Monday, 12 July 2010

Resetting the clock

I have written before about how my automatic response to stress or distress is to simply get busy. For me, mental and physical activity, and lots of it, is the only way to keep the bad thoughts at bay.

If there is one thing that will set me off on a downward spiral, it is a sleepless night. Lying in bed, fruitlessly trying to get to sleep with thoughts buzzing around my head takes me to a bad place very quickly. So I go to bed tired, read myself to a complete standstill and then sleep.

Mostly it works. And it means that stuff gets done, too, which always makes me feel better. The only problem is that bedtime has gradually got later and later. I will get to about 11 pm and find myself wide awake, and so start doing something like a bit of sewing, writing a letter or tidying a cupboard. Then, before I know it, the clock is reading stupid o'clock and I really ought to get to bed. Even then, I still have to go through all my winding-down rituals and by the time I finally get my head down it is half-past stupid and the birds are thinking about waking up.

All this was fine when I was still not working - I could just get up a little later. As I am now back in my office nearly full-time it is starting to be a problem as I am so tired during the day and my concentration is shot to pieces. My clients have been very understanding on the couple of occasions that I have played the Widow Card, but it is getting rather old as an excuse. It doesn't do a lot for my self-respect either.

I just don't seem to be able to break this cycle and get my sleep pattern back to something that resembles normality. I am never going to turn into a lark, but I really wish I could work out how to get back on track.

Friday, 9 July 2010

When will there be a harvest...

It has been a strange year in the garden so far. There have been several disasters on the vegetable-growing front, but the fruit is just going mad. I feel a little like Marie-Antoinette; the peasants may be grumbling about losing half of their potato harvest, but never mind. Let them eat raspberries!

This is my Merton Glory cherry tree. It went into the ground five winters ago as a 1-year maiden - essentially a stick. This is the first harvest I have had from it. And what a harvest! It has the benefit over the other two cherry trees in our little orchard in that the cherries aren't bright red when ripe. Which means that by the time the birds notice them, I have eaten them.

There was a moment of sadness on tasting the first sweet, juicy fruits.
It was another of those Friday night rituals we had during the Summer months. All week I would check the veg garden and fruit bushes for whatever was nearly ready. When he arrived home and before the mowing started, we would have a stroll around, nibbling things here and there and deciding what to eat that weekend.

He wouldn't have been able to eat many of the cherries, though, as they made his mouth itch during hayfever season. So I don't feel too guilty in having these all to myself.

And this is Harry Baker, the crab apple tree we planted to ensure that all the other apples had a pollinator. It is a fabulous little tree with deep pink blossom in the Spring and good-sized, dark red fruits that look very handsome when Autumn comes around. I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do with them all - there is only so much jelly one person needs - so I suspect the pigs might do well from Mr Baker.

Last on this brief tour of the highlights of the orchard is Tydeman's Late Orange, a sweet, crisp Cox-type apple. I only had half a dozen or so apples from it last year. Now it is groaning with fruit. I hope it lives up to its billing as a reasonable storing apple.

R and I planted these trees along with several others on a cold January morning five years ago. Gardening wasn't his thing at all, but he could always be relied upon to dig a deep hole for me when I needed one, all the more so if it was for a tree. He was very fond of trees, particularly the native British species. Tree-planting is something you do as a commitment to a place. It is a sign that you intend to stay there for years to come, and an investment for your old age.

It breaks my heart that he isn't here to see a return on his investment and to taste the fruits of his labours. Their permanence seems to somehow emphasise his absence more than almost anything else.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Another phone call

It seems to be the week for them.
But what a difference a couple of days make - this one had me giggling.

The call was from a sweet little lady in the village called Ivy, sister of Maldwyn the daffodil planter. She is getting on a bit, and a Welsh speaker, which very occasionally gives rise to communication problems.

