Monthly Archives: January 2012

When Z became invisible

I was reminded by this post from Chris (and how lovely to see a new post from him again) of the time when I was unable to speak and had to communicate through writing notes.

I say unable, but it would be more accurate to say forbidden.  And maybe I’d better set the scene first.

In the winter of 1985 (I know, darlings, I’m good with dates and stuff), I developed a bad cough and it left me with a husky voice.  I spent months expecting it to clear up, and in the meantime I received a good deal of gratifying attention from men who found my deep and breathy voice alluring.  Quite staid and well-behaved gentlemen, whom I’d known for years and who had never made any sort of advance would say “I say, what a sexy voice you have” and such things as that.  No one tried to take things any further, I should add, so it was just the voice.

Still, once it reached July, it finally occurred to me that I couldn’t blame the state of affairs on a chesty cold six months earlier and I went to the doctor.  He promptly referred me to a consultant.  Well, I say promptly – I was given an appointment in six weeks time, which was pretty prompt for 1985.  The consultant decided I had nodules on my vocal cords and that they should be removed and I duly received a date for admittance into  hospital another six weeks later.  I only discovered that I’d been fast-tracked when I arrived at the hospital and found how long other people had been waiting for operations far more urgent, I’d have thought, than mine.  So evidently, although I was young, had never smoked and had good health generally, there was a suspicion that I had rather more wrong with me than nodules.

I didn’t though and they were removed uneventfully – and this is the only time, apart from a childhood removal of teeth from an overcrowded jaw – that I’ve ever had a general anaesthetic.  I disliked the feeling intensely.  Not that I had ill effects from the anaesthetic, that is, but when I woke up I heard myself saying how cold my feet were.  It was all I could think to talk about – except that I couldn’t control what I was saying at all.  I went back to sleep and rather hoped I’d dreamed it, until I woke again and found a whole stack of blankets at the foot of the bed.  That, apart from general interest and excitement about the whole thing, gives the clue to why I didn’t want sedation for my hip op.  Z is a control freak, it seems – who knew?

After the operation, I was told that I must not speak until the stitches had healed.  The less I spoke, the better the chances were that I would have minimal scarring and my voice would recover well.

Those of you who know me must be wondering at the remarkable prospect of silence for me for a couple of weeks.  I spoke a lot less then, I was still quite shy, but it was not easy, certainly, because of what happened while I was in hospital.  That is, my mother-in-law died suddenly, which was a great shock to all.  At her funeral the next week, there I was with my little notebook and pencil, trying to engage in conversation with nice people who wanted to speak to me.

I had already discovered something about the nature of disability, however, within a few days.  It is quite true that one becomes invisible.  Because of Ma’s death, a lot of people had called round, and when I wanted to join in a conversation, I’d write down my comment … and not once did anyone wait to read it before carrying on talking.  In the end, I was writing down what I thought of the situation, in quite irritated manner, but that didn’t matter because no one was reading it anyway.  In one to one conversations it was all right, of course, but it was impossible to join in a small group.

I must mention our nephew Simon, by the way.  A young man in his early twenties then, he took the trouble to sit down with me and have a lovely conversation.  He was kinder to me than anyone else at that time, it was all a strain for everyone but I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I couldn’t even cry as a sob would have been bad for my throat.  Simon was the only person who noticed and did anything about it.

I said ‘disability’ – I don’t mean that I had one of course, it was no such thing, being simply a temporary and minor restriction.  What was telling, though, was the non-person aspect.  It taught me a lot, I’d like to think it made me a little more thoughtful.

Anyway, that’s it.  Not much of a story, Chris’s was much better.  And a whole lot shorter.  My voice recovered completely in the end, though it took ages for the higher register in my singing voice to return (not that I ever sing, a little gentle warbling to the grandchildren or when doing the housework is it).  And it turned out not to be nodules, but polyps – the former is caused by straining your voice, the latter just pop up.

I always regretted a bit having that operation, mind you.  I liked my husky voice too.

Sometimes, there is no right answer

My mother asked me what I’d like especially of hers after she died.  I wasn’t going to be caught that way.  I said I couldn’t possibly think about it.  She tried several times to persuade me, but I refused.  Not too long afterwards, Wink and her husband came to stay.  After they’d gone home, she was a bit indignant.  Apparently, she’d asked the same question and they assumed she meant it and earnestly suggested a few items.  I pointed out that she had asked and said she’d meant it – but people don’t always mean what they say.

