‘Twas the weeks before Christmas – and great danger lurked

A terrifying and ominous presence is lurking just below the surface in the days and weeks leading up to the Christmas 2014 season.  No-one knows who or what this presence is, but one thing is for sure: It has infected retailers, designers, buyers and merchandisers in ever greater numbers. Wherever you turn, this “thing” has decided that one of our most beloved, iconic and frankly irreplaceable and necessary beings in the run-up to this joyous time of year, should be silently and stealthily replaced with different and more alluring (?) characters. Be it on cards, printed fabrics or decorative objects no longer do we see who we need to see this time of year. Instead, a line of impostors beam out at us from every corner. We must stand together and demand that we bring back and protect:  THE REINDEER!

These days we get moose and deer EVERYWHERE. Since WHEN have THEY had ANYTHING to DO with CHRISTMAS???  Don’t get me wrong, beautiful and majestic creatures they are, but a 1000 pound moose is going to decimate the chimney before Santa has even had a chance to squeeze down it and a herd of stags will be too busy preening and trying to pull the ladies than even ATTEMPT to pull Santa’s sleigh! It’s called a stag night for a reason!

It is already upsetting that Finland has high-jacked Santa and made him Finnish living in Lapland, when EVERYONE knows he lives on the North Pole!  Retailers and advertisers have now pretty much sent the magnificent reindeer into retirement! Canon for example, tries to flog us cameras with seasonal greatings using, Yes, you’ve guessed it, DEERS!  “On, Donder and Blitzen… and BAMBI???”

Rudolph needs YOU to help bring him back into the fold, and fast. Christmas is in danger. WHO WILL DELIVER YOUR PRESENTS?

Sod the bear, in 2015 we are going on a moose and deer hunt!



Cute – but it’s a MOOSE!!!!

Oh dear 1

“…a herd of stags will be too busy preening and trying to pull the ladies than even ATTEMPT to pull Santa’s sleigh!”

Canon DEER

Canon – this is a DEER without the rein! “On, Donder and Blitzen… and BAMBI???”



That’s more like it!             M. Prinke/CC BY SA-2.0


REINdeer (www.guardian.com)








Jingle Jangle Bells

It’s Sunday and I arrive on the first train into Birmingham. The purpose of the morning is to be a roaming spectator at the Birmingham BUPA Great Run (Half marathon) and cheer on two friends and former colleagues. Brave enough to take part, but the strength to finish? Based on past performance, surely no problem.

Leaving Moor Street I meander towards milepost 10-ish. Shortly after leaving I come across milepost 1 by accident and literally within a minute who else but my friend Paul flies past round the corner. “GO ON PAUL! PAUL!!! KEEP GOING!” No reaction. Note to self: shout “Clarkey” next time! As Paul disappears into the distance it’s roughly 10:40 at this point so all’s well so far. As I walk towards milepost 2 where the course intersects nicely with roughly 10.5, (surely the runners are missing a great trick here!), it strikes me that soooo many people did not get to go to the toilet before the start; there are literally people peeing everywhere! And not shy about it either!!  At least we are spared a Paula Radcliffe moment!

At mile 2 I decide to make my way to Edgbaston instead of my plan A of catching them at 10 miles. Between mile 2 and mile 3 it becomes apparent that many people have not really trained very much. People are already walking, faces puce with exhaustion, and I am overtaking them at hardly a brisk walking pace. Some are already being tended to by St. John’s ambulance crews.

Along the route a few locals have set up unofficial cheering points with music; the theme from Rocky and then Spencer Davis Group – “Keep on running” on a continual loop, camping chairs and not forgetting a few beers! Everyone is getting into the spirit of things this morning!

At Edgbaston I head for Cannon Hill Park and find a good spot for spotting Messrs Browne and Clarke. As it turns out later I must have literally missed Ian by a minute or two, cause as I wait and wait it becomes clear that he’s not coming and must be well headed towards the finish already. Deciding now to make my way back to plan A, I suddenly spot Paul. “PAUL!” No reaction. Again. I start running after him, as I check my notes. “Clarkey!! “ Finally, head turns and big smile, fist bump and he’s off. I’m puffed out and return to walking again. En route to 10.5 I see the weird and the wonderful, including a man in a dress, a storm trooper in full uniform and someone running with a, I kid you not, a mattress on his head. Is this in case he needs a rest?

