Monday, 29 August 2011

Hey Mr DJ Put A Record On...

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent
Victor Hugo

Although there are a lot of ways in which I haven't yet grown up, my most teenage trait is always having to have music on wherever I go. When I had my own car the first thing I did before I set off anywhere was to decide what I was going to listen to. In the days when I bought CDs I would play a new one over and over again - the most recent was Plan B's 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks'. Do you remember when you were young and you came home with a single on a Saturday? You played it so many times that your Mum would call up 'you'll wear that record out'? And can you recall your very first 45? Mine was Ball Park Incident by Wizzard (ages me just a bit!). For me there was nothing better than stacking all your fave songs onto the record player and letting them drop one by one onto the turntable. I think my record (geddit!) was eight. And they were record players in the 70s - stereos and sound systems were yet to come. A year or so before she died my sister V got hold of an old record player for me and I think of her every time I listen to some old Northern Soul (the ONLY way to listen to Northern Soul is on vinyl, dont'cha know?)

Without music life would be a mistake
 Friedrich Nietzsche

I was brought up in a house full of music. One of my earliest memories is Babcia's copy of Little Peggy March's 'I Will Follow Him'. The first time we watched Sister Act I said to Big Man 'I know this song!'. The original isn't remotely religious, btw...just a good old love song :). Dad was into Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry and Little Richard - a real 50s rocker. But he also loved C&W and when he was home from sea we always had Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette on the record player. Sometimes Irish showbands (The Hucklebuck doesn't sound the same if Brendan Bowyer isn't singing it). So I have an eclectic kind of musical heritage. Then my uncle, Al introduced me to Northern Soul; I already had picked up on Tamla Motown (anyone else have that Diana Ross and the Supremes album with the three pairs of red lips on the front?); and punk came along. I was always more into the music than the attitude though I did love the amazed looks when I walked along Moore Street in Dublin wearing a man's shirt, a pair of red and white polka dot bikini bottoms, the ubiquitous ripped fishnets and a pin in my ear. And I did learn to play the drums, after a fashion, when I was in my 'band'.

Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music
Sergei Rachmaninov

Music has been part of every part of my life. Sad times. Happy times. Furious times. Sleepy times. My iPod is going all the time (just listening to 'Venus' by Bananarama, before that was 'The Great Gate of Kiev'; 'This Boy' by the Beatles; 'Golden Brown' by the Stranglers, 'Ruler of My Heart' by Irma Thomas....). I love seeing bands live, even though sometimes I feel a bit old and small surrounded by Amazonian teens. I don't think I could ever really be friends with anyone who doesn't love music and I'm always open to new stuff and to be persuaded to listen to new bands - only yesterday Red introduced me to The Devil Makes Three - but I still put the oldies on for my residents rather than sit them in front of the TV. Ethel, who I told you about a few posts ago, doesn't react to much but when Frankie Laine's 'Answer Me' came on the CD player the other day she pointed to it and was listening intently. Maybe it was her and her husband's song? Whatever it was it sparked something in her brain that 'Deal or No Deal couldn't possibly ignite.

Where words fail, music speaks
Hans Christian Andersen

So, what I'm going to do is throw out five songs that mean a lot to me for varied reasons. And because I'm a nosy so-and-so I'm going to tag five people in a kind of musical meme. Don't do it if you don't want to but I think the music people like says a lot about them. Indulge my curiosity!!
In no particular order.....

1. September Song by Walter Huston
This was played at my sister V's funeral (she was born in September) and is so melancholy and beautiful that if it doesn't do something to you I can only think you have lump of granite where your heart should be.

2. Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meatloaf
When Big Man and I got our first car (a Ford Capri - very boy racer!) we used to drive up to see both sets of parents and played Meatloaf's 'Bat Out Of Hell' album on tape all the way there and back. We always sang along with this one - obviously I was Ellen and he was Meat. I use 'sang' in the loosest way possible....

3. Third Finger, Left Hand by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
This was the B side of Jimmy Mack, a big hit for this group and probably the better song. When I was in my late teens I used to go with my friends to Tiffany's, a big nightclub in my malignant Northern home town, and whenever a bride-to-be was celebrating her hen night this was always played. I really wanted it to be played for me too but I only got married in the registry office and didn't have a hen night. And Tiff's was no more by then either.

4. Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor
Beautiful song, gorgeous girl, and UK Number 1 the week my own gorgeous girl Red was born.

5. Have I The Right? by The Honeycombs
I was given this record when I was pretty young and loved it. The drummer is a girl, Honey Lantree, which was unusual for the 60s, and I just love the beat!!!!

