Thursday, 3 July 2014

Life and death - thoughts on

Those of you who follow me elsewhere on the internet will know that my best friend of nearly 30 yrs was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a couple of months ago. If his GP had been on her mettle and referred him to a specialist months before, then it may well not have been a terminal diagnosis but that is a matter for another time & place.

There isn't a day when I don't think of him, we have lived, loved, laughed and cried together, we have had others try to keep us apart but all to no avail. He describes me as "his brains" - paperwork lands in my lap & for me, he is my "kick up the backside". When we need an "other" at a social or family good or bad, we are there for each other. He is far from gone yet but oh what a huge hole will he leave in my life when he is no longer at the end of a phone or there for a hug or just to share a coffee and companionable silence.

That, however, is not why I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard....what I find increasingly difficult to handle is how blinkered our society is to its own mortality. 
You are clearly not supposed to discuss death or terminal illness in public. It is completely absurd how people talk round it, pretend you didn't mention it or utter platitudes which can sound insincere no matter how well meant. It is also noticeable how many "friends" vanish into the background and don't visit, just at the time when the support of a good friend really counts.

We will all die, so why are we so uncomfortable talking about it? I am not being brave about this at all as has been said by several people.Far from it, I just promised myself at the start of this journey I wouldn't cry in front of my friend. Crying is for when I'm alone, we all have to make the most of the time he has left and that should be filled with as much laughter as we can muster. I am angry about the incompetence that has got us to this point but that too, is not for now, there will be time enough for dealing with that when my friend is no longer here. For now we have a will to write, a funeral to plan, paperwork to sort out and in between, making every moment count.

I have already learned so much and am sure more will be learned before this is done. Prior to my friend's illness I hadn't had the good fortune to visit a hospice, although I have lost several friends to cancer. I have found the LOROS hospice to be a place of great peace and positivity. I know another friend has already become a fundraiser for them and I can well understand why.They do such a wonderful job both in supporting my friend and his family and will no doubt play a bigger part in the time to come.

I have come to the conclusion that everyone should write a will, even if it's only to leave our stamp collection to the cats home! If we did, then the government would not benefit to the tune of several million pounds a year, those assets would go to friends, family, charities, places they would matter, instead of disappearing into the void that is the government coffers.

I also think we should give thought to planning & if possible paying for our funeral instead of leaving it for others to arrange at a time when there is already much distress. A funeral should be a celebration of a life so why not plan it the same as other celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries, notable birthdays? It is, after all just another step along the path. Funeral director's will provide quotes for their various services, there are websites which explain the do's & don't's, the legal requirements - no different to planning any other family event, yet there seems a great reluctance to do so. At least if you plan your own funeral, you will get what you want, not what others think you "should have".

Several years ago a friend of mine in the village committed suicide and I was the one who initiated raising the alarm. People kept telling me how I'd done a really good thing. I hadn't at all. If I had realised how bad things were with him and he was still here then that would have been a good thing. Others suspected what had happened but hadn't put thought into deed... once again death was involved and once again no one wanted to think about it.

I'm not saying count down the days til you are in the cemetery, just acknowledge mortality. Talk about it, make it normal, which it is and not the "elephant in the room" it has become. Live life for the moment. Thankfully, no one knows how long their life will be & we must accept that we won't all make it to our 90's but as long as we have made the most of our time, that's what matters. 

Websites I have found useful

Dying Matters

Natural Death Centre

Friday, 12 July 2013

Just do me a big favour & think before...

you open that bottle of wine this evening or crack that can of beer...let me explain.

Today is the birthday of my oldest friend ,as in known for the longest time, since we were 5. Sadly, she isn't here to celebrate, she died several years ago at the age of 42, when her liver failed through alcohol abuse.

As kids we played, went for bike rides, argued, laughed, even going to different secondary schools didn't get in the way, we kept in touch & this was way before mobile phones and computers, deemed so vital today. When she got married, I was there, at the hen nights and the weddings - there were a couple of those, each a beautiful day. Both being left handed, co-ordination was never our strong point.. we collided with each other while out riding our bikes on at least one occasion! I always envisaged we would tangle our zimmer frames when the time came but sadly that is not to be.

I'm not out to spoil anybody's fun, I truly don't want that.I am a big believer of all things in moderation
& know from observation how easy it is to have another glass, to crack another can and then another...all too soon its a couple of bottles of wine... a couple of packs of the body becomes alcohol tolerant and requires more to get the same buzz is used to provide. Alcohol is a depressant, so never will make you feel better about anything long term.

