Well, long time, no blog!
The past few years have been very fraught and difficult, with worsening mobility and chronic pain, added to losing the career I loved, it's all been a bit much.
So much that I seem to have lost my sense of humour, which some may not think a bad thing, but it was always my defence mechanism, so without it, I've been...well, defenceless.
However, in an attempt to reclaim my life, I've decided to give this another go!
I love shopping…. Oh I do so love shopping. Not the b o r i n g supermarket shopping, or the sort of shopping where you must come back with something specific, like a birthday present for great aunt Gertrude… I mean real shopping: clothes, shoes and/or handbags. Actually forget the and/or…. Let’s just go for the “and”! There’s the excitement of waking up in the morning, knowing that an expedition is planned… that luxurious moment when you snuggle under the duvet, planning what it would be best to wear. Matching underwear, obviously (and I don’t mean making sure the saggy-elastic, droopy, much-washed-grey knickers go with the fraying straps and safety pinned bra) I mean proper matching stuff. Then you've got to find something you can whip on and off easily in a changing room frenzy, and not woolly socks in case you find that gorgeous floaty, filmy dress which makes you look like a goddess that you’ve been looking for all your life…
Ok, here you are, ready to go… and this is when reality hits. I’ve just remembered. I hate shopping now. I hate the fact that I can no longer go shopping alone. Yes, it always was much nicer going with a friend, someone to giggle with about how daft you look in those lycra cycling shorts, but it isn’t so much fun when you have to go with someone just to help you get your wheelchair up the steps in less enlightened premises, or where the kerb has a car parked just in front of the only bit that slopes down for pushchairs and wheelchairs to gain access. It isn’t so much fun when you spend 20 minutes driving around before you finally manage to park in an empty disabled bay because all the others are occupied by someone not actually displaying a valid badge, then not being able to get to the lifts in the car park because the door into the lift area opens outwards and you cannot reach the handle anyway.
I hate shopping now; there are just so many shops you actually can't get into because the doorways are just too narrow, and if you are wheeling yourself you lose the skin off your knuckles on the door frame. Then there are the shops that have displays in the doorway that mean you actually can’t get down into the body of the shop (The Works is dreadful for this).
I hate shopping now; You can never actually see the majority of items on sale because they are displayed so high up, or you cannot manoeuvre between clothing rails because they are so close together you’d have to have a wheelchair that does the squeezy thing like the Night Bus in Harry Potter.
I hate shopping now, because people always seem to drop clothes on the floor, that then get caught in your wheels, and you can’t go forward or backwards, and couldn’t even reach the clothes to pick them up, unlike the person who dropped them (Primark is dreadful for this)
I hate shopping now that people apparently can’t see you all the way down there and walk straight into you, then glare at you as if you should have taken evasive action despite the sheer unmanoeuvrability of the iron sided chariot compared to their workable two legs!
I hate shopping now that you can’t try on anything you do manage to find, because you can’t actually get into the changing rooms. They are either too small, so that you might get in there, but you’d spend all your time with your nose pressed up against the far wall, unable to turn around once in there! If you could move about, the rails to hang the stuff on are all so high up again, you’d have to be an ace basket ball player to stand (Oh, to stand!) any chance of getting any clothing onto the hooks. So there you are, clothes draped over your lap and nowhere to put them (obviously the floor is out of the question as you’d never be able to pick it back up again!), so how do you try on the rest of the stuff? Sometimes there’s a chair in there, so you can put trailing hangers on that instead while you squiggle and worm yourself into your item of choice. You can never actually see what it looks like however, cos the tiny mirror is behind you, showing a fab view of a wheel chair encased bum!
I hate shopping now that when you have finally succeeded in selecting something, and you need to queue at the Please Pay Here point… you have to wind along the barriers that turn sharply and are too narrow to fit a wheelchair comfortably.
I hate shopping now that when you finally reach the front of the queue you can’t get to the till to pay for it because there is a huge pile of goods surrounding the payment point which means the closest you can get the wheelchair seems to be in the next county! If you are fortunate enough to get close to the till…. You can’t reach the counter anyway!
