Monday, September 26, 2011

Paundy : A letter for my Dad

Mum calls you Aundy. That's 'cause it's Scottish for Andy. I always thought it was a nice name, Andrew. That's you that is. Andrew is a terrified 7 year old on his own and ill in hospital in 1949. It is too far for your mum to visit more than once a week and neither of you knows what is wrong with you or why you are so ill; Why you will always be so ill.
Now you're 69. I am too far away to visit more than 3 times a year - and you're back in hospital again, again. How much of your life have you spent there? How much of mine?

It's been 34 years since you had the transplant. 
Mum says that at the hospital today, the young doctor said he felt that you must be the longest surviving kidney recipient; that generally 10 years is the average life expectancy. He had once heard of someone who had survived 30 years, but never 34. You told the doctor that you were only the 3rd longest surviving patient, but you and Mum have forgotten that time has passed since someone else held that record.

Andy Pandy was one of my favourite TV programmes. His striped pyjamas always looked so fresh and cosy. As I grew up and practised being cheeky, I called you Aundy Paundy because I was Scottish back then too. Finally, I settled on Paund. You were furious:Where was my respect?
 Now, you find it endearing.
 At least I hope so since it's been about 20 years since I called you Dad.
 My Daddy...

...looked a little bit like James Garner , if he wore his leather jacket.

My Daddy wasn't around much and when he was, he was ill..
 My little brother and I would sit tearfully around hospital wards,kicking chair legs after school and at weekends. We'd spend interminable hours on a bus to Edinburgh for afternoon visiting, then go on to the Museum to pass 4 tedious hours and to eat sandwiches out of tinfoil. Then we'd come back for evening visiting before starting a long, travel-sick journey home in the dark and way past bedtime.
Sometimes Paund, you were the very embodiment of cheerful playfulness and at others, you would weep at the sight of us and be unable to stop. We didn't know why you were crying and Mum said you were being dramatic.
This was our life. We had no knowledge of another way. We still have none.
 I would be in trouble at school for not doing my homework, but the bus was too wobbly to write in a jotter balanced on your knee and the freezing black road, punctuated by dim 70's headlamps, ate the free time.I didn't explain why, I just did the extra lines I was given.

Before the long journey, and after school, we'd go with Mum to work. She cleaned buses. The yellow, blue and red swirls of the bus seat and the smell of vomit and disinfectant from the chemical toilet are as clear in my nostrils now as they were in the days when we tried to make a 48 seater bus into a playground. I loathed it all.

Sometimes, when the conductors were all on shift, we were allowed into the bothy for a change where a huge refectory table smelled of dust and must and old tree. Countless drivers and clippies had scratched their names into the surface - fag butts strewn across the floor like confetti.
Then it was back to school; back to hospital and to the smell of sick people, old people and my Daddy.

Daddy with tubes, Daddy with bandages, Daddy with an ever present cannula.
Daddy so bloated with his own urine that he was drowning in it, unable to walk or play with his children in the park his skin stretched so taut that it was a miracle that he didn't split open.
Stranded in the park, children and Dad. 
I can't remember how but help arrived. I am told that this was the time that everything changed. My Mum's youngest sister put you in a wheel barrow, wheeled you into casualty and at 5' high, ordered them to finally, once and for all, sort this bloody 31 year life of shit do what they were paid to do. 

Then came dialysis and life improved for a while. There were holidays in specially adapted caravans that family and friends had walked to provide, in kilts and with bagpipes on the only sunny day of the year. But this  was short lived. Dialysis patients didn't last long and the hunt was on for a donor. Everyone who could walk upright and sign their name was tested for compatibility. 
Finally some poor bugger died in a motorcycle accident and our family got 'lucky'. Well, lucky-ish for we were warned that most transplants failed and there was an NHS 'Two Strikes and Out' rule for translplants. So, the week that I started secondary school and the week of your birthday, there was a new hospital to visit and you Dad, stayed there inside a large plastic room where we could see you but not touch . It was agony. We talked through a grill and anything we gave you went through a sterilising machine that made everything taste and smell of disinfectant.
That's the first time that I saw Mum cry. The doctor opened the bubble door unexpectedly one day during visiting hours and she sat on your knee and cried. I cried but I wasn't sure what for. The doctor led my brother and I away so that you two could have some alone time and we stood behind a pillar watching a rare moment of intimacy. Two halves of a single person being re-glued. We two felt alone and when we returned you told us to press our ears to your wrist where a 6" cut was healing and we felt a warmth and a gurgle and a whoosh, whoosh whoosh noise. It was yeuchy.
Then days later it was back to drips and machines and panic as the kidney rejected.
But I knew it would be OK.
 I didn't worry.
I knew my dad would fix it.
 And you did.

