Friday, 30 January 2009

Girl interupted

After the last BlackLOG I had the following note to cheer me up from a regular BlackLOG reader Richard Walker. Mrs B feels Richard should also be employed to cheer up fellow readers of the BlackLOG .

"I thought you might enjoy a project to get your year back on track – maybe creating a network of Mr Bs (I can’t imagine why we’d want one but don’t let that put you off). I’ve made a start for you with another remarkably talented Mr B, he’s down your neck of the woods (the South) so you could at least go see him in concert. Of course, I’ve just realised that you may already be aware of him and possibly be embroiled in a bitter fight for the right to the Mr B brand, in which case I’m sorry for mentioning him."

It is well worth following the link, you will find an astonishing combination of "Posh Rapping with a Banjo, not forgetting that particularly dodgy moustache"….2Pac will be spinning in his grave. Now this is going to sound odd but I found it fascinating in a "pain you have when you have a loose tooth" kind of way.

No matter what you do, you can't stop your tongue straying and giving it a little wiggle. The pain is excruciating yet addictive. That Mr B (him not me, althoug that might be open to debate) should definitely be sectioned as he is truly mental but I can't help liking the quirkiness. I should know, the latest BlackLOG disaster - I have had first hand experience of getting my mother sectioned. (As explained in the last BlackLOG in order to get through this, she is henceforth to be known as Shuffler, due to her irritating habit of shuffling around. While you might regard me as being unnecessarily cruel I would like to point out that when she thinks no one is watching she walks normally. It also helps me to stay detached and able to cope with the situation.) I would like to point out that she is not insane just severely depressed. There are only three occasions that I recall when her actions were questionable :-

1) Throwing a brick at me. Fortunately I ducked and it went through one of her window. Not totally everyday behaviour, but since it was a long time ago I will give her the benefit of the doubt and put it down to something I said which may have upset her a bit.....(In my defence no one else has thrown a brick at me, or not that I have noticed)

2) Driving her car into the garage - on the face of it nothing whatsoever abnormal. It is only when you dig deeper and discover that the garage door was closed at the time and she had been aggressively revving the engine for quite some time beforehand......

3) Lighting her gas oven with a match - again, nothing particularly unusual in this, many people have to do this with old cookers. Where it gets a little more interesting is that she had switched the gas on some 10 minutes before and got distracted. As she put her head in the oven and struck the match she was hit by a fire ball. Rather fortunately for her, the result was only the loss of her eyebrows and her fringe was reduced to a 1cm red stubble. Combine this with a bright red face and she spent a number of weeks looking like a cross between a Baboon's bottom and a cartoon character who has been in an industrial-strength explosion.

The loss of my brother-in-law brought it home to me that life is too short, so I decided it was time to stop hiding from reality and take steps to sort out Shuffler. It has been something that I have been avoiding for way too long. The day kicked off with a trip to her doctors. I managed to convince Shuffler that wearing clothes would be a good option. She half took the message on board, managing to put together a fine ensemble consisting of slippers, long skirt, furry dressing gown and, topping it off to perfection, a green gardening coat. I expect to see this inventive new fashion style, combining as it does the casual and the comfortable, hitting the catwalks of Paris and Milan any day soon, followed by spring launch for the TK Maxx leisure world range .....

From the doctors we rapidly progressed to a visit by social services at Shuffler's home. Not pleasant, as not only has Shuffler been neglecting herself but her home as well. (In truth that has been going on for a number of years, but Shuffler is such a strong character it always became a huge battle). We were banned from going inside her house, over a decade ago, when, after Shuffler was last ill, we had a sort out to get her back on her feet. It is only at points where she is extremely sick or low will she condescend to allow anyone to help (once recovery starts the drawbridge goes up again). The fact that Shuffler gave me a key and access to the house just before Christmas indicated that all was not well. It became clear that she was suffering from depression and probably in truth has been for the last 27 years, since my father died, only now it was becoming severe. It is at this point that you discover that Social Services can only work when people are either willing to be helped or are so mentally incapacitated that they cannot object. Unfortunately Shuffler falls into the middle ground. She is certainly not stupid and has a memory that recalls accurately details from decades ago. This, combined with stubbornness and pride, is a lethal combination for relationships and has seen Shuffler drive friends and family away.