As I arrive I catch a final glimpse and manage to take a (poor) photo of Paul as he starts the incline towards the centre of town. He still looks in fine form.

That’s it, me done. I feel exhausted on their behalf and I never get to see Ian. Apologies to him…  …I’ll make a better effort next time! Warwick, March 2015?

At the end I have clocked up 6 miles in trying to support them so I have done nearly a quarter marathon myself. Not bad. And I ran 50 yards! As I head towards the station, the final runners are struggling past, about to complete their SECOND mile. Runners amongst this lot are the exception, they are barely walkers and if not careful they will shortly be swept up by the road sweepers looming behind them. The determination on their faces however, no less than on those that passed in the “elite” groups earlier. Signs are being taken down, barriers dismantled and disgruntled drivers are once again allowed to fill up some of the streets. “I’m going to report you to the council!!” “Go ahead! You’re still not getting through, and it’s the council that has approved the road closure!”

It’s been a great morning, 19 October, but more like a summers’ day, bright sunshine, 18 degrees and LOTS of money raised for lots of charities.  Short-cutting through M&S on my way home, however, it’s like a time warp as I pass through their Christmas department!

Safely on the train I decide the last experience of seeing reindeer and x-mas mugs must be my imagination. Back in my home town I get picked up from the station; to go home for Sunday lunch? NO! Christmas shopping in Stratford!  Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Back in the REAL world, Paul and Ian raised hundreds of pounds and awareness for good causes.





Spidey, Batty and Robbie – and a few hundred of their friends


Runner in a green dress –    cause he can!


In case he needs a rest – or should that be arrest?


Less than 3 miles to go and Clarkey’s calf muscles are still going strong!




Meanwhile, in the unreal world of M&S…

The “no funeral” funeral

Apart from having to promise my mother not to put her in a home (a promise I failed to keep) she also requested that once she died, she was not to be buried, but cremated, and for there to be no service of any kind. She hated public gatherings and the thought of being the centre of attention at one, even if dead, filled her with a dread that not even an extra brandy or two could remedy.

I think for both my sister and I, this was OK as we had no strong desire for a public spectacle of any kind. However, doubt creeps in once you are faced with the actual situation. What will people think? What will relatives think?  Well, the few relatives we have appreciated mum enough not to mind, but what about “others”.  Once passed away, her body was kept in the “cooler” at the home she had lived at for more than eight years. It seemed a bit weird to just ship her off to the crematorium without ANY acknowledgement, on the other hand at this point it is “just” a body.  As usual, due to me living far away, it was left to my sister to make the arrangements.  As it happens, the home has a small chapel and on the day of sending the coffin off on its’ 150 mile journey to the nearest “incinerator”, as mum would call it, a dozen people gathered there for a few moments of quiet reflection and a few words from a couple of us. No-one officiating, no priests or officialdom. After a very short ten minutes we followed the coffin the 10 meters to the hearse that was waiting outside. It was a specially adapted estate car (it will never fit!) the coffin just sliding (it will never fit!) silently into position (it fits!!) and the boot/hatch door closes.  Now, if all funerals that aren’t funerals were more like this maybe I’d go to more of them!

That was it, and our attention now turned to coffee and cakes supplied by the home and a sister in-law. Several hours later, once the coffee had run out, all agreed that it had been a very different but very nice affair. The gathering had been small enough, with only the very nearest, dearest and nearest to home for even mum to approve. She wouldn’t even have needed the brandy, but would have had one anyway!

For another time; “What about burying the ashes?” and in possible trouble with the church authorities …  it’s just not cricket.


(Un)Social Media

I’m old enough to remember not having mobile phones, PCs and never mind laptops! A tablet was something Moses (allegedly) brought down from Mount Sinai and there was no Social Media. People had a Social LIFE back then. I remember card nights at the neighbours, whereas today people would probably play the latest Facebook app/card game against their neighbour and frantically click the LIKE button every time their score was higher than the guy next door. This instead of getting off their backside and going round in person. OK, it’s probably not that bad, it just feels that way sometimes.