Not like the girl who had a transplant at the same time -driven mad by the thought of housing part of someone not long dead within her young body. The Exorcist was in the cinema.
The doctor said that you ordered the kidney to change it's mind by the sheer force of your bloody will, he had never seen anything like it. You told him that you had a wife and two kids and that you refused to leave them.

You've been refusing ever since.
It's been 40 odd years now for me and my brother and longer for Mum.
40 years of dashing up the A1 and panic over, returning home shattered and shot; 40 years of hospital visits and cannulas and a cocktail of pills slowly eroding heart, arteries, bones, teeth, bowels, limbs and memories; of watching you die on numerous occasions; of this definitely being 'it'. Triple bypasses and heart attacks, angina, anaemia and skin cancer, cataracts and vertigo and all the time the vein they took from your leg and replanted in your arm to pump the cleaned blood round your system has made a noise like the sea if you put your ear to it and the kidney hasn't dared to reject you.
So, today another phonecall and Mum is in bits. She watched you die again today and she is scared because Monday's blood transfusion needed doing again by Thursday and the kidney can't keep up and now bone marrow is being tested and for the first time ever she wept down the phone.
And I wonder how many years I have been sick with it all and how many years my brother has spent in hospital and how my mother's life consists of trauma; and how tired I am and how sometimes I wish the call would be the last one and then I wish that I hadn't wished that. I sometimes wonder if its selfishness that keeps you alive and then I feel so utterly selfish for thinking so.
 I bought myself a rag doll the other day Paundy,  and not being a toy person, I felt baffled by that.

 But the universe provides you with what you need if you let it and I have it with me in bed tonight.

Tonight, I am a little girl a long way away from her Dad and the sea is silent.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Better than Sex!

...well, I think so. It's been so long that I can't quite remember...but in any case, this week has been one of the best ever!

It's been a week of getting things done. Actually, I've been getting things done all summer.
 I have been clearing out, dusting down, clearing out then washing. Then I cleared out and dusted down and cleared out and had a car boot!
Then I cleared out, organised and had another car boot.
Then I cleared out, had a change round and had another car boot! 

Then I thought I'd do a bit of sorting and chucking out but was thoroughly hacked off with car boots and so stuck stuff at the bottom of the drive with an honesty box.

Wish I'd thought of that before all those early mornings.

It felt marvellous; free if you will.

Free even if you won't.

Then, I got a man in. He put my blinds up and assessed my awning (too much material apparently)

I enjoyed that so much that I got another man in who took two days to flatten my mound.
It looks so much better and he had the good grace to leave a plum tree marking the spot.
He taught me lots about planting and trees and  that rats like dry roasted peanuts. 

Who'd have thought?

He arrived on the same day as my painter.
The painter and the mound flattener didn't like each other.
There was a bit of a Mexican stand off under my hanging baskets. It was so embarrassing.
They've gone to seed.
  (This house has been changed to protect identities)

The painter taught me patience, how to concentrate on 1 thing at a time and not fly off in all directions willy nilly . He taught me that I deserve 1 lovely room to sit in and to have someone do it properly. He taught me to value myself.
 He taught me that painters need an awful lot of tea.

Then I got a woman in to tend to the rest of my garden,which had gone a bit hysterical and then had a   breakdown.

She came round with lots of power tools and I got very excited. I love power tools.
There was the petrol strimmer -it really kicked the shit out of the triffids.
Then there was the 'hedge trimmers' -they seemed to masquerade as a chain saw. There were leaf blowers and loppers and choppers and spikey things and funny shaped spades. I was labourer all day and just  giggled because we were showing the fucking bastard garden who was boss at last.
I saw a couple of frogs.
I can see where edging is now....