The lady from Social Services was trying to work out how to help Shuffler, but the depression has left her in such a state that she can see nothing but hopelessness. From Social Services the next step was a visit from a psych nurse. A similar story - lots of questions with Shuffler becoming more and more agitated. Again all offers of help were refused. It was while we waited for the Hospital gateway service, (which is the final step between someone receiving help outside or getting treatment in hospital) that any lingering doubts I had about my actions were put to rest. Shuffler refused to put the heating on, claiming it was dangerous. The same with the lights. As it started to get dark she was almost shrieking that we had to get out. I don't scare easily (the last time I was genuinely frightened was when I was about 15was on my own in a 16th Century hunting lodge watching a vampire movie, when a bat flew in through the open window. I fear a change of underwear may have been the order of the day) but the screaming started me thinking of banshees in the rapidly fading light, I was not unhappy to get out of there.

It took Hospital services less than 5 minutes to ascertain that outside treatment was not an option. A bed was found for her and I found myself driving her to a hospital. Despite all appearances, any pretence that this was a normal hospital went out the window when a little old man shuffled passed me with his trousers and underwear down around his ankles. That and the door to the outside world being permanently locked. As I suspected, Shuffler was not suffering from any dementia. Of the orientation questions she got them almost all correct. She knew what day it was, where she was and roughly the time of day. The only question she stumbled on was who was the Prime Minister. All she could manage was "Brown" which is only half correct. The full answer is, of course, "Gordon 'clueless, backstabbing, incompetent, gold-selling weasel' Brown" but I'm sure she can be forgiven for this slip.

While this was a difficult road to go down, to continue to do nothing was clearly no longer an option. It was a very frustrating day with a lot of waiting around but I always felt things were progressing which stopped me from getting worked up. I feel that Shuffler is, at last, in the best place to receive proper treatment and hopefully move on. Time will tell. Thank you for everyone who has stuck with this Blog, I suspect it is not a comfortable read at the moment, especially when the idea behind the blog was a way to entertain people. Along the way I have found it is also a good way to diarise important events in our lives. I have recently discovered that not all these events are happy ones.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Aaaarrrrrggghhhh - Give us a break

Have I broken 13 mirrors without noticing whilst walking under a number of ladders indoors, an open umbrella in one hand and juggling a black cat on a Friday that fell between the 12th & 14th? If I haven't I might as well have. January is now officially a complete nightmare. I didn't give up anything for New Year but if I can table a late bid I would like to give up bad luck, or in some cases judgement......

If you read the last BlackLOG you will appreciate that we have had a truly awful start to this year. It currently shows no sign of improving. While most of the things are minor and easily resolved it does start to wear you down. I am still attempting to see the funny side of most of it, but my grin is working its way towards a grimace.

Starting with a non starter
I'm used to the cats not wanting to go to the vets for their annual check up. (Even Mrs B can occasionally be found hiding under the bed or at the back of the airing cupboard if I've made a doctors appointment for her.) But it's a new one when the car decides that it doesn't want to go for its annual medical. (Perhaps it's frightened of the car version of cough and drop. You probably have to be male to understand this reference). When I booked our ageing but reliable VW Golf in for a service, she was running fine. It was only when I tried to start her to take her for the appointment..... nothing, not even a flicker. The AA arrived, found out I didn't drink and sent for the other AA. A yellow van duly arrived and a very helpful man started to play around with the battery. (I was fairly envious as he had lots of electrical gadgets with loads of flashing lights which made all sorts of rather pleasing little beeping noises.) With all these super toys it took him five minutes to discover that the battery had entirely drained. I could have told him that within 10 seconds. No lights, no radio, nothing ..... He did however have enough toys with him to get the car started.
Alcoholics Anonymous decided to ditch the vans after members complained they were a bit of a giveaway

Just to make me feel better we are having some work done on the house at the moment and all the non-action with the car was inconveniencing the workers, as they needed access to the power socket in the garage. I went to apologise to them and explain the problem of the mystery flat battery.

