I came late to the coconut oil party, but like all converts I’m in danger of teetering into the evangelical. My pal cooked with it in Cyprus, giving the food that extra delicious je ne sais quoi. She also added a little to her coffee (sounds vile, tastes wonderful) and I’ve taken up the habit, makes the coffee more digestible apparently. No alternative eater worth their carefully sourced and home-flaked salt would be without a pot in their bag.
Setting out with near missionary zeal, I find that others have got there before me. This young person uses it to make her hair shiny, that friend gargles with it to whiten her teeth. In the street today I passed a chic young woman who clearly bathes in the stuff. An agreeable waft swam in her wake.
Move over avocado, the white gold reigns supreme.
Brilliant day with Mum, we sat in the sunshine and chatted, had tea and cake and it was wonderful just to spend time with her.
Then went down to the sea for an evening picnic and even managed to have a second paddle in the sea, though much colder than the Med. But the evening light was golden, the beach full of children, families, walkers enjoying the sunshine. W stayed until well after sunset, reluctant to leave.
This morning I arrive to find Mum still in bed and dozing. Each day is different and our time together yesterday has tired her. But she is cheerfully in bd and half watching telly. She dozes and each time she wakes, she’s forgotten I’m there and is delighted to see me all over again.
As ever it will be hard to leave her this afternoon.
Lunch with Mum and a dozen others with different forms and stages of dementia. A was a pianist and now plays on the table, the lady next to him says, “beautifully played” and he nods graciously. Mum has always loved her food and tucks in delightedly, simply needing a bit of prompting as to what to eat next. J falls asleep a lot at the table and needs help to get the spoon to her mouth. Much of her curry falls in her lap or is smeared across her chin. She smiles and nods when I help.
There’s a very sad couple at the next table. He has dementia and his wife’s way of coping is to nag and threaten to leave if he doesn’t behave. Or to contradict him when he says something nonsensical. G is at their table and has a form of dementia which makes him talk nonsense in a very sexual way. But first he refuses to eat his chicken as he doesn’t think it’s dead, “it looks in pain to me.” Then he begins a startling monologue about sex, including how to distract women from unimpressive technique, “I always found whistling helped.” The whole room is transfixed, caught between hilarity and awkwardness. Mum can’t hear too well, which is a mercy in this case.
We leave to sit in the garden and B, normally the kindest and gentlest of residents is hanging on to the food trolley and shouting. A carer tries to persuade him to let go and B threatens him with his fist. The nurse comes and gently leads him away, but not before he’ s spat at Mum’s feet in rage. ” That’s nice” she says and makes everyone laugh. It seems that B’s medication has been changed and he’s reacting. The carers are astonishingly patient, but weary.
Five minutes later, he’s back to normal and smiles to open the doors for us. It tugs at the heartstrings. Mum, who has no memory these days, seems to remember his spitting and threatens him with my stick, he looks mystified.
We sit happily in the garden, where Mum and I chat and she begins talking to me in her village patois, which I understand but don’t speak. We then go downstairs to listen to a singer who regales the crowded room with music and song. Pianist A closes his eyes and plays along, Mum taps her feet happily.
Warmth and sunshine mean the joints are pretty much back to normal and I can cold turkey the painkillers, which is great given how many meds I already take. Down for a few more days visiting Mum in her nursing home, wonderful to see her. I walk into town and back to the b and b, half an hour tops in total. Feels good to be walking again.
This morning my legs are tent poles in their stiffness. So I walk into town to get the paper and feel I’m in the Olympics, but without the proper training. Two steps and kerbs are like the high hurdles, getting over the threshold of the newsagent a marathon and even sitting down to drink a coffee feels like a container being dropped from a height, I no longer seem to bend in the right places.
I used to do a serious warm up and warm down in my running days. Now it seems that I need to do the same in order to venture outside. I’m so slow that traffic on busy roads stops and drivers wave me across, not realising they’ll have time to finish their crossword in the time it takes me to hobble across the road.
As my muscles warm up, after an iced coffee, I get up in a reasonably normal way, cross the road to recycle yesterday’s paper and walk up to spend another day with Mum. She’s in bed, alert and happy watching tv. Good for her!
Monday morning strikes again and it’s a huge effort to get going, joints are stiff and painful and the difficulties of my present life seem concertinaed and exaggerated, as though I’m looking down the wrong end of a telescope.
So decide that I might as well do something useful in all this gloom, neck some painkillers and set off for the launderette. And magically the world opens up. It’s sunny and I walk on the sunny side of the street aware of the irony, load the machine and pop next door for a coffee. Bump into a friend who’s recently had a knee replacement and is doing really well, we sit outside and compare notes.
On returning to put things in the dryer, I discover that a whole bizarre menagerie of human beings has arrived. A young man covered in tattooes with a terrier on his lap, a woman with mental health problems dressed for the Arctic and strangest of all a young tourist with her back to us who is eating cold baked beans out of a tin. It’s oddly comforting to be part of this wonderfully bizarre world, I forgot to mention the man with his arm in plaster, who keeps removing and putting it back on (the plaster, not the arm, that really would be something).
Various friends ring to check in and make dates for coffee, lunch and dinner and I remember once again how lucky I am to have such a supportive group of pals.
12 strikes and the thunderclouds of gloom have passed, I rejoin the human race, where everything is possible.
I’d forgotten just how hard it is to come back from holiday. I hadn’t been away since being ill, nearly two years. After a wonderful week in the heat and sunshine by the sea, lashing rain greets me at Gatwick and as I walk slowly these days, I’m drenched to the skin by the time I get home.
Surprisingly good to be back though, only a week away feels like months and I have to get used to the rustle and bustle of my neighbourhood. Travel allows you to step outside your normal life, perhaps get out of the way of all the stuff that stops you being your real self.
Trying to keep the positivity flame alive, though my joints are protesting like mad after the luxury of the sun. I creak like one of my French grandmother’s wardrobes.
The holiday also stays alive in the telling: friends want to hear all about it.
And for once I don’t mind them telling me I look well….
Another beautifully hot day. We walk down to the sea for a coffee, sunglasses, suntan lotion, hats. Watch people standing in the sea to get cool, old men playing backgammon, men from the local army base standing drinking beer and eating crisps. You can tell they’re army, because they fold their clothes really carefully before going in the water.
Then I get a longing to paddle myself. Not done that since I’ve been ill and walking with a stick. But it just looks too cool and glorious to miss and there’s a ramp almost to the water’s edge. Thinking just how wonderful it would be to make contact with the sea again and feel the wavelets running over my feet. I realise that I’ve been thinking aloud when my pal says let’s go for it. Hmm I can suddenly think of a dozen reasons not to: fear of falling, putting my socks and shoes on again etc.
But I have so missed paddling and swimming in the sea, I visit the sea as often as I can and look longingly at people who stride into the wavs without a second thought. Or the very elderly ladies who swam early and late every day when I stayed on the south coast last summer.
So we walk down the ramp, gingerly, but so far so good. Taking off my socks provides a small challenge as I can no longer hop about (you try with a stick). Then I take my friend’s arm and tentatively walk the metre into the very shallow sea.
I can feel my feet twitching with delight, it’s a couple of years since I did this and they have missed it as much as I have. It feels like a huge symbolic stride forwards. We stand there for a good few minutes and then walk a few metres paddling. Swimming and water have always been so important in my life, this feels like a big step towards swimming in the pool again regularly and not worrying that someone may steal my stick while I’m in the water (insane, but there it is).
The cool bliss of becoming a water babe again.