I hate shopping now that I always end up feeling like a second-class citizen.
Well, as some of you may know, the big five-oh is swiftly approaching. I’ve tried hiding behind corners and even considered climbing a tree to confuse the scent (not easy in a wheelchair!), but every time I look over my shoulder, there it is, doggedly following my every move. Relentlessly stalking, with a predatory stare in my direction. So, I took a deep breath and decided to face up to it, to stop running away and to confront the beast. I looked into its greedy yellow eyes, squared my shoulders and took a deep breath, announcing firmly “My name is Siân, and I am nearly 50”. Right, now that I’ve accepted it (doesn’t mean I like it, of course) then the next step is doing something about it, right? I’ve perused the Internet, choosing an appropriate surprise birthday gift from my family… a beautiful silver moonstone necklace, a mere snip at …how much??? Mmm, not really that special after all, is it …? Now… celebrations. Does one go for the intimate meal à deux, soft music, flattering lighting, obsequious waiter and unintelligible menu, followed by an even more outrageous bill? Scratch that one then. Maybe a select group of close friends and/or family at a local restaurant – although then there’s the question of who sits next to who, problems with chatting to the person at the other end of the table, who’s driving and who’s drinking, old resentments leaping out as the wine flows faster... Maybe it would be better getting together in the comfortable surroundings of our own home instead. Scratch that last… think of all the tidying up and cooking beforehand, and the cleaning up and sorting out afterwards. We'd probably never get the stains out of the dog! Maybe a huge surprise party…. Get hubby to hire some place somewhere, and invite everyone I know, then pretend to be surprised when my intimate meal à deux turns out to be a very public repast à deux hundred!!!! Oh no, just imagine that, all the people I have spent a life time trying not to mix together… all there together, telling gleeful tales of what I did when I was 4, regaling each other with stories of how I got kicked out of Guides, it’ll destroy my image of smart, sophisticated career girl…(Mind you, that image only exists in my head – in reality I’m fat, frumpy, jobless in a wheelchair and now fifty to boot!!). Thinking about it, I realise that I do not actually want to celebrate being fifty, having attained half a century on this earth… half a century, can you believe how long that sounds, how old that makes me feel? No, no, no! None of the above scenarios please. I absolutely do not want any form of acknowledgement whatsoever of this impending doom. Not a single balloon, banner or badge bearing the joyful proclamation “ Birthday Girl” or worse still “50 today”. I do not want a birthday cake, burdened by the weight of fifty candles; I do not want pats on the back with comments such as “Fifty eh, how does it feel?” or “Fifty is the new forty”. I’ll tell you how it blooming feels… ****, and as it happens I liked the old forty, thank you very much. In fact I still haven’t got used to being thirty, if it comes to that…. No, I hereby declare I do NOT want any of you to treat this day differently to any other… perhaps with the exception of a little chocolate cake (no candles) just as desert or something, but with no singing or anything… is that settled. Okay, thank you.
Just got back from holiday to find a letter from the hospital… My operation has been arranged for the 11th November. My birthday is on the 12th…
That means I’m going to wake up post operatively, on the morning of my 50th birthday, on my own, no balloons, no cards, no banners or badges, no pressies or hugs, no party, no get together, no celebration or going out, no romantic meal with hubby, or knees up at home with friends, nobody singing while I’m cringing … My birthday plans are just totally RUINED!!!!
Now it’s Daughter’s turn to go on a school trip… France beckons, her first visit abroad on her own. I am absolutely terrified… she of course is jittery with excitement, as the countdown begins. In contrast to No. 1 Son and his packing fiasco, this countdown is a well orchestrated, detailed and precisely planned event, which begins at least 3 weeks before the date of departure…
“The countdown”, as far as I can see, is documented by lists. Not lists given by the school, you understand, oh no. In fact, I don’t know that we actually get to see those…. No, these are Daughter’s own Priority Lists.