I'll probably pick a different five next week! Anyway, I'm gonna tag five people who I want to know more about.

Wendz at 15 Coast Road
The Minimalist at Tasmanian Minimalist
Elise at Foof and Faff

Tag another five each if you want. Because as we all know...

Music brings the people together

Saturday, 27 August 2011

One Hand Washes The Other

Babcia had made a knitted jacket when a friend of ours had her first baby. She also donated something meant for our etsy shop to our friend's second baby. On Thursday our friend came to the house to collect Big Man who was going for a 'workmates' meal' and she left all this with us.

It's all testers, L'Oreal and Rimmel and there are lip glosses, lipsticks, foundations and a couple of concealers and powders. How fantastically kind is that? This friend knows that I had been looking for donations of nail stuff so I could give my residents manicures so, even though this isn't nail stuff she told me to do what I can with it. And she has another two stands to go through!
I think I'll take it over to work with me and show my workmates then ask for a 50p donation per item which I can put into our Residents Fund. If anybody reading has a request for L'Oreal or Rimmel items let me know and I can see what I have. The stuff is unused and full size....only 50p each item.....;)

Isn't it nice when a good deed is repaid?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Baffled By Cheese

S'il qui mange du fromage, s'il ne le fait, il enrage

When I was a kid (and now I'm an adult too) I was a real little pig. I always used to offer to unpack and put away the messages when Babcia came home from Grandways,  the local supermarket. She imagined it was because I was kind and helpful but really I wanted to see what she had bought and with any luck make off with some of it and snarf it down in secret. A 12-pack of Blue Riband biscuits was one item of booty I remember spiriting away.
Once, I went to bed as normal then feeling peckish (or piggish, depending on your outlook vis-a-vis gluttony) I tried to sneak downstairs to get a little snack. I made it into the kitchen undiscovered, looked in the fridge and saw....mmmmmm, cheeeese. Quietly I got a knife from the drawer and cut myself a chunk that must've weighed a good 6 ounces; wrapped the wedge back up and silently glided back towards the stairs. I was about 4 stairs up when I heard someone coming from the front room to the hall. It was my Dad!!!! I did what anybody in danger of being caught stealing a big piece of cheese would do - I curled into a little ball on the stairs and hoped I would somehow become invisible.
Of course I didn't disappear and when my Dad saw me (probably totally amazed at the sight of his 9-year-old chubster of a daughter curled protectively over un morceau de fromage halfway up the stairs) he called out to Babcia 'come and see this, I've just caught the biggest mouse in the house!!' The embarrassment and humiliation were total and worse still I was sent back to bed without any cheese. I mean, it wasn't as if I'd left teethmarks in it or something...

I'm telling this story to illustrate how much I love cheese. Any kind, soft or hard. Foreign. Traditional Cheddar. Stinky. I adore Stilton and all blue cheese. Whatever's going really. I am also trying to be money-saving so I was happy to see cheese on offer at Sainsbury's the night before last but there were so many different permutations of sizes, weights, flavours and BOGOFs that I stood like an imbecile for at least five minutes longer than I usually spend looking at cheese. I was after a nice bitey, mature Cheddar so I could have a kilo of Extra Mature for £6.99; two for £6 where one weighed 400g and one 370g; two for a fiver where both weighed 400g; some kind of BOGOF thing for £5...why is there so much choice?! Why is saving money so complicated? I didn't even intend spending a fiver on cheese but rather than spend £3.50 or so on just one piece I decided I might as well get two. Clever old Sainsburys!

I was also seduced by a reduced sandwich filling. It called itself Cheese Savoury and whilst yes, it is savoury and there is a little bit of cheese in it, it's more of a thickish cheese coleslaw. But not as nice. Very carrotty and cabbagey and not to be recommended to you caseophiles out there. Try a nice Stilton.

