Monday 4 July 2016

Balkan at change.

A thoroughly lovely neighbour had a sort through of some stuff last week, and what she didn't want was going to be given to our local Sue Ryder charity shop. Thoroughly Lovely Neighbour said that, if I wanted the Maritsa 30 typewriter and replacement ribbons among the selection of stuff, I was welcome to keep them. (I didn't just take in to my possession the typewriter and ribbons; I donated to Sue Ryder online.)

Nostalgia. To quote Phil Daniels, I love a bit of it.

Pressing the keys shows the actual printing of the characters on the paper after the satisfying clack of the metal. The crystal-clear "ping!" of the bell at the end of a line is enchanting. At the time I opened the lid and first saw it, I had a stubborn headache. Despite that, I embarked upon an experimental session of clackety-ping. It's not a piece of aesthetic design like a 1920s-era Underwood but, still, it is a tremendous machine, even just to look at.

The Sue Ryder charity shop, to which the typewriter was previously destined to go, is, by a recipe of some luck and good placement, among a very select few of my favourite second-hand repositories. Before I realised that abundant treasures so often rested behind the doors of charity shops, I was so ashamedly snobbish, thinking that I was "better" than venturing to one.

What. An. Idiot.

Happily, for charities and me, I have, for two decades, fully understood the marvels of the people who work there, as well as the reasons for the shops and the stock they're given.

As is usual with me and my depression, I only notice that my mental (in)stability is at such a concerning level when I consider that not waking up in the morning is preferable to anything else. During my most recent emotional and mental breakdown, my wonderful GP and I agreed to increase my anti-depressant medication. I'm certain that that's had a noticeable influence on my moods, and my long-absent and now-renewed sense of hope. The way out was blocked. The tunnel got darker. The last of the candles had melted and the flame of the future had fizzled to fuck all. I hadn't quite realised just how lacking hope has been in my mind or soul or whole being, whatever you may call it. Since my GP is wonderful, he wonderfully encouraged [frowned at] me (again) to begin the looking-for-volunteering process. Again.

I did.

A week later, I spent a few hours helping in one of my favourite charity shops. I washed crockery that'd literally just been donated, so that it could be tagged and displayed on the shop floor, immediately. I learned about the rotation of stock, about tagging clothing, and how the donations are sorted. Something always has to be done, be it dusting the shelves, restocking the linen rail, replacing the till receipt roll, emptying the box of hangers behind the counter, or one of myriad other tasks there wasn't time to talk about.

Only three hours was I at the Sue Ryder shop, and I wasn't doing anything like strenuous or difficult. Such are the physical effects of depression, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, hypermobility, and spondylolisthesis upon me that, at about 12:30 - 2 1⁄2 hours after I arrived to help - I felt heavy and stiff, with endo flaring up, and my back and legs feeling full of leaden aches. (I listed the ails alphabetically, did you notice? I'm aiming for the full 26. I've heard you get a limited edition kettle if you collect them all.)

The day after, I ached and was decidedly energy-deficient, and with the kind of post-activity fatigue which renders me unable to do anything, much, except stare at nothing in particular and mumble incoherently. Wiped out. Exhausted. Broken.

Feeling so pained and drained after just a little less than three hours of "light housework" was a distressing reminder that I'm really not so well. Complacency, existing every day without changing routines (or having any), or pushing the limits of capability, by even a minuscule fraction, is not good for my soul. I know it. Trying to do something I wouldn't usually do, no matter how passionately I feel about doing it, unfailingly uses so much energy emotionally and physically. It doesn't deter me from doing it again, or doing it less well or for not as long.

It's just inordinately difficult to get through those post-activity days, and to remember that those "hangover" symptoms won't last for much longer.

There is no simple solution to feeling fatigued, and suicidal, and utterly without any spark of hope. As I type, I still have that little tittle of hope I mentioned earlier.