The first list, the PPL (Provisional Packing List) almost immediately necessitates the construction of the ISL (Initial Shopping List). The PPL, you see, contained a plethora of vital clothing components that do not currently reside in daughter’s wardrobe… A quick example… swimming costume for water park daytrip, swimming costume for beach daytrip, sarong, flip flops, sunglasses, new denim shorts, 3 or 4 new T shirts, New Hoodie (in case it’s cold), new summer nightwear, camera case…… Apparently the current swimming costumes are a bit small (I’ll accept that), and she has to have two, because they need to perform specific functions don't they, mum, one is for swimming and water rides, the other for the beach, of course they have to be different….and the t shirts… well, after all she is going for 4 whole days, and as you'd expect, the myriad selection she currently owns are just not fit for purpose. Anyway, List 2, The Initial Shopping list is born. I am shown this list briefly, asked for a financial contribution… and off she goes with her friends. She returns from town laden with packages representing a selection of items on the list.. namely the swim wear. She also discovered lots of cute little dinky travel toiletries that she really does need, Mum, aren’t they sooooo sweet, these little bottles, just right to pack. And look at this belt…. Oh… by the way, I spent all the money so I couldn’t get the camera case or T shirts, but I did see one I reaaallllly need for £15 instead of the £3.99 from Primark so I didn’t have enough…oh, couldn’t get the denim shorts either (were they on the ISL….? No, but I just realised I need them) so we’ll just have to go shopping again…..
The next trip, it’s the two of us. Before we set off she admits endearingly that she loves going shopping with her Mum…. Ahhhhhhh, maternal heart melts with a sigh….. cos she always gets bought lots of extra stuff …. Back to earth with a bang! Anyway, here we are, armed with List 3 RSL, The Revised Shopping List. This list contains the (expensive) T shirt she really wants, one or two other T shirts, camera case, socks, suntan lotion…. Basically most of the stuff she didn’t get last time! We do have a good time together, and this time she does come home with all the necessary items from the list, oh and also a dress and some make up and an extra pair of shorts and some new cute white pumps not on the list….
The following day the Edibles to Buy for Journey list is handed to me to get with the food shopping… it contains orders for snacks, biscuits, drinks and sucky sweets for the journey, with the catch all phrase “anything else you think I’d like” tacked on the end.
Now the date approaches…. She is due to travel on Wednesday, so on Saturday the PPL(Practice Packing List) not to be confused with the PPL (Provisional Packing list) is created. This PPL differs from the earlier PPL as although it still appears to be a complete inventory of her entire wardrobe it does this time include all recent additions. The PPL is put in to action, as she selects the case she will take. We have those sets of 3 different sized cases stacked inside each other, so Hubby brought the entire set down, assuming she would unpack them all to get out the smallest to use….. I’m sure the Mums out there will be shaking their heads in disbelief at this sweet male naivety!! Daughter spends Saturday evening happily packing her case entirely, right down to the toothpaste, socks and jewellery.
Jewellery: Let me tell you about the jewellery! Now, as I make semi precious gemstone jewellery, daughter does have rather a lot of crystal bracelets, pendants, necklaces and ear rings. In fact 3 whole jewellery boxes full. Because she doesn’t know what she will be wearing on a particular day, and she doesn’t know how she will be feeling, she is taking her entire collection! That works out to 3 make up bags full of jewellery, for 4 days, bless her!
After completely packing everything, she takes it all out and puts it away again (I use that term rather loosely in the case of the items she leaves lying around on the floor) ready for the final packing, to take place on Tuesday evening.
So now we get on to the subsidiary lists.. The day bag list, the Handbag list and the Toilet Bags List (I kid you not) We have numerous different Toilet Bags.. one for hair: shampoo, conditioner, products etc, one for shower, one for body lotions and sprays… not to mention the actual make up bags and the make up bags of jewellery.
