Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Falling Asleep of Grandpa George

No, this is not about Grandpa George Bucket, Grandfather of Charlie Bucket*, but about my Maternal Grandfather who passed away after breakfast (although I think he slept through breakfast to be honest) this morning, 15th March 2013.

Today was also the third anniversary of my father's funeral. And the week of the first year's mind of my friend Jackie's passing. So all-in-all a bit of a sad day you might say.

This morning started all weird. In fact the whole week has been weird emotionally. Last Friday (8th) was the third anniversary of Dad's death, but Sunday 10th was all about mothers being remembered for all the hard work they do for just keeping-it-all-together when the faecal matter hits the air circulating device... and for being - generally - jolly good eggs (and huggers). Mums really are quite ace. especially my Mum.

Anyway, back on point, this morning I woke up with an inkling that something somewhere was not right. But because I am mental I ignored the feeling. On our drive back to Mum's place we saw a funeral cortege waiting to make its way out into the traffic, both Mum and I silently taking stock of the "DAD" floral display in the hearse as we drove by and making our own silent prayers for the dear departed and their family and then, inevitably, pondering our own fathers. After we had passed by the hearse Mum proceeded to tell me the news that her own Dad had been taken into hospital last night after collapsing at the nursing home he was living in. His blood pressure had just crashed through the floor, and he was taken to hospital, still cracking jokes and being his usual crafty self.

It was a little bit later on, whilst I was in seeing my rheumatology consultant that Mum got the news that her father had actually passed away at 0940 this morning. She gave nothing away, and said nothing until after we had eaten lunch. Wise woman. I would not have been able to eat had she told me before.

My brain had already creaked into action as Mum was telling me all the news about Grandpa's collapse and we both knew that the weekend might bring some sad news. Neither of us were quite expecting it to be so soon.

Of course, my mind being the macabre and black (graveyard)-humoured place that it is, did grin inwardly at the thought of Grandpa passing away peacefully after breakfast - one NHS breakfast too far, I thought... Grandpa would have laughed, trust me.

I have so many emotions running through my being, for my Gradfather was a truly unique fellow. Definitely what you would call a "salt-of-the-earth" type (but more "sawlt-ov-the-erf" in 'is Cockney speech), Grandpa was always quick with a bit of lippy wit and unbidden 'advice'. He boxed at the legendary Repton Club in the East End, but didn't like the criminal crews that hung out there. He was, essentially, a thoroughly honest fellow. He worked hard for his family - just as well cos he and Nanny had ten kids!

And this is where my Mum and her nine younger siblings grew up, nice:

Rothschild Buildings, Whitechapel
pic: via googleimages

Despite his protestations to the contrary, he  had the vocabulary of as learned a fellow you ever could find, but he simply chose to punctuate it with the language of the barrack-room and everything was always more than just a 'thing', it was a "fuckin'fing" (one word).

Grandpa and I had a very interesting relationship. As a nipper he scared the crap out of my brother and I when we went to stay with him and Nanny in London, with his punchy humour and the baseball bat he always kept by his bed, and the cane that he would regularly threaten my brother with if he stepped out of line and of course all the swearing... It was deliciously exciting and deeply unnerving. We thoroughly loved him.

Then, a little over a year after my Grandmother, Rose, passed away I got a job in London and went to stay with Grandpa until I found an affordable flat. After ten years, and a minor stroke, Grandpa upped sticks and moved into a care home. During those ten years Grandpa and I talked about just about everything that there is to talk about, we argued, fought, hung out together, watched football world cups and rugby world cups and six nations together (the rugger-watching was at my behest - Grandpa was a big football follower, being a west Ham fan, unsurprisingly - and wasn't too keen on rugby at first), drank beer and played hundreds of Scrabble matches. I even managed to get grandpa to not annihilate the vegetables in the short time of two years... As a help to his eldest Grand-daughter, Grandpa would quite often "stick some grub on" for my return from work in the early days - what I was faced with was unfailingly inedible mush: Brussels sprouts and potatoes and cabbage that had all "been on a low light... since abaht free a-clock, gel". MmmmmmmmMMM, tasty.