Sugared tea-drinking workman - "Oh, that will be your radio."

Me - "What?"

Non-sugared, tea-drinking workman - "That will be your radio!"

Me - "Has it happened to you?

Non-sugared, tea-drinking workman - "No, we saw it was on when we were in the garage yesterday"

Me - "You didn't think to say anything?"

Sugared tea-drinking workman - "We thought it was strange!"

Non-sugared, tea-drinking workman - "No we felt it was not really our place to say anything, you might have left it on for a reason."

Me - speechless

They also kindly buggered up our electric garage door, in a misguided attempt to help. Unfortunately they attempted to pull it down manually while it was still attached to the motor mechanism. A big no no in the electronic garage door world. I have high hopes that it just needs to be readjusted but with this month's current trend......

Credit Fraud
One of our credit cards has been cloned and is being used to purchased cinema tickets in North Vancouver. I will have to get my friend Mitch on the case, I'm sure he will look very fetching in a red tunic and riding britches. Although I'm not convinced that Kadie will be a good stand-in for Diefenbaker.....
Mitch deep under cover, or is he the master criminal using my credit card to fund his insatiable film habit?

Even Mitch manages to look sexy when he changes into his Mountie uniform. He might need to get the next size up however

Kadie's costume could do with some work if she is going to pass herself off as half wolf....

Now that's a much better effort Kadie

It started off with my mother cat-sitting for us while we were away at New Year.(She is henceforth to be known as Shuffler, due to her irritating habit of shuffling around. While you might regard me as being unnecessarily cruel I would like to point out that when she thinks no one is watching she walks normally. It also helps me to stay detached and be able to cope with the situation.) ........ Now we can't get rid of her. She has always been high maintenance as a parent and for the last 27 years, since my father died, the roles have almost reversed. It has been like dealing with a petulant teenager. She went through a heavy-drinking stage (probably one of the reasons why I don't drink). I don't think she got into drugs although she has always been a keen pusher of vitamin tablets (particularly C). The problem now is that she appears to be suffering from severe depression which is leading to an inability to look after herself, not eating properly and not washing herself or her clothes etc. It is the failure to get her to wash which is extremely depressing and hard to deal with. We are currently trying to get assistance from Social Services and her doctor. This is turning out to be a real eye opener and deserves to be the subject of a future BlackLOG in its own right.

Gas meter safety inspection.
I discovered that for the last year the gas company have been attempting to inspect Shuffler's Gas Meter. I called them up and explained that I was willing to help them gain access to the meter in her house but because of geographical restrictions i.e I live over 30 miles away it would have to be for a specific time and not one of those 'might turn up in the morning or the afternoon if we can be bothered at all' type appointments.

Assumed spotty Herbert from Gas call centre :- "I'll just put you on hold while I talk to my supervisor."

20 minutes later

ASHfGCC - "That should be OK."

Me - "Excellent."

ASHfGCC - "Do you want morning or afternoon?"

Me - "Eh?"

ASHfGCC - "Do you want morning or afternoon?"

Me - hesitantly, "Mmmorrrning" but thinking perhaps they will give me a set time in the morning

ASHfGCC - "OK. So next Tuesday Morning between 8am and"

Me - "No, No, No!"

ASHfGCC - "Sorry?"

Me - "You went off to get agreement for a specific time"

ASHfGCC - "Yes morning or afternoon?"

Me - "So what was the 20 minute delay for while you talked to your supervisor?"

ASHfGCC - No answer just a frantic rustling sound......

Me - "Look, if you want to gain access to the property I suggest you talk to who you need to talk to and call me back with a specific time."

ASHfGCC - More frantic rustling and a bit of whimpering. I swear I could almost read his thoughts "It's not fair it's not in the script."

Ongoing saga of my never ending cold
My cold is at last showing signs (unlike the economy) of recovery. This is actually proving to be a mixed blessing in that while it is nice to feel better, along with everything else my sense of smell is returning. With Shuffler's inability to interact with soap and water, it does not appear the best of times for my sniff mechanism's triumphant return.

