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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

My mum is currently in the ICU but will soon be moved to a neuro rehab unit to assess the long term damage. Today, I felt a great weariness overcome me - as life seems to currently consist of going into hospital, cooking, hanging up laundry, and trying to give a shit about work stuff. A few nice things have happened, however. I've been deeply properly humbled by the amazing staff at the ICU. Warm, friendly, inclusive, non-patronising, they gently encourage, cajole, lift, clean and treat my mother with utter tenderness. I arrived today to find her complaining that the weetabix was 'too sweet' although she managed to trough down a large portion of chocolate sponge without complaining. Worried that she had lost feeling in one hand, I placed a beaker of tea in her grip and asked her if the tea was hot or cold. 'What kind of a question is that?' she snapped, not unreasonably. I felt my heart lift a little.

Later I heard dad telling a friend that 'it's great that the kids are down,' and I thought well - it's a long time since anyone referred to me as a kid.

Dad is normally kept by mum on a low fat, low salt, low blood pressure diet for excellent reasons so he’s taking to my more nonchalant approach like a starving man. I made pork chops in a cider/mustard sauce last night - with chips. Chips! He had tears in his eyes! He practically ate the plate. I thought I was the only person with the disgusting habit of plate licking. Tonight it's asparagus risotto. Next step is teaching him how to cook the stuff.

One other nice thing. I wrote an adaptation of Lynne Reid Banks's Indian in the Cupboard earlier in the year and it's being broadcast on Radio 4 this Saturday 1st May at 2.30. I doubt if I'll be able to listen to it, so tell me what you think. I've managed to get one or two crap jokes in there and a poke at Kevin Costner.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Out of Nowhere

We flew back from Singapore end of last week, just as restrictions were being lifted over Heathrow. Arrived home to find my parents who had been looking after The Boy and The Girl had scrubbed the house from top to bottom, made friends with all the neighbours and managed to lure The Boy out of his fetid pit of a room by constantly cooking his favorite food.

Home they go and I marvel particularly at the way my 76 year old mum is so zippy and fit despite the hip operation and is it down to her good diet or the vitamin pills she has taken all her life or or or . . . .

Two days later dad calls. Mum has fallen backwards down the stairs and is in the Intensive Care Unit with a fractured bone in the neck and bleeding on the brain. It's quite serious he says somewhat unnecessarily. My sister and I throw a few things into a suitcase and belt down to the coast.

The ICU is surprisingly noisy and very bright but staffed by lovely cheerful people who tell us the truth yet manage to keep an optimistic air. Mum is a mass of tubes and machinery, her head encased in gym mats to keep her neck still. The only broken bone is in her neck and it's a 'good break'. She may have been unconscious when she fell. It might have been a cerebral hemorrhage or a stroke. I think of those stairs, wooden and steep and shudder.

Dad keeps getting up to do things, arrange things, fetch things. We stroke mum's hand and speak to her loudly. It feels stupid and patronising. The nurses say she might be able to hear us. After a while we go back to the house for a few hours sleep. The next few days are taken up with sitting by her bed. I talk to one of the doctors about the crash trolley. They use plasters not big brick like defibrillators. We drink tea and burble to mum. I've brought my laptop and stare at it.

On day three, Rachel, one of the utterly brilliant nurses is trying to persuade mum to drink more juice and mum mumbles what we think is Feck off. This cheers us. Her first swear word! And mum hardly ever swears. Then they take her off for another head scan. Later we are told it could go either way. I long to put mum's dentures back in but they keep slipping out. And yet her face is smooth and baby soft. She looks so young. And I can't help thinking that after a lifetime of endless and unnecessary dieting she'd be so pleased to be losing pounds. The nurses are fretting about her lack of appetite but she would be delighted. If she knew where she was.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Happy Feet

I'm stranded in Singapore in a nice hotel. Yes I know - it's terrible. I'm trying to be brave about it *sniff*. Actually if we don't get a flight within the next few days we'll be kicked out of the hotel and everywhere, even the local dog kennels are booked solid. One flight left today - going to Barcelona and it was jammed.

But what I really want to write about is the fabulousness of foot massage - once you get over the pain. This sounds a bit S&M but . . (ooh I must just tell you about the Fish. You can go to these spas in Singapore and sit with your feet - basically in a fish tank and they swarm around your feet and nibble away at the dead skin. A bit like aquatic maggots. Apparently they leave the healthy skin alone but since the fish haven't put that in writing we only have the spa owners word for it). No I haven't tried it - I've got ticklish feet. But I did have reflexology with the world's angriest therapist. He pushed and thumped at my feet snarling: You walk a lot! Foot stiff! I gritted my teeth which made him push harder. Crack crack. I watched as he twisted my feet into origami. I was too scared to protest. But afterwards my feet were like two pads of air.

And tomorrow I'll be telling you all about the durian - a fruit which smells like rotting flesh and which the Singaporians like to eat in pancakes.

Friday, 16 April 2010

In Singapore

I’m in Singapore for a week, ostensibly working but on a short jolly with Husband who really is working. Currently in the hotel, I feel right at home because the skies are grey and it’s chucking it down outside. Later however, after doing some work I’ll step out into tropical heat and again, just like being in the UK, after five minutes, start moaning about the heat.

A rare treat – flew business class with Singapore Airlines which meant a whole spacious cubicle with a wide seat and lots of little buttons which opened up various nooks and cupboards. Despite the flat bed however, I didn’t sleep – never do on planes because just as I start to relax, the plane goes through a bit of minor turbulence and I’m jerked awake and the plane is plunging to a fiery doom. Also because of the fear of one of these cursed headaches, I stuck to water. Very British again. Would you like champagne on takeoff Madam? No thanks – I’ll have a nice cup of tea. Pathetic.

