Monday, 30 September 2013

Highs and Lows

My husband loves the sight of Wind Farms - this one in Northumberland on our way to Scotland last week.

Crossing the border into Scotland where we stopped for a cup of tea from the refreshment van.

In the beautiful gardens at Crathes Castle near Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

Crocuses already... isn't it too soon for them?

  Fibonacci spiral in a begonia leaf in the glass house there - it never ceases to amaze me the mathematical beauty of the natural world.

 The photos are just a little glimpse into the beginning of our break last week which was lovely and awful in not quite equal measures......but I'm not going to write it now.

In the Saturday Guardian newspaper a woman writes a column called A Marriage in Recovery. Her husband is alcoholic.  This week she writes about an exercise they were given to do to record five highs and lows in their day - the best and the worst  - and then tell them to each other.

These are my highs and lows today  - 3 of them anyway.


1.  This morning using my shiny new printer ( early birthday present from my dear sisters) to photocopy the invoice ( which I think is very moderate considering the amount of work and they do) from our accountants.

2.  This afternoon finding a novel I want to read in a second hand bookstall in the street market for £3.00 instead of buying it from Waterstone's at £7.99 or downloading it  onto my ipad for £4.99.

3. Ringing the Residents Parking help line to order more Visitor Parking Permits ( only allowed 60 a year which is not enough for us) and discovering I can get an Essential Parking Permit for visitors who come to see my husband in their caring/support capacity - like our lovely Age Uk be-friender -  instead of having to use our book of visitor permits which are running out.


1. Phoning a friend who is an ex policeman about the likelihood of a court summons for my husband because of his speeding offence. He doesn't know if he'll have to go to court or if he'll just get a penalty  or a ban but the thought that my husband could lose his licence makes me realise how our lives would change totally if he couldn't drive any more.

2. My jeans are horribly too tight. Don't know if it's because I'm still bloated from the after effects of the colonoscopy I had on Saturday ( nothing serious) or if I've put on pounds in the last few days. Either way I hate it.

3. At lunch, my husband's distress when he can't remember where Topsham is - a place we go to often and walk by the estuary and which has happy associations for him - even though I describe all the details I can think of. He recalls it in the end ( he has painted a picture of a view of the river there) but he goes into a dark place about it.

One more husband brings back 4 huge Conference pears from the allotment. They aren't ripe but they will be and there are 18 more on the tree. Last year the whole crop was stolen before we could pick it.

 So we are winning on the pear front at least.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


In Boston Museum....the miracle of spirals...

and the abundance of autumn in the market in Copley Square in Boston a few years ago...

This morning I prayed for help to have some resolution, some peacefulness around my fear of the tax man.....

At 10am I phoned our accountant who explained the Tax Calculation letter to us ( a calculation is not the same as a demand).....We don't owe any money for the last year - my husband has already paid it all. There is even an overpayment in the account.....which we need for next year.

How about that for a miracle? 

So my day is transformed. All that worrying for nothing.....or maybe for me to trust that prayers can be answered.....

I'll be back next week.....

Monday, 16 September 2013


Somerset Sunset - Saturday night

On Friday a brown envelope arrives in the post -  a speeding conviction for my husband - caught on camera.

  This afternoon another brown envelope from HMRC lands on the mat.  The numbers have more than doubled for tax owed and I don't understand why. My husband is shocked. I want to scream. I'm on my way out for an appointment in Newton Abbot. I get lost, arrive late, my head full of worry, my blood full of fear. 

There is no lion chasing me but I don't know how to tell my heart that although it doesn't appear so, all is well and all manner of things shall be well.   

The perfume of roasting peppers, aubergines, onions and courgettes is floating upstairs. I'm clearing out the fridge, using up all the old, slightly wrinkled veggies because we are going away for a week on Wednesday. We're driving up to Scotland to stay with dear friends and visiting my Uncle and Aunt on the way in Sheffield.

Leaving the bullets of brown envelopes to pile up on the mat till we get home.....but carrying their bitter smoke with us all the way. I'm wondering if I'll ever get the hang of this surrender/acceptance/ forgiveness thing....

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Wrong Road

This morning I drive to a small town 12 miles outside Exeter to meet with a new accountant. I take the wrong road, get hopelessly lost and pull into Lidl's car park to ring her. Can't find her number, call a friend who knows her. I write it down wrongly. Call him back. Thank goodness for mobile phones. She gives me new directions. I miss the turn, drive the wrong way down a one-way street. I'm very late but she is lovely and bright and helpful. We sit on her squashy sofa. Her cat crawls onto my lap and purrs while I stroke him and try and explain the convolutions of our accounts. It turns out she can't do anything this time but will help with next year's tax return.

I drive home - on the right road -  with white pussy cat hairs stuck on my jeans and adrenaline still racing round my heart.

 At home I start making Saturday's supper for when my big sister comes to stay. I cook up an autumn couldron of tomato sauce using squashy yellow and ripe red tomatoes on offer in the market this morning for £1 a kilo. I add fried peppers and cubes of deep orange Haikido squash which pulp down into rich bronzy gold stew, the colour of these New England maple leaves.

While the sauce is bubbling away I roast the aubergines - a new variety - narrow bendy logs the colour of the pale mauve circles below my eyes. All those night hours awake, fretting uselessly - shadow bruises painted on my face - hard to conceal now.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Jam Rules

We brought this scented red rose with us when we moved from St Albans nearly 13 years ago - dug it up from the garden. It's name is lost to me now.  It only produces a few blooms but sometimes it flowers on and on into October - a tall scarlet flag against rusting autumn foliage -  a gift, always a surprise.

