Decision Time for one Old Bat.

It is very difficult for some people to admit that they are getting old and need help. I admit that I am one of them. I have lived on my own for sixteen years and so far, I have managed reasonably well, but not now. In previous blogs I have written about the injuries I sustained as a young woman when I helped train race horses  for my father, who was an international horseman. These injuries have now got to the stage that I cannot walk very far, and I certainly cannot cope with steps. Living in a ground floor flat is good, but unfortunately the front door is eight steps up from the pavement, so it is getting more and more painful  to leave the building.  In fact, I have not left the flat for nearly three weeks, so I have to make a decision about my future.

It is not an easy decision. If I move I will not be able to see my wonderful doctor. I learned this morning that boundaries have been moved and I am not actually in the area served by my surgery. I was only allowed to stay here because I had been with them before the  change to the boundaries.

During the time that I have lived in my flat, I have made  many good friends and I am extremely reluctant to move away from them. They all make sure that I am not lonely. Loneliness is the scourge of old age,  and the company of really good friends makes life worth living.

Yesterday, I had a visit from a representative from Disability Wales, an organisation that helps people stay in their homes. Unfortunately, they could not help me.  The suggestion of replacing the outside steps with a ramp instead of the steps is not possible, because the gradient is too high and the distance  too long. A big disappointment, as I thought that this was the answer to my problem.

Days later

In the mean time, I have been in touch with the Housing Dept in order to put my name down on the waiting list for ‘sheltered’ accommodation’. It is almost impossible to get a flat in this district but I have to be on the list to be considered in the future. I am also going to get in touch with the local estate agents to see if they have a suitable flat.

The estate agents say that there are no suitable flats available.

Many days later

I was woken up this morning by a telephone call from the Surgical Unit at the hospital, offering me an appointment with the Spinal Surgeon next Tuesday morning at 7.30. They had a cancellation so I was very pleased to say that I would gladly take it. Such good news, I will let you all know how I get on. I am not expecting miracles, but a little less pain would be wonderful.

Tuesday January 30th

This morning, I had an appointment with Mr Chopra, the surgeon at Llandhough Hospital, to discuss my pain problem. Mr Chopra explained that as I had not had any relief from the spinal injections, the only step left was to have surgery. He put the MRI scan picture on his screen, and explained to me that it showed my spinal cord being  crushed by the bone of a damaged vertebra. The only hope of pain relief was to remove the bone, and replace it with metal and screws. This would mean quite a stay in hospital. There was no 100 per cent guarantee that this would work. If I did not have the operation my condition would continue to deteriorate until I would not be able to walk at all. He told me that after another MRI scan, he would operate in April.

Now, I can postpone all decisions until after the operation, and recovery time.  When, with a big bit of luck, I will be able to walk and navigate stairs. This will  enable me to remain in my present flat and on my doctor’s list. This is all thanks to our wonderful National Health Service, which is free. If things do not go to plan, I will have to face up to the situation of having to be looked after by professionals, and make arrangements accordingly.

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The Old Bat looks back at Christmases past and present

I am writing this the week before Christmas Day 2017.  This has prompted memories of Christmases gone by.

I was born in 1936 on a farm in West Wales. At that time we had no electricity – just oil lamps and candles.  So no Christmas lights.  My earliest memory is of a warm happy  home decorated with lots of berried holly branches stuck behind every picture frame and sprigs of mistletoe hanging over every door ready for all those kisses. We had a homegrown branch of a fir tree to go with our log fires. The branch was decorated with tinsel and coloured baubles. We were all raised as Christians, and I attended a convent school, so the religious aspect of Christmas was a constant background to our celebrations, but not dominant. At this time in West Wales, carol singers came to our doors on New Years Eve.

At four or five years old I definitely believed in Father Christmas, so my brother and I sent many messages up the chimney. On Christmas Eve we hung at the end of our beds the largest stockings we could find. As we waited, hoping to catch sight of him, we were sure that we could hear the reindeers coming nearer and nearer. We could  even hear  the tinkle of their bells. We never actually saw him, of course, but we were always pleased by the gifts we received in our stockings next morning. In those days presents were small, usually a toy for my brother and a small doll for me, also some chocolates or sweets and always a tangerine in the toe of the stocking.

Life on the farm was always busy, even on Christmas Day.  We had a large herd of cows to be milked, calves to feed, sheep to be seen and checked on. In the farm kitchen  a large Christmas dinner was being cooked: a very large goose reared on the farm, huge joints of home cured ham, also potatoes, carrots, parsnips and cabbage, all home produced. There was also a large homemade Christmas pudding. This feast was not just for the family but also for the cowman and the other workers who lived with us in the farmhouse.  We had  beer, home-brewed specially for the occasion. After dinner, it was back to work for the adults, while my brother and I played with our presents, more having been brought by friends and relatives. Note, that I describe the midday meal as ‘dinner,’ and  will call the evening meal ‘supper’.  Supper, eaten once all the outside work was finished,  consisted of all the leftover cold meats from dinner, with bubble and squeak made from the leftover vegetables and the wonderful gravy: my favourite meal.

The evening was spent listening to the battery powered radio, playing parlour games or, if we could persuade her, singing around the piano played by my Grandmother. We went to bed very tired and happy.

We spent many years having these innocent  Christmas days, but  this changed when our village had electricity, which brought with it television and advertising.  Christmas became commercial and it became difficult for our children not to want what they saw advertised.  I remember when my own children were about twelve, my mother asked them what they would like as a gift for Christmas. Seduced by the wonderful portrayal of a game on the television called Mouse Trap, they asked their Grandmother if she would get it for them. My mother searched the toy shops near and far until she found it. There was great excitement before opening the box on Christmas Day. What a disappointment, it was just a bit of moulded brightly coloured plastic which had been staged by the film on TV to look wonderful.  I was so disappointed for my mother. We all learned  a valuable lesson. As the years have gone by, Christmas has become more and more commercial, with advertising starting in September. This really upsets me, I worry about all those families who have to struggle with Christmas debt for the foreseeable future.

New Year’s Day

Enough of this moaning. I will tell you about the lovely things that have made this Christmas wonderful for me. Over the holiday I have seen all my children and most of my grand children with their lovely friends. I had phone calls and visits from friends who knew that I was stuck in my flat. Among many cards, I had a lovely hand made card addressed to ‘his lovely cousin’s Grandma.’ Another card came from an old friend of my daughter’s. We have not been in touch since they all left for university. During the last few years I have followed the lives of his young sons on Facebook. I did not think that he would recognise my present name, so I was delighted to receive a card designed by one of the boys. I also want to thank all the friends that I have made during the many years at work for giving me such thoughtful cards and gifts. I realise now that the heart of Christmas still lives, we all try to show our friends and relations how much we love and appreciate them.

I wish a happy and healthy 2018 to everyone.

 

 

 

 

November Book Group

We met on Saturday evening to discuss ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. This book was published in 1958 at the time when many Nigerians and other members of the Commonwealth were arriving in Britain. It sold over eight million copies and was translated into forty seven languages.  It  became the required reading in many schools and colleges.

The story is about Ohonkwo, an important man of the Igbo tribe in Eastern Nigeria. He  came to this position through his own  considerable efforts as a farmer,  his prowess as a wrestler, and his ambition to do well in the world.  Among the nine villages of his tribe, he was both respected and feared, unlike his father who was  considered a failure.

At this time, before the arrival of the Europeans,  the tribes lived by their own religious beliefs, farming methods, and codes of justice. When the Europeans arrived, Okonkwo was found to be an unyielding man of action and pride, which led to his downfall and ignominious death.

Looking back at Okonkwo’s life from a present day perspective, he seems to have been a cruel, proud, fearful man, a  hard taskmaster to his three wives and children. We learn about their everyday lives and attitudes when the two different civilisations collide.I am not going to tell you the story but I recommend this book to everyone interested in African history.

P. S. A foot note to the score that the bookclub members gave the book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood: the members who had previously listened to it on audio revised their scores upwards when they read the text.

My Garden

When I restarted my blog a few months ago, I promised that the Old Bat would not go on and on about her garden, boring everyone to death.  I did say that I might write a little update,  so this is it.

I have only a very small plot,  a patch of grass in front of the house running down to the iron fence next to the pavement.  There is a lilac tree on one side of the gate and a weigela on the other side.  Both are mature trees that have to be kept trimmed. Just beyond my large bay window there is an old camellia hedge which spoils the view to the park beyond, but is home to a variety of birds. I keep my bird feeder beside this hedge and spend quite a lot of time watching them come and go. My neighbour in the flat next door enjoys them so much that she came around with a bucket of fat balls to help with the feeding. No bird needs to go hungry this coming winter.

My garden has not been a great success this year  – in fact, it has been a disaster. The main problem is that the garden faces north, so it only gets  good sun in high summer, at other times it gets a few hours from the east or west. My old garden faced south. It was a big shock for my fuchsias in their pots to be placed facing north east or north west. They certainly protested: instead of flowering in July they left it until October or not at all. The frosty nights have started catching my favourite plants in full bloom.

Last year I sowed a few trailing nasturtium seeds below the camellia hedge. What a big mistake, they all flowered, dropping their seeds on the leaf compost below. During this fairly wet summer these seeds grew into extremely strong plants and became a green and orange hedge throttling everything in their path. I had to cut windows in this monster so that my fuchsias and my collection of hydrangeas could get some light. Yes, I know that the leaves make a good salad and the flowers and seeds are also edible but I will never plant those seeds again. By the end of the summer even the grassy lawn had been taken over by these dratted plants. As I now look out of my window in November, there they are, still creeping all over the camellia hedge, their orange faces grinning at me. There will be hundreds of seeds dropping later so I will have to root them out next spring before they get too big. It will be an uneven battle, as they have crafty methods of surviving.

My bird feeder has given me great pleasure. It has two hanging feeders which are always kept full, one with seeds, the other with fat balls, with a bowl of water nearby. All the common garden birds visit, lots of sparrows, flights of long tailed tits, blue tits and great tits, nothing exotic. About three weeks ago a very bossy robin appeared, taking complete command of the whole feeder. Any bird that dared come for their normal feed was chased viciously away, feathers flying everywhere. In between fighting off all the birds  he was fighting his reflection in my large window. This behaviour lasted about ten days. I enquired about this of my bird expert friend. She told me  that this was  the time of year that robins mark their territory. At the moment he only visits now and again so all the other birds have come back to feed. I have always known that robins are not the charming birds pictured on Christmas cards but I did not realise that they are quite so  nasty.

One little garden surprise, early in the spring a friend gave me five bulbs. The label had come off the packet so we had no idea what they were. I planted them just below my window and then forgot about them. It is now November when everything is starting to die except under my window where I have five beautiful large white freesias.

The OLD BAT IS NOT HAVING A GOOD WEEK

This has not been a very good week for me. The week before had been good, with the book group meeting being a success. I had also come to terms with the fact that I would have to wait a very long time for an operation on my spine. It seems to have been one of the longest waiting lists. Now that I am sleeping better, with the help of strong medication, I can manage the pain and do the best I can.

I have also made a big decision about my future.I still work a day and a half a week as a receptionist in a chiropody clinic. It is a job that I enjoy because I live on my own: I enjoy meeting and talking to clients. When I first started work the clients were just names on record cards, now they are my friends. I have just come home from work having decided that I will only work on Tuesdays in the future: the effort of getting there and back is no longer outweighed by a half day’s work. Tuesday is the day when most appointments are booked. I will make sure that all my best friends have future appointments on a Tuesday.

In the meantime, it suddenly struck me that I was drinking an awful lot of water, and losing weight. It was lucky that I had an appointment with Dr Davies to discuss the failure of the spinal injections, so when I told her about these new symptoms, she took a blood sample. Dr Davies rang up today to say that the sugar in my blood is very high so I shall have to take yet another tablet: I have developed type II diabetes. Dr Davies made an appointment for me with Sarah, the practice nurse, so that she can take more blood samples and explain the new situation. I do not know much about diabetes, except that it can occur in old age when certain organs do not work properly. I am certainly going to find out and let you know. I do not feel unwell, just thirsty, very very thirsty. I have never eaten a great deal of sweet food, as I prefer savoury.

Today, Tuesday, is my one day of work so I was looking forward to seeing my best friends who come in on that day. What a surprise when I got inside. The main shop had been broken into. Six electric bikes had been stolen and the Chiropody Clinic had been completely trashed. Every drawer and cupboard had been thrown to the ground, papers and instruments had been kicked all over the floor. It looked as if the thief had lost his temper because he could not find any thing to cash. I returned home before the police arrived. All appointments had to be cancelled. There was nothing that I could do as we had to leave the crime scene untouched, so that the police could take finger prints and so on. Apparently they were a long time coming to investigate because there had been a bad accident on the nearby motorway. When the police arrived they found a lot of evidence to identify the burglar. There were large fresh foot prints on the clean floor of the surgery, fingerprints everywhere, and a metal implement left behind covered with fingerprints. It will be interesting to find out how the investigation turns out. The police have, to date, no suspect.

Next day Dr Davies telephoned to give me the result of the blood test. It was not good. I do have diabetes, my blood is showing a high blood count. A normal count is between 5 and 9. At the moment mine is 22, so this has to be lowered gently with medication and diet. No carbohydrates, nothing containing refined sugar, no bananas because I have high levels of potassium. All this amazes me as I have not felt unwell at all. I have just complained about my long term back injury, while this other problem lurked. Apparently it is not caused by me eating too much sugar, but more by old age and my pancreas not working properly. I might be wrong. I am telling you this so that if anyone develops an enormous thirst,or starts to lose weight suddenly, please go and see your Doctor straight away, it is better to treat an illness early.

A week later.
I am not finding it easy to change my diet. I used to eat either a baked potato or baked sweet potato with salad as the main ingredients of my main meal. No more, they are forbidden, as is the biggest culprit, bread. Now I have to eat vegetables that grow above ground, fruit not containing sugar and proteins, i.e. bacon, eggs, meat and fish. This is quite expensive, therefore not so easy for someone living on their own. No sugar for my coffee until I find a replacement sweetener. I am gradually coming to terms with a new era. I do not feel at all unwell, thank goodness.

I hope that you have all had your influenza jabs.

Thinking of the Rohingyan people of Mayanmar, formerly Burma.

I live in a large house divided into 6 flats. My nearest neighbour is a mature student from Singapore called Hannah, who is a Punk. We spend much time chatting about world affairs. At the moment most of our talk is about the situation in Rohinga, formerly part of Burma. All my life I have looked up to the civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi who had spent all her life fighting for the oppressed people of the world. I am now shocked to find that she is doing nothing to help the Muslim Burmese who are dying of starvation on their way to Bangladesh. Clive Myrie of the BBC has sent graphic reports back home to our T.V. sets so that we can all make our minds up about the situation.

Normally, there is an appeal to the general public to raise money to help. I was glad to hear that the government had sent a large amount of money to Bangladesh to help with building camps and treating the many children to prevent disease.
Hannah is very keen to help in some way. Using the Internet, she found the name of the only punk band to come from Burma, RIOT REBELS. Luckily they are touring the UK at the moment trying to raise money for the people at home. Hannah tracked them down (on the internet) to the Red Lion pub in Bristol. So on Saturday night she went with friend to the pub with our donation, bought two tee shirts and had a long talk with the four exhausted young men. The Riot Rebels have gigs in small venues which you can find on the Internet. They only charge £3 entrance fee but depend on donations. I think that they need to charge more – they do not seem to realise that they are selling themselves too cheaply (perhaps £3 is a lot of money in Rohingya?). They were so pleased with our donation, a tiny drip in the ocean.

If the Riot Rebels are going to play at a pub near you, please go and support them, as it will help many others. You can visit their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/therebelriot/. Please also visit the following page, which is the site of their charity, ‘Food Not Bombs’: https://www.facebook.com/fnbmyanmar/. Hannah thought that their music was good too. I’m afraid that I am not a punk so I cannot say!

The Day of the Spinal Procedure

Source: The Day of the Spinal Procedure