Stamina? I used to have that. For now, I have a still-sealed DVD of Life of Brian for £1.95, a Portmeirion RHS cup and saucer for £2, two decent-sized floral jugs for £10, and a kosher West Ham shirt for my Dad for £3.25. I bloody love charity shops.

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Friday 29 April 2016


Cancer was the reason our lives were irreparably changed, seven years ago. And exactly seven year ago today was when my Mum had to have a mastectomy.

A Sunnier, warmer day than today, it's still unforgettable, the sounds and smells of the ward still lingering in my senses' memory. Or my memory's senses. Or both. Whatever, it's all still there. It's still upsetting to think about.

More pleasingly, today is also the last day of Mum's treatment; the final Aromasin tablet will be taken tonight.

This post doesn't really have any point. I don't think it has Anything New in it. I just wanted to let you know that today is important, and that, if I hadn't posted something today, I'd've regretted it. I wanted to also say that I STILL haven't given up collecting stuff to sell (100% for charity, every time) on ebay for Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Cancer Research UK.

Some of you, my delightfully-kind-and-patient friends and readers, will know that my own shitty health guff has become a bit overwhelming in the last few years; I don't feel that I've managed to achieve the being-in-control-of-my-ailments position to satisfactorily sort out the mundane larks of "every day life", never mind the absofuckinglutely joyous "job" of listing and selling and sending the CDs and signed posters and myriad autographs.

What Lisa managed to say, more eloquently than I could, is that the bastard that is cancer affects everyone. Without any doubt in my mind, being the person who has it can be wholly destructive. I don't know how people do it. I don't know. I know that they do. But I don't know how.

I think that, sometimes, some people can forget that the family members and friends who see and watch the physical and mental changes can suffer as much as, albeit differently, the person who's been diagnosed. It's not only the person who has to have the surgery and treatment and procedures. Everyone has to get through it, somehow. In some inexplicable way, everyone has to grasp at the elusive, invisible threads, to hang on, to guide them, to find any kind of way through the emotional and soul-draining hell of cancer.

Today, we are taking it easy.

Today, we are blanketed, we are cuddling cats and mourning 21-year-old Pieman.
Today, we are drinking hot and cosy drinks and dunking biscuits.
Today, we are watching Jericho (and Cousin Rose-spotting!), Gemporia, and Poldark.

Today, we are still here.

Tuesday 5 January 2016


A whole decade. Ten complete years since my Little Nan went and died with a broken heart. I still believe it was "her time" and that she was ready to go. Having that belief didn't, and still doesn't, of course, make it any less devastating, nor the grief less immense.

I can't count the number of times my likeness to hers has been mentioned by so many people, and I smile every time. She was lovely.

So unspeakably proud and brimming with admiration am I, knowing what my Lovely Little Nanny Annie had to endure as a child - the poverty, the losses and grief, the war.

She was incredibly generous, exceptionally so.
She was dryly funny.
She was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c in her stubbornness.
She had wavy, unbelievably-thick, Irish auburn-brunette hair (exactly as mine *smugface*).
She never missed an episode of Coronation Street if she could help it.
She was proudly, brilliantly, East London working class.
She had the softest skin, and passed her love of rose- and floral-scented talcum powder to me.
She was superstitious; her funeral was on Friday 13th. The irony was vast.
She loved her soft, cosy, knitted cardigans, with shiny gold-tone buttons.

While I can believe that it was ten years ago that she died, I can, likewise, believe that it was yesterday, so vivid are my memories of the day.
I wear her wedding and eternity rings each day with immeasurable love and gratitude, knowing that she wanted me to have them, as her only Granddaughter.

My brother, her only Grandson, and I lost a second, loving, utterly superb Nan on that Thursday in 2006. And, I'm fairly certain that I speak for us both when I say that we love her every day, and still miss her delicious tea and biscuits, hearing her refer to people she didn't like as "bleedin' sods", and her smile-inducing greetings of, "'Ello, mate", with that brilliant chuckle that was uniquely hers.

My last words to her were, "I love you, Nan." - and love her still, I do.