Snow

Iceland2 2018Long time bucket list item rose to the top recently, when I noticed that Icelandair were now flying from Belfast, from the little airport 15 minutes from my home. Local travel agent had a package for February, and I was just about to book it when I mentioned it to my daughter in London. “We want to go too!!” meaning daughter and grand-daughter, named appropriately Aurora. But I’m flying from Belfast! Package abandoned, and much scurrying about the internet as we tried to source appropriate flights. A friend says she knows someone who specialises in packages to Iceland. Daughter considers it rather expensive., and persuades me to do separate flights, and she would get a place to sleep using the Internet. Iceland specialist offers to arrange trips while we are there to suit my ageing inability to walk long distances or climb steep steps into coaches, and daughter agrees. I pay for all flights and the Iceland package, leaving food shopping and eating out to daughter, as these happen. As February approaches, husband in care with dementia is admitted to hospital with pneumonia. Cancellation considered, but he conveniently passes away 4-5 weeks before the trip. I’m sad, but relieved his Alzheimers journey is over. All good considering, funeral over, visitors away, legal paperwork begun, packing commenced, and Iceland becomes my post traumatic respite holiday. Paul would have said, ‘ You go!!’ He used to call ME Bossy Boots’! Thank you, Paul!

Our flights would arrive about an hour apart, and our driver Olav would collect us both, and drive to the Blue Lagoon for our first Icelandic experience before dropping us off at the ‘Ice Apartments’. On the morning we leave, daughter texts her flight is cancelled. Frantic attempts to re-book with another airport produce a result. I take a taxi to my local airport, ETD 10am, and as we approach the airport my taxi driver says my plane is delayed. Checking in, it will leave at 18:00, snow is starting to fall as I settle in for the long wait, relax buying duty free wine, cosmetics, and availing of a free facial. By 19:30 I’m in the air, and 3 hours later arrive in a severe blizzard. Blue Lagoon now out of the question, daughter texts to say they can’t even get into the accommodation, so I book a night in another guest house. Driver negotiates expertly through increasing snowfall, we find accommodation 2 and settle for the night. Next day, driver collects us complete with all bags and my walker and we arrive at accommodation 1, negotiating badly parked cars blocking our entrance way. Daughter to discuss previous night’s access problem with owner of apartment next day, and we settle ourselves, exhausted and stressed in the very welcome and cosy beds.

Next morning we head off with driver on the arranged plan to the Golden Circle, on snowy roads, visiting the Thingvellir National Park, and stopping at the Secret Lagoon for a swim in the geothermal heated water. Amazingly we encounter many cars that have accidentally driven off the edge of the road, probably tourists in hire cars, according to Olav. Lunch at the Farmers Cafe overlooking the cows munching at their hay, we enjoy an excellent Icelandic lamb dinner, and head off in the deepening snow for a photo shot at the Gulfoss waterfall and see a geyser erupt at Strokkur.

Plan for next day is to talk to accommodation admin in nearby shop, proving difficult to locate, and we explore the local shops, have coffee, see the tall church and enjoy an Icelandic pancake day treat for lunch. Apartment admin eventually located, and it appears I have not forwarded to daughter an email explaining access to apartment, which arrived day after husband’s death and thus out of my radar. Daughter hurls abuse at my poor email review management as she is embarrassed, but negotiates 50% reduction on first night. This has not appeared in my bank, but I put it down to bereavement expenses.

Our last full day is to drive to the south coast. Olav has brought his 8 year old daughter as company for Aurora. It is snowing hard, and he suggests a city tour seeing interesting sites, walking on the frozen Pond, a visit to the Whale museum, and lunch in the Perlan restaurant overlooking the city. Still snowing hard and roads to the south have been closed. Daughter suggests snowboarding for the kids, and Olav helpfully finds a suitable hill, having thoughtfully packed boards in the boot of his 4-wheel drive. We join the queue of cars waiting to drive south, it’s getting dark, but we eventually make it, driving again through snow clad high mountains, and find a delightful restaurant where we enjoy welcome Icelandic fare. And the day ends on a high note, as we stop at a place Olav knows is good for watching the Northern Lights. We are not disappointed, and Olav parks in a dark spot for us to enjoy the amazing treat we had come to see, the Aurora Borealis.

