Lashing Out

April 27, 2017

Yesterday, as I journeyed through the sprawling metropolis of Halifax I noticed a shop. It used to sell shoes, but now it’s some sort of beauty parlour that offers a variety of this to enhance the female form.

Including semi-permanent eyelashes.

Don’t you already have semi-permanent eyelashes.

Aren’t they, by their very nature, semi-permanent anyway?

But instead, for some reason, you can choose to pay £25 – I’m not sure if that’s one or two eyes – to have some other eyelashes put in which won’t stay there, much like your own ones. I assume you can’t pull them out like you can with your real ones, or that they don’t work their way loose and slide into your eyes when you least expect it causing untold discomfort and misery.

It’s bizarre.

It baffles me no end.

I also can’t get my head around the wording.

What’s the difference between temporary and semi-permanent? I imagine some of it is the cost. But other than that, surely they’re essentially the same. Aren’t they? Anything temporary is only semi-permanent.

Maybe it’s just a girl thing. One of the many, many things that menfolk will never understand, no matter how many times it is explained to us.



Cluttered Memories

April 26, 2017

So today I’ve been at mum’s doing odds and sods of jobs and things that we put off after my dad died.

I got to pressure wash things, in and amongst the snow falls, so at least the decking isn’t slippy anymore. And I refilled the water feature, watered all the plants, filled the bird feeders, harvested rhubarb and dead headed plants. At least one of those things was way outside of my comfort zone. But I managed.

And then I retreated inside to the unsnowy world of my old bedroom which was repurposed as an office (either side of being somewhere my gran could wet the bed on a regular basis). The office was, very much, father’s domain and is a memorial to his hoarding.

Basically, I spent a good portion of the afternoon disposing of printed copies of lottery tickets my dad put on online sometime in 2008.

They had all been printed and checked off – something which would be done automatically online – and then kept in a folder. For no reason whatsoever.

What I learnt from these lottery tickets was two-fold: my dad loved to put the buggers on AND my dad was massively unlucky. Not a winner amongst them.

I also, while mum is otherwise indisposed, took the time to sort out the drawers next to her chair in the front room. She likes to keep things, it would appear, with the same gusto as my dad.

Sadly, though, thanks to her son she will now no longer be able to open that drawer and pull out a letter allowing her to reminisce of the time, in 2008 (clearly a good year for hoarding), the HSBC changed the terms and conditions of her current account.

I’ve left the copy of the letter she sent to get a new shelf (costing £15.04 in 1997) for a cooker which, I think, is two before the one she has now.

I’m not totally heartless.

I’m Only Happy With No Rains

April 25, 2017

In an efficient use of time and energy I’m off to mum’s tomorrow to spend the day doing things before going to the hospital in the evening to visit. It’s all part of Operation Poorly Maintain Two Houses where now the weather’s semi-decent I can split myself between our house and mum’s getting shit done.

For the most part, getting shit done at mum’s mainly consists of putting things in piles. Or buckets. Or baskets. Occassionally bags. But you get the idea.

But then there are fun jobs. Jobs that put you at the end of a jet washer. And tomorrow there’s no-one around to tell me I’m using it too much or getting things too wet.

And when you’ve a choice between piles of things for recycling or using high pressure water to get muck off of things it’s fairly obvious what you’re going to plump for. All in the name of making things better for mum, naturally.

I mean she might only have vision on her right side, but even she’ll be able to appreciate shiny cladding, gleaming bird feeders and a pristine polytunnel greenhouse thing.

I just hope it’s not raining tomorrow. If it rains then it’s piles if things for me…


April 24, 2017

I’m not sure whether mum will be released from hospital because there’s no longer any need for her to be in there, or because she’s annoyed every occupational therapist on the staff.

But, as I mentioned before, each of her flippant answers which they don’t find in any way amusing proves that mum is still mum.

We went to visit her today now she’s been installed in Calderdale. She’s been moved up to the rehab ward this evening, but while she was still on the stroke ward she’s been seeing the therapists and doing mundane sort of things like making drinks and toast.

Now, as far as I know, she’s not threatened to hit anyone. Yet. But it does sound like she’s giving them a hard time as they ask what, presumably, they think are very reasonable questions.