Social media has lots of positives, especially when it helps you keep in touch with people you don’t see very often or at all, maybe living a long way away. I use FB mostly as an observer. Just being nosey on what other people are up to. I will use the private messaging facility from time to time to write to someone from “the old country”. I am not all that keen on constantly posting updates about trivial things. I will tweet on Twitter from time to time and post the odd photo on Instagram. I use LinkedIn a lot (basically Facebook for people who work), when I am researching people or companies during my job hunting.  If there is one thing I wish I’d done differently, then this would be to nurse my LinkedIn profile when I was working and not playing catch-up once you REALLY need your connections.  I have spent a lot of time nearly doubling my number of connections AFTER I lost my job. This could have been time better spent actually finding a job instead.

So, is Facebook, (in particular), just a way for self-indulgent people to self-indulge? Part of me would say yes and I am NOT one of them. Then I again, I am the one who started writing a blog! Go figure.  Some people like to share, others like to over-share and others like to read about what others share about their lives. 2013 to early 2014 was a very eventful year in my life. If I was a TRUE Facebooker I would have been setting Facebook in overdrive! In just under 12 months I became a grandfather for the first time, I quit smoking after 30 years, I went on a  diet to lose some excess poundage (So far lost 3st 8lbs / 23 Kgs), my mother died and I lost my job.

My wall would have been straining under the weight of my posts:

“He’s here!”

“Meet nameless grandson, codename “Barry””

“Isn’t he cute?”

“Look, he puked all over me today. Sweet  :)”

“Day 1 and 3 hours of not smoking, so far I have saved £x and extended my life by 2 hours”

“Diet starts TODAY”

“Lost 2 lbs this week. Go me!!!”

“RIP Mum. Finally at peace”

“OMG, lost my job today”

And so on and so forth. Sit back and wait for a TORRENT of Likes and status replies and comments and updates and comments to comments and on and on and on.

Actually, looking back on my FB wall, I am definitely not a true Facebooker, you wouldn’t know any of this about me if you relied on my wall to tell you my news.  When I go walking I use an app on my Iphone called Endomondo (other phones and other exercise apps are available!)  For me it’s a great app. Not that I do much with it once I have finished my walk, but it keeps me going as every half a mile it tells me how far I have walked and how fast I am walking.  However, when I stop the walk, the app has the option to automatically post some stats on my FB timeline. “I have just walked 6 miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes. I have burned 577 kcals and I am FANTASTIC” NOOOOO!  STOP!  I don’t even care that much once I have completed my walk and nor do I think any of my FB friends really care whether today I did 5.5 or 4 miles (“Oh, he’s slacking a bit. TUT TUT”)

Another downside of instant (anti-)social media is you no longer have any privacy to speak of even when something personal or upsetting happens to you.  When my mum died late last year, I was out for the evening in Birmingham at a works social function. I had barely arrived when I found out via a phone call that things were looking grim and soon to be terminal. So, I left the party sharpish and within minutes got the call that she had passed. SO now having to digest the news, albeit it wasn’t entirely unexpected, I now had to face an hour’s journey on public transport to get home and also decide who to call and when. Wife and daughter at home, two sons at Uni in two different towns. Maybe it should wait until I could get home and tell two in person and then the other two by phone from the comfort of home. Six minutes after getting the news and less than 10 minutes after the death I am approaching the railway station when it suddenly dawns on me. “FACEBOOK!  S..t”  Quick call back to my sister, to ask if anyone is thinking about posting anything on FB, to please wait so I can tell my family first that my mum/their mother-in-law and grandmother respectively has just passed away. Too late, by about 90 seconds.  So now I have to call my boys first, who are most likely to see updates from a cousin in Norway. Instead of the call from home, I am now standing under some railway arches, next to a busy street and it is pouring with rain.  I got to one of them, but the other one had already seen the news on-line.  At that point I HATED Facebook.

So, I could have deleted my account. I didn’t. I could stop being on Twitter. I didn’t. I could leave LinkedIn (Definitely not!).  We can’t undo social media, and we probably should embrace it, but maybe, just maybe, we should just use it with a bit more caution and more carefully and respectfully?  What do you think?


