Getting ready for live-in carer

I was over at Green Mount Friday 20th to Tuesday 24th making a start on things for a live-in carer for Mum. The Friday and Monday both had show-rounds and interviews with potential carers. Monday have furniture movers … the sofa-bed from the spare room (soon to be carer’s room) went down to the dining room easily enough once the mattress was off and the action strapped shut, and was reassembled all in ten minutes. moving Jane’s former bed base to the spare room took nearly 45 minutes, as it had to be completely dismantled. an old mattress to the garage, and the kit-form of Jane’s new bed base to her bedroom completed their work.

Other bits and bobs included taking the TV off the wall bracket and fitting feet to it; finding a new home for the Christmas decorations (my back eves cupboard), clearing unwanted boxes etc from the wardrobe cupboard ready for the carer, and so on.

Sim was over there from Thurs 26th, moving everything out of the drawers in the bureau and tallboy to crates. I went over on Saturday to give him a hand carrying these down to the dining room – they will definitely need sorted at some point, but in the meantime are under the hospital bed there! Also carried down the two crates of Mum’s financial filing, left on the dining table so that Jane can easily access them – placed over the table legs, as I was worried about bowing the table if they were put in the middle!

The final job was levelling the bed base for the carer. The floor in that room slopes outrageously! The two legs at the head end rested on the floor, with the other legs requiring amounts of packing ranging from 37mm to nearly 70mm. Much measuring of thicknesses of bits of wood, sawing from Simon, and application of elderly wood glue eventually did the job OK.

Sim then took a video of the room in its “fit for carer” state … I kinda wish we’d taken one before any work happened! It was great to see this room looking good again (it’s the nicest room in the house), though it still needs a deep clean.

RIP “the garden cat”

I haven’t seen the ginger “garden cat” for some ten days now. They’ve been very poorly of late, coming in to sleep under the round table for the past six or seven weeks, and losing weight rapidly. I had a fortnight or so of having to put a litter-tray behind my chair, as they weren’t managing to make it outside.

On Monday (11th September) they’d fallen asleep in the litter tray, on top of a pile of poo, and barely had the strength to go out through the French window when I opened it. I haven’t seen them since … a sad end to an animal that had clearly had a rough life, and was terrified of humans (though, four years after I started feeding it regularly, it would allow me within a couple of feet at feeding time). I shall choose to remember it, as a feral creature that came to trust me, and share warm spots in my garden and house.

Canal trip

posted retrospectively – I was waiting for Phoebe’s pics!

Friday 15th September
Phoebe and Will, in Sim’s car, had arranged to meet me at Cosford Station just outside Wolverhampton at 12.30. My train got in just after 12. Shortly after 1300, I got a text to say that there was a horrendous hold-up on the motorway, and they’d be an hour and three-quarters late. Oh, well.

Cosford Station is rural (on the very outskirts of the town), between RAF Cosford / the RAF museum and the barracks / accommodation serving it. There’s a small hut containing a cafe, but really nothing else. Still, I was able to have a bacon sandwich before the cafe closed at 4. In the end, I had about a three-hour wait, relived occasionally by the odd handsome flyboy or squaddie passing.

Will volunteered to ring Blackwater Marina and let them know we were running very late, with an ETA of 1645 – and we did arrive almost exactly then. Very nice and helpful guy checked us in and did the handover, training Will on the steering etc, and doing a short run up the canal with us before jumping off. As we were so late, we didn’t make it to our planned overnight mooring spot. Theo caught a cab to a bridge in the middle of nowhere … Bridge 67, which turned out to be the wrong bridge. Fortunately, only a hundred yards from the right bridge, Bridge 66, so with some playing with pins on Google Maps by him and Phoebe we all managed to meet up. The bridges are either side of the branch-off to the currently-being-restored Montgomery Canal.  Food was pizza (traditional for me on a boating trip, though Phoebe wasn’t aware of that when buying the food), so quick and filling and much appreciated.

Saturday 16th September
Sadly, the recently restored bank area proved not to be solid! We were all awake, but not yet into “boating mode”, when a boat came past at full speed – six or even seven mph, I think. The massive wash pulled the mooring pins out and the boat swung round to nearly side-on. Fortunately, I was able to start the engine after only five seconds warm-up, and get us back facing sensibly … Will took over after a couple of minutes while I face down a massive adrenaline rush!

A good day’s boating. We successfully did the only two locks on the route (New Morton Lock 1 and Lock 2), with Will on the tiller, Phoebe and Theo on gates and paddles, and me “advising”! There were a couple of bank stops to look for a shop – the first at a tiny shop-free (but very pleasant) village. The second was at Bridge 16, where the dual-carriageway A5 crosses overhead. A short and very noisy stroll took us to a Marks and Spencer in a service area, where chicken, more munchies and alcohol were bought.