The sunrise though! Pulling up the shutters at 5am, as we headed over the Indian Ocean, I saw tongues of flame drifting across an azure sky and the sudden emergence of a fiery ball in the east.

Singapore is a well-ordered-to-the-point-of-bossy city. It starts when you walk through Arrivals, noting the lush plants and pristine glossy marble floor. Wandering over to Immigration you notice a Big Red Line and lots of Singaporeans in uniform. Going through UK immigration, they usually take a swift glance of your passport and wave you through. Here they scrutinise the photo and stare at you with their best Are you Bin Laden or even worse, Are you carrying chewing gum glare before suddenly smiling and waving you on. But if you’re waiting and bored and so much as put a toe over the red line, a Singaporean huffs up to you and points angrily which means – Get Your Fat Idle Arse Back Over That Line. It’s your first taste of a culture that strongly believes in rules and order. The fact that Singaporeans are short may not be unconnected to this.

It’s become popular to dismiss Singapore as a kind of Asia lite, bland, safe and almost militaristically ordered, where citizens are robbed of their freedom to chew gum and gob on the street. As though the poverty, danger and choking traffic fumes of Bangkok or Jakarta make the travel experience more real. So far, I’ve found Singapore to be a safe city, very clean, the food is fantastic, and the parks lushly dot the city landscape. And the food! As soon as it’s stopped raining and I’ve done some work, I’m nipping out to stuff my face explore the cultural diversity.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Attack of the Fifty Foot Parents

I’m off to Singapore tomorrow and it will be a good flight because kind, lovely Husband (working out there) surprised me with a business class ticket. And it’s a single seat next to a window so for once in my aviation life I won’t be stuck next to someone who has just undergone bowel surgery and wants to tell me all about it. Slit me from front to back he did. Doctor said he’d never seen anything like it in forty years. Don’t snigger – it always happens. Either that or one of those people who just can’t take the hint that you don’t want to talk. You turn away, you snore loudly, you get up and bang on the emergency exit shouting Let me out! and they still don’t take the hint.

My parents are looking after The Girl and even though The Boy insists he doesn’t need looking after – him too. They are both quite religious though so there was a tricky moment when out of the blue – always always out of the blue – does she have some sort of controversy radar – The Girl said loudly: When Jesus was deaded did he come alive after three days?

Yes of course he did said my mother with all the conviction of someone who had she ever expressed a different opinion would be excommunicated and smacked round the head by a nun.

I don’t believe it says the Girl with equal conviction. I think when Jesus was deaded he stayed dead.

I wish I’d sent her to be auditioned for Outnumbered.

Off to pack. I’m bringing my laptop so I’ll tap away in the lounge and on the plane trying to look like I’m being important but in fact blogging and reporting any celebs or weirdoes on the journey with me. What do they call that? Bloggernecking?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


Weird things happen when you neglect your blog. Firstly, spam tumbleweed rolls by – a morass of dodgy grammar and strange requests. Like this:

The diameter can include often not the program, but too the bar of the guy above the making scale. Ozone machine health risk: applications are n't in the efforts of an torque, filing on the cyphacyphathe cell.

I mean – what??

The other thing that happens is life and blogging carries on perfectly well without you. It’s like being sick and hearing life chugging outside your window, with no regard for you lying in your bed, reeking but too ill to do anything about it. And that is a very poor link as to why I’ve been so neglectful of my blog. A bout of work followed by a kidney infection.

It happened like this. A minor bout of what I thought was cystitis, followed by a strange lethargy. Went to yoga class, came home, fell asleep for three hours. Next day, staggered out of bed and fell back into it, only to get up to be violently sick. And then the strange part. I had these psychedelic dreams, featuring Kelsey Grammer from Frasier. My head was spinning in my sleep. I rolled across great waves. Blood poisoning apparently. Husband said I would fall asleep in the middle of sentences. He got me antibiotics and checked on me every three or four hours. “I knew you weren’t dead because you changed position,” he chortled but he was worried. I ate nothing, drank nothing, could keep nothing down. One night he was checking on me and I rolled over. My face was thin and puckered from dehydration. “I had a glimpse of what you will look like when you’re seventy,” he said. Vaguely I thought of that birthday rhyme. You look like a monkey and you smell like one too. I did and I did. Amazing how quickly the carapace of respectability falls off. I was milk white with hair darkly greasy and black smudges under my eyes.

Hospital beckoned. But I stayed home because eventually I managed to get some liquids down. Husband changed my tee shirts and sheets, and placed a bath mat by the side of the toilet so when I was kneeling down hurling foam I wouldn’t get sore knees to add to my woes. What a nice man I thought as my stomach went into spasms for the umpteenth time. Then I crawled back to bed, listened to domestic noises from downstairs and amused myself by counting the veins on my wrist.

Husband brought The Girl to see me. Something odd happened to my sense of smell. Either it had sharpened or I’d turned into a werewolf. She smelled of sweet stuff and fresh air – I couldn’t bear it. I hugged her but felt a rush of nausea. It was terrible – I was revolted by the smell of my own daughter. The Boy nervously sat by my bed and rubbed my arm. He smelled of cheap aftershave. I dreaded to think what I smelled like.

Thank God for antibiotics. I took pills that looked like genetically modified bees, all stripy and huge, but they worked. I ate lots of protein, stopped drinking alcohol and began to put on the stone and a half I’d lost. Yeah I know – boo hoo. But I’m on the mend now just in time for Spring.