Happy Birthday?

This week saw an allegedly “special” day in our household. My birthday.  As someone who was not brought up (conditioned) to observe “special” days with any type of fervour, I see birthdays as something to avoid, surely, than to celebrate. Why should I celebrate being one year older and another day closer to the inevitable end?   The end of my 40s that is. Ok I’m morose and sometimes half empty and all that but no, I’m not expecting to drop off my perch just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, birthdays aren’t all that bad of course. They can be the source of some great times.  It is of course lovely when someone makes a big effort for you, like the best lemon flavoured, with lemon icing, birthday cake ever, that “Nanna Pat” (my mother-in-law) brought round this week. Or the hand-drawn birthday cards or banners the children have made me over the years. Or the nice cards my wife has given me, time and time again. (She has THE knack of finding the perfect card for ANY occasion)

It’s the “industry” around greetings cards in general that I maybe have a problem with. My wife sends roughly 1200 birthday cards a year.  Ok, so maybe it’s 50. This is in my opinion too many. Then there’s “Thank you” cards, mother’s day, father s day, valentine’s day and DON’T GET ME STARTED on Xmas cards. Then there’s “Good luck in your exams” and “Well done on your exams” and so on and on and on…..

I never publicise my birthday very much, but since the advent of Facebook I will always get a healthy number of “Happy Birthday” greetings appear on my wall. But only because Facebook tells its’ Social Media darlings to do so. “It’s Arne’s Birthday” “Wish him happy Birthday” “Write on his Wall” “NOW!!!!!”

This year I decided to do a little experiment. I wanted to assess the hit rate of greetings and from what sources.

I didn’t make ANY mention of my birthday to anyone just in case. I removed my Date of Birth from my Facebook Profile. I waited.

Family: Greetings and cards and presents from those I live with and from the in-laws (mother and father in-law and brother in-laws)

One text from my sister in Norway and one text from a friend in Leamington

Facebook?  NOT A SINGLE message.  Last year, 31 “followers” obeyed FB.

So, I can carry on being a misery gut for another year now, safe in the knowledge that hardly ANYONE knows when my next birthday is.




to me……!

On these shores

This migrant arrived in the UK in 1986. On my first short visit I arrived at Dover and panicked at the first roundabout I got to getting off the ferry. Not only had I ever gone round a roundabout only once or twice before in the two years I had been driving, I was now also driving on the “wrong”/left side of the road and with a left hand drive car. Anyway, by the end of the 140 or so miles up to Warwickshire, the driving on the left side of the road was cracked and today I would say I am pretty ambidextrous at driving in Europe or in the UK with or without the steering wheel on the correct side of the road for the country you are in. The key to this success is twofold:

1) If you have the right car for the country you are in, just make sure that you, the driver, is sitting near the middle of the road.

2) If you don’t have the steering wheel on the correct side for the country you are in, make sure you, the driver, are sitting near the edge of the road.  If in either case the opposite is true or you can’t remember what country you are in, you are about to die.  So there is a further point:

3): PAY ATTENTION! Check what other cars are doing and prey that they also don’t not have a clue!!!

So, roundabouts sorted, two years as a student at Trent poly followed. So far “immigration” wasn’t really on the agenda as a “thing”.  After a 12 month absence (military service in Norway), I returned to Britain in late 1989, now as the official fiancé of my wife-to-be. British embassy in Oslo duly visited and paperwork signed sealed and delivered.

At this stage Norway did not have its current arrangements with the EU so the only place we could have lived without getting married was Denmark. Norway had reciprocal arrangements with the Nordics and Denmark was already in the EU. However, the land of hope and glory was to be our home so a wedding was necessary. A jolly nice affair it was too!  Once married I was now able to start work and we settled in Leamington.

After nearly two years of marriage I was now able to go to Croydon and queue in the early hours (whilst still dark) at the immigration office. After these two years I guess they would want to know that I had been a good boy, behaved myself and was still married. I turned up as one of literally hundreds on the day of my appointment with some trepidation. There was to be no Green Card style interrogation of my Gerard Depardieu to “my Debbie’s” Andie MacDowell.  In fact, the whole event (queuing excluded) was over in a flash and “my Debbie” didn’t even have to be present. Almost disappointingly quickly. Before I knew it I was on my way back to the Midlands. However with the important addition stamped in my passport: “Indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom”. A proud moment indeed.