I believe all that coughing has actually been useful. Like one of those Slendertone machines it has provided a concentrated workout to my midriff, showing (in my mind at least) small signs of abs emerging after years of neglect. Mrs B has counter-claimed that the fat has not gone but migrated to other parts of my body. Trying to put a positive spin on it I like to see it as a sort of redistribution of the wealth (A.K.A Fat deposits......)

Returned to yoga after the Yuletide break. The latest session was so hard core that even the outer extremities of my body, those parts currently residing in Scotland, texted me to complain that they were suffering from the after effects of over- stretching.

Mrs B's phone contract came to an end (a bit more complicated than a normal phone contract as it was through a work scheme). Vodafone sent through a message with a PAC code to transfer her number to a different tariff. I filled in the details and sent it back to them.

1st message from Vodafone - You have provided us with an invalid Pac code

I called them to point out that it was the one they had supplied - they apologised and agreed to sort it out

2nd message - You will need a new SIM and one has been sent and will arrive the next day

Nothing arrived, so I called them again

"Sorry sir you are not allowed to transfer your number between Vodaphone schemes." I pointed out that they had instructed me to do so. "OK Sir, I'll have the new sim sent out at once."

The new SIM arrived the next day and I phoned them back to get the number activated

Surprise surprise after an hour of phone conversaions with Vodaphone I was told the number would be available at 3pm. I waited till 4pm and reported the number was not active.

4 phonecalls later and I am told that it will be at least 2 weeks before the number is migrated. When I asked to speak to someone who could resolve this I was informed there was no one who could help. The migration department supervisor won't talk to anyone outside of Vodaphone - that must make for an interesting home life for them....

So the upshot is that Mrs B's mobile phone is currently out of commission. I'm looking forward to the next message claiming that as the number has now been out of contract for 2 weeks they can't port it.

Oh the joy of dealing with mobile phone companies....

and I thought our Neighbours were bad!!!! (Shed Wars)
My sister received a note of condolence from her neighbour John (about the loss of her husband Richard) on Sunday night. How thoughtful. Unfortunately he did not follow this up the next day with a big bunch of flowers but a stroppy note complaining that my sister had knocked down her old decrepit garage and was in the process of replacing it without his permission.

He followed it up with a personal visit

John - "You could have talked to me and set my mind at rest"

Sister - "I've had other things on my mind. Besides I thought Richard had talked to you about it before Christmas"

John - "Why do you need a new garage anyway?"

Sister - "The old one was falling apart and the door was to heavy for me to manage, especially now Richard is no longer here."

Sister - "You leave me no option but to report you to the Planning Department!"

Sister - "Fine John. Do what you have to do."

John - "I am just so distraught that you have not asked for my permission."

Sister - "John, you don't know the meaning of distraught....."

My sister subsequently spoke to the Planning Department and was told there should not be a problem with replacing the garage but because they have received a complaint from her neighbour they will have to investigate, which will hold up the process for at least six weeks. This leaves my Sister with a half- built garage and with its contents filling up nice neighbour Lisa's garage. Personally I would like to stuff John's condolence note where the sun don't shine but the anally-retentive pratt would probably only enjoy it......

To end on an upbeat note we finally managed to get Shuffler into the bath. I couldn't convince her to stay under the water but one step at a time....

I would like to give a huge thanks to Mrs B for being such a support with my Sister and Shuffler. I would also like to thank our friends Craig & Mala for insisting we come over on Sunday Night so that they could look after us and take our minds off things.

Friday, 9 January 2009

The hardest Blog I have ever written

The holiday began with the inevitable Black family crisis. I had pre-ordered the taxi, confirming that we needed ski carriage. 5:30 am arrived with no sign of the taxi – I gave it ten minutes and then called them:

Me – "Hi, I ordered a taxi for this morning could you let me now when it is likely to arrive?"

Taxi firm – "Sorry we have no record of a booking"

Me – "But I booked it three days ago!"

Taxi firm – "Well we have no record"

Me – "Well can you rectify your error and send a taxi"

Taxi firm – "We have nothing available"

I then read out the time, day and person I had spoken to.

Taxi firm – "Sorry we have nothing in the book."

Getting a little bit hysterical and doing a passable 'Vicky Pollard' impression "You have just so ruined our holiday!!!"