Like, say, getting jam off a spoon. How, they asked, would you get the remaining jam off the spoon? Now, you may think of scraping it off, or tapping the spoon onto the toast. But, as mum says, “in our house, we just lick it…” which is true. Life’s too short to scrape all the jam off your spoon onto a piece of toast. Make do with what goes naturally from spoon to slice, go back for a second spoonful if you want. But then you just lick the spoon clean. You don’t go full Joey Tribbiani and put it back in the drawer, but that’s how you get the jam from the spoon.

I don’t think the occupational therapists like that sort of answer.

Or, when making a coffee, mum scattered instant coffee on the worktop and said, “Oh yes, all over the place like usual…” and then had to explain that she regularly dusts the worktop with coffee granules. I’m sure most people do every now and again, I know I do.

I think that mum is going to give them a bit of a run (or at the very least a very quick, left-veering shuffle) for their money.

My thoughts are with them.

An Open Letter To Ward 28

April 23, 2017

To all the staff on Ward 28, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough

Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

You took my mum, Caroline, in – a stranger in a strange land, out of her home county and confused by her stroke – and looked after her like she was one of your own. Though she was only with you for a week before we whisked her away in her own personal patient transport cunningly disguised as a small car to be installed under the care of Calderdale hospital, you did so much for her that words can’t express how much it means. That’s not to say I won’t give it a shot, though.

When I think back to Easter Sunday and the lengths to which my mum will go to avoid buying us Easter eggs, it was a terrifying time. My mum was frail and scared. I was scared and less frail. And my aunt was a force of bossy nature. But you did so much to make us feel at ease as we sat with my mum as she talked, mainly, to the sharps bin because at that time her eyes wouldn’t even consider scanning left.

It was with great joy that, come Monday, we found she’d been popped into a different bed in one of your bays. Mainly because she could now no longer talk to the bin, but also because there’s that old adage that the further you are from the nurse’s station the better you are. That’s probably not true, and in the greater scheme of things she wasn’t that much further away but you cling to anything you can in these situations.

And thank you for that jigsaw that none of you realised actually belonged to the hospital. We went through a lot, and that jigsaw went with us. From the three hours it took to assemble the edges, to the fact that my mum fell asleep on the table one day and dragged it onto the floor, that jigsaw came to represent our journey through the week.

From a jumble of unconnected pieces to something approaching a completed picture it was our rock. We didn’t let the fact that there was a piece (at least one) missing, put us off and I will continue to maintain that the remaining pieces did not fit in the puzzle at all and just came from some other generic green jigsaw. But it still represented our journey, and as we moved mum to Calderdale we left it unfinished. Again, a fitting metaphor.

And now mum’s in Calderdale and doing well. So all is good. If I could, I’d add another piece to the jigsaw (but as I mentioned, I’m sure none of the remaining pieces fitted).

However, I feel I must also say sorry. Because I know my mum can be, at times, what people may call difficult. I apologise for every time she answered your questions with a flippant response. I bet each and every one of you dreaded asking her if she’d been to the toilet or opened her bowels for fear of what answer she would give.

But most of all I apologise to the occupational therapists. I bet, when your work day starts, you don’t think that anyone is going to say “has anyone ever picked this up and thrown it at you?” while you’re asking them to complete a wooden jigsaw. But hey,  now you’ve met my mum, so welcome to my world.

So yes, I apologise.

But I also thank you again.

Because each flippant response and threat of shaped wood-based violence is a reassuring sign that despite the stroke my mum is still my mum. She might not be able to see anything to her left at the moment, and her left hand might not always want to do what she wants it to do, but she’s essentially still herself. She’s still as bolshy and argumentative as ever. And whatever exercises you may have had her doing with her left hand, she’s never seemed to have had much of a problem with two fingers in particular.

And as much as I believe it’s down to the body’s healing processes, I can’t help but think without your care, support and hard work over the last week my mum wouldn’t be where she is at the moment. The work you do on the ward is amazing. Literally amazing. It’s hard not to have anything but love and admiration for the NHS when you spend time among people so dedicated and passionate about the work they’re doing and the care they are providing.

Again, I thank you all.





April 22, 2017

So, today was the day.