My friend was going through a divorce and custody battle, she worked hard, had a good job and drank like so many when she finished work. Noone thought she had a serious drink problem until she collapsed and was rushed to hospital. If she had died then, that would have been tragic enough but she appeared to have come through the attack and was making plans to return to her family and seek help. In the afternoon she was making plans, by 10pm she was dead!

So, tonight, please, think of what happened to my friend , of the family left behind including a young son robbed of his Mum. Think of your body & your family, love yourself and look after yourself. Don't become another victim

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Customer service ... or rather the lack of it...again

Last week I contacted Premier Foods in an effort to try and find out why Batchelor's Condensed Reduced Fat Soups were disappearing from the shelves of the supermarket. I received a standard email by return acknowledging my query and promising a detailed reply with in a couple of days, hopefully.

It took nearly a week in the end and the reply I received was clearly from someone who could barely conceal his contempt at having to reply to me, a mere and lowly customer. It turns out that now tinned
products have been passed to Prince's foods, a fresh email address was supplied and I am awaiting the response from Prince's.

I was really annoyed at the offhandedness of the reply from Premier Foods, so I sent a further email to the gentleman concerned just reminding him that without folks like me buying his company's products, he would no longer have a job, just his P45. I received the standard response, promising a detailed reply within a couple of days... I am not hopeful.

I have today purchased an additional external hdd for my aging laptop, mainly so I can try & get it refurbished , the laptop, that is. As per usual, this has involved several weeks of looking and researching.
In the end, I decided to have another Western Digital and although its not my favourite place to shop PC World had them in stock at a keen price.

In order not to have a wasted trip driving to Leicester, I reserved online to collect in store. I don't know who
designs their stores but they are no more welcoming than when I last visited several years ago to buy my first external hdd. An assistant was stood at the counter,  so I approached him and explained the purpose of my visit. He consulted his screen, checked my name, then just wandered off without a word, to collect the package. He barely tried to catch my eye, let alone engage in any form of conversation. I had to guess  where he was going and what was happening next. He never asked if there was anything else I wanted, ignored my half joking request for discount and shut the till as soon as he could so he could wander aimlessly off once more.

I rarely go "shopping" as such, funds are too scarce and I have pretty much all that I need to survive. I freely admit to being an advertisers nightmare. I do understand though, that there are millions of people in this country who think differently and say they enjoy shopping. I also see articles in the press and on television describing how the "retail experience" should be a pleasurable one.  I seem to recall, in days gone by, shop assistants in shops like PC World, would be trying to sell you all sorts of extras... if he had asked I might have been in the market to replace a couple of items but he didn't, so its their loss.

In these days when money is tight, I should have thought that retail businesses would have been going out of their way to make every visit a pleasant one, in order that you will spend your money with them and even go back to them for further purchases.

Am I wrong????

When our customers ring to book a pallet collection, we make conversation with them, even crack the occasional joke with those we know well. It is our job to encourage them to send their goods with us, we know the service we offer is excellent and our rates are keen but its about building relationships, going that bit further to answer a query, winning their confidence, so that they know they can dial our number in any delivery/collection crisis and we will do our utmost to help them out.

Surely, its a similar thing when you go shopping, so please, shop assistants, retailers, listen up, you need us and we want to enjoy shopping no matter how rare our trips may be. At the very least, look us in the eye, a little conversation & a smile go a long way to brightening everyone's day. It may just be the deal clincher!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Skool Reunion - Park Lane, Birchington

Last Saturday was the date for this year's Primary School Reunion. I went to the first one, but for various reasons havent been to any more until this, the tenth.

It was back in the days when I was new to the internet & a friend suggested I look on "Friends Reunited".Upon checking the listing for my primary/junior school.. among the profiles was a message asking whatever had happened to me? In those days you had to pay £5 to contact someone via the site, so I duly paid my money and got back in touch with the friend who had left the message. Over the course of the next few months, he managed to contact several more of us & the idea of the Reunion was born.

I just tried to find a photo of that first one but its eluding me for now, I think that 14 or 15 of us made it. This year, though I dont know if any more arrived after I left on Saturday, there were 10 of us.It was really good to catch up and also to remember those who are no longer with us.
None of us has got this far without an illness, injury or scar. Apart from myself, all who were there have partners and I think, ... though I stand to be corrected, most have children, nearly all of whom are grown up. And strangely enough, I was the only one with neon pink hair :-) !

Since my return, when I have said where I was last weekend, most people have commented on it being unusual to have a primary school reunion. It was never something I had thought about. My secondary school was obviously a bigger school and I know they hold reunions fairly often though I have never been to one. I have only kept in touch with one friend from secondary school and through her hear of a few others.

