Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Friday, 11 April 2014
I went to see my dad today and on the train home I felt really happy and grateful that he's settled into his 'luxury retirement home' and seems to be enjoying life. So I decided to pop into my local church and say a quick thank you prayer. Sitting in the quiet, very simple building, I started thinking of all the people and events that brought me to this moment of gratitude and realised that where I am today - a successful woman running my own company with wonderful friends and family and a loving husband - is down to my work experience job on the Big Breakfast in June 1993. If I hadn't become addicted to The Big Breakfast when it launched in 1992 - and resigned from my PR job aged 29 to do work experience on the show - my life would look very different. And I might not have had the chance to have lunch with my father, sit in a church and say a big thank you to all the people and events that got me to where I am today including supportive friends, demanding bosses, a TV job that was so exhausting I decided to get a Life Coach to help me redress the work/life balance (which turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done) and a dating site (which gave me a visual idea of what I wanted my online business to look like and introduced me to my husband.) The list could go further back, but The Big Breakfast was definitely my turning point.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
When mum died last year we soon discovered that there aren't many lifestyle choices available for widowed people in their 80s who want to be independent - but who need company and a bit of TLC. It seems you either a) live on your own or b) move into a care home (which has lots of negative connotations). Dad didn't want to live on his own. Not because he couldn't cook for himself and take care of himself. But because he felt lonely and vulnerable. So we started looking at the alternatives - sheltered housing, McCarthy & Stone assisted living flats, retirement flats, senior living flats, etc - and soon discounted all of them. The rooms in the sheltered housing places we looked at felt like bedsits. The McCarthy & Stone assisted living flats ticked quite a few boxes, but not enough. And the retirement flats had no sense of community. So, reluctantly, we started looking at care homes - even though dad didn't need full time care. Just a helping hand and a friendly smile. Some care homes had amazing websites but the reality was quite different. Depressingly different at times. The smell of disinfectant and the vacant look of the residents sitting in the lounge of one of the care homes I looked at with dad made me want to cry. Other care homes offered very pretty self contained flats or bungalows for the more "abled elderly" - plus access to a main house for meals and company. But they were in the middle of nowhere. That's not quite true. They were within driving distance of small, charming, West Sussex towns, but not within walking distance of anything. So if dad got bored of looking at the South Downs - and didn't feel like driving - there would be nothing else for him to do. No corner shop to walk to. No cafes to pop into for a quick cappuccino. No churches nearby for a Sunday service. As he himself said: you're in God's waiting room. Our search went on for months until we finally came across a 'luxury, residential, care home' in Worthing that offers dad everything he needs: a large, attractive room within a beautiful house that's within walk distance of shops, cafes, a barber and the sea - plus all his meals, activities and company It's not cheap but it's worth it. Dad's worth it. The only downside is that it has the words 'care home' in its description. And dad - who's a very proud man - doesn't like the negative connotations attached to them. So if you're reading this and you happen to be a property developer - or know one - please think about building places for people like dad. Men and women in their 80s (and there are more and more of them these days) who still have a lot of life left in them. The YUPPIEs who have grown up and become YAHIEPs: young at heart, independent, elderly people. In other words, men and women who want to be part of society. Not tucked away from it all in acres of beautiful, landscaped gardens in the middle of nowhere. And if you can avoid the words 'care home' in the description, that would be a bonus too.
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Mum died last July, aged 82, and I really, really miss her. She'd had 5 breast cancer lumpectomies over the past 20 years and had always refused chemo and radiotherapy. She was lucky that her cancer wasn't aggressive. But it got her in the end. Unbeknown to us, it metastasized and went to her spine. We found out last February and hoped she'd beat it again. So much so that I didn't change my September wedding date. But she complained of a sore rib after a weekend with one of my sisters, went into hospital and died two weeks later. It was completely unexpected. One day I was told mum could leave the hospital at the end of the week. A few days later I was told she wouldn't survive the weekend. My dad, sisters and I were with her until the end. We set up a rota, camped out in her hospital room, talked of where we'd lived in Brazil and sang her favourite Abba songs when she woke up in the middle of the night. We didn't discuss what was happening (to be honest I don't know if mum knew what was happening) and kept praying she'd prove the doctors wrong and get through it. So when my sister texted us first thing on Monday morning to say that mum's blood pressure and oxygen levels were up and that she'd managed to eat something, we thought she had. But at lunchtime, as I was getting ready to go to Worthing to take over the rota, she called to tell me that mum had slipped away whilst holding her and my father's hands. I've never loss anyone really close to me before (I'd never even been to a funeral before mum's) so I was totally unprepared for the pain, the grief, the sadness, the confusion and the overwhelming and all-consuming sense of loss. And still am, to be honest. One minute life's ok. The next I hear, read or see something that makes me think of mum and the tears are back. Like now. I'd give anything to be able to buy mum an overpriced bunch of flowers on Mother's Day or send her a montage of silly photos on a Moonpig Mother's Day card. But all I can do on Sunday is remember mum, be the daughter she'd like me to be (happy above everything else) and take care of dad.
Monday, 17 March 2014
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Although lots has been said and written about the awful weather we've had this year, we've actually been out on the boat more times this year than last year. And other than a very rainy Sunday in September - see below - the weather's been fine. This weekend - 15/16 October - was exceptional, as you can see from the photo I took of the stretch between Henley & Hambleden. Gloriously warm days; cool, crisp evenings; a delicious dinner at The Little Angel in Henley and a fantastic breakdast at the Chocolate Theatre Cafe. What's not to love?
... isn't much fun at all. This was a weekend in September - just before the glorious 'Indian Summer'. As it's my job to secure the ropes when we go through the locks, I got pretty wet. But luckily it was a Sunday and we were on our way home. And if I remember correctly, Saturday wasn't too bad. If it had been, we wouldn't have gone out on the boat. There's just no point.