..........................Sorry, just had a small weep of joy.

Oh and I had the most fabutastic massage yesterday. Guess what my fave bit was? (It was an all over body massage)
Nope! It was my hands and feet...Apparently we hold lots of stress in them. Something tells me if I had a petrol strimmer and industrial hedge trimmers, I'd have less stress.

Anyway, the point is, that I have finally and irrefutably discovered the joy of 'support'. I have always felt that I should be able to manage. But I can't and as my philosophical painter said, neither can he. We all need people to help us to do the stuff we aren't so good at, and sometimes, that needs paying for.

What I didn't expect was that, rather than feeling completely skint, I feel ...happy!
I think that's it, but it doesn't visit here very often. Overwhelmed visits quite often, but I think 'support' might be the antedote to overwhelmed. What's more it's totally addictive. I can't stop organising support.
The house has had to be tethered to the ground after all that clearing out. It feels so light and spacious and breathable that it thinks itself weightless. Then, like everyone who loses weight, it felt like sprucing itself up and showing off with some new clothes and  the combined effect is that there is enough space in my house to create enough space in my head to get on with work. Spending money might actually help me to earn a wage.

My life feels like it's being put through one of my dad's old garden sieves and the ground is smooth and fertile beneath. Those old bits of pottery and rock  and straw are slowly being put at the end of my life's drive.

It's surely better than sex for the effects will last much longer.

What's better than sex for you? 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Get Back Boris!

We have discovered in our house, that we know when a spider has crossed a line.

We possibly could not define this moment to the satisfaction of London Zoo or the  British  Association of Spiders, Tarantulas, Arachnids and Related Diplopod Species (BASTARDS for short) but, we could definitely show them a spider who has crossed this line.
Oh yes we could.

He's in our porch.

With the door shut.

Now, I am usually a bit brave with that sort of stuff. Well, I wasn't but then I went to Australia and I was cos I had to be.

Then I came home and after a couple of years I wasn't again.

Then I got married and had a husband.
Wedding animation featuring a bride with a monster hand

But it turned out he was terrified.

So, we'd get one of the neighbours in
Or I'd suck it up using the hoover nozzle.

Then I left him and I wasn't scared again because I had no time for nonsense or fear.

6 years passed and I remained unfazed. I have an old cotton bud box that I catch them in and then release them back into the... wild? ...The hedge in any case.

Spring followed autumn and despite that being very confusing, my son was trained in the ways of the spider trapping. He learned all that I knew, at my knee. After many moons, he too could operate the box until one day, he asked for a box of his own...The following day, he came down to breakfast with a full moustache and side burns.

But, even together, we are no match for Boris, who would need a box extension with an awning to begin to contain his girth. Maybe even a tent!
He really is a huge fucker.

My son is a scholarship boy and so I knew that between us, this problem was surmountable.

So, after much stroking of the sideburns and fiddling with the Rubik's Cube, we are in complete agreement.

We hardly ever used the porch anyway.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not Just Anybody..He-e-elp!

Yesterday did not shape up to be the day that I hoped it would be for me.
It was to be the day that my youngest -my 3rd - child started secondary school, and the day that my own life was to  begin to reclaim me; to slowly woo me with time and independence.

Instead, my faerie child clung to the door of the car, panic in her elfin eyes as she pleaded with me to take her home. 

I was so brave; I soothed and cajoled and finally just insisted that she entered this new world alone. I opened the car door and gently but firmly pushed her out.

Half way home, my own emotions flung open the door of my moving car and insisted upon being felt. They climbed inside me and screamed their way out.   Fuckers!

Once home, I found the man that I had employed to finally 'sort out' my garden sitting in my drive. He informed me that 2 rats had dropped down the fence, flicked him the 'V's', stuck their tongues out and pissed on his boots. 

He can't work in these conditions, he's scared.

I wanted to scoop up my children and run away from this diseased house.

The gardener looked uncomfortable as tears for my daughter, my youth, my garden and my role started a journey that took them the day to complete and another to recover from. "I thought they had gone. He promised they had gone" I managed to mumble through horrified lips.

The rats have been a recurring problem since my neighbours moved in 18 months ago.  I am terrified of them  and sick to death of paying exterminators who cannot exterminate because my neighbours -who are kind and clean and  reasonable people- have a
compost heap, 

a pond 

and a bird feeder.