I have never thought of myself as an immigrant as such. Just someone who happens to live in a different country to where they were born. I was not a political or economical migrant, just a migrant of love for a good woman!  Whereas I have learnt to appreciate the country I left behind more and more over the years, it is my adopted country where my heart is. The UK is such a melting pot of promise and hope and possibility and culture and language; I can absolutely see why the majority of migrants across and into Europe head for the English Channel and not setting Strasbourg, Bonn and Gent as the destination on their life’s sat-nav. (No offence to these cities!). THIS is where it’s at. I think the wide-open-door enthusiasts on the one hand and the UKIP’ers on the other wanting to close the borders to all but the very select few both get it wrong.  The answer is somewhere in-between.  For what my opinion is worth.  I think most people expect and accept a reasonable amount of immigrants each year. I think where the debate over immigration goes wrong is that more often than not it is led and stoked by certain newspapers rather than by facts.  I wish there were more information available about whether immigrants contribute more than they take, how many British people are not getting a job due to a legal migrant getting it and so forth. Do tell.

So how does this immigrant really feel?  Wherever I have been or wherever I land, be it London or Birmingham, I feel a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction in being back home in “Blighty”.  I feel I am definitely a net contributor and despite having used (the mostly brilliant) NHS on two occasions for surgery I have more than paid my dues in tax and National Insurance over 24 years so far of working here. I don’t look or behave very differently to the locals, I speak the language fluently and I am white, “skandinav” and as my Daily Express reading grandmother-in-law would say when she was still alive “you’re ok, you were an ally during the war!”  I don’t think I am exactly who Nigel Farrage has in his sights when he starts his chummy “jolly bloke down the pub” rhetoric.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with everything our Nigel has to say and celebrate that he has managed to make the vile Nick Griffin pretty much irrelevant almost single handedly. But rather than attack UKIP we should perhaps examine why we have UKIP and Nigel Farrage in the first place. Successive Labour governments have failed to stand up to Europe and the Tories equally need to sort out the EU and themselves once and for all. As long as these issues are not sorted, Nigel or someone like him will always have oxygen to breath and devoted column inches and sound bites in the media.  How ironic, “Nige” could win Labour the next election!

So, are there any downsides to being a “lifer” in Britain?  Sure. I am not British and cannot vote. I have NO influence over how my taxes are spent, be it on a national or a local level. In fact I am not on the electoral roll (not British and not an EU citizen) and that actually costs me money. I will never be able to have a top top credit rating for example as I will always be deducted some points for not being a registered voter. The cost to me takes the form of a possible higher APR on a credit agreement for example.  This REALLY annoys me.

I occasionally get told off by my British passport holding children when I say “we” as in “we British” or “we English”. Apparently I’m foreign they say and have I checked my passport recently?!

So what other downsides are there to being a “lifer” in Britain?

For this Scandinavian country boy, none whatsoever, because Britain’s great and we love it.


Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves, Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.


The Long Goodbye – Part 6


The years mum suffered from dementia can roughly be split into thirds.

The first being the coming to terms with the situation (for all parties) whilst also being able to carry on with a semblance of normality. Conversations could be had, albeit better about things from the old days. These first years when I came to visit was spent talking about her youth and how she left home at an early age (15 or so) to start earning a living and later on eventually ending up in Oslo where she one day met my father through a friend of a friend. Trade school followed, learning book-keeping skills, getting a business diploma and a job working for the feared and revered and eventually lifelong friend Eva. These were the “easy”, and often good fun, visits.

The second third was a lottery. Sometimes very clear (as long as we stayed 30-50 years behind the times conversation-wise), other times she would be very muddled, confused, upset and cross. Wheeling her round the home in her wheelchair would sometimes take the edge off if she could be distracted for a time. Other times she would be adamant that I was my dad and this was NOT a good thing. I remember one visit in particular where each day for 3 days she would constantly berate me for being “this, that and the other”.  Not accepting that I was me and not “him”, I would get it in the neck for various things that had happened over the years. Not knowing whether to laugh or to cry I would just gently try and get the conversation switched something else. This was only occasionally successful! I always knew that nothing said was personal as it wasn’t aimed at me, but the situation was of course both frustrating and hurtful and sad.