Any more cheese freaks out there?
*He who does not eat cheese will go mad. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Tonight Matthew, I'm Going To Be The Little Engine That Could

It's going to take all of my mongrel cunning and guile to finish this month solvent.
I got paid on the 8th and because our Working Tax Credits have just been renewed and were (I thought) not being paid until the end of the month, all the direct debits and such came out of my wages, leaving me with nothing to pay into the credit cards when usually we throw a stack of money at them. I can't work out how this has happened. There were a couple of biggish things to pay in the first week of the month - Babcia and Dad's wedding anniversary flowers were nearly £50 and the newspaper Memorial notice for V's first anniversary was over £50, not that I begrudge either in the slightest. And I'm keeping a good check on the food bills too - we're at £263 out of a budgeted £350 (just whilst all the kids are home for the hols, then back down to £200). Anyway, I discovered yesterday that we got our WTC paid on Friday so I used them to pay this month's Council Tax (a mighty £177 which, considering we don't get any rubbish collected, is high by any standards) and paid some money off one of the cards. Now there's no more money again until I get paid on 3 September so it'll be tough.
On the plus side Red is paying me back £50 a week from her portering job that will cover the money I've had to lay out for her in the never-ending rent saga. Yes, that's still creaking on. I'm waiting on £53 in expenses from work and have another £30 or so to put in. I did a mystery shopping job yesterday for a whole £7 (yay!!!). I have a little bit of money in my ING account but that's really for Christmas. I have just over £22 in 20p pieces in my calculating cow AND between us we have £5.50 in Tesco vouchers. Oh, and I have about £45 in my Paypal account and made £10 in eBay sales this week but one of the things I sold was given to me by Babcia and even though she won't expect it, I'm giving her the money from the sale...she needs it just as much as I do. Am I going to make it? Let's just say I'm going to make like The Little Engine That Could.....I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.......

Actually, this is slightly creepy.....:S

Now, I have a dilemma. You remember that some of Red's rent money was taken by the housemate who was responsible for paying it to the landlord on behalf of all the housemates? And that I paid, as guarantor, £680 which Red is portering to pay back? Did I also say that on the last day before they were evicted, whilst I was helping Red scour out the kitchen, the landlord rang and said that he'd discovered there was a further month when the rent hadn't been paid....another £340 each outstanding? In a nutshell the landlord is saying that the deposits (£680 each) are now in arbitration because Red owes the 'missing month' and the rent thief owes...well, who knows what she's paid. The other three housemates' parents have already paid everything for them, no questions asked. My dilemma is, do I pay out ANOTHER £340 (see above, where do I get it from?) making it a total of £1360 I'll have had to find, and hope that we get the whole of the deposits back? Or not pay it, write off the deposit and still have my £340, bearing in mind that the five sets of parents were joint guarantors, ie we are responsible together for whoever doesn't pay. Even if I do pay, the landlord could say that, since there is rent outstanding from the thief, we can't have the deposits back anyway without covering HER share. I wouldn't put it past the landlord to make up some reason to keep the deposits anyway, since I assumed deposits were for damages, not rent arrears. He has never proved, to my satisfaction anyway, that the money wasn't paid, although with everything I hear about this girl I can quite believe it. But to ring up on the last day of the tenancy and say that he'd just discovered that rent from the previous November hadn't been paid (this was July) just stinks to me. Plus he is threatening to sue the guarantors jointly which is not good as I am the one out of Big Man and I with a good credit rating. Anybody got any ideas because it's driving me crazy. I am so thoroughly pissed off with the whole episode and Big Man is no help at all. 'Sue him!' 'Sue her!' 'Don't pay any more!' He wants to load the gun but let me shoot it. Will this ever end? Help!!!!

Finally, since some commenters were envious of my 49p toilet roll dolls, here they are in all their glory.

I ♥ toilet roll dolls :)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Belated Blog Swap News and a Bognor-iffic Time!!!!

Well hello there. I remembered that I hadn't shown you what I got in my blog swap plus I've been encouraging Red to start blogging and I can't really quit when she's just starting, can I? I've got a bit of time in between listing on eBay (anybody else's sales SLOOOOOOOOOOOOW?), struggling with Mr Charming's student loan form and having a bath so here I am!

First my blog swap with the magnificent Lucy from Being of Sound Mind. The box she sent was decorated beautifully (compared to mine which was probably advertising Value Pork Scratchings or somesuch)....

Lucy sent me some really lovely things - she is so creative and must have put a lot of time and effort into my gifts.

