I like my neighbourhood very much but one of the disadvantages of living in a terrace is that it’s rarely possible to park outside our house. We often have to resort to the next street and sometimes this causes problems. Fortunately, our neighbours have dogs and regularly walk to and from the park. They’re impressively observant as several times they’ve spotted Mike or me wandering along vacantly trying to locate our cars, and have pointed us in the right direction.
This week, though, there have been many things to occupy my mind other than parking spaces. The most important of these is that Frank is in hospital. I’ve written before (in The Old Man and the Pea), about this rather wonderful 96-year old gentleman who last summer came to live with us. Five weeks ago he was admitted to hospital with stomach pains and then he got pneumonia. It’s very upsetting for him as he’s almost blind and matters are not improved by the fact that his hearing aid has disappeared. We think it got caught up in his bedding. His beloved talking watch has also gone. It probably went down the same laundry-oriented route. However, he does press the button every five minutes so we can’t discount the possibility that a fellow patient got fed up with the continual updates and disposed of it for him. We’ve bought a replacement that he can use at home but for now, he is without it.
It’s hard seeing him in hospital as he is so disoriented. The other day I went in just as two nurses were changing him, and he looked so small lying there. I felt compelled to tell them that this frail, confused man once took an engineering maths exam and got the highest result in the whole of South Africa. My comment was no criticism of the staff, incidentally, as it’s been heartening to see the kindness and respect that they show to patients even when dealing with challenging behaviour.
We hope to get Frank home soon but his care needs have increased and we’ve had a number of conversations with the occupational therapy team about new equipment. He needs a pressure-relieving mattress, a special cushion for his chair, a frame to go round the toilet and an alarm to warn us if he gets up at night. There’s a lot to consider.
Something else to think about is our forthcoming move. This should be happening in about three months after the new house is renovated. Currently it’s a building site. We’ve cleared the overstuffed loft, disposed of the old appliances, and had many, many trips to the tip and charity shop. Now we’re into the stage of constant questions from the builders. It’s exciting but there are so many decisions to make: kitchen units; bannister rails; door handles; sinks; windows, paint—my head feels full.
The other big thing that has preoccupied me this week is the birth of 31 Treats And A Marriage; my first book. It was published on Tuesday and is something I’ve been working towards for over four years. That morning my editor emailed and reminded me that I should post something on Facebook. But because of this ‘full head’ problem I couldn’t think what to say. I couldn’t even remember how to put up a post. Then after a bowl of porridge and a strong coffee, I got some perspective. An elderly gentleman, a house that’s a building site, and a book launch are a lot less demanding than previous bouts of juggling. The most challenging memories are those when I had four children at four different schools, a stressed-out commuting husband, an acre of out-of-control garden, and a pair of goats who spent every spare moment plotting their escape. These are all in the book together with plenty of things that made me laugh, and plenty more that didn’t.
Eventually I managed to post something. The day improved as the book crept up the ratings and by the evening it was number one in its category on Amazon. Suddenly it all seemed very real. Then Amazon went into its own kind of system overload. It uses a complicated algorithm to work out how much stock to keep and when demand exceeds this then it puts up a message that says ‘temporarily unavailable’. If you were thinking of ordering a copy then please don’t let this put you off. It should get resolved quite quickly anyway, but will undoubtedly be helped by people placing orders. Click here for the link.
That evening after all the palaver, Mike took me out to a New Forest pub to celebrate. It was old with atmospheric woody corners and the air was full of a fishy deliciousness. We had a happy few hours and managed for the most part to keep off the subject of juggling. But as we got back, the day’s concerns sidled in again. We drove past our house and into the next road looking for somewhere to park. ‘I must have a good look for my car, tomorrow,’ said Mike. ‘I don’t know where it is.’ We both stared blankly into the darkness ahead.
Then I had a moment of clarity. ‘I know where your car is,’ I said. ‘We’re in it.’
Thank you to everyone who has sent such supportive and kind messages about the book. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope, too, that the system overloads for me, Mike and Amazon are quickly resolved.