Our journey home was thankfully less eventful, and we can look back on a holiday never to be forgotten.

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Jeannie’s Happiest Day

That morning, her mother didn’t know her. She had met him over a year ago, and knew he was the answer to her dreams. But to her mother, it was just a flight of fancy. In her mind, she had conjured up ideas of unwanted pregnancy, emotional break-ups, even losing her daughter. ‘You should wait a year’ she said, and to keep her happy they complied. It was as if she had never envisaged her only daughter marrying and leaving home. Her mind was tortured with the thought of life not following the path she expected it to. Someone in the family died: she fell apart. Someone left the confines of her family and went abroad, even made a success of their life: she was in tears.

So they had a long engagement, at least it seemed long to them. Her mother’s sister advised them to elope, but no, they wanted a proper wedding. And Aunt Myra was probably right! The ‘At Home’ evenings, with displays of wedding presents, tray bakes and best frocks became a threat: was the room well-enough decorated; was there enough food; why did Mrs B not attend? They complied as best they could, but preparations continued. The tension at home rose, but they were oblivious. She spent more time with her fiancé than with her own family. Nothing would hinder the process of marrying the man of her dreams.

The day arrived. Aunts and friends helped her prepare for the ceremony. Her mother was in tears, unable to leave her bed. An aunt tried to help her get into the outfit she had chosen. Eventually her daughter was asked to help her to get out of bed. But no, the demons had taken over. Jeannie was strangely calm, as it became apparent that her mother would not be present at the church.

Jeannie knew her father must have been distressed by the turn of events, but he alone was there for her, as the limousine arrived at the front door. It was a windy April day, and they set off to the church, leaving an aunt to stay with Mum until the doctor arrived, and later accompanied her to a local hospital.

It was all strangely remote to Jeannie, as she walked up the aisle and met the man she knew would meet every desire she had. At the reception, she felt as if her face had frozen into a smile that would not go away. They  were on target, and the past was behind.

On the plane to London, Charles felt ill, and Jeannie dismissed it, thinking it was nerves. At the hotel, another disaster would befall them, but still Jeannie was happy, and felt she could cope with anything. Someone left a bath running above their room, and their matrimonial bliss was shattered by water pouring onto the bed. The only other room available was the manager’s penthouse suite. Settling into the unexpected grandeur, Jeannie was still happy, feeling nothing could spoil their bliss.

But no, Charles’s pain increased, a doctor was called, and for a huge sum diagnosed appendicitis. Off now to a London hospital by ambulance, but Jeannie had for some reason to take the tube, tears now running down her face while other passengers looked away.

Soho beatings and drug-induced states surrounded them as they waited for a doctor. “Sorry we don’t have double beds here!” was the comment when the doctor heard they were just married. Jeannie’s aunt turned up and took her for a meal, plying her with champagne ‘it is your wedding night’, she said!

Back home, the insurance money paid for furniture for their new flat, and yes, it was the happiest day of her life! But the future held more pain, as 13 years later Charles was diagnosed with leukaemia, and died following a bone marrow transplant. And her mother commented, ‘Why do all the best people have to die?’ ECT had extinguished all memory of the wedding.

 

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Karma for Tenx9

My husband of 5 years, Paul, was now sadly well into Alzheimers Disease taking over his life! Now that doesn’t mean I regret this marriage, but it has been a bit of a roller-coaster at times!! My first marriage was love at first sight and lasted just 14 years, as he also sadly succumbed to a fatal disease at 36. Paul was also the love you always would have dreamed of. We were indeed soul mates – music lovers, avid book-readers, poetry addicts, and also liked to travel.  At the end of each day, we often read to each other in bed, some of the books we had enjoyed, and poetry that spoke to our heart.