Let's see, I got a lovely home-made (I think?) candle in a rose sugar bowl that sits on a little glass and gilt saucer. A glass bird paperweight that's very tactile. I love glass birds. Some Dr Seuss stickers which are great because I always use return labels and stickers on my letters and parcels. A chunky ring. A fab picture in a frame for a Book Lover. Lucy made this herself and covered the frame in decoupaged book pages and used Scrabble tiles for the wording. Finally I got a notebook that had been all Gothed-up with glitter, net and paper. I always have lots of notebooks on the go for my interminable lists. I even got a lovely rainbow from her sweet boys! Thanks so much Lucy. Of course the best part of the swap was that I was matched up with Lucy and I hope we're pals now.... :)

Last Saturday we planned to go to Arundel for the day (me, Big Man and Carb Addict) but as we were driving towards it we saw signs for Bognor Regis and, never having visited before we decided to go there instead. Surprisingly there were not that many people around. We had something to eat in a pub/restaurant on the front and did a spot of people-watching - my favourite pastime and the perfect outlet for my own special brand of snarkiness. There was a little market near the seafront too with a stall selling what I guess you'd call 'rock novelties'. I think it needs a special kind of humour not only to think it's a fun idea to give sweetie genitalia as a gift but also to be happy to receive them. Maybe it's just me but do people really think 'hmm, Margaret on Reception supports the donkey sanctuary and she has a sweet tooth, we'll take her a big sugar penis as a souvenir'? 

Bognor Regis pier - sorry, didn't take any sea photos :S

The beach is extremely stony and seems to just drop off about 12' away from the shoreline. There were the usual hardy families crouched shivering on deckchairs, huddling around the picnic hamper in much the same way as Native American families gathered around the camp fire. Look! They have Granny, the family matriarch scowling beneath her 'I ♥ BR' baseball cap. And there are the young bucks, all goose-pimpled flesh and Fat Face swim trunks filling their fat faces with Scotch Eggs and rock novelties (oooh, Missus!). Their cross-generational day out is more an ordeal to be endured than a fun occasion to enjoy, but having paid £2 each to keep their arses off the pebbles they're unwilling to admit defeat this soon.

 The Lucky Last Hole!

We were unswayed by the dubious pleasures of the amusements and made our way to the town centre where I came across quite a few charity shops. How did that happen, tee hee!!! I did get a few bargains, the best one being four knitted toilet roll covers, complete with the dolls AND the toilet rolls, for the incredible price of 49p EACH!!!! You couldn't buy the doll alone for 49p. Plus they were really well-made. I am threatening Mr Charming with one for his flat when he goes back to uni. I already gave one to my colleague Agata who has just moved into a flat with her husband. She loved it! Another colleague and I were trying to explain to Agata what 'naff' means but how do you explain it to somebody Polish, even when their colloquial English is good?! I also bought a really lovely Warehouse 50s style dress for a fiver and a couple of Pyrex inserts for a hostess trolley, with lids. They only cost £4 and I can probably get £15-£20 for them on eBay. Not a bad haul.

I'd definitely recommend Bognor for a chazzing trip and as it's only 40 miles from me I'll be taking Babcia the next time she comes. She texted me and said that she has had a tic in her eye for a week now and feels just like Inspector Clouseau.
I think she means Herbert Lom.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A Day of Two Halves

This morning I spent an hour sitting with Vera. 93 years old and she is not 'going gently into that good night'. The screaming was hard to cope with but the weirdest thing was the way she kept looking intently at someone I couldn't see. The curtain between the living and the dead seemed very thin today.....

....then later, after the ambulance took Vera we had some entertainment. A duo, who my manager had told me were very funny, came to sing and play music. Well they were funny all right - Ken is the Les Dawson of the concertina world whilst Deirdre sang even more bum notes than he played. Irene kept giving me a worried look that said 'where's the Candid Camera?' whilst Dorian (who deserves a whole post of her own) didn't stop sniggering all the way through, then blamed me afterwards for having a cheeky face. Whatever charms I may possess by the way, a cheeky face isn't one of them :S. Needless to say my work colleagues all showed clean pairs of heels, leaving me singing-along by myself, as usual. Looking on the bright side Ken and Deirdre were cheap, knew every song from the 30s to the 60s that we threw at them and are keen to come back. And the residents enjoyed it once they realised they weren't part of 'You've Been Framed' so that's all that matters.

From tragedy to comedy in six hours.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Police and Thieves

Tonight I'm thanking God that Red came home from Lewisham a fortnight ago. I think I would've driven through it to get her if she was still there. But please keep her boyfriend, my would-be son-in-law PC Furious in your thoughts tonight....he's been deployed into Central London and I'm hoping more than anything that he stays safe.
What sort of madness has overtaken people?

Sunday, 7 August 2011


I'm the oldest sister of three girls.

This time last year I was sitting beside a hospital bed with my mum and dad and my brother Jack. I was holding my sister V's warm hand and hoping and praying that she would stay with us. She had lovely soft hands, with long slim fingers and manicured nails that she took great care of. I suppose I was still shocked - I was due to fly off on holiday to Tunisia with Big Man and Carb Addict on this day, not keep a bedside vigil in a malignant Northern city - but Babcia had called me and there was never any chance that I wouldn't drop everything and drive for five hours, hoping this was another false alarm. V had quite a few of those and had battled her way through. Surely she could do the same this time?

