown up. I imagine the teacher turned away to hide a smile and the tale was told in the staff room at the first opportunity.
In recent years, the ‘in’ word is ‘passed.’ I have wondered if this is part of the modern tendency to shorten and simplify everything but actually, I don’t really understand why we can’t simply say that someone has died.
On Thursday, four of us sat by Dad’s bed as his life drew to its close. It was laboured and he was not really aware of what was happening around him and in that respect, it seemed not unlike the process of birth. Earlier in the day, the Methodist minister had visited to say prayers, at their usual times, the carers had been to make him comfortable and the district nurses had called to adjust his medication.
We will miss him, of course we will, but we will also remember that he lived a full and interesting life and achieved lots of things he wanted to and many that he never expected to and that will be his legacy.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Charles Taylor 1923 - 2016

I thought I would copy Elder Daughter's tribute to Dad which she posted on Facebook. She has said it so much better than I could. 

Today saw the end of the long and extraordinary life of a remarkable man.
He had a passion for Kipling, knickerbocker glories, steam trains and lamenting the passing of the British Empire. He was hilariously and unrepentantly un-PC. He would delight in telling us what he would do to Tony Blair if he ever got his hands on him. He wrote a book. He painted and drew. He met the queen. He taught himself to use a computer and spent much of his 80s emailing friends all over the world that he had met online, until his eyesight failed. In his younger years he built steam engines and lectured on engineering in universities up and down the UK despite mostly being a self educated man. He loved his family dearly, and we loved him. He was described by all who knew him as a true gentleman.
He was a man that I was proud to call my friend, my mentor and my co-conspirator. He encouraged me, inspired me, took an interest in my life and work, and taught me so much.
He was my grandad.
I am posting this to celebrate a wonderful human being and to tell the world how proud I am to have known him. He died peacefully at home, his way, surrounded by his family. Rest in peace grandad, and thank you for all that you have given us xxx

Monday, February 01, 2016

All quiet on the midnight front

After a fairly quiet day yesterday, Dad needed medication to settle him again last night. A district nurse came in the evening to administer it, warning me that some time in the early hours, he might become restless again and need a top up. As it happened, he didn’t. He slept soundly all night, but I thought it would be better to sleep downstairs this time, instead of upstairs with the baby alarm.
This is where the advantages of a small house suddenly become less obvious.
Dad had a two seater sofa in his living room, which needed to go to make room for the hospital bed and anyway, a two seater is not really long enough to sleep on, not if you want to stretch your legs, anyway. He also has a rise and recline chair, which we kept and which is very comfortable for sitting on. Sadly, it’s not so comfortable to sleep on.
By two am, I had finally figured out a way to lie on it which was not too detrimental to my back and I did actually manage to sleep maybe fifty percent of the night, in short bursts, but being a bit on the greedy side, where sleep is concerned, that still left me feeling a little the worse for wear today.
Today, Dad has had a syringe fitted, which will administer his medication in short, measured doses throughout twenty four hours, so I am very hopeful that he will have another good night.
For me, it’s back upstairs with the baby monitor and hopefully, an equally good night’s sleep.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dad back at home

Dad has been back at home for just over a week now and we are getting used to the new carers who come in four times a day to wash and change him, see to his food, what little he is eating, and generally make him comfortable, In addition, we have carers from Hospice at Home and Marie Curie to stay the night with him, if they have someone available. They are usually only able to tell me if they can send someone during the early evening, so I don’t generally know until then whether someone will be in or if I will have to stay. If I stay, I sleep upstairs and have a baby monitor on in case Dad is restless or needs anything during the night.
The baby monitor is a bit of a two edged sword as it picks up every sound, which stops me sleeping or on the other hand, when he is quiet, I keep waking up and wondering why I can’t hear anything. Well, you can’t win ‘em all! The nights when someone rings up and says, “I’ll be at your dad’s tonight” are sheer bliss and I can’t thank them enough. I brought up four children with all the attendant disrupted nights and lack of sleep, but then, as Elder Daughter was happy to point out, I was thirty years younger then. These days, sleep eludes me all too frequently anyway (own personal heating system, creaky hip and knees etc)  and a good night’s slumber is both rare and precious.
Last night, Carol from Hospice at Home drew the short straw as Dad had a very disrupted night and barely slept at all, so much so, that she had to call on Out of Hours Marie Curie service to come out, resulting in his first injection of Midazolam to calm him down.
This is a steep learning curve.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Things are beginning to move, it seems

Yesterday the district nurse rang to say that she had arranged for the four visits a day to Dad by the Carers, followed by a phone call this morning from Red Cross it arrange the delivery of a hospital bed etc for him.
So it looks as though things are moving.
All I need to do now is persuade him of this and disabuse him of the notion that really, there is a sinister plot by the hospital to keep him as an in-patient!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Getting home

Today I was at a meeting with the professionals involved in getting Dad back home. He has been in hospital since Boxing Day, during which time he has needed a blood transfusion for anaemia, a permanent catheter and two or three courses of intravenous antibiotics for infections, of which two were pneumonia. Over the last week or so, his mobility has declined to the point where, although he can sometimes stand and bear his own weight, he is not able to walk and, although he sits out in the chair during the morning, he usually gets tired by lunchtime and needs to get back into bed. 
On his good days, he can't understand why he can't just go back home and resume his daily life, conveniently forgetting that he has had help from carers four times a day for the past few months. Other days, he can fall asleep mid sentence and yet other times, the delirium he is prone to during his spells in hospital comes to the fore and there is little connection with reality. 
However, through good and bad, he has always stressed to anyone who would listen that he wanted to go home as soon as possible and finally, things are beginning to be put into place for this.

