Friday, 31 July 2015

Not Enough Escapism

More rich, hot reds at the Garden House.

Too much real life this week.....not enough escapism.

So tonight, because it's cold, I put on my socks, make a cup of cocoa, open a packet of pistachio nuts, curl up on the sofa and watch a DVD - Skyfall  with Daniel Craig and Judy Dench, as 007 and M and the scarily blonde Xavier Bardem as Mr Silver.

And try and forget that Robin stuck a tooth pick in his itchy ear this afternoon in the car park at Tescos.

But keep remembering that this afternoon we also visited a lovely woman and her family.... and dog and cats and chickens her beautiful home near Honiton. In a few weeks time Robin will spend a weekend with them. It's called Shared's called respite......for both of  us.

And now, while he can still hear, I'm going to remind him to put those drops in his ears.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

For All The Things That Are Over

The cooler pinks and blues and creams at The Garden House.....

Tonight it's my turn to feel sad. Robin's triggers are War Memorials, planes in the sky, ambulance sirens, any mention or thought of anyone we know who died.

My trigger is the music playing during our Deeksha meditation, the soft Indian chants and the sweet high notes of the woman vocalist. It ushers in a flood of sadness  - not for all those precious lost lives but for me and the endings in my life now. For all the things that are over and can't be reclaimed.

Sometimes I wonder how to still honour and value everything that went before the shock of Robin's illness. I didn't know it would mean the end of the life I had then. I thought I could just carry on and adapt and somehow muddle thorough and still be the me I was. Still be us.

Not so. It could be better.  I could be better - even have a life I value alongside Robin and his illness -  since I will always be with him -  instead of being lost and enmeshed in his journey. Tonight I'm at a loss for how to do that.

But one thing I could do is go downstairs and ask him to turn the music down or off  - Mamma Mia. He's singing along to it ( different words) while he washes up -  in a high falsetto.  I don't like to stop him as he enjoys it - but I've decided the neighbours may have had enough as it's after 11pm. And I certainly have.

I know he'll agree....and say he didn't realise ....but he won't know the word loud.

So I'll thank him for doing the washing up instead and just be grateful this day is over. But my life isn't.

Cake for the birthday girl tonight.

 Coffee and Walnut, her favourite,

before the candles.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Message From A Friend

 Last week I wondered if this young black bird under our apple tree had stunned himself,

or was in trouble of some kind....injured..... he seemed distressed.  But after a while he flew away. 

The blue tits on the peanut feeder in the apple tree this morning,

a blur of wings

having breakfast before 

Tiger, the next door's pussy cat, has his. Only in his dreams though as they are lightening fast.

The birds stay out of the way most of the day as our lovely gardener mends the fences and the broken trellis and cuts back more jungle of wisteria and honeysuckle - making the garden feel lighter, bigger.

I spend most of the day in the kitchen cooking, baking birthday goodies, and for a while playing  cards - Solitare -  with Robin before someone comes to collect him for his walking (ish) group outing.

 At the allotment this evening I'm crouched down in the netted fruit cage stripping fat black currants from the low branches of the bushes, when I hear a rustling movement on the ground by my feet.  It's a small bird with beautiful feather markings - brown and gold. I stay very still. I wonder if it's a female robin. She hops closer, completely unafraid and cocks her head at me.

It's only a few seconds but I'm completely blown away by her total trust and friendliness. I imagine I can feel her good will for me. As if she's saying,

Don't be lonely. You aren't alone. 
There is a big world out here. And it's safe to come out.

Then she hops off into the grass.....message delivered.....back to worm hunting. And I cry a little  into my punnet of fragrant black currants. I didn't think I was lonely.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Death and Dying on this Beautiful Day

Budleigh Salterton this afternoon,

famous for its pebbles, smooth as new potatoes, which you aren't allowed to steal for your garden rockery - a criminal offence now.

And  its seagulls  - famous for stealing your ice-cream out of its cone as you walk along the promenade. Their cousins in Sidmouth and Lyme Regis have it down to a swoop-and-grab fine art.

We escaped unscathed today as we promenaded and licked our pistachio and toffee ice cream cones,

passing this boat planted with wild flowers, with a row of little name plaques nailed to the side. Robin assumes they are for dead people.