Taxi firm – "I’ll do what I can, sir, but can’t promise anything" click,click Buzz

I then moved onto my own personal tribute to the ‘Four Weddings..’ opening scene

Me – “F**K”

Me – “F**K”

Me – “F**K”

While I did this Mrs B calmly phoned some other local taxi companies……….

……….A number of phone calls later:

Me & Mrs B - “F**K”

Me & Mrs B - “F**K”

Me & Mrs B - “F**K”

Fortunately, the phone rang, the original cab firm calling back to informed us they had found someone willing to get up and take us to the airport. Like they were doing us a great big fat favour….It was squeaky bum time as we raced to the airport, fortunately we just about made it to check in.

The accommodation was typically French, i.e small and extremely basic. It did have one great feature however, a panoramic view of a rather busy and tricky bit of piste. The main entertainment when we returned to the Chalet each evening was watching so-called experienced skiers wiping out tired novices who were attempting to side slip their way home. Very entertaining - we had to shut the window though and turn the iPod volume up*, as the screams and shrieks were a bit disturbing.

* 'Murder on the dance floor', was a particular favourite soundtrack to watch the carnage

As it was a catered chalet, we got to share it with two groups.

Group 1 - The Chalet Rep’s family Our rep Kier’s family had come out to join him for New Year. This turned out to be a mixed blessing for him. Kier had only been a rep for three weeks, so his range of experience was not great. This was certainly not the case by the end of the week as his family very considerately put him through an extremely steep learning curve:
• First his brother lost his ski pass
• Then the next day his father had his hired ski poles stolen.
• Next his family went and won the Quiz he had organised – the rest of the Chalet guests from around La Plagne were less than impressed and there were rumblings of foul play.
• Finally he took us out for a guided tour, at which point his mother managed to break her ankle and had to be taken off the mountain in a blood wagon. Kier noticeably started to avoid his family after this….
Eventualy Keir took to using a ginger wig to try and hide from his family

Group 2 – The Welsh family, from the Valleys!!! possibly my worst nightmare as they also had two ankle biters. Other than being Welsh, smokers and a family of second-hand car salesmen they were almost nice. The two little boys, aged 8 & 10 were fairly well behaved (despite a habit of wiping out skiers at every opportunity) but there was always that nagging thought at the back of my mind: “They are going to grow up to be fully-fledged Welshmen.” I would like to point out that my anti-Welsh stance is very much my own problem. On an individual basis I quite like a number of Welsh people. I think it is the whole Leak thing along with all that Yakki Dah Boyo & Oggy Oggy Oggy Oi Oi Oi rubbish. It’s just so undignified …..

My tolerance was not at its best for the holiday as I was suffering from a cold that I could not shake off. (So much for the Heidi principle - a couple of days in the mountain and everyone is running around like spring chickens. Not a chance, I went from sounding like a 40 a-day smoker to a 60 a-day inhaler who had developed consumption and was now using a megaphone so that no one on the mountain missed out on a single decibel of my coughing.) So you can imagine my delight when I was taken out by a French Granny, while I was just standing there talking to Mrs B. This grey haired menace caught the back of one of my skis with hers. Instead of stopping, the myopic garlic-muncher carried on going. In slow motion my legs moved in different directions. I didn’t know what was happening until I tumbled unceremoniously onto the snow. Unusually for a French person she actually stopped and apologised. Probably just a cunning attempt to embarrass me even more. She then attempted to help me up, which would have been a good idea if she had not been half my size…..
Mrs B gamely reading the piste map, she is actually very good at it. Unfortunately she has the sense of direction of Nafman (Our less then accurate car navigation system). As long as I overrule her and take us in the opposite direction we normally get to our intended destination.