The occupational therapist has visited his house, where I have cleared the living room to make space for a hospital bed, and is happy with it, the consultant has agreed that it would be in his best interests to be cared for at home, and the district nurse is now going to contact Hospice at Home to provide carers to visit four times a day to see to his practical needs.
"All this fuss!" said Dad when we reported back to him. "I don't need carers. I can look after myself!" He reminds us that he looked after the house and Mum for years when she was ill, and so he did, admirably, so it's difficult for him to come to terms with the fact that now it is he who needs help and support and who can blame him?

It's a difficult business, the growing old thing.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

A Year of Reading Daringly

If you glance across at the list of blogs I keep in touch with, you may notice that a new link has recently been added, 'A Year of Reading Daringly' which has been set up by the libraries of North Wales, with the aim of encouraging people to read books and genres that they perhaps might otherwise not have considered. The idea is that they suggest a different book for each month of the year and you can follow the group on Facebook or Twitter and share opinions - a bit like a book club but without the need to venture into the cold, windy, rainy, snowy (take your pick) evenings.
So  January's choice is 'Trigger Warning' by Neil Gaiman, which is a collection of short stories and you can read a little about the author in this post.
Having decided that I am in a bit of a rut where reading is concerned and that being challenged to read 'new' authors would do me no harm at all, I have ordered said book and am now awaiting its delivery. I'll let you know my thoughts on it in due course.
There is also a welsh version of this, 'Blwyddyn o Ddarllen Beiddgar' which recommends books written in welsh, of course, but I don't think my level of expertise in the welsh language is up to that just yet. There are challenges and then there are challenges!

Friday, January 01, 2016

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Well, I thought I should at least put the title in Welsh as an acknowledgement of the fact that I have, shamefully, not opened a Welsh-related book for the last three weeks. With Keith, myself and Dad all being ill, other things have taken precedence and still are and when I am worried about things, I find it really difficult to focus on other things.
However, the three Musketeers that are Jayne, Simon and myself are hoping to meet up for our usual hour at the local Ramada today, drinking coffee and working frantically and committedly at our Welsh putting the world to rights. Well, you never know, one of these days, we may be able to put the world to rights in fluent Welsh at a pace slightly faster than our current two words a minute. Here's hoping!
In the meantime, the Christmas decorations have been put away, the stash of presents and Christmas food and drink has almost disappeared from the smallest bedroom, which can now be redesignated once again as my study.
This means, I am now completely without excuses for procrastination ....
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i bawb! (Happy New Year, everyone.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Back again

And here we are again, back in hospital!
 Dad hadn't been well over Christmas, unable to come up to our house, and eating very little. In addition, his bowels were not working as they should, probably due to him now being on Zapain, so Out of Hours doctor was called and dispatched him to hospital for blood tests etc.
(Sod's Law dictates that, in our family, the vast majority of our need for health care seems to happen during evenings, week-ends or bank holidays.)
The following day saw him catheterised, having a blood transfusion and intravenous antibiotics but looking a better colour already.
"He may be able to go home tomorrow," they said yesterday.
Today they are saying that they are not sure about his ability to cope with his catheter if they do send him home and can I talk to 'Karen' when I go in to visit.
Watch this space ...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's a hard job but someone has to do it

I discovered this while cruising around the web this morning. It is a very witty answer to a member of the public concerned about police harassment in New Zealand. Too good not to share!

A North Island police station received this question from a resident through the feedback section of a local Police website:
“I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to continually harass people and get away with it?”
In response, a sergeant posted this reply:
First of all, let me tell you this ... it’s not easy. In the Palmerston North and rural area we average one cop for every 505 people. Only about 60 per cent of those cops are on general duty (or what you might refer to as “general patrols”) where we do most of our harassing.
The rest are in non-harassing units that do not allow them contact with the day to day innocents. At any given moment, only one-fifth of the 60 per cent of general patrols are on duty and available for harassing people while the rest are off duty. So, roughly, one cop is responsible for harassing about 6000 residents.
When you toss in the commercial business and tourist locations that attract people from other areas, sometimes you have a situation where a single cop is responsible for harassing 15,000 or more people a day.
Now, your average eight-hour shift runs 28,800 seconds long. This gives a cop two-thirds of a second to harass a person, and then only another third of a second to drink a Massey iced coffee AND then find a new person to harass. This is not an easy task. To be honest, most cops are not up to the challenge day in and day out. It is just too tiring. What we do is utilise some tools to help us narrow down those people we can realistically harass.
PHONE: People will call us up and point out things that cause us to focus on a person for special harassment. “My neighbour is beating his wife” is a code phrase used often. This means we’ll come out and give somebody some special harassment. Another popular one is, “There’s a guy breaking into a house.” The harassment team is then put into action.
CARS: We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive. They like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars with no insurance or drivers with no licences and the like. It’s lots of fun when you pick them out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red light. Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find they have drugs in the car, they are drunk, or have an outstanding warrant on file.
LAWS: When we don’t have phone or cars, and have nothing better to do, there are actually books that give us ideas for reasons to harass folks. They are called “statutes”. These include the Crimes Act, Summary Offences Act, Land Transport Act and a whole bunch of others... They spell out all sorts of things for which you can really mess with people. After you read the law, you can just drive around for a while until you find someone violating one of these listed offences and harass them. Just last week I saw a guy trying to steal a car. Well, the book says that’s not allowed. That meant I had permission to harass this guy.
It is a really cool system that we have set up, and it works pretty well. We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass. And we get away with it. Why? Because, for the good citizens who pay the tab, we try to keep the streets safe for them, and they pay us to “harass” some people.
Next time you are in Palmerston North, give me the old “single finger wave”. That’s another one of those codes. It means, “You can harass me.” It’s one of our favourites.


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