Towards the end of the day was the glorious Chirk Aqueduct, followed very shortly by the Chirk Tunnel We got lucky, and there were no oncoming boats, so Will took us pretty much straight through. A short distance further we turned round in the Black Park Winding Hole, with Will managing it pretty well. We went a couple of hundred yards back towards the tunnel before mooring for the night.

Light was starting to fade, but we managed twenty minutes or so of fishing. At least, I did, catching three roach up to about 3/4 pound – Phoebe and Will were less successful, and by the time they’d recovered from the dreaded “tackle in tree” in was getting too dark. Supper, courtesy of Phoebe, was a mild chicken curry and rice. We stayed up until after 1am: a most convivial group and an all-round excellent evening.

Sunday 17th
I was a bit concerned about getting us back to the Marina on time – we needed to be in by 0900h on Monday so had to moor for the night fairly close to it, and had virtually the whole distance we’d covered on Friday and Saturday to do. Locks can get busy … so I asked for a fairly early start. Theo took us back through the tunnel and over the aqueduct before handing over to Phoebe for her first time at the helm. Probably not the best place, in retrospect: the canal is narrow and winds tightly round the edge of assorted hills as it leaves the aqueduct. As we rounded one tight bend, there was a sign for collapsed banks, with a couple of boats moored opposite and a boat approaching. Grounding duly ensued!

Despite good efforts by Theo, Will and Phoebe, the boat didn’t move much. Eventually, they ended up at the bow, pushing with the pole, and I took the tiller. Fortunately, the grounding was (as usual) close to the stern, effectively under the lowest point which is the engine. By putting the tiller on a hard lock, and revving the engine to max, I was able to pile up enough water against the bank to raise that part of the boat the necessary couple of inches to loosen it, and with others stopping the nose from grounding on the soft bank we managed to get free. I did continue on the tiller for a few hundred yards, but found it too much stress on my back – you have to stand forward of the tiller in case it hits an obstacle and swings round violently.

Coming back down the locks was in our favour. We did have to wait for one boat ahead of us to go down, then one to come up, before we went through. Fortunately we were going in the least popular direction – there was a queue of six boats waiting to come up.

Another stop at Bridge 16 – this time, I didn’t accompany the others up to M&S as my back was beginning to feel rather fragile. We continued on to just past Bridge 60 (the numbers change where the Montgomery Canal joins!) and moored up about 1630. Although it had been occasionally spitting with rain during the day, it now started raining continuously, though not heavily, so fishing wasn’t really on. A quiet late afternoon, followed by a rich and delicious carbonara from Theo, and another pleasant evening of sitting chatting over the table until gone midnight. I wasn’t sure quite how long it would take, and the directions for handing the boat back were to moor up outside the marina between 0830 and 0900 and let them know and they would take the boat back inside so we could unload. Apparently, hirers are not insured to drive boats inside the marina.

So, I got up just after 0700 to make a start on cleaning the boat and packing, and was joined by the others over the next 20 minutes. We set off at the crack of 0800 – boats are not allowed to run their engines between 8pm and 8am. The boat made fast progress, but the packing and cleaning slightly less so, so we moored for a temporary ten minutes to get everything sorted. As I’d feared, the area round the marina was pretty much moored up, but we pulled in slightly on the bend rather close to Bridge 59 (White Bridge) about 0845 and Phoebe went off to alert the marina team. We didn’t bother mooring properly, simply stood on the bank and held the ropes.

Ten minutes later we were moored up inside the marina, with a light drizzle again. A brief stop in the office, where I was refunded 17.79 from the fuel deposit as we’d only used 24 litres, and quickly into the car. The rain got quite heavy during our short drive to Gobowen Station, where we dropped Theo in rather a downpour, but largely cleared up after half an hour.  After a short supermarket stop I was dropped at Cosford, here I had time for a bacon butty and  coffee before catching the train. A quick change at Smethwick Galton Bridge, and I was home by about 1320. Chelsea-cat was delighted to see me!


Thirty years ago, I was busy moving to Scotland. Clutching my first – analogue! – mobile phone (courtesy of Mike Falconer), and entirely unsure of what I was letting myself in for! The first three months of finishing building Rothes Halls were a nightmare – seven or eight months of building work to be done in three, with a firmly-committed opening date: we ended up working round-the-clock (literally 24/7, in three shifts), and even then could only open on a temporary licence, and had to hand the building back to the contractors to finish off. But after that things settled down … I stayed for over seven years!

Unexpected expenditure

Mum is due to come out of hospital today, and Simon has extended his stay so he’ll be there overnight. Sadly, it turns out that the rail strike, which I knew about for today, has been extended to tomorrow, and there are no trains either direct or via London or via Birmingham. However, I do need to be there for Mum for Saturday and Sunday nights – apart from the usual “not wanting to be alone overnight”, she often gets a bit more confused and a bit deafer when she’s had the stress of the move back from hospital.

