“I fancy the kebab.”, said Mum.
“I think you might find it a bit difficult to chew. “, I said. “Have the lamb casserole and I’ll have the kebab.”
We were at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, just a few minutes drive from Mum’s home. Mum is a bit stronger again and although she cannot walk she can transfer in and out of the car, and I have been able to take her out.
That morning we’d had a long meeting with the social worker and the Care company. We’ve had a very good carer with considerable character for some weeks now and Mum is well looked after if somewhat put out that she needs looking after. There have been fewer hospital admissions, and although Mum is still affected by her imaginary visitor, she is generally a lot more settled, and the psychosis is at a lower level. There is more than a little change in the offing and it may be the end of this settled period. Our carer needs a break. In addition the lady that comes in to give her a daily break and has been with Mum for more than a year now works for a firm which is being dropped by our council. There is a lot to consider, so instead of considering it, I take Mum to the park.
There is a wedding on; uncomfortable looking men, some in kilts, some in suits with striped waistcoats and purple cravats, who look, with good reason, as if this is not their first choice of clothing on a weekday morning. They stare – maybe they glare? at the kilted groom, who has a knife down his sock; and there are goose pimpled girls in their shifts and fascinators, which are bits of dyed, stiffened net curtain, pinned to their dyed stiffened hair. They are drinking champagne just outside the window where we position ourselves in order to get a good view of them as they get drunk as quickly as they can while Mum eats her dinner as quickly as she can. Mum always eats her dinner quickly, a trait she shares with her fourteen siblings, or the nine now remaining. Food was at a premium in a large family in rural Ireland in the thirties and forties. Mum has an excellent appetite, and just lately she’s a pretty messy eater.
The wedding party are having their photos done. People who, it seems, have never got on or perhaps have never met before, are ordered by a turbaned photographer to link arms, and affect a crazy bonhomie.
I am having trouble. For one thing, I can’t see the bride and for another, the kebab is biting back. I’ve got six chunks of marinaded meat on two wooden skewers on a bed of extra large couscous and some garden peas. I got the garden peas because I refused a third skewer. Who needs that much meat? Certainly not the clientele of Pembroke Lodge, mainly over 80 or very slender yummy mummies. The meat is stuck to the skewers. I can’t get the meat off with a fork. I can’t get the meat off with my fingers. I have to bite the meat off. As I do this I realise I am eye to eye with one of the wedding guests. He’s fascinated. He’s not wearing a kilt; he’s one of those in a purple cravat, and wing collars and a striped purple, white and black waistcoat, and he is staring at my attempt to separate this lump of meat from a glorified matchstick. I realise that having bitten the meat off, I have bitten the end of the stick off with it, and have to detach the two component parts from each other in my mouth and then spit out the wood. I think he is disgusted by this as he turns his attention to Mum who is eating as if she has a lot of competition for that lamb casserole. A lady in a green kaftan nudges him. What is he doing, looking at the voyeurs? He throws me an apologetic glance which I catch, and return, and he turns his back on us. Maybe he can see the bride now.
He has given up on us and I give up on the meat.
I take mum for a tour of the gardens, and they are a bit special. Enormous flowerbeds with fantastical flowers give way to dramatic views to the West which are succeeded by a glorious rose garden in full bloom. We potter about for half an hour or so. Then I think she might have had enough.
“Have you had enough Mum?’
It’s been quite sunny so I push her back past the flower gardens to a wooded area with squirrels and jackdaws. The daws are very bold in Pembroke Lodge; head’s cocked, their one light blue biro eye bores into your soul for where you keep your crumbs. They will pick your sandwich off your plate if you eat outside. They have no manners.
“Sit down on the bench, we’ll stay here.”, Mum said. “You must be tired.”, and she promptly fell asleep for about half an hour.
I drew her, the gardens, the jack-daw, on bits of paper and then wrote a complaint to the person who designs disabled loos, on account of having had a disaster earlier in the disabled loo on the entrance to Pembroke Lodge. New Disabled Toilets are now called Accessible Toilets, and that’s a better name because they are generally accessible, at least. You can almost always (but not always), get into a disabled toilet in a wheelchair, but because you haven’t much use of your limbs they are a challenge. This is because although they are furnished with handles, the handles are not generally in a position to help you to turn around so that you can sit on the loo seat. You are up off your wheelchair, bent over because you are holding on to the low handles, pretty committed at this stage to using a toilet, and you are stuck. So you pull yourself around using the sink. And you have to pull your trousers and pants down, which requires two hands and balance which you have not got, not bent over at thirty degrees. It’s all very fraught, and I help Mum a lot in this situation. And then the reverse too. God knows how disabled people do this with no, or inexperienced help. The flush is on the wrong side, the tap is on the wrong side. Disabled Toilets or Accessible Toilets are the anti-convenience of the convenience world.
Then Mum woke up, I pushed her out of the Gardens to the information desk, where the assistant carefully read my complaint, and said she would take it to the office. I think I want to take it to the attention of all the designers of disabled loos. This is what you do to people whose lives are pretty shit anyway.
When we get back home, I am called in three times from the greenhouse where I am fighting a battle with the side shoots that spring out of the forest of tomato plants. It’s the care agency. The replacement can not make next week. The only replacement they have for our now very tired and overwrought carer who I occasionally have to cajole to stay is one of the many who Mum fell out with and who swore never to come again. Is that Ok? It’s our only option, so yes. Hopefully she has built up some emotional and physical reserves of strength in the five weeks since she was last with Mum.
Then again. Can I cover Tuesday morning as this carer has an appointment. Yes no problem; Mum has an appointment too, and I was going to take her.
And finally. That carer says it’s too far for her to make that appointment from Mum’s house. Would it be ok if someone new comes in for two days, then the replacement who swore she wasn’t coming back will cover till the following Monday, when someone new will arrive for the week……Hey ho, here we go. Outlook – unsettled.