After a couple of years Grandpa was quite happy for me to do more of the cooking (yay, blessed al-dente carrots!) and contented himself with winding me up by standing at my elbow and telling me I was doing "that" wrong - about evryfuckinfing...

Despite the incredibly frustrating (almost)daily kitchen-commentary and occasional row about that, Grandpa and I fell out most about only three things: 1) God; 2) Education; and 3) Fester and Septic

1) God: I have seen the prizes my Grandfather got (books and a bible or two) for his attending and singing in the choir at church as a wee'un, but it was WWII what finished off his belief in a God of love. He was posted in Italy towards the end of the war and his battalion happened to discover, and then were tasked with digging up and re-burying, mass-graves of thousands of bodies of children murdered by the Fascist regime of Mussolini and whoever else thought that children were good for so little that they deserved to die. It is sick. It is evil. But it is humans what do these things. I am sickened by what we humans do to one another but trying to explain just exactly why God cannot do some things despite His being omnipotent is not at all easy, or entirely satisfactory, because I can't always see the bigger picture; I can but hope and pray that some mote of the Truth took root deep within.  Grandpa and I would watch all the nature documentaries that we could (all in the days before recordable TV - and neither of us could be arsed with the video recorder) and it was then that God was always brought up - and only ever by Grandpa. He would say at the end, "if YOU want to try to talk to me about any type of a God, well -  it is there - in Nature". Beautiful. So absofrickinlootly true. And I would always reply, Amen, Grandpa!

2) Education: Grandpa was all for education. He was of a generation where most kids left school by the age of 14. Only posh kids in posh schools done exams... He had encyclopaedias, dictionaries and thesauruses in a small bookcase and if you asked him a question he would direct you to the books first. Not because he didn't know the answer, but because - whether he knew or understood it or not - he valued books, book learning and solid research. However we fell out about higher education, education for girls and education for me. My grandfather wondered what the use of educating me was given my "elf issues and disabili'ies" and the fact that I was a girl. Girls grow up, get married and have kids. Right? So the feminist in me raged at what I perceived to be active misogyny. With hindsight - and age - I realize that he was most definitely just a man with the cultural male-brain of an early 20th Century chap.  But he also could not get his head around the idea of studying something for the sheer pleasure - if there was no concrete purpose to some(f'n)thing it was all a waste of time. We agreed to disagree. And then argued about it again and again anyway.

3) Fester and Septic: This argument makes no sense if you have never had friends that make up ridiculous nicknames for one another (in fact it makes no sense. Period.), but in brief, I have a friend who received his monicker, Fester, partly in response to his quip about me being all 'septic' after getting an infection in hospital (and his kids thought it HIGHLY amusing to call me antiseptic (Auntie Septic), and partly because he looks kinda like uncle Fester (tee hee). Got that? Right, so then, back in the fabulous days looong before we all had mobile phones glued to our palms or computers in our homes and our own personal email address (and only had internet access at work), people used to write letters to one another.... well, my friend Fester and I would write with news periodically, but fester would insist upon writing "Septicus" as my name on the envelopes. This greatly irked Grandpa and eventually he started opening my mail and then decided that Fester was a truly vile person and behaved in an absolutely appalling way towards my friend and brother in Christ. I was incensed by the injustice of the opening-of-my-mail situation as well as Grandpa's sense of humour failrure about the nicknames in the first place, but both 'men' refused to back down and I was furious with both of them for being such stupid harrises. Of course, Fester still finds it highly amusing. See, boys never ever ever grow up!

Apart from the three main sticking points, Grandpa and I had a pretty decent friendship and I loved the days when my late Auntie Barbara and I took him out to the Museums or to watch the football; or just the days when we hung out at the weekends and had a few beers and put the world to rights (and had no rowing, just mutual distrust of the "useless mob up westminister"), or when my friends Matron and Boadicea would come, stay and wreak havoc and leave. At the end of every day Grandpa would say, "goodnight gel, see you in the mornin'".

Only this morning, he didn't get up. But at least he did manage to fall asleep last night,  unlike so many nights before.

Night night and God Bless you, Grandpa George.