To start with, things didn’t look great when it came to our scheduled visit to the birthplace of Knaresborough’s premier mystic and wise woman. Due to the stresses and strains of driving to and from Middlesbrough all week, and the screaming and shouting of feral children late at night, Carole was knackered and not sure if she could be arsed to go.

In a move which, let’s face it, is surprising to all, it was I who championed the fact that we should go. Primarily because I wrote about it yesterday and if today’s blog didn’t contain it you’d all be suspicious.

So we went.

Things went well as soon as we arrived, as Carole was put out by the fact that not only do you have to pay admission but there is an additional car parking fee of two pounds because “we get pedestrians as well, so….” So, before the adventure started, it cost us seventeen pounds – we got a guidebook as well.

The walk to and from the cave, through the woods and wotnot, was nice. You can’t take that away from them. The woods and the river are lovely. Probably because that had nature involved and not money-hungry tourist muggers.  The fact that it was dotted with people dressed as the tin man, scarecrow and cowardly lion was a little bit off-putting. More so when your girlfriend insists that you have your picture taken with each of them.

So yeah, that happened.

Grudging pictures aside,  I enjoyed that bit. The tin (wo)man was lovely, having heard me complaining about the photos on the way towards her and generally taking the piss/treating me like one of the children by asking me to squeeze some oil in her rusty joints. She broke the fourth wall as we walked back past, asking us what time it was which completely ruined the illusion that she was in any way made of actual tin. The scarecrow was equally nice. The lion was clearly an am dram person of some description because he was milking it for all he was worth. I think, if he could have worked it out, the lion would have had a dramatic death scene. As it was we had to have a “do you know how to roar” act which wouldn’t have been amiss in Ballymory.

But we didn’t go for trees or fictional characters made flesh. We went for caves and petrifying wells and tat.

And lo, there it was.

Apparently, my eyes rolled a lot as we “explored” the cave, with its authentic naturally occurring concrete floor and “indigenous bat population” (the words of the audio track, not mine) of one plastic bat. What I enjoyed the most, having pre-Googled the stories of Mother Shipton, was that a lot of the prophesies quoted in the audio, by a stereotypical witchy voice, were actually made up a lot later by someone selling a copy of her predictions with his own bollocks stuffed in and amongst. Now, it took me literally seconds of reading to discover this fact – you’d think that the actual attraction making money off her name would have taken the time to fact check the story of Mother Shipton first.

The other thing about the cave was that, if anything, it was more of a nook or a niche. It wasn’t exactly a sprawling shelter. That might have been, in part, thanks to the naturally occurring concrete floor but either which way trying to imagine it as any kind of hovel for a pregnant woman to pop out Yorkshire’s pre-eminent psychic voice was hard.

The petrifying well, or whatever they call it, was just some teddy bears hanging on a string. There were a couple of other things – a plastic lobster and a tea pot, but the main focus is the teddies. You’re not allowed to donate anything to hang, it seems, unless you’re famous and they can put it in the museum (read: shed with a Zoltar machine in it). This is due, of course, to the high demand and nothing at all to do with the fact that they buy in a load of tiny cheap teddies they can turn to stone all year round and sell in the gift shop for £35 quid a chuck.

Needless to say, Carole loved it all.

Apart from the car parking charges.




April 21, 2017

By the time you read this, we will have driven past the sign for Mother Shipton’s Cave ten times in the past week.

And by the time you read this, we will not have been to Mother Shipton’s Cave ten times.

Unfortunately, all that changes tomorrow.

Because tomorrow, on the way to visit my ill mother, we’re going to Mother Shipton’s Cave.

You can almost sense the excitement oozing from the internets can’t you?

Apparently I’ve been before, but it has been fully erased from my mind. I don’t remember ever going. I don’t even think I want to remember, lest the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia make me think it was amazing.

Because it’s not going to be. Let’s face it. Even a quick internet search shows that most people only spend 30 minutes there.

Thirty minutes. It costs seven quid to get in. For thirty minutes of looking at a dark cave and a collection of tatty objects slowly turning to stone under a dismal drip of water. One review even says “seven pounds to see a plastic witch and a plastic bat…”

I know it’s going to be crap. Carole’s aiming to set her expectations as low as is humanly possible so she’s not disappointed.

Somehow, I think she still will be…