V was four and a half years younger than me, a beautiful, bouncing, healthy-looking child. She was always hungry and the health visitor advised Babcia to feed her with very runny Weetabix through a wide hole bottle teat (!), which she did, being young and lacking in confidence. Could that have had any bearing on what came to pass?

When she was two-and-a-bit V got a skin condition called impetigo. She was given penicillin which made her very ill and she spent a couple of weeks in hospital. After that she became very clingy, mardy and ill-tempered. As she got older V preferred to stay at home with Babcia, making cups of tea and watching TV...we called her 'Miss TV Times' because she always knew what was going to be on. She was quite pious (well, we WERE taught by nuns!) and a bit of a goody-goody compared to my rebellious ways (I had a pin in my ear....OMG!).

V started losing weight at about age 11. She went to the toilet frequently, drank loads of water and one morning when Babcia went to get her up for school she found V almost comatose...the smell of pear drops filled the room. V was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and spent a short time in hospital. You need to understand that in those days the only treatment was daily injections and strict observance of food rules - I think things are a lot different now with insulin pumps and so on. V was given an orange to practice injecting and a diet sheet and that was about it.

By the time V was 15 or 16 we were back living in the UK and V wanted to be like everybody else - drink, eat whatever she liked, smoke, never let on that she was a diabetic - and so she started to regulate her insulin according to her blood sugar readings. She also got it into her head that she was fat which was another reason to mess with her insulin. I know now that this has a name, diabulimia and that it's a very serious condition that can exacerbate the different complications associated with diabetes. And apart from everything, V was very bitter that, of four siblings, she was the one who had lucked out healthwise. Quite honestly she was fiendish to everybody...Babcia and Dad took the brunt of it but she wasn't nice to to many people. However she got a job, moved in with a boyfriend and things continued on as even a keel as they can for somebody whose diabetes is totally out of control.

The years passed by and V's health deteriorated. She had finished with the boyfriend and lived alone in a flat. She still had friends and was close to our other sister, our baby girl. She continued to work but things were starting to go wrong. Diabetics should be very careful if they shave their legs (should try to avoid it really) but she'd nicked her shin and it became ulcerated, resulting in ultra-painful skin grafts and a dent in her leg to the bone. Also diabetics need to have regular foot care appointments, which V didn't bother with. The nerve endings in her toes and feet were damaged and she had toes on both feet amputated. This would be devastating for anybody but especially so for a young woman. However, far from being the wake-up call it should have been V carried on smoking heavily, self-regulating her insulin and generally playing Russian roulette with her health.

Shall I cut a long story short?

By the time she was 35 V had lost one leg to just below the knee; the other at her hip; been on kidney dialysis; had a kidney transplant and gone blind in one eye. And just to add insult to injury she'd had pre-cancerous cells removed from her cervix. Never, ever think diabetes isn't serious. Through all this she carried on the same as always. Smoking, starving herself, going into hypos and hypers...twice Babcia had to get the police to break into V's little house when she could see her flaked out, almost dead on the settee and ride the ambulance to hospital with her. Yet every time she somehow battled back. Brave. Bloody-minded. Fierce.
 Once a week my Dad took her in her wheelchair to Asda for her shopping (and that's another thing....she spent £70-£80 a week on food and didn't eat any of it. Typical eating disorder, yes?) and that first week in August last year there was an epidemic. Lots of kids were in the supermarket on school hols and V, who never had any childhood illnesses as a kid, picked up chickenpox. Because her immune system was so compromised by the anti-rejection drugs she took following her transplant and, I suppose, because of her years of self-neglect the chickenpox went to her lungs and caused pneumonia. V was never keen on children and she'd probably been cursing them all the way round Asda that day. I wonder would she see the irony?

So we sat around V's bed in the ICU. The doctor had told us that there was no more hope and that the life support was going to be turned off. We were relieved that we weren't asked to make the decision. We all left her room whilst the nurse turned all the machines off. Babcia and Dad didn't feel they could go back in so Jack, his wife and I went in to V and sat with her. It was so quiet. We held her hand on either side and the last monitor showed that her heart rate was increasing. What I didn't realise was that a body tries to carry on fighting....self-preservation I suppose. Jack and I told V that it was okay to let go and that she could leave us now. This last year I've beaten myself up so many times thinking that if I hadn't said that she might still be here. When I'm missing her I think that, mostly.
And then it all just....stopped.