In the short time we had, we visited the Canary Islands, Canada, USA , Italy, Spain and Portugal, and the last holiday we had before his Alzheimers prevented us using airports, was a cruise to Norway and the Shetlands, which actually left right from Belfast! So off we went last August, to see and enjoy the most spectacular country I have ever been to! Paul had previously been to China, India, South America and the Galapagos Islands, so we were both full of anticipation.

With Alzheimers, there can be problems on board a ship, such as being convinced the cabin door you try to open with your pass card is indeed your cabin. It looks just like it, though the number is not quite the same. And fortunately, this meant it would not open the door! At the meal table, the waiter helpfully showed us the wine list, I hesitated, thinking is this the list of wines not included in the all-inclusive… so as I hesitated, he topped up my wine from the previous night’s bottle, and Paul’s too, and before long we were well tiddly!! Not so good going to bed when I have to make sure his bed stays dry. But overall the trip was a success.

Being on board a cruise ship is great, as there is little chance of getting lost, or at least, you know they must be somewhere on the ship! But day trips can be a hazard, so I had to be really alert at all times, getting on and off coaches. One man who was suspected might have had Alzheimers (but was actually just a bit deaf), got on the wrong coach and ended up in the wrong town, but managed to get a train and then a taxi back to the ship! So we stayed hand-in-hand most of the time. On one trip I sat down beside a lady who was travelling alone. We had exchanged a few words on the small boat taking us ashore, and she had really taken to Paul. On the coach he had decided to sit on the very front seat of the coach near the driver. So I took the seat behind, and chatted with this lady, asking, as you do, ‘And what do you do?’.  ‘I’m a writer’ she replied! ‘Oh, what do you write about?’ I asked. ‘Crime novels!!’ ‘Wow’, I thought, great choice of seat! And it turned out she has about 30 novels on Amazon, and not only that, although she sounded English, she lived in Kircubbin! With the cruise leaving from Belfast, it was mostly Irish and Northern Irish passengers. So we chatted about books and the sort of books we read, and book clubs we had joined. I talked about belonging to a book club called Bookcrossing.com, which has made an impact on my reading over the last few years. I’m a keen, though not very fast reader, and Bookcrossing has actually changed my reading habits in the last few years. So I shared with her the book I had just finished reading, and we agreed to meet after we came home. Free plug here for the author – her name is Jo Bannister! She brought me a copy of one of her books, the third in a series, called The Depths of Solitude, a Brodie Farrell mystery, and to cut this story short, I loved it, and went on to read more in the series.

So where does Paul and Karma fit into all this (apart from the Karma of sharing books? Karma meant we often discovered books we had both read, and had hoped to visit the places in the book, like Pompeii. And together we visited Italy and fulfilled that desire together!)

And soon after we came home from our cruise, Paul got to the stage where he needed more care, so after Christmas, social services found him a place in a care home. I would have preferred somewhere nearer home, but the only place available was in Portaferry. And that, dear reader, was just a bit further along the road from Kircubbin and Jo! So I broke my journey on many occasions to share tea and scones with my new-found writer friend. And Jo got to know us both, to the extent that Paul often asked for her, though for some strange, Alzheimers related reason, he always called her Anne!

For me, there is another sort of Karma in books: as well as really helping me start to organise my books and my reading, Bookcrossing has helped me find a new way to carry out ‘random acts of kindness’. I released one of my first books at the airport, and someone immediately ‘caught it’ as we say, and wrote on the website page for the book: ‘It made my day!’

As a child I practically lived in the library, which was then situated in my school: Rosetta Primary! Until it moved to a brand new building near the Ormeau Bridge, and for me the 2-mile walk was nothing, just to get another book! Later, when I had children, I didn’t read as much, too many distractions, so Bookcrossing arrived just when I needed it! And it gave me a new way to give karma in the form of sharing with total strangers wonderful books I had read and enjoyed.