The beach huts look newly painted ready for the holiday season which started last week,

these three kids bored already, throwing handfuls of pebbles out to sea - the seagulls keeping a respectful distance. I take this photo while I'm waiting for Robin to come out of the loo for the second time.

This morning I put long, pale mauve aubergines, yellow courgettes, red onions and orange peppers to roast in the oven with sloshings of olive oil and fat slices of garlic. I prepare a kilo of black currants  - scoot them off their little stems with the tines of a fork, pick out the leaves and stray tiny spiders, wash them - the currants -  and put them in the maslin pan with a pint of water. And start hoovering the stairs. Luckily I remember them in time before they boil over. 

Then I bring the washing in out of the rain for the second time - keep thinking it's going to clear up. It does in the end but I can't face hanging it out again. The plastic roof in the kitchen starts to leak. The first time this summer which tells me how little rain we've had till now.

When Robin comes home from his time out with a dear friend, tired but happy, he wants to sleep  - doesn't want to eat lunch. So I finish the hoovering a bit crossly, make the jam and bottle it, write emails and make birthday cards.

By the time we finish lunch it's nearly 3pm but the sun is out so we drive to Budleigh Salterton, park at the end where the river comes in, and walk into the town along the beach.  The sea is a sparkling.

 I can feel Robin's reluctance, his misery. 

Is it because you don't want to be here really?

No, I'm just thinking about all the people who died in the second world war. And my parents and your parents and your cousin who died. It's just so sad.

It is.

And I want to say, But what about this beautiful day? We are alive right now and being sad means you are missing all this.

But I don't say it because I know he can't help going into this dark place - his death and dying obsession -  and I can't get him out of it by being reasonable. And especially not by being irritated or making him wrong. Which I used to do. Let it ruin my day. 

So I walk beside him, irritation fading, holding his hand and I turn my head to look at the sea and the wide horizon beyond it. And think about what flavour ice cream I'm going to choose when we get to the shop.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Butterfly The Bee And The Daisy

At The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum near Tavistock on Dartmoor on Saturday.

Just photos tonight. I always take too many and usually I choose what I think are the best ones for the blog. When I'm knackered I can't make decisions - so it's quicker just to post them all. I'll let the butterfly and the bee and the daisy say it all.

I'm also thrown by the change in the weather these last few days. It's cold, windy and wet. I'm tempted to put the heating on. Almost autumnal. Confirmed by Robin coming home this evening with a bag of ripe blackberries he picked from the long perimeter hedges at the allotment. I'm guessing the first of many and not sure my freezer will cope as it's already full of blackcurrants and red currants - waiting for me to have time to turn them into jam and jelly.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Thought of Cake

Robin's Coffee and Walnut Cake

In the night I wake and fret about Robin's sore shoulder and the muscle weakness in his arm. I get up early and Google it.  I scare myself with what it might be, so make our green juice smoothie for breakfast instead. 

Later we walk down to the surgery for his appointment with the physiotherapist. He's lovely and asks Robin all kinds of questions which I answer. The one word which we both find hard to explain is numbness or pins and needles in his fingers. Robin can't describe it  - just says his fingers hurt a bit. He can't say if the pain is dull or sharp. We just have to look at his face to see if he grimaces or not when the physio asks him to raise his arm as far as he can. Not very far.

In the end after long deliberations with the medial student who is observing all this he says it's an unusual case and is undecided about who to refer Robin to - spinal/neck or shoulder orthopaedics or the neurology dept. I want him to go to neurology where he can have an MRI scan but he says let's start with spinal. What can I say.

At lunch time he rings me - says he's had second thoughts and will refer Robin to neurology after all.  Yes - result! I like his dedication. Meanwhile keep observing him and see if anything changes. Which I do anyway.

Tonight I watch Robin as he stirs the diluted coffee granules into the cake mixture for the coffee walnut cake he's making. He uses his right arm but awkwardly, like he has been for a while now. Says it doesn't hurt though. Maybe the thought of cake has the power to numb any pain.

It's certainly a good cake. Out of the oven in time for me to watch the final of Celebrity Masterchef. Very touching to see John Torode almost moved to tears by the dedication of contestants. I was too. I wanted them all to win.