I was amazed at how quickly V's hand, that seconds ago was still warm and malleable in mine, began to grow cold and stiff. Almost instantaneous....really odd. Babcia and Dad came in and nobody really knew what to say. I suppose we were all thinking that she was peaceful now. And how angry V would be to be dead. That sounds strange but she was an angry person and when she had first been taken into hospital a few days before I'm sure she never imagined for a minute that she wouldn't leave there again.

Now she's been gone a year. I miss her. I've wanted to tell her things so many times, picked up the phone so she could be outraged on my behalf, or to tell her something funny. She always sent those cards they sell in Oxfam - you know the ones with old photos and a witty comment? - and I think of her when I see them. She was generous, madly intelligent, sardonic, ironic, talented, funny and sensible - at least where others were concerned. But she'd set her path to self-destruct and she was never going to make old bones. We had known that for a long time and I think inside V knew that too. She'd been given so many chances, so many wake-up calls and she ignored them all. Everyone tried so hard to help her but she could be so prickly - she once ignored me for a year when I wrote and suggested she gave up smoking - and she was an adult after all. It was like she was in a barrel heading towards the falls and instead of jumping out into the safety of the shallows she paddled even faster to the edge. I guess we just weren't enough to keep her here.

Much love, V. Miss you xxxxx

Friday, 5 August 2011

Night Falls On Southampton

"It's 9.10 in the Keshling House and in the office Keshling is bent over the computer, trying to write a witty and entertaining blog post.
Nearby in the kitchen Carb Addict is prancing from one foot to the other in front of a docked iPod. He is holding a table knife up to his face and using it to look at his reflection from the corner of his eye. Simultaneously he is flicking rapidly through the Shuffled Songs, listening to the opening few bars of each one before moving on to the next. Is he looking for any song in particular?

Ping! 'Be My Baby'
Pong! 'Sex on Fire'
Pang! Everybody Wants to Rule the World'
Pow! 'At The Hop'
Zap! 'Jeepster'
Zhup! 'Dambusters March'
Zip! 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag'. Ah, Carb Addict decides to rewind this one 16 times, still only listening to the opening bars, before moving on.
Zow! 'What Difference Does It Make?'

"It's now 9.25 and back in the office Keshling is becoming irritated by Carb Addict's musical choices. She tells him to go and put his pyjamas on but instead he goes out into the garden and takes a small saw from the garage. It looks as if Carb Addict might be planning an assault on the apple tree. He is talking to himself but Keshling picks up a few random words...'postman', 'goodbye Janet, see you soon', 'Chessington World of Adventures', 'get up', 'weekend'.

"In the kitchen Keshling is getting the corn-popping machine out, Carb Addict is upstairs in his room changing out of his wet clothes and the small saw is in the pond. It's 9.45 and having given up the idea of a pithy blog post Keshling has ceded possession of the computer to Carb Addict who settles down in front of The Platters on YouTube with a big bowl of popcorn. Keshling repairs to the living room with the strains of the first few bars of 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' echoing in her head.

Night falls on Southampton."

The Moon's A (Square) Balloon

Red is looking for a job so that she can raise money to go back to London. Obviously she is living at home rent-free. Mr Charming came home from uni at the end of May with some of his loan left over and has, according to a very disgruntled Big Man, 'slept in for two months'. But now the loan is gone so Mr Charming too needs a job. I find this particularly irksome because at the end of June I noticed that a local leisure centre was looking for lifeguards. The ad said that it wasn't a problem if applicants didn't have the NPLQ (National Pool Lifeguard Qualification) because they would be running a special course on July 15 which would result in qualified lifeguard status. Excellent!!! Mr Charming IS indeed a qualified lifeguard and even though his has lapsed (it needs to be retaken every two years I think), no problemo....he could requalify through the job.

Except he refused to go.
Had money left, didn't need a job, blah blah blah. He even got pretty shirty when I tried to press him on it so I decided he could do what he liked, knowing that he would soon be very sorry.

Last week came the day when the loan was spent and Mr Charming was indeed very sorry. Red had already told me that she didn't care what she did to earn money 'so I can pay you back Mum'. Hmmmmm. Each morning from work I texted to Red and Mr Charming, telling them to get up and look for work by checking the Jobcentre website and each day when I got home they both told me there were no suitable jobs. On Friday I looked myself and straight away found them both openings for the following night at a big pub in town, the Square Balloon. Red has worked as a barmaid before, at the local Irish Club which is run by Mr Charming's best friend's dad (we're big on connections and nepotism in this family). And Mr Charming could collect glasses.