* if you have no idea who, on God's green Erf, Charlie Bucket is, you will find him lurking in the pages of some Roald Dahl books... (and I will disown you)



Tuesday, 5 March 2013

blogging for the brain?

Now then, let's not all die of shock at the sudden 'productivity' on this little blog. I have been struggling enormously with my brain, and it has been fighting me at every possible opportunity and has, for the most part, got the better of me...

I wondered whether writing more often might actually help my brain to process info, and to fire on more cylinders than the half-of-one it seems to be running on just lately. This is an experiment in trying to heal my brain. Should I start a whole new blog dedicated to my disappearing neurons? I'll try it out here, and you can let me know what you think...

Firstly, one can assume that the posts will likely be disjointed and perhaps not even coherent, so I will totally understand if you are just left confused; consider that confusion a small gift of insight into the struggles of this little Loris's brain matter.

For quite some months now things have not been well in those little grey cells. Quite apart from the obvious traumas of two TIAs in the last quarter of 2012, I seem to be having more and more problems with my memory. We are now at the stage where I can no longer remember whether I have taken my medication. It really is just as well that I have FINALLY been taken of my anti-arrhythmia medications - yeehaw! - or I might be in dire straits.

That said, my blood might be clotting quite nicely in my veins for all I know. Best write a note-to-self re another blood test then... so many things to remember, so few neurons to do it... ;)

Anyway, back to the original point, which is the experiment to see whether my writing gibberish can improve my concentration and cognitive processing abilities. I am waiting for a brain scan to see what damage there is to my poor cerebrum.

We all know by now that I am endlessly fascinated by the quirks of my mortal coil and consider what a terrible shame it is that too many of the medics I meet forget that each quirk bit is connected to another to form a whole person and thus fail to address the assembling gaggle of glitches with any degree of seriousness. Well, except for one rather exceptional medic, known simply as "Ooh, 'e's a lovely man! (you don't mind waiting to see 'im you know.)" (or, Dr O'Halm, if you'll allow), on account of the way people talk about him whilst waiting in the outpatient department! One mention of the dreadful dizziness that has plagued me daily for almost 8 months now, and he ordered ECG tests over a week (revealed nothing - or rather the dizzies are not cardiogenic); then ordered brain scan (waiting for this to happen) too see if it's a brain thing... and chased up the hormone docs and a bazillion other things... see - he understands that the whole person just so happens to be made of many smaller parts that all need to work together....

Hmmmm, one body, many parts... Kinda reminds me of something else. Oh yes. Church! But that is a whole other topic of conversation.

Anyway, If you have any other ideas on how to help my flagging neuro-gloop, please let me know. I will endeavour to write something else this week...


Monday, 4 March 2013

From sofa-surfer to homeless hosteller...

Things have been Ker-ay-zeeee since Barney posted a little something at the back-end of last month.

After 18 months of prevailing upon my friends and family stealing their warmth; hugging their cats; eating their food; wearing holes in their carpets, sofas and spare beds (and sometimes their clothes and definitely their patience); and clogging their plugholes with head-hair of varying shades of black/red/purple and of entering into yet more battles with my crazy-assed body I caved in.

Little bit by little bit, you understand...

First, I had to address my ridiculously persistent pains and dizziness that had caused so much aggro in the Michaelmas Term.

As a result, next I had to drop the studying, although my College, a place that has a remarkably high number of compassionate and wise academic staff and creative administrators, have made every measure possible to ensure that I remain enrolled and registered and studying one module (so that I do not go completely mad with boredom - oh the irony!) for the remainder of this academic year. Go lovely Heethronions!

And then over the Christmas vacation...

I finally admitted to myself that I am, in fact, a homeless person.

At first I was fully resolved to go this Borough or that Borough in Londinium, because I have friends and my Church family there, I study there and I have lived there for almost 15 years. I would do this first thing in the anno nova.  Definitely staying in London.

Christmas Day was spent with the Shteebious, Sir Merrickus, Buttonski and the Depressed Weirdo, not forgetting MonkeyPodge either. It was a fabulous day of much eating, good conversation, silly hats, wind-up santas and the obligatory Christmas-present movie, this time it was Shteebious' one:  and joy of joys, the DW & I did not get fleeced by the cab company to get home to maul the Psycho and the Macavitas.