On another occasion, she asked what I thought each of the children would like as a memento.  Caught on the hop and hoping to please, I suggested that Weeza might like her (my mother’s) grandmother’s glove box.  “Oh.  I thought you’d want that.”  Impossible to get these things right.

Anyway, when she did die, no one wanted to think about that sort of thing.  Ro was newly at university, Weeza had a tiny flat, Al moved into her place anyway so was surrounded by quite a few of her possessions, and we packed a lot of stuff away.  Nearly nine years on, I’m finally dealing with them.  And so it was lovely that we were able to look on with a fresh eye.

The Sage, having done a lot of box-shifting (no turning out as yet) had found some things that he brought out to show.  “All these years that I’ve known him,” said Phil, “and he’s only just showing me his train set?”  At one point, while I was cooking, Weeza came to ask me for some methylated spirits.  I went straight to the cupboard under the back stairs and fetched it, which impressed everyone mightily with its unexpectedness.  This is what the Sage had found –

And here it is in action –

Six dishwasherfuls later…

That has all gone well.  As I said yesterday, the new dining room is a complete success and it ties the house together – rather than it being a purposeless room at the end of the house, it now is a lovely room which suits its use very well.  In fact, everyone spent the morning in there (except me, I was in the kitchen) and didn’t want to leave.  The children spent their time in the sitting (ex-dining) room and upstairs in their ‘den’.

I seem to have prepared a lot of food.  After last night’s meal, I cooked sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and a lot of toast for breakfast today, and then cooked pot-roast shoulder of lamb Provençal with pommes boulangère, carrots and courgettes for lunch.  I was nearly undone with the potatoes.  Stupidly, I forgot that tinfoil seems to completely exclude all heat in the Aga and left it on top of the dish, with the result that it barely warmed up after half an hour.  The dish was too big for the microwave, so I hastily split the quantity in two and gave each a ten-minute blast, then a couple of minutes under the grill and lunch was only ten minutes late (this so goes against the grain, I tend to produce a meal at the minute I say I will).  We had eaten all the eggs, so I was slightly stuck for a pudding until it occurred to me that I had all the ingredients for trifle (yes, bought sponge, you got a problem, darlings?) and that was quick and easy.

To fill the ten minute delay, I hastily got out champagne from the fridge and I don’t think anyone minded…

After lunch, the family looked at some of the things I’ve fetched out that had belonged to my mother.  Several items have either been borne away happily or else left with us for safekeeping, to be fetched at another time.  Other things will be sold or given away.  So a start has been made, at any rate.

Z cooks Christmas dinner

It’s been brilliant.  I cooked the roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and so on that I would have cooked for Christmas if we’d all been together then and we’ve had a very entertaining evening.  Everyone loves the new dining room, and it’s great to have so much space.  It’s a big room, 24 feet by 18, so the 8 foot-something table looks quite small in there.  Another table is added to make it long enough for all of us to eat at, and there’s still plenty of room.  It’s really warm as a bonus.

Afterwards, Al and Dilly produced a pack of indoor fireworks.  I was thrilled!  We used to love them when Weeza and Al were little, they were hilarious, especially the one that expanded like a snake across the table, giving off noxious sulphurous fumes.  They still have that one, but overall they don’t seem quite as smelly and smoky as we remember – although members of the family who left the room for one reason or another during the display didn’t return.  In the end, it was just Al, Dilly, Wink, me and the children who stayed, loving every minute until the end.  Everyone else said that it was too smelly and smoky.  Hah!  They don’t know what’s good.  I’ve requested some for my birthday celebrations.

Al and co live next door so they went home, of course, but everyone else is staying over, so that’s brilliant too.  No rush home to put children to bed, everyone can have as much as they want to drink – not that it’s been much, actually.  We all seem to have been quite abstemious.  We ate early because of the children, so no pre-dinner drinks.  And I got a big enough joint of meat for Sunday lunch for everyone, in case they could stay, so it seems that we’ll do it all again tomorrow.  Excellent.  Nothing I like better than cooking for lots of people.

Z is upbeat

Today has gone well.  I arrived in Bury St Edmunds in good time, found the car park without difficulty, having finally managed to secure a mental map of the area (which is not the part of Bury that I usually go to) and parked.  Last time I had a meeting there, I got out of the car to get the ticket, then realised I’d lost my bearings and had no idea of the direction to walk to the building I was aiming at.  I walked a few yards and the heavens opened.  I had to accost a woman (who, unlike me, had an umbrella) and ask, and arrived at my meeting a few minutes late and soaking wet.  They had started without me, so I had to begin taking notes at once, dripping messily into my notebook.