While I was actually skiing it was fine but as soon as I stopped (or was knocked over) my body would become racked by coughing fits that at least guaranteed us empty gondolas. Added to this cacophony, I was now producing enough green gunk that I could be easily tracked around the slopes – a sort of snotty Hansel and Gretel, without the nice little old lady (I’m sure she only wanted help with cleaning the inside of her oven. You’d be a bit miffed if you had found two little tykes eating the bests bits of your home). On the Chalet cook’s night off we went out to a little French restaurant. Mrs B was so frustrated about the used tissue mountain that I was creating that she did her tidying up bit and started storing them in one of her pockets. She was mortified when we got outside and she went to empty the tissues into a bin. The pocket had a hole in it and Mrs B had left a nice neat trail of my snot rags throughout the restaurant. While I’m certain the restaurant was not in line to receive any Michelin stars. Now however, thanks to us, its green rating had gone up considerably…..
Rather annoyingly someone pinched my flying goggles. The main suspect remains Mrs B, although I have yet to prove it.

Not a New Year’s Eve to remember
As New Year Eve’s go it was not classic. Mrs B was under the weather and I was now coughing like a 100 a-day consumptive. So, instead of heading for the New Year’s Eve party on the slopes with the rest of the Chalet, we watched the New Year countdown on French TV. Flipping between French and German channels trying to decide which was the worst, since both were like watching 'It’s a knock-out' we decided to award them both 'Null points'. Our European cousins do appear to like slapstick and little else. We went out on the balcony at midnight to watch the firework display, sent a few texts and then retired to bed to lick our wounds.

Putting it all into perspective
The next morning we received a text from my sister to give her a call. The next few minutes were just awful as my sister told me that Richard, her husband, had died suddenly the day before. Mrs B and I were dumb struck. We had last seen Richard on Boxing Day. He had been at his best - cooking for everyone with a huge grin on his face, so full of life.

My sister and Richard had been down in the South of France visiting friends, Richard had blown his nose and my sister described it as like an elephant trumpeting. She turned around to admonish him for making such a noise in someone else’s house (the sort of thing Mrs B would say to me). He just collapsed backwards and was gone…. It was that quick. All attempts to revive him by my sister, his friend James and then the Medics were to no avail.

While the next two days were glorious blue skies it was so at odds with our mood. We needed to see grey stormy skies. As we were stuck in the resort for the next two days we skied but our hearts were not really in it. We were getting a mixture of happy memories of Richard and my sister, inter-spliced with moments of sadness that we would not see him again. His oldest daughter is about the same age that I was when I lost my own father, which brought those memories flooding back.

Returning home
There is just so much to be done when someone dies. Lisa one of my sister’s friends kindly did the legwork of research for funeral directors and managed to narrow it down to two. First up, but not highly recommended, was the ‘Acorn Antiques’ of the funeral business – Lisa reported that a little old lady appeared from a shabby little office and hobbled, zombie-like, towards her. Lisa said the woman looked like she had stepped out of one of her own box’s. While Lisa never saw any of the staff, she could not get the thought out of her head that the rest of the crypt crew were likely to be extras left over from the cast of the Michael Jackson video “Thriller”. My sister declined on the basis that when you have to bury someone you don’t really want it being done by the Living Dead, no matter what experience of the other side they bring with them. This left us with a choice of one and although the lady reminded us of Victoria Wood in one of her more scatty roles she was pleasant enough, even if she did come across a bit like a time share salesman.

If there is anything that comes out of Richard’s untimely death it is surely that we should live our lives to the full. Fortunately, this was something that Richard did. The added bonus is that the family got to see him for Christmas, his father said to me on Boxing Day that he had never seen Richard so happy.

For those of us fortunate enough to have known him, we should be glad that he was part of our lives, all be it too briefly. My thoughts at this time go to my sister, to the children Trinity, Greta and Alex, to Richards’ parents, Heinz and Elaine, his sister Margaret and brother in law Martin, as well as his many friends who will miss him terribly. Hopefully in time the pain of loss will dull and we will be left with many happy memories of Richard.

My sister summed it up when she said that she would not change a single thing of her seven years with Richard. She was given the following poem by friend that has helped her to take it all in.

You can shed tears that he is gone
or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see what he's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he has gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what he'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Don’t leave it too long before contacting friends and family, you never know what might happen. Summed up in the lyrics of one of my favourite song writers “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans” John Lennon - Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) 1980. Written just a few short months before he was shot.

Sorry that it is not the normal upbeat BlackLOG sometimes life takes us in different direction…….
Richard Edmund Spohrer (1965-2008)