On the Saturday night Red and Mr Charming worked from 8pm to 2am for nothing. No money. Zilch. It's called a trial shift apparently and they both hated it. Mr Charming said that he would rather kill himself than work there again and Red agreed it was pretty awful but that she'd go back if nothing else came up. And at least she made £3.70 in tips.

Yesterday Mr Charming got a cheque for £306 that was his refunded deposit from halls so he has decided that he doesn't need a job now after all, though how long he thinks that will last him I don't know, given that he won't get any more loan until September at the earliest. So this evening when the man from the Square Balloon rang up to offer him work for tomorrow night he turned it down. And it sounds like he's turned it down on Red's behalf too. The manager asked whether she would be available and Mr Charming was very non-commital....the manager didn't call Red so it looks like that's a dead-end.
But tomorrow Red is going to an agency in town about a temporary job as a hospital porter at the General (odd choice I know....maybe she really WILL do anything?) and I said that she should call into the pub whilst she's out though I'd class her response to my suggestion as ambivalent.

I've had to conclude that I have two unmotivated, unwilling and idle people on my hands. How come I can find jobs for them just like that (clicks fingers) but there's never anything suitable when they look? I totally adore all my kids but sometimes they make it very hard. On the minus side they lie in bed, won't do any chores without a lot of nagging, and stopped thinking I was the Oracle of All Knowledge long ago. On the plus side they are pretty frugal, and can live quite happily on packets of Monster Munch and tins of Kopparberg.
The next few months should be interesting.

PS Big Man was talking to his sister Sophie this evening on the phone and I heard him complaining about me using our Rainy Day Fund to pay Red's rent. And, thank you Sophie, she told him that 'your kids ALWAYS come first'. Let's hope he thinks about that a bit..... 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

This Is Ghost World

Regular readers will know that I work at a nursing home as an Activities Co-ordinator and sometimes I fill in as a carer which is what I've been doing this week. We look after the elderly who need 24 hour nursing care and/or have special needs and/or early stage dementia. I love the activities side but I don't much like personal care. Most people don't have the first idea of what goes on in a nursing home ( I thought it would be a cross between 'Waiting For God' and 'One Foot in the Grave' - how wrong I was) and would rather somebody else took care of old people. I'm cool with that.
But the world of the nursing home is a strange and unsettling one, filled with the ghosts of carefree, young, bright, brave men and women, shadows of what they once were. The residents' families flit in and quickly out again - if indeed they visit at all, preferring to pay strangers large sums to care for their parents' earthly needs and to provide the comfort and companionship they no longer feel able to give. Rooms echo to the sounds of long dead performers - Glenn Miller, Ambrose, Alma Cogan, Billy Fury - and the air is perfumed with Old Spice, Lily of the Valley and decay. All the residents have left are a few photographs and their memories. Not all of them have even those.

In 4 is Jean whose son tells me she was a WAAF in WW2. He tells me she is 'Hampshire through and through' and even spent the war based in the New Forest. Later Jean tells me that she was based in Iceland for four years during the war but she can't remember which branch of the RAF she served in. She is droll and peppers her conversation with phrases such as 'now you're talking my language' when I ask if she'd like a cuppa. She winks at me as she drinks her tea through a straw but her expression says 'we both know this life is a crock of crap' and she sleeps for 22 hours a day.

Rose is in 16 and she too was a WAAF in the war. It was the best time of her life she tells me. Now the regular care staff and the nurses are driven demented by Rose's constant ringing on the buzzer...every twenty minutes she is 'dying for a wee'. They are in and out of her room all day and her underarms are bruised from being hoisted up and down from armchair to commode and back again. Each time she squeezes out one or two drops of urine or a tiny hard pebble of poo. There's no medical reason for the incessant need for the toilet - she just needs to know that people are still there. When she's not on the commode Rose sits in her stifling room, windows firmly closed, staring at a blank TV screen.

Then in 11 we have Irene; a great-granny many times over, Type 2 diabetic and laziest resident in the house. She sits Jabba the Hutt-like with her knitting and her televised sport, always amenable  - 'whatever's easiest for you, I don't mind' - until actually required to do something like walk to the dining room or out to the garden, when she'll start sobbing and complain of terrible pains in her legs and 'feeling all wobbly'. Irene worked for the Post Office as a telephonist and later taking telephone bets for a bookie but now she doesn't remember her late brother's name and tells me every day that she has a sister who is 99. Her daughter and grand-daughter visit every second day with numerous children in tow, always across dinner time. But at least they care.