They own rat nirvana!

They also have 4 dogs and tasty dog food. 

What they don't have though are rats because they are scared of
the dogs.

  So the evil little bastards live with us and pop next door for food when the coast is clear. I have had words with my neighbours who think I am scapegoating because they don't have rats living with them and yet 4 exterminators tell me that the problem is not one of my making. But it's me who gets anxious and pays money I can ill afford and can't let the kids in -what used to be -a beautiful garden, and me who can't use my garage. My neighbours enjoy their garden, birds and dogs and pond.

Someone scoop me up.

The elf bounced out of the school gates and chattered incessantly all night about how amazing her day had been. I'm not allowed anywhere near the school gates now!

Any tales of triumph over rodentity would be fallen up gratefully with copious weeping and probably - gifts!


Help! Not Just Anybody. HELP!

I have wanted to tell you this for so long, Pamelots
I have been

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Thing That I Like...

The thing that I like about my home town is that if you throw a vol au vent in any direction, it will always hit someone you know.  

This of course, has its ups and downs. You may not want to be noticed yourself with a head like a burst cushion, but who amongst isn’t  secretly rather pleased to see a normally enviable hairstyle looking  as though someone had recently set fire to it?
I met my neighbour when she left a pair of fabulous trainers standing smartly to attention alongside her rubbish 11 years ago. I took them for my young daughter, leaving her a note because  I am old enough to remember Candid Camera and my parents frequently used the possibility of it as a babysitter. She turned up on my doorstep 3 hours later with a daughter of her own and an enormous bag of beautiful clothes that the latter had grown out of. We have been firm friends ever since.
It began a number of co-operative operations which spread to the rest of the street. For instance, we launched a book club and invited a guest, who invited a guest and so on until finally we have 9 regular members of the book club, who see each other through bereavement and divorce , birth and triumph. As a couple of our members said “This group is more than the sum of its parts”. Support, skills and friendship are put into the pot and given absolutely free of charge. It only requires someone to host the club each month and to provide the essential requirements of wine and varying forms of chocolate. The book became a secondary consideration after a shamefully short period of time and we became ‘The Alcochocs’, doing  what it said on our tin. 
We were even on Radio Lincolnshire where clever editing made us sound really quite knowledgeable.

Recently, I  had to leave a note for a delivery man saying ‘Please leave this at...’ before listing a plethora of trusted neighbours almost as long as the street itself; our street now swims together from a cherished offspring’s 18th birthday,  to a Bonfire night then a Christmas Eve bash before onto a surprise seventies- themed 40t,h ,with devilled eggs and Spangles in hand and wearing outfits that bore into the very centre of our souls and make us feel strangely sea sick .

My post natal group are coming to help me paint my downstairs on Saturday.  We used to meet weekly when the children were preschool.   15 years on and the children’s clothes all look strangely familiar, due to the familiar route by which we pass clothes  down; it’s doubtful that anyone here has had to buy a brownie uniform since the Bejing  Olymics.   Spookily, we have reached the stage where the clothes that teenagers grow out of can be passed onto the more petite parents in a horrific echo of a life yet to come. 

But before that day arrives, we have resolved to have a rota of sober weekend parenting, so that as our children grow, there’s always one of us available to give any of our collective offspring a lift, post bail, phone a solicitor, warn off unwanted admirers and generally make sure they get home. Everyone else will be strategically placed throughout the pubs  and behind lampposts, allowing no stone to be unturned but enjoying a drink or two for authenticity purposes.

Doubtless with so many helpers this weekend, someone will step backwards into a tin of  Ferret and Flip Flop emulsion or wallpaper  their engagement ring  into the dining room recess  before we can enjoy our celebratory evening of wine and food and more laughing.  Stamford co-operatives have the ability to make chores an event on the socialising calendar. I often tell visitors to the town that we will celebrate anything at all at the drop of a hat and that given a favourable wind and a sale at the fancy dress shop, we’d celebrate the safe return of a Waitrose trolley.   

Now, what I really need is for The Community Orchard team and Community allotmenteers  to  to take control of  sections of my garden. I’ll provide the wine and chocolate.