Gas and air

Since I’ve been seriously ill, my digestive system has taken on a volcanic mind of its own.

Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.

I have to take medication before I eat anything and be pretty careful about what I eat, nothing too spicy, no onions, not too many veg at one sitting. At home it’s easy to manage, the difficult thing is remembering to eat regularly as my appetite has mostly disappeared.

Control of social situations is more delicate; out with friends I can choose from the menu and push the onions to one side. But recently I was invited to lunch at home by a very old friend I hadn’t seen for ages and it didn’t occur to me to say anything. He served a wonderful pork stew, full of onions, mushrooms and quite spicy. I eat meat once or twice a week as it’s not easy to digest and I never eat pork apart from bacon. So what to do? Of course I ate it and enjoyed it and thought that I would face the consequences later.

Sure enough, on my way home on the tube several hours later, I could feel the orchestra tuning up. I managed to wait until I was in the open air and looked over my shoulder to make sure there wasn’t anyone too close and then, as my dear old Dad used to say, ‘let the wind sail free’. The full concerto.

I was suddenly reminded of my uncle who ran the village bakery in France. He used to make these delicious deep-fried choux pastries that were so light and sweet they were called ‘pets de nonne’ or nuns’ farts. You can still find the recipe online.

Crowds and people

A trip on the tube to the other side of London. I’m astonished at the numbers of people hanging about outside Westminster station, taking selfies against the backdrop of Big Ben. Or just lurking about, deciding where to go.

When your mobility is compromised and you walk with a stick, crowds of people are difficult. I can no longer turn on a sixpence as I used to and am likely to fall if I’m unbalanced. So being faced with a crowd and trying to weave in and out of them is disturbing. I keep my eyes on their feet as that’s the best way of predicting which way they will move. Plus lots of ‘excuse me, excuse me.’

And then taking the lifts down to the platform, a delightful family crowd in and remind me that each person in that crowd is an individual, doing their best, trying to look after their children, finding their way in a foreign city.

People not a crowd.

The sandwich generation

We’re in that stage of life sandwiched between parents needing more care and children needing support as they fly the nest. Both my siblings have in-laws who are very seriously ill in hospital. They are part of our extended family and we remember happy times with them and how hard it is to get through this stage.

And then the news that Mum has had a fall in the nursing home; thankfully not serious, she somehow managed to slip out of her wheelchair and grazed her skin badly. That in itself is a cause for concern, as her skin is paper thin and takes weeks and weeks to knit together.

Long distance caring is hard, two of us don’t live near our parents. But even close proximity doesn’t really help at this time of life, it just means you can get there more quickly.

Text from my nephew and niece who are getting on with their lives – just as it should be.  I’ve noticed that the young don’t answer emails anymore, but they will answer a text immediately, so although we don’t see each other very often, we manage to keep up with the highlights and difficulties.

Out shopping yesterday and had a surreal moment on the way home. The trolley was full and heavy and it was only when I got indoors that I noticed the bananas were missing. Looked out of the front door and they had fallen out further down the street. Two police officers were  ahead of me and came to the bananas, looked down and carefully walked around them.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Stamina and resilience

Been a while since my last blog as I’ve been busy. You might want to read that last word again. Busy doesn’t really appear in my vocabulary much anymore – since my illness, a busy day is when I get the paper and go to see a film.

But these last couple of weeks I’ve been helping to organise some Lenten talks in five different parishes, with five different speakers and chairing two lots of talks. I’ve enjoyed an echo of my old life immensely, but it is just an echo. Travelling to the other side of London now requires careful planning, trying to change via stations that have lifts, taking cabs when it’s pouring with rain, rather than making a dash for it.

I’ve met some great cab drivers, who are very helpful and chatty, ranged from quite profound theological (not instigated by me) discussions, to how best to souse fish.

And the talks themselves have been well-attended and given rise to great discussions.