Around here nobody, but nobody starts a telephone call with "Hello, this is XXXX speaking". Everyone just launches straight into the conversation. As it always seems a little rude to tell someone I have no idea who they are, I was racking my brains trying to place the slightly familiar voice. So I wasn't paying full attention to what she was talking about, which appeared to be something about the end of the month and someone called Richard. Which meant absolutely nothing to me whatsoever.

It eventually percolated through to my brain that it was Ivy speaking, and that she was talking about R's anniversary. Only his name isn't Richard, he was alive and well all through July, and Ivy didn't seem to be able to say the "D" word either!

Once those minor details had been cleared up, we had a very pleasant chat.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

When do words lose their power?

The phone just rang. When I picked it up, it was a cold caller who asked to speak to R.

I was expecting it to be my Mum, so I was completely wrong-footed by the question. After a big pause, I stammered out the reason why he couldn't come to the phone and, to her credit, she was very kind and said that she would make sure his name will be taken off the list. But my initial reaction was to say that he was at work or make up some other excuse, rather than tell her the truth.

After nearly two years, why is it still so difficult to say the 'D' word?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A difficult conversation

I had a day out with my Mum on Friday.

She recently took the decision to give up her car after a long period of contemplation, so we went to a little town called Bridgnorth which she can easily reach by bus.

It was a hot, sticky day. After visiting every one of the charity shops in the town (and there are quite a lot!), we went for lunch in a little bistro on the High Street. I ordered a sandwich and salad, but I could see that she wasn't too happy with the available selection. She reluctantly opted for something on the menu, but then spotted the waitress delivering an enormous ice cream sundae to the gentleman on the next table. "I want one of those", she said with delight. And she had it too!
I guess when you are nearly 80 you are entitled to throw caution and sensible nutritional choices to the winds once in a while.

If you met my Mum, you would find a neatly turned-out lady who is happy to chatter to anyone about anything. She also appears quite self-sufficient and secure in herself.

But appearances can be deceptive. She has had a few health issues lately, and I think has been suffering from mild depression. These have combined to change the previously active, busy person to someone who has lost a lot of confidence in her own abilities and become reluctant to go out on her own. She lives in a village about 15 minutes' drive from my younger sister Liz, and her increasing isolation and on-off ill health has been a source of worry to me and both my sisters.

Liz and her husband are in the happy position of having a holiday cottage on their property which they have been letting out for the past two or three years. It is a lovely little bungalow, roughly the same size as Mum's home. We all felt it would be the perfect solution if Mum could sell her home and move into the cottage - she could then pay rent out of the proceeds of the sale (we all knew there was no way that she would accept not paying rent). Liz is a trained nurse, Mum would get to see her grandchildren every day and she would still have her own home and front door if she wanted her privacy.

On paper it is the perfect solution. But someone had to raise it with Mum - and I drew the short straw. There is no easy way to say to someone that you don't think they are coping very well and should consider giving up a degree of their independence. I wasn't looking forward to it.

In the event, it all went much better than I had dared hope. We were standing outside an estate agent's window (Mum has always enjoyed looking at properties for sale) and I casually asked her if she was considering moving. She admitted that she wasn't terribly happy where she was and would like to move closer to Liz, but found the thought of the entire process too complicated and overwhelming to contemplate - which was probably adding to her depression. I mentioned Liz's offer to her, fully expecting her to dismiss it out of hand, but to my surprise she didn't. We calmly discussed all the pros and cons as far as I could see them. There were a few tears; possibly of relief because she could now see a way out of her situation, possibly at having to admit that she wasn't coping very well. But we carried on talking and, when I finally left, she was quite accepting of the idea.

I can't imagine how it must feel to be taking decisions that will probably take you through to the end of your life. Mum's biggest fear of all is of "being put in a home", and I can fully understand that fear - the thought would fill me with horror as well. There are still a lot of steps involved to get from here to there, but I so hope this will all work out for everyone involved and that Mum will be able to enjoy the rest of her days in a home that she can call her own.