Boxing Day was quiet. The DW went out. The Loris stayed in. As I fell asleep that night I had an epiphany.

I awoke thinking that maybe I had finally taken leave of my senses. But no, the thought of the night before remained: I should move to Bournemouth to get all the health stuff, if not sorted then at least under treatment/management, and then aim to move again in a year or 18 months' time. I talked it through with DW over tea (me) and coffee (DW). I felt a peace I'd not felt in months. Arse. I don't want to live in Bournemouth. I don't know why. It's quite nice there really. Well, I would think more about it, but studying in London meant that looking for s/where to live in London made more sense, surely? I flew out the door to get to Victoria, and only just managed to get on the coach. Bloody buses...

On the coach the reality of the epiphanos - the light-bulb-moment - sank in. But I didn't really want it to. I have a fabulous family in London. GU is my home. But the call to stay in Bournemouth would not go away.

God clearly has something up his enormous sleeve, but I am not happy. I get off the coach and sit silently in the car until I get to the Mothership. Then as we make tea together I tell Mater that maybe it would make sense for me to stay in Bournemouth whilst all the consultant appointments and scans and so on are going on so I might need help to figure out getting housing-help down there. The look of relief on her face pulled at my chest. So yes. God is up to something here...

2013 dawned on us and then the drive to get to the housing office kicked in. A friend from StS Church, known as B-U-Mmy (yes, v funny), offered to take me to actually go and declare myself homeless. I was terrified.

It turns out my fears were unfounded. Both the officers we saw were lovely, kind and not at all patronizing or dismissive. In fact they were super-efficient. I left having filled in two forms and been given an appointment for the following week for an assessment interview.

The following week I had my interview, was asked if I would consider going into a hostel and (after seeing a look of terror flit behind my eyes) was offered the opportunity to view the hostel the housing officer (HO) would place me in and told it would only be temporary but would mean I would get a support worker much more quickly. An appointment was duly made to view the hostel the very next day. I left feeling a bit scared, but fairly well filled with hope and expectation.

The Rotty (as some people call the lovely woman who works at the hostel) was incredibly understanding of all of the processes by which I came to be 'homeless' (and she told me to stop with the speech marks, and that I am a REAL homeless person, not a pretend one!) and said that I'd be fine in the hostel. But no rooms at that time, but I asked to go on their list and was told I'd get a call as soon as a room came up.

I was expecting to wait for ages. Exactly one week later (a Friday), BOOM! (in true Danny Messer style) - I got my room at m'hostel, M'H. The following Tuesday I met my Floating Support Worker, and here at the end of my first full week there* I have already seen two flats (both rejected as the landlords say no to people of benefits *GRRRR*) and have more lined up to see at the weekend.

(* actually, this was posted just as I entered my third week in the hostel! - my brain is on the blink, clearly...)

On the day I got the call to move in to the hostel I sent out a desperate prayer request message to several peoples. The response was overwhelming and most messages had me in tears... (All good though, guys, thanks!)

Since then, the emotions that have been running riot in my head have ranged from fear to helplessness to joy to frustration and all stages between. I've laughed, I've cried, I've been grouchy and snappy and I've especially been worshipping God and singing back in Praise! I am knackered! But content.

Today I decided to consider this another adventure, not just a stepping stone, but a little extra-dollop-of-craziness adventure along life's already rocky road. Then I remembered that Jesus was 'homeless' in a "no-place-to-call-his-own" kind of way but that didn't mean squat to him. He was on a mission and he knew that this world is not our real home. We are all homeless, vagrant people in this world. Yet in the 'flesh' we still need somewhere to lay our head that is safe, and a shelter from the elements, so we are back to hunting down flats...  Today, as I washed some dishes, and contemplated the differences in spiritual, physical and legal perceptions of homelessness, I heard the disciples asking Jesus where he stayed, and he said, "Come and see!"... but there is no notion of where they went but I suspect it was a mud extension on his mother's house with a sack of straw in the corner to sleep on.

Oh yes, Jesus is definitely up to something.