Finally, on Monday evening, it is the time to consult the relevant lists and pack the Day bag and Journey Essentials. And to create the FPL, Final Packing List. This list even has little boxes by the side of each item so they can be ticked off as they are put in to the case when she packs on Tuesday evening.
The Day Bag is packed with entertainment for the journey… I pod, Nintendo, book(s), notebook and pens, magazine, camera, the handbag contains the Euros, Passport, Money etc……. All done. Mmmmm. She can contain herself no longer, she just cannot wait until Tuesday, she has to do the packing now! She can't wait a minute longer (“Cos there might be something I’ve forgotten and if I pack the night before it’ll be too late Mum…” You mean something that hasn’t made it onto any of the lists?? How likely is that! Anyway I want an early night tomorrow so I’m ready for the journey….).
So…ooo, Monday evening, she brings the suitcase into my room, followed by numerous trips carrying armloads of clothing, bags, shoes and so on. Right, is that the lot…let’s check the FPL. PANIC. We have lost the FPL!!!! Oh no…. what can we do. Panic and near tears ensue. A mini whirlind races through the house, overturning cushions and small furry animals, looking under and over every bit of furniture!! What did it look like? what was it… was it a scrap of paper? No, it was in my notebook…. Notebook …. Didn’t you just pack your notebook……? Phew!
So, everything packed and correct, the night before at long last arrives. Daughter announces she intends to have an early night… and by early I mean quarter to 8!!! Normally, she goes to bed between 9.30 and 10, often reading for a while…..tonight in her PJs with teeth cleaned by 7.30.
8.30: Can’t sleep Mum. Read your book (sheepishly) I’ve packed it…. Will you do me a guided meditation, that usually helps me to sleep. Don’t know about her, but I dozed off whilst I was paddling my feet in the clear tinkling stream……
Finally Wednesday Morning dawns. All too quickly for me. And now she’s waved goodbye to me, and has gone off on the coach, quivering with excited giggles, squealing with her friends, comparing luggage: a host of over excited 13 year olds, lookout France!
Well folks, I apologise for my long absence and lack of new blogs… I think I’d better explain. Please excuse me if this blog is a bit of a wet blanket, I’m not quite up to my usual take on things at the moment, for reasons which will become apparent. As many may know, I have been having ongoing pain and problems with my hips. It had been hoped that the 7th operation earlier in February this year might sort things out for good and all. Sadly it did not, and last week after a visit to my Consultant and then the Occupational Health Doctor, the future was spelled out to me. Health: In September I will have my hip permanently removed, what is called a Girdlestone Procedure. This is because I have been suffering a recurrence of incredible pain for the past 18 months; in fact I only had 6 months free from pain after the previous operation to remove a bone infection! I have been on high dose morphine for nearly a year (Doesn't really make the world look that rosy, believe me!). Having also been plagued with infections around the prosthesis, it was believed that another infection was the cause of the current pain and lack of mobility. This however has now been (more or less) ruled out, and the medical professionals are stumped. They do not know what exactly is happening to cause this chronic pain, but feel that I might even actually be allergic to the implants entirely. The only option to reduce pain is to remove it completely (Oh, and they will also have to break the femur to get the darn thing out!!! to quote my Consultant "Well, at least we know the pain's not caused because it's come loose!") Obviously this will have a tremendous impact on mobility for the rest of my life. Career: My Head teacher was about to dismiss me on the grounds of ill health at the end of this month. However now my Unions are requesting ill health retirement instead. Either way, I will never teach in an infant classroom again.
So, that's the update. I'm sure I'll bounce back to my normal self soon, but just at the moment I'm not really there yet.... Watch this space!
...to my random collection of musings on many aspects of life from pets to hospitals, calling at all stations in between. Nothing earth shattering or monumentous I'm afraid, just commentaries on the odd little things that happen in life, things that made me smile perhaps, and maybe will give you a little chuckle too. No promises though! Please feel free to leave your comments ... in fact PLEASE do leave your comments, as despite the visitor count, I'm still not convinced any body really has visited my pages!