Much as I love revisiting an echo of the old life when I was busy all the time with various projects, I don’t have the bounce anymore. A long, busy day with travelling means a lot of rest the next day. The stamina and resilience are increasing, slowly but surely. Just not to the same level as before.

But even an echo of the old life is very welcome.



An angel on a difficult day

Some days are harder than others and today was one of those. No particular reason, weather not great so bones aching, but had a good night’s sleep. Felt weary and morose; 11 am appointment at the docs didn’t help. Took me ages to get there, but all fine.

Still feeling dark and morose on the way back, every step harder than the last as I’d forgotten to take any painkillers before setting off. Wanted to collect the paper which lengthened the walk a little.

Suddenly a cry of ‘Cooo-eeee’ from across the street. An elderly lady looking at me and waving, hurries across. I feel I’m in a Dorothy Sayers novel. She smiles broadly and asks me whether I’m feeling better. Ah that most difficult of questions. How much does she know? I can’t place her, but she clearly knows me. I use my standard response ‘ish’ which seems to cover most possibilities.

To my surprise she grins and says she’s ish too. I lean against the wall and she tells me her son has been moaning to her about not living alone. Alzheimers she says briskly, without a shred of self pity. Suddenly my whining seems a little misplaced. She’s absolutely that best example of British womanhood; resilient and capable and somehow full of joy.

I mutter sympathy and she has a brilliant reaction,’ well Alzheimers it is and Alzheimers it will be, now I must get back to my piano tuner.’ I suggest we meet up for coffee and we exchange details.

I hobble off to buy the paper and come home, have some lunch and sleep for most of the afternoon.

But today I met an angel in the street.

A busy day for a change

Busy day for me today. Made it to Church, then Skyped Mum, whose main news was that she had enjoyed some prawn crackers (she’s a real lesson in the sacrament of the present moment). Then off to chair a Lenten talk in North London which would normally mean two tube changes. I’d worked out the route with least steps, came out of the house and it began to pour with rain and then hail.

So cab for me to the second tube station. Out of the blue the cab driver asks me what I’m giving up for Lent and we then get into a complex and very enjoyable theological discussion. Rain pouring down at the other end too, so I try and dry out in a cafe. An astonishing ninety three people turn up to the talk and there are great questions.

A kind man drives us back to the station as it’s tipping it down again. I’ve worked out another route home that has one change and lifts to the street. But what they don’t tell you is that the change involves a ten minute walk down endless corridors to the lifts, with people tutting behind me. I manage not to growl, but do they honestly think I would walk this slowly if I had any choice in the matter?

The second cab driver tells me he never watches the Uk news as it’s so biased, he prefers Russia Today. Not often I’m lost for words. We then talk about detective stories, turns out his wife is as keen on them as I am and sanity is restored.

I’d made double rations of healthy food yesterday, knowing I wouldn’t want to cook and expecting to be exhausted. Turns out though that I feel quite energised at being out in the world and contributing.

Two hours later and I’m still not completely dry.

Retune the static

Occasionally I just need to turn the world off and retune, like my grandfather’s old radio that required the precise tuning of a safe robber to avoid the static. Feels like my head is full of static and the only remedy for that is rest and sleep.

So I wake up at 9.30, text my guard that I’m fine, have some breakfast and take my meds and then go back to bed, read a bit and then the luxury of more sleep. The meds mean I’m getting 9 hours again, which is simply wonderful, but I haven’t caught up the missed nights yet. And the emotionally draining last few days, with tests and visits to hospital. I don’t tend to feel terribly anxious beforehand, pretty calm in fact. But I do get the blowback afterwards.

I wake at 3 after deep sleep and look at my emails and sort a few things out, make some calls.  I have to go out for a while around 6.30 to help with a sports club which runs every Friday for young disadvantaged children. No matter how bleak the day, or the weather outside, the raw delight and life enthusiasm of the children is always energising.

Then home for some more detective stories. A quiet day of a good life.