The final third was mostly one of “existence”. She was still exceptionally well looked after but mostly confused and it was not really possible to hold much of a conversation going. You could say pretty much anything as her responses would have nothing to do with YOUR conversation. Towards the end I never felt strongly that my MUM was present, only my biological mum. Sometimes I would wish she’d had cancer or something that she could have fought and hopefully won and we could have kept HER. Silly way to think I guess, but dementia seems just as cruel at times. Dementia took my mum years ago, you just spend a long time saying “goodbye”, and hence the “Long Goodbye” reference is aptly used to describe the disease of Alzheimer’s dementia. I always felt bad that she had ended up in a home even if she rarely actually realised that that was where she was. Once there she flourished in her own way and for several years was in better physical health than she had been for quite a while. That’s what giving up the booze and the fags does for you! (and not overdosing on insulin when you’ve forgotten you’ve already injected yourself!)

During late autumn 2013 in her 81st year, after a short illness, she finally went to sleep and didn’t wake up again.

The long goodbye was over. Good night and sleep tight.


Next came the no funeral funeral. But that’s for another time…


The Long Goodbye – Part 5

“…but surely it’s time to go home now?”

The day came when mum went into the local home, first for a 2 week respite stay so my sister could go on holiday, then a couple of months later as a permanent resident. Living abroad I got off lightly, whereas my sister had to deal with all the practical issues, including the ‘deception’ of getting her there.  The local home (there is only one) is run by the council and funded in a typical Scandinavian fashion. Whatever your income or level of pension, 80% goes to the council. In return you get a single (although at times a double) room with an en-suite shower room. On one level the home’s standard is basic, functional and practical. The rooms certainly are plain, but residents can bring some items of furniture if they are going to be long term residents and many also donate pieces for the common rooms, corridors and entrance areas. Situated in farming country, the links to the farming community are obvious with folk art and furniture from paintings, dressers and spinning wheels.  Meticulously clean in all areas and NOTHING like senior living in some homes I have seen in the UK. In all the years of visiting, I never once smelt the more common combination of Dettol and urine and worse. All that greeted you was beaming, fabulous carers and nurses and the smell of coffee and freshly baked cakes.  Mum settled in on the small dementia ward as one of a “gang of six”. One of them would never speak a word and just stare at you, or through you, another would use every opportunity to try and escape and wink at you as he tried to open a door leading out onto a small garden. (Only once was he successful as far as I know and his freedom was short lived). Mum couldn’t escape as she needed her wheeled zimmer (and later a wheelchair) and she would have had to get through a locked door and operate a lift up to the floor above. In the early days she was still able/allowed to smoke. This made for a small adventure whenever I visited. The trip to the smoking room gave her something to do and a chance to see more people than just the “gang” on her locked ward.  For an agoraphobic-like person she seemed to have forgotten that she had hang-ups about being around people, smiling and greeting residents and staff as we made our way to the “nicotine suite”.  Whereas she hadn’t yet forgotten that she smoked, most of the time she believed she was staying in a hotel, but would often ask why she couldn’t go home, and nearly every time I went to visit, she would ask if I’d seen her parents/my grand-parents that day. At this point they had passed away roughly 20 and 30 years ago respectively. Gently reminding her that they had died years ago, she would smile wryly and say “oh yes, of course they did, I know, I know” but the smile would falter and she would look a little sad but then light up as she lit another cigarette and then we would talk “nonsense” about something completely different until it was time to take her back downstairs to her new ward-mates. The lies when I was leaving had to continue as she was not pleased to learn that she could not come with you. “It’s very nice here and the service is excellent, but surely it’s time to go home now?”

The Long Goodbye – Part 4

Where is this place?

I can still feel that tight sickening feeling in my stomach back from when I first realised that my mum was not herself.  After that first confusing and very repetitive conversation I spoke to my sister demanding to know if she’d experienced the same sort of “Groundhog day” with mum and if so why she hadn’t warned me.  She had, but didn’t want to say anything just to see if my reaction and gut feeling was the same as hers. It was pretty clear what was going on but you don’t know for sure and I guess don’t want to know if your worst fears are real.  It became clear that she was suffering from early on-set of some sort of dementia.