Dennis is only with us for a week's respite, in 5. He arrived alone in a cab wearing dirty clothes and in need of a wash, a shave and a haircut. His daughter is his main carer. Once Dennis travelled to his own apartment on the Algarve four times a year. Once he knew by heart every taxi route around Southampton, when he drove one himself. Once he was a marine engineer and worked on our great naval aircraft carriers. Now he sits out in the garden in pilled old sweat pants and talks about his days as an evacuee. He was so happy out in the Forest that he refused to come home until eight years after the war ended. I said I'll cut his hair when I'm back at work on Friday and he's so, so very grateful.

Ethel in 8 had a stroke and has dementia. She came to us on the back of a four month stay in the General. She is a widow with a son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, grandson-in-law and great grandson. Ethel can only say one or two words but she hangs onto your hand for grim death when you sit beside her. She wears such a look of abject terror all the time that one can only wonder what is going on inside her head and how much of anything she understands. But when I show her the photo of her old self with her husband she rubs her gnarled finger softly up and down his image and I think she remembers. Ethel was once a big woman and her clothes, her 'old Ethel' clothes hang from her now tiny body. Her family should really replace them but I've only seen her son the once.

I know most of the residents' stories; what authors and screenwriters call 'back-stories'. That's my job, to find out things about our residents because that's what we do nowadays so we can 'help' them; tailor entertainment to their interests; 'understand'. We poke into their lives and say 'gosh, that's awful' or 'I bet that was a good laugh' or 'weren't you brave?' or '99 years old, really?' then move on to the next body, the next bed.
We exhume their memories and exter their ghosts, setting them free to swirl around the rooms of their keepers whilst we clock off back into the here and now.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Spaghetti Western Kinda July.....

...full of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.


I had a lovely visit with Babcia for a week. It's so wonderful to see her and it doesn't happen nearly enough.

I made a couple of goodish sales on eBay on the last day of the month. It's always great to add more money to the coffers.

I was given four awards by fellow bloggers - it's so flattering to be appreciated!

I got my daughter Red home from London in one piece, for the forseeable future at least. I only ever feel 100% happy when she's under my roof.

My colleagues and I are building up a really great working relationship - adversity has turned us into a great little team.


I had no real control over my budget right from the start of July so I'm not going to bother doing a sitrep - I'm back on track now though I hope. It'll be harder to keep a lid on the food budget especially with five adults in the house.

I didn't take all the opportunities I had to list on eBay and have probably lost money as a result.

I had to use our little cushion of money to bail Red out of her rent crisis and Big Man is doing my nut in harping on about it. Despite the facts that a) he didn't even know it was there, and b) it was £680 to help our own child out as opposed to the £18,000 he  saddled us with by not wanting to put employees (who let's face it were nothing to us and walked into new jobs without a backward glance the Monday after we had to finish them) out of work. Nobody can understand how much it grieves me to think that my husband begrudges his own child :'(

I had three lots of £8 bank charges as a result of going over my overdraft. Makes me feel like all the hard work I've put in so far is crumbling. I'm gonna have to be extremely focussed and very ordered. More lists needed! More spreadsheets needed!!

I was bitten on the face by an insect. It's taken two weeks to go back to normal. As normal as I ever look that is ha ha.


Red and Big Man had a very poor relationship before she went to uni in London two years ago; it was a relief when she left and the truly terrifying, terrible arguments came to an end. Now, after just one week things are becoming fraught. She is very forthright and headstrong...he can be pedantic and thinks things are the same now as they were when he joined the Navy at 16. An example. Big Man to Red - 'Why haven't you got a job yet?' Red to Big Man - 'I only came home the day before yesterday!!!'  You see? And I am always in the middle. I want to say 'LEAVE ME ALONE!!! I DON'T CARE!!!'. I feel too old and tired for this crap right now and I only see it getting worse.

We are short-staffed at work and I have not been doing my real job. I keep getting asked to do carer hours and my activities hours are going by the wayside. This is a problem because I am working very long hours (for me anyway), in a job I don't really care much for at all (hands-on care work) but feel I have to do because I don't want to see my colleagues struggling, and because I of course want/need the money. I'm stuffed, basically.

There have already been several heated debates between Big Man and I over the perceived failings of Red and Mr Charming (no, even he hasn't escaped Big Man's critical eye either). Don't see that stopping any time soon.

It's going to take everything I've got this month not to go under.