So, after discussion with Sim, I’ve booked a cab. Well, actually, I suppose it’s technically a Private Hire car, as it’s fixed price rather than on the meter! With a tip, it’s going to be £150 … and over the past fortnight I’ve spent roughly the same on rail fares, cab back from Oxford to Mum’s house at 2am, and suchlike. Of course it’s do-able, though it has meant dipping into my savings account, I’m kinda hoping that Mum will feel able to make a substantial contribution … in a fortnight’s time I have the canal trip planned, which is also going to cost a bit for food and travel (though the boat hire has already been paid).

I’m hoping that the ASD assessment can be paid in instalments (their website suggests normally four x monthly payments), and that the first one won’t be for three weeks or so, when the next batch of State Pension has come in!

Green machine

A year ago today, the Brompton arrived. Very second-hand, and retrofitted with an electric motor (Nano control, Bosch motor), it took a fair bit of getting used to – small wheels mean twitchy steering, and battery weight in front of the front axle means avoiding using the front brake! But it’s been great to be able to stick it on the train so I can cycle the three miles from the station to Mum’s house. That includes an emergency visit last week, catching the train that gets in just before midnight, the day before she went into hospital. And revisiting some of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds that I used to cycle round 50 and 60 years ago has been fantastic.

Odd bits of maintenance: the nylon hook that locks it closed has needed replacing (twice), and I discovered last week that the back light had stopped working (a replacement arrives today – the evenings are getting dark). It’s not a comfortable ride, even though I’ve fitted a soft saddle. But it’s great for short trips of a few miles, and folds small enough to take on trains, and to store in my front room, and I think it was worth the price (half that of a new electric Brompton, but still considerable!).

Mum had an “episode”

Not one of the better days!

I rang for an ambulance for Mum at 4pm, very helpful evening carer was here 6.20 to 7.20 (only booked for 1/2 hour!) paramedics arrived about 7.30, actual ambulance about 10 pm, arrived at hospital around 11pm, Mum settled and sleeping by 2am, cab back to Mum’s house by 2.45am. Sleepy and starving – as soon as a batch of oven fries are done I’m grabbing much-needed sleep for four hours or so …

And the update I sent to my siblings later that morning:
Having got to sleep around 4am, I was woken by a call from a doctor around 7.15. Oh well, good that they rang.
A CT scan shows no obvious new brain damage or features, which is good. UTI suspected, and a urine sample is being cultured to determine if / what kind of infection is present. Mum will be admitted to the CMU at some point today. All pretty much as expected.
My current plan is to try to sort out stuff in Mum’s bedroom, with some assistance from the morning & lunchtime carers if possible. I will try to get to the JR this afternoon, and then go back to Worcester. Depending on how Mum is, I may or may not make the trip from Worcester to the JR tomorrow – rail replacement bus on part of the route, so I’m not terribly keen, but if she’s starting to be rational again by then a visit would probably be good. Monday, if needed, would have to be late afternoon visit.
There’s a lot of laundry, as when Julie and I moved her onto clean towels/bedding yesterday evening, those got soaked as well. Mum had also kicked everything off the new hospital-style table, and knocked everything off her bed and some things off the dressing table – a lot of her piles of paperwork etc are sodden, so I guess I’ll have to try to work out what’s essential stuff and what can be chucked.
Mum’s actual duvet is pretty sodden. It’s too big for the washing machine, so will need either a commercial launderette or a dry clean (or replaced). I suggest that I use the one from the spare room cupboard to make her bed up in the meantime, if we can get the bed into a fit state today to be made.
Do ring if there’s anything I’ve missed.

Kings Head theatre

So, the Kings Head is to move upmarket.(

As always, I have mixed feelings about this. Yes: great that Kings Head seems set for the future, but also regret that the extreme intimacy will be lost. I have enormous nostalgic affection for a number of the old fringe venues – the Bush, Kings Head, Old Red Lion, and of course the old portakabin Hampstead Theatre.

My strongest memory of the Kings Head is of being sent to see “A Slice of Saturday Night” there, when my then boss told me I was moving it to the Arts Theatre in the West End … in less than a fortnight’s time, needing an entirely new set and staging. After a successful run there was talk of a national tour. At a planning session at the Kings Head I was offered the job of Production Manager: it remains the only job I’ve ever turned down, because I did not get on with the “star” … a certain Gary Glitter.

unexpected memories

Ferreting about in the loft in search of one of my old briefcases or shoulder-bags (to take papers to tomorrow’s WGP AGM), I came across a box of bits that I certainly haven’t opened since I moved to Worcester a dozen years ago. Hmmm….

This was my University of London Union Membership Card, the year I was Vice-President (Services). 1980-81, so I was 25 when the photo was taken.