I think its great that the friendships we formed on our first steps in the big wide world have endured over forty years. Despite not living in each others pockets, when we get together, the years dont matter, the friendships continue as if we had never been apart.

Our 50th birthdays are not far off ... wonder what mischief we will get up to that year....

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

You didn't spoil our reunion despite your best efforts!

I went back to Kent at the weekend, to see family & it was also my Primary school reunion - the Class of '75.

As for the previous 9yrs, the "Powell Arms" pub in the Square at Birchington was the venue to meet up. Any time from 1pm...this year the idea was to go for a curry later on but the arrangement is always flexible, just make it if you can, even if not for the full duration.

I arrived shortly after 1pm and over the next hour or so several others arrived.We were set for a relaxing afternoon when the barman came across to inform us that the "owner/manager", Mr Steve Hayden, had been on the phone and instructed him to close the pub immediately. The pub normally is open all day and has a sign outside to say so.

Stunned & amazed, we explained that we were holding a reunion and had arranged to meet at the pub during the afternoon/early evening. The young man apologised but said that there was no option than to close. We asked if we could leave a notice on the door to advise latecomers where we were and notice posted, adjourned to another pub, "The Acorn", a short distance away.

Luckily, the landlord of "The Acorn" was happy to take our money on a wet, miserable day so we settled in for a lovely afternoon.

Mr Steve Hayden, apparently has another pub in Westgate on Sea, "The Nott", I believe is its name these days, though it was always the "Nottingham Castle" when I lived in Thanet. If this is his way of treating customers then I dont forsee a long future for either establishment which, in the case of the "Powell Arms" would be a shame.

Customers' money is what pays the bills. It pays to give them a good experience when they visit or else they WON'T return but they WILL tell others.

I would have thought that ten or more folks chatting and drinking steadily for several hours would be worth staying open for but clearly Mr Hayden has a different take on the matter.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

On being single at any time & especially at Christmas

I am approaching my half century - well Im nearer to it than my 21st!I have lived alone for the past 11 years, not necessarily through my own choosing but my "knight in shining armour" has failed to locate me as yet. Im still hopeful but I have to accept his charger is probably lame these days, his lance will be bent, his armour rusty & if he has a satnav, well its one thats taken him the long way round!No sympathy required, I have had my share of boyfriends in that time but just none that went on to become anything more.

I dont mind being single.To be honest, Im not sure that I could or would want to share my life on a "full time" basis now. I know Im lucky in that I enjoy my own company and these days will head off to do most things alone. At least that way I get to do what I want to do. I am also blessed with some lovely friends so apart from being a bit short on hugs I dont feel I miss on much.

What does annoy me though is the attitude of society to single people. If you are a single, you are considered almost to be a liability, an oddball, misfit or that's how it feels at the receiving end. A few years ago, when I was ill and unable to easily travel home, a friend used to invite me to join her family for Christmas dinner. This arrangement went on for several years until one year she commented that the next time they were going to have just a "family Christmas" without the "hangers on". Now that phrase has stuck with me ever since. I would hate to be thought of as a "hanger on". I used to join them for dinner and leave afterwards, was careful not to outstay my welcome so that comment cut very deep.

Lots of folk seem to think Im mad for not heading home to my family, though my family understand and respect my decision which is after all, all that matters. It would involve a journey of a min. 3 hrs to spend 2 days minding ps and qs, only to head back on Tuesday at a time of year when the weather is not at its finest. My folks were up the other week in any case to celebrate my birthday so its not like we dont see each other. This way I actually do get to wind down, relax, have a lie in, enjoy food at a time that suits me and do whatever else I please. I was chatting with someone last night who said he would love to be able to spend Christmas at home with his wife and no one else instead of which, they trundle from one relative to another as do countless other folks this time of year.

The media this week had a splurge on making sure that "your neighbour is not alone" this Christmas. An example, no matter how well meant, of making singles out to be requiring of sympathy and charity. Now I am all for keeping an eye on folk and making sure that they are not lonely but there is a big difference between lonely and alone. I am also a big believer in respecting and enjoying your "elderlies" they have such knowledge to impart and are great company - am sure they are very much under appreciated in today's society and that is such a shame.

When we have "do's" in the village - esp. of a dining nature, they are basically set up with couples in mind. Singles are positioned where it is deemed to be politically suitable or on a table by themselves as if a group of "lepers". When it comes to booking to go places, esp accommodation, we are penalised by having to pay a single supplement