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I have no problem with abortion.

I had 2 miscarriages (in hospital terminology it was called an ‘abortion’), one before my 3 children were born, and one between my first and second child. The first at a very early stage, which is very common with first pregnancies. I was not the slightest bit upset. It just meant I was able to conceive. The second was at 20 weeks, caused by the hospital thinking I had a cyst and deciding to do ‘examination under anaesthetic’, which snuffed out the little one’s life. I just felt sad as I had wanted my children to be close together age wise, but then OK, I’m a bit of a pragmatist. I never thought of the 2 miscarriages as people. Their lives never began. I am a registered nurse, and was present when anencephalic babies were born alive, and that was traumatic to say the least. They never survived. They could not survive. Nowadays it is possible to know before the birth what the situation would be, and that is kinder than seeing those mothers, distraught and needing counselling. I don’t approve of pregnancies ended because the couple are not committed to each other, but this is very common, and would not be a good outcome for either the child or the couple.

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Paris 2018

Depression is poking its finger at me as I lie in a strange bed in Paris, unable to sleep again after the first few hours. There is no radio, although if there was it would not be in English. There is no wifi either, I have used up all my phone data so I can’t get radio 4 on my phone or tablet, my one reliable way of getting to sleep, especially if its something boring. I play a few games off line but I’m bored if I’m not scoring. I’m considering how over the years I have consistently lost all the people I have ever loved. Except maybe Niall, who does try to help and rarely criticises. And the lovely grandchildren who are all just too far away to really get to know properly, too far away to influence, far away from the life I know and love, some of them more comfortable communicating in a language I don’t understand well enough. The Czech in-laws are kind, but communication is poor, and I don’t know how much Niall has explained to them about my health problems. Walking has become a major issue and it is an embarrassment to me that I need so much help in a big city I don’t know well. I want to do it, to explore with them places in Paris, but even with a rollator or a stick I tire easily, finding tube train changes and escalators difficult even with Niall’s amazing acceptance and practical help. His clever and pretty wife attacks him verbally when he offers to get an uber taxi for me, complaining bitterly about the cost. I don’t like to explain to her that I can well afford to pay for it, but Niall knows. I’m told I should be grateful for this room provided by her parents for 35 euro for 3/4 nights, but I’d rather pay for a decent room with wifi, a higher bed, and a better shower with some safety features such as a non slip mat. I have brought my best classy clothes with me, but it only gives an impression I am well and able to do anything they suggest. Allowing my hair to return to its natural grey has had no effect, no suggestion that I expect the status of an elder to be upheld. Perhaps I should start saying more clearly what I want, but I’m then accused of whining. At least the tears help the effects of the dry eyes associated with RA. Count your blessing, people say, but the monetary ones will never make up for the personal losses. New friend Gerry is kind and clever, but I find him physically unattractive. Sorry, Gerry, even gays look after their appearance. And there’s no proper coffee here, the final insult in a place called Paris!

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My favourite words

leitmotif – a motif or theme associated throughout a music drama with a particular person, situation or idea.

 

 

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Poem

Ireland is a field of green

England is a gracious Queen

Czech Republic is a castle

America is a gun

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Their favourite things (Chris and Paul)

IMG_20170618_173631.jpgChris

Poetry: ‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven.’ W.B.Yeats.

Music: Finlandia

Poetry: Yeats ‘Had I the Heavens’

embroidered cloths…’

Places: Scandinavia, Donegal

Style: Habitat, Conran

Hobbies: radio hamming, politics

Defining feature: entrepreneur

Paul

Paul in the snow 2010

‘Frost on my moustache’

Music: Schubert, Chopin, Classic FM, jazz, blues, and so much more!

Places: Galapagos, Isle of Wight, China

Interests: F1, wildlife, raptors

Hobbies: pottery, woodwork

Defining feature: Coping well with dementia.

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