After several months we finally managed to persuade her to go to the doctors which she only agree to do to “shut us up”. My sister and I met with the GP, then the three of us and finally mum on her own.  He agreed with us, but mum definitely did not!  Thanks to my sister’s unending and unwavering support she managed to live at home for many more months until it became clear that she would have to go into a home.  Often my sister would let herself in to mums house and find that she had emptied all of her cupboards and wardrobes and packed all her belongings into plastic bags and tied them all up. You could barely move across her kitchen floor for her possessions. My sister would dutiful help her to unpack and put her things back in their place, telling her that the people she was expecting to move her to her new house weren’t coming today.  In a way the constant expectation that “they are coming to get me” maybe helped when she temporarily had to go into one home for a two week needs’ assessment.  I remember going home to Norway for a short visit during this fortnight to save my sister going to visit her too often as it was a 130 mile round trip. I obviously wanted to see her as well, but then again I was dreading seeing her and what state she was in. She looked lost, she looked sad even though she was happy to see me. Constantly asking why she was there and what sort of place it was. “I think its a hotel, but the service is not all that great!”. In my 3 days in Norway I visited her twice. Each time, leaving was a wrench. An exercise in subterfuge and lies.  When visiting hours were over you don’t lie to be mean (“just going to get something from the shop, car, etc, I’ll be back later”) but it still feels wrong. The outcome of the assessment was not a surprise, yes, she needs help and quite soon.  She already had a home help who would administer her medication and insulin as she no longer could be trusted to take the right doses and at the right time. But she needed more. Now it was just a question of waiting for a bed to come available at the local old people’s home. But with only 6 beds on the sheltered/dementia ward this could take some time. However, what was clear was that soon, my promise would be broken….

The Long Goodbye – Part 3

So, what have you been up to? So, what have you been up to? So, what have you been up to?

Living abroad never stopped me having good and regular contact with my mum. We may not have had FaceTime or Skype video calls, but we did have the good old landline telephone. In fact I would say that we are missing out a bit today as much as it’s nice to be able to video conference Granny and Grumps “on demand” to show off little Johnny’s latest football trophy etc, but “Oh my, how you’ve grown” doesn’t quite have the same effect when its only 22 hours since you last had to sit through a re-enactment of a dance recital or “Smile and show Nanny how grateful you are for the birthday present she sent you!”. “No, she sent the wrong doll” (storms out from view of webcam etc etc).  Yes, of course it’s nice to see people you don’t have daily contact with pop up on a screen every now and then but as the TV character Nan would probably say: “Well, is some peace and quiet for the old folk too much to ask for. Grand-kids popping up on my whatsitmecalledipadtabletmathingy!?!?  What a f…… liberty!!”   Or maybe that’s just what I think. No wonder my grand-parental name is “Grumpy”.  NO such name for my mum though, nor was she anything like “Nan”.  Not that she was a typical parent either. Not one for fussing and more than once did I call her at the end of my birthday to ask how did she feel this time 33 years ago etc etc. “What?” “It’s your birthday?”, “Oops, sorry!”  And we’d laugh. Again. Same procedure as last year. Both as a mother and a granny she was extremely generous. But just not fussing and certainly not one for celebrating “special” days. She was Mrs Consistent alright. However, it was on a solo trip to visit her some nine or so years ago that things started to change. “Have you brought any photos of the children?” “Yes, I gave them to you 20 minutes ago, they’re in your handbag” “Oh yes, so you did! Please can you get my handbag out of the cupboard so I can have another look at them?” “Your handbag is on the chair next to you” “Oh, yes, I’m so dumb. So, what have you been up to? Have you brought any photos of the children?” “Astrid, please (I stopped calling her “mum” when I was 12) we’ve just had this conversation. What’s the matter?” “Nothing, I don’t know what you mean. Stop being silly, you mustn’t mess your mother around like this!” (laughs) “Anyway, so what have you been up to? Have you brought any photos…..”

This was the beginning of a long, slow, downward spiral….