Anyway, I sensibly (have you ever noticed how sensible I am?  Yeah, thought so) looked about to get my bearings before I left, and noted the distinctive colour of the building, so was able to find my way back today.

I hadn’t been home long before Wink arrived, so all is well there too.  The two flies in the cheerful ointment are that my laser printer has gone on the blink (it’s still under guarantee, if I can’t resurrect it) and that the cordless phones have unaccountably stopped working.  I used one at noon before I left, and we received an answerphone message since, but there is no ringing or dial tone and nothing happens when you pick up.  There is one corded phone which works, so I’m not fussing for now.

Actually, it would be a long time before I missed the landline.  It always rings when the Sage and I are talking about something that matters, he can’t resist rushing to answer it and it completely interrupts our train of thought.  I’d give it up if not for the Sage, honestly.

Further good news is that I checked app downloads a few minutes ago and there are two new levels out in iAssociate 2.  Jolly good.  I shall enjoy them.

Z is cheerful

Lovely music lesson today, I had chats with several of the children who are quite interested, in a bemused sort of way, about me going in to help as a volunteer.  And then, waiting to see the Head after school, a girl whom I’d got on with well last year came past and stopped for a chat.  I do enjoy going in to the school regularly, it makes all the difference when I start to get to know individuals, both staff and students.

Most of the furniture has been moved about now and we’ll see how it works out.  Of course, we may not like it and change it all back after a while.  I don’t mind, I love moving furniture.  My mother’s furniture stayed in one place throughout my childhood – well, afterwards too, in both of her next two houses.  Once she’d decided where something was going, there it stayed.  I like to ring the changes, which is something I’ve got in common with Dilly.

Wink phoned this morning to say that various things had cropped up and so she’s coming up tomorrow instead of today.  I was upstairs changing beds at the time and didn’t hear the phone so rang back.  Later, changing our bedclothes, I got the reminder on my phone that it was time for Meals on Wheels – just as well, I’d have forgotten (mind you, of course, that’s why I set an alert) and hurried out.  It wasn’t until about 6.30 this evening that I remembered that I hadn’t remade the bed.  I’m so glad I did remember then, mind you, not the most fun job to have to do that when you’re rather hoping to get straight in the bed.

I’ve got a lot done today, but it doesn’t really feel as though I’ve made much progress.  I could do with another day before the weekend.  There is one, of course, but I’ve got to leave at noon for a meeting in Bury St Edmunds and I’ll have to get ready for that first, which will take at least an hour.  I haven’t had time to read the newspapers all week.  Still, I daresay they’d only depress or annoy me.  Maybe it’s the absence of ‘news’ that is making me feel so cheerful.

Z does her looking back and forwards thing

I always feel a little thoughtful in the last week in January, because it contains both the anniversary of my father’s death and of my stepfather.  I don’t do anything to mark or commemorate this, because I don’t believe in marking bad events.  Anniversaries should be happy ones.  One cannot help remembering, but that’s all.

I am conscious, however, that my age is approaching that of my father when he died.  I remember working out when I’d be thirty-three and a third (conveniently, it was a leap year), when I’d been married half, and two thirds of my life and so on.  Another fourteen months to go before I outlive him in terms of our ages.

Rather more cheerfully, this week will mark the sixth birthday of the Razorblade.  Not today, I have never commemorated its blogday and I won’t be starting that either.  Although if it’s still around in four years time, I might bake it a cake.

My sister Wink is arriving tomorrow afternoon for the weekend.  The whole family is coming here for supper on Saturday, so we’ll need a usable dining table by then (the dining room is chaotic and I’m keeping out of the way) as there will be fourteen of us, including the babies.  It’ll be brilliant.  Weeza and co are staying overnight, so all the bedrooms will be full.  I love that.  I always have.  Nothing better than a full house of people I love.

Update  I was just publishing this when Jamie, who dropped in to help move the heavy furniture, came in to ask me to come.  I was apparently needed to direct operations.

The Sage has cut chunks out of the door frame.  He’s so resourceful.  I’m lost in admiration.  Don’t worry, it’s not ancient oak, it only dates (in situ, that is) from 1928.  And now it’s part of the house’s history.

Z runs late

Just realised how late it is.  Whoops.

I spent all day in school and had a lot to catch up on this evening.  Admittedly, however, I’ve spent quite some time reading the papers when it probably would have been better to get the typing done first.  All finished now though, except one document stubbornly refuses to save when I set it out as I want it – I had to combine several reports and just wanted to put a page break between each.  Won’t let me.  Or rather, it lets me, just then won’t save it.  I’ve got to email the document out, but I’ll work it out tomorrow, I’ve had enough of it for tonight.  I had a similar problem a while ago, can’t remember how I resolved it.  I suspect I had to retype the document rather than copy and paste it.