It's good to have lovely visitors for tea. It means I clean the loos and even the dusty loops of the heated towel rails, change the greasy cooker hood filter and cut the grass - probably for the last time this year. I  leave the flapjacks in the oven too long and burn the almonds on top. My husband's solution is to spread them with strawberry jam. But I won't let him do that when we have company and I serve the least blackened ones -  which they seem to like anyway.

Not sure why I'm so tense before we go to our six monthly appointment with the Consultant Neurologist. I think there have been quite significant changes since we last saw him. My husband says as well as losing 'the vocabularies', it's mostly his emotions which are triggered all the time. CN says he mentioned that last time. It's the frequency - and intensity - which are different now.

I talk about his extreme tiredness and sleeping  - especially after being with a fair number of people for more than a few hours. I wonder if it stresses him too much and if we shouldn't keep going to big events or parties or occasions with friends and family. He copes with it by going to the loo a lot. CN says,
You don't want to get isolated though, and there are no hard and fast rules about these things. 

I mention the alcohol and the jam (on/with all sorts of food). CN says, medically, half a bottle a night or 3 units is the limit. And one of the characteristics of this particular brain disease is to develop a sweet tooth. So you need to watch out for putting on weight.

My husband says the wine helps him to relax and he really likes jam....he never was one for hard and fast rules or limits.

Maybe I'm just obsessing about this because I can't face the bigger stuff -  under the layer of jam - 
and it's me putting on the weight....

Monday, 9 September 2013


Somewhere out there near the horizon is Glastonbury Tor..... On Sunday ten of us walkers stood on the edge of this sloping field at Neroche and searched for it....

 Later, lunch at my sister's farm..... and hollyhocks in the garden a gift from one of the walkers.....

Inside the heart of a hollyhock...

Petticoat pink....

Our apple crop is ripening....don't want to think about what to do with it all.....the branches are bending under the weight of so much fruit....

 Tired and feeling a bit  flat tonight so just sharing photos ....and a link to my niece's blog, Rose and Zaatar which I think is beautiful, brave and inspiring. She writes from Beirut so she and her family are constantly in my thoughts with the Middle East a smouldering tinderbox of uncertainty.....

Friday, 6 September 2013

Risking It

Pistachio Topped Courgette Cake

This recipe is in Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess book and it's called Flora's Famous Courgette Cake. I've made this cake (and some variations of it) many times before and it's always been successful. Especially if you layer it up into four tiers with a similar carrot cake recipe and slather it together with a slithery cream cheese and lemon curd frosting, so it looks like a creamy lime green and orange, topply tower.

But the last time I made this recipe - just the single courgette cake - it was a flat disaster - dense and heavy and only any good for a trifle. So I stopped making it. 

But it's courgette season again and so yesterday I decided to risk it and baked it for a friend's birthday. I wasn't entirely sure it was light enough and cooked through till I slit it in half and sandwiched it together with the lemony cream icing. And even then I didn't know if it tasted wonderful.

I took it along to share after our Deeksha evening meditation but as our friend wasn't there ( she didn't know there was birthday cake for her) we didn't cut it so I took it home and put it in the fridge. But luckily as my husband was booked to have a walk with her today anyway, he took it with him so she got to have her cake after all.  

And even though I'll never know what it tasted like I'm really glad I risked it and tried the recipe again. 
It's too good to give up on. Like the true me.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Chasing Illusions

Chimaera, Turkey

Night garden blooms

Algarve sunset

What do you think of the sausages? I ask my husband tonight as we eat our Cauldron Quorn supper. 

What are sausages? he says putting one in his mouth.

Is Sweden in America? he asks,watching the news as Obama gets off a plane in Stockholm.

No, in Northern Europe.

Where's Europe?

I don't know when I'm going to get used to it. They say acceptance is the final stage of grief. My friend says - You are so close. 

But mostly I feel as if I'm going backwards and acceptance is a chimaera....a phantom,  that keeps taunting me, disappearing round a corner leaving behind a wisp of smoke...and my heart in pieces.....

But mostly I'm just knackered all the time.....and today the Man-With-The-Magic-Fingers who held my head in his hands and gently moved my spinal fluid down to my sore back, said that going to bed so late and waking up so early meant that I wasn't getting proper sleep. 

Which means I need to stop blogging at midnight....which means I may not blog at all.....for a while anyway......unless I write earlier in the day...Another habit to change - like chasing illusions. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


This afternoon in tropical heat in a seaside town I buy a big soft scarf - patterned with bright coloured birds flying across a sky -  the colours of this big African sea......

and another one -  white dots in a midnight purple sky...

for cooler, calmer days to come.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Not Worth Crying About

In the garden this afternoon......

As soon as the sweet and smiley occupational therapist leaves, my husband, who looks weary and defeated, goes upstairs for a lie-down. I'm not sure she can help us but at least we are in the system now.

I open the patio doors and sit in the warm garden for a while with a cup of tea, till white clouds blanket the sun and then I go upstairs too and start the process of unwinding the block on my current account. Earlier I cried with frustration on the phone when the woman on the other end said I had used the wrong security numbers  - which I've had for years - three times -   and now I can't pay my M&S bill except by going into the bank.....and I have to wait for 3-5 days for new numbers to come in the post.

Not worth crying about really..... but sometimes the tears come in all the wrong places for the littlest I just let them..... and then do the next thing on the list. Which right now is to go to bed....although I can hear my husband clearing his throat so I know he's not asleep....