Friday, 1 March 2013

A Day of Pleasure and Sadness

I met up with Twitter friend Kathryn yesterday and it was lovely to see her. I have been in the doldrums recently and I was telling her briefly about it. She asked if that was the reason I'd stopped blogging and I said yes opining that when in a depressed state I find communicating in any intellectual sense quite difficult. In fact communication of any kind becomes difficult. All I want to do is be on my own and the slightest thing irritates me. So Twitter which normally stimulates and entertains becomes a pain in the backside. I think that whilst I have a really good sense of humour I am in essence a fairly serious person and I look for meaningful social interactions. I have never been adept at social chit chat. I accept that chit chat can be a preamble to more serious discussions but then again often it's not. 

Anyway all of this emotional masturbation became as nothing when today I went to pick up my sister in law up from the residential care home where she is staying.  To see this once vibrant woman sitting in a semicircle with a group of other elderly people was heartbreaking. The joy on her face when she caught sight of me was undeniable and I was delighted to be able to take her out for lunch and to spend some time catching up with her. I have not seen her since before Xmas. We were due to meet up in the new year but then she deteriorated and she was taken into care. We arranged again to meet up with her and the snow arrived. Then some of the residents succumbed to Novovirus and the home was closed to the public and so the obstacles to seeing her mounted. Finally, as I said, today we made it. 

After the usual preambles I was able to glean that Joyce can see the positives of being in care but she clearly feels the lack of autonomy and is of the opinion that they, the residents, are infantilised. Now I'm not being critical of the carers who all seem very kind and attentive and it must be difficult not to mother someone who is gradually unlearning everything they know. However, taking care of everything for someone seems to hasten the dementia process. I don't know whether that's true but that's how it seems. I repeat I haven't seen my sister in law for a couple of months and though on one hand she seemed more cheerful on the other she seemed to have aged considerably.

Joyce has always been an incredibly smart woman. She was in the ATS in the forties and her appearance has always been of importance. When I picked her up she was casually attired in jogging pants with no makeup. It just wasn't her. She told me that she has her hair done regularly but she misses her makeup. Is it me or in caring for our elderly do we fail to see their differences and instead submit them to old fashioned parenting which is keep them clean, keep them quiet?

I understand that there are plans to move her to a home nearer to me. I have promised her to keep in regular touch to give her some respite. I wrote this post with a heavy heart thinking of years gone by when we were young and life was very different.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Life Is About Transitions

I was tweeting yesterday with a friend and congratulating her on her success at stopping smoking and recovering from some health issues caused by an accident. She is one of many brave people I have met on twitter. All of whom have their stories of trials experienced and sometimes overcome. It occurred to me later that we are all in transitional states for much of the time. We experience all kinds of joy and adversity like the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. We may feel we will never overcome the effects of an accident or the loss of  a job. Our relationships breakdown and we feel we will never love again. We move house and feel it will never become home. We become ill and face the spectre of our own mortality. These are just a few of the trials and transitions we experience and work through.

Transitions are a part of life and we cannot exist without them. Just as our bodies are in a continuous state of change so are our lives. Even when we feel we are in stasis we are in transition. Sometimes we fight the transition but sometimes we can accept that it is happening, work with it and achieve the optimum outcome. 

My latest big transition was my retirement and this came about after I had had an hysterectomy and a bladder operation. When I booked in for the operation I had no real desire to retire. I was  past retirement age but I felt fit and happy to be doing a job I loved. Then when I felt so ill after the first procedure I became very dispirited and, I believe in retrospect, depressed. I had expected to be back at work within a few weeks. My previous experience had resulted in me believing my powers of recuperation were fantastic and I had no reason to expect this would be different. When it was different I was knocked off course. I struggled for several months with the enervation and my inability to concentrate before I finally decided to retire. 

I now believe that if I'd given it a little more time I could have carried on working but I was fearful of not being on top of my game and so I bit the bullet. Of course when I did that I entered another state of transition and as I said at the beginning of the post so it continues! 

Friday, 8 February 2013

A First Rate Friday

I have been looking forward to today. It is Book Club day and I invariably find the group discussions both interesting and stimulating. I don't know whether you belong to a book group but I can highly recommend it. I guess as with most things there are pros and cons but the opportunity to have an intelligent discussion makes any drawbacks pale into insignificance.

I began the day thinking it would be a washout. I had had a bad IBS attack during the night and my first instinct was to stay at home. Then I received a call from one of my friends to say she was unwell and couldn't make it so I felt I should make the effort. I wasn't dead after all, just a little washed out. So off I went to meet up with the rest of the group at Costa Coffee. We decided on Costa because we wanted to concentrate on the book choices and we all thought we'd be more likely to do that if we met outside our homes. We chose Division Street for it's position. We all live in different parts of the city so picking one in the centre made it more convenient for everybody. I can say now that we definitely made the right choice and Costa have been really welcoming.

The book we were meeting to discuss was Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd which was chosen by one of the other group members. The format is that whoever chooses the book gives a brief introduction including the reasons for choosing it. Then the discussion begins in earnest. Most unusually we all had a similar response to this book but with your permission I'll leave it there since I have a review to write and don't want to preempt it.  We then went onto to discuss what we feel is happening politically in the U.K. There tends not to be a lot of dissent because we are all, as they say, 'left wingers' but we don't always fully agree. I guess if we did I'd find it pretty dull.

When the meeting ended I decided to take myself to the cinema to see Hitchcock.

I chose this film as one I'd enjoy on my own and I was spot on. Anthony Hopkins gives a good performance. He interpretation of Hitchcock is nuanced but timbre of his voice means you don't forget it's Hopkins. Helen Mirren plays his wife Alma. Her performance is ok ish but nevertheless there is a nice chemistry between the two. I do not agree with Peter Bradshaw's critique in The Guardian. I do agree that the TV film starring Toby Jones and Imelda Staunton was excellent but that doesn't mean this version is dross. In my opinion the film amuses, entertains and also manages to convey Hitchcock's genius and vulnerability and I came out of  Cineworld feeling that all was right in my world. In fact the only thing I felt could possibly improve my day was a brisk walk so I caught the tram. This means I have to walk a couple of miles home. In the process I called into the local supermarket for a bottle of Rosé to add a little something extra to tonight's dinner.

It's OH's turn to man the kitchen so all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the perfect end to a first rate Friday.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Rother Valley Country Park: exercise and friends really do lift my mood

When I woke up this morning I felt a little fuzzy. I had spent a fitful night which is not unusual for me. As per I had no idea why. I just kept dozing and then waking up with a very dry and uncomfortable mouth. My OH also as per slept peacefully beside me emitting the odd contented snore. At around 7.30am he, fully refreshed decided to get up and I reluctantly followed suit about half an hour later. I had arranged to meet up with a friend so, I decided to shower before breakfast instead of after because it somehow cuts down on the loitering. 

I was really looking forward to meeting my friend but our normal routine is to meet at the local retail park for coffee. I had suggested last time that for a change we could go for a walk. Of course I then proceeded to forget said suggestion. Those of you of a certain age will understand this fully. The rest of you will understand one day! Anyway, the last thing I felt like this morning was a trot around Rother Valley Country Park. I would have much rather met up in Costa Coffee but I'd agreed and I rarely cancel an arrangement. So I arrived with a smile on my face at 10.30am wondering what I'd let myself in for. 

Well as it turns out what I'd let myself in for was a thoroughly enjoyable morning. We trotted around the top half of the lakes rather gingerly at first because it was rather icy underfoot. Me more gingerly than she, because as you already know, I'm a devout coward when it comes to dodgy terrain. Our initial aim was to make it to the cafe for a cup of coffee which we did easily in half an hour. We both enjoy our coffee. I mainline on americano and she prefers the gentler cappuccino. We are both marriage veterans and we both enjoy a few minutes commiserating with each other on our long suffering patience before we start on more diverting topics. Today was no exception and after our catch up the conversation turned to whether it's  easier to be single and retired or, part of a couple.

I introduced the subject because it's something I've been mulling over. I have single friends and family who I think see coupledom through rose tinted spectacles. My friend also has people close to her who are single and approaching retirement age so it was of interest to both. 

I won't give you chapter and verse because I'm hoping that you'll join the discussion. However, my friend thought it was easier if you're part of a couple because you have company, even if that just means there's another body in the room. Mine was it depends on the person. If someone is 'happily' single then I think coupledom is more problematic because you go from separate working lives to potentially being with someone all the time. If you're 'happily' single you're minus work but essentially you still have your own space. However, whether your single or a couple retirement for most is a period of transition. My friend who is younger than me has been retired for six years and I've been retired a year. She seems more contented in some respects than I am but perhaps that's because she left a job she didn't  enjoy and I left a profession I loved.

After our chat we set off to finish circumventing the lakes and when we'd achieved that I felt energised and happy. I think I can positively state that exercise and intelligent chat definitely increase my sense of wellbeing. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Woody Sez 'it was a fab night out'

Last evening we went to The Crucible to see Woody Sez the story of folk legend and political activist Woody Guthrie . We were in doubt for most of the day as to whether we would make it. We'd woken up to a heavy fall of snow and the forecast was horrendous. But for once luck was with us. The rain arrived and we decided to go for it!

I had booked the tickets as a gift for my husband. He's a big music fan. He goes so often to see theatre performances I've suggested, and with other people, I thought it would be a double treat for it to be just us. 

We arrived early so we could have a drink in the bar. I am a centre stage member which entitles me to 10% discount on food and drink & though it's not a massive saving it does help. We had half an hour to spare so we settled down with our drinks for a chat. The subject after glancing around us was how theatre appeared to still be a middle aged, middle class pastime. We worked out that with the tickets, drinks, an ice cream for me and parking had cost us £55. I realise that if you live down south this may not seem expensive but in Sheffield it's still a nice piece of change for a night out. 

When we went into the auditorium sadly it wasn't full. I'd say a third of the seats were empty. It seems that the cuts are beginning to take affect and if the arts lose their subsidies as is threatened this will get worse. I'm hoping it doesn't happen but frankly I am pessimistic about it.

However, to finish on a positive note the production was brilliant. The four cast members made vivid Woody Guthrie's life and his music. The audience were toe tapping and singing along to some of his better known songs. There were also some poignant moments which brought me to tears. It was a lovely happy evening. I love the theatre.