Trying to move our dining table from one room into another, it’s been discovered that it’s 1/4 inch too high (tipped on its side, that is, it’s certainly too wide).  The Sage is blithely going to saw a bit off.  I’m going to make sure I’m out of the house when that happens, the whole business is too nerve-wracking for me.  Having said that, I’m sure he’ll be successful, he usually gets away with things.  The other day, mind you, a table wouldn’t go through the same passageway.  “It came in here all right, how about taking the door off?”  The door was lifted off, but it still wouldn’t fit.  “How about the window?”  The Sage was perfectly sure it wouldn’t work, but every other method had failed so he tried in the end.  And that was it.  I tried and failed not to look smug.

Not sure if we’ll like the dining table in there, mind you, it’ll be a bit embarrassing if I have to ask them to take it out again.  I’d forgotten how low the ceiling is in that room and it’s rather dark.  Still, I daresay it’ll be fine.  At least the room is cleared now.  Well, nearly.

A Z and her marbles are soon parted

There was the sweetest little girl in church yesterday.  Her name is Toni, she’s ten months old and a clever little thing.  She was crawling around in a good humour, making those sounds that just precede speech, very interested in her surroundings, could stand confidently and walk with one hand held.  Her parents were lovely too, kept a close eye on her without interfering unless they thought she might be bothering someone or getting too near to something she shouldn’t touch.

Weeza and Phil spent the weekend in London with the children.  They stayed in a friend’s flat – the friend actually moved out to give them space! and had a get-together with friends in the evening and went to the Natural History Museum during the day.  Zerlina was very impressed although she didn’t believe the dinosaur skeletons were real.  Quite understandable.  They took her shopping for clothes and she fell in love with a really gaudy Barbie-pink bag.  Not Weeza’s style at all, but they relented because she was so besotted and Zerlina is extremely happy.

I seem to have slightly screwed up.  I received the draft minutes from the last governors’ meeting when on the way to London back in November.  I thought I’d been through them, made any necessary changes and sent them back … it seems not.  The deadline is tomorrow.  The job has been done in some haste – fortunately, the only sections where there were queries were bits I remember – it had been an extremely long day, one meeting after another from first thing until after 6, ending with a pupil exclusion, and I felt quite ill by the end.  So details were a touch hazy in my memory, I must admit.

Now to think about the agenda for the next meeting.  I’m not with it at all tonight.  If I was confident of my usual three wakeful hours in the night, I’d leave it until the early hours, but I can’t bank on that and I’ve got to be out of the house by 8.30 tomorrow morning so can’t leave it until I’d normally get up.  My brain seems to be a bit too relaxed for a Monday.

Z prepares to learn her lesson

I’ve sort of bitten the bullet.  I’ve emailed the school music teacher to ask her to let me have the name of a local clarinet tutor.  I don’t know anyone, if anyone does she will.  It rather commits me.  I’m not quite wholehearted about it, admittedly, and feel quite anxious.  I feel as though I’m setting myself up, if not actually for failure, for something less than success.

However, I know what I’m like.  I’ll turn the feelings around.  Flight will turn into fight, as it were.  I may be indecisive (or I may not be, who knows?) but once I’ve made my mind up, I go for it.  Well, I hope I will, anyway.

This week, it\s Governors’ Link week.  Most of us – the ones who are able to get into school during the school day –  are linked to at least one department and periodically go to meet the staff, see what’s going on and, at least once during the year (could be any number of times) go into lessons to see for ourselves.  Talking to the pupils is a big part of that, it’s no good sitting back and just being theoretical about things.

If your own family has long grown up, it can be quite daunting going in and talking to teenagers, hitting the right tone, but once you’re used to it, it’s great.  Since I’ve been involved with the school for years and going weekly to music lessons there for about four years, I’m reasonably confident about it and I’m looking forward to it.  I’m the Special Needs governor, but I’m not going into classes concerning that this time round, I’ll do that another time.  I’ve got meetings instead.  I am, however, going into several music lessons and that’ll be brilliant.  I learn a lot in those lessons and I love to see the enthusiasm and enjoyment  shown by the students.

Having said that, I haven’t got any lessons tomorrow, now I come to think about it.  I suppose I should have written this post tomorrow.  Um.  A day in hand.  What shall I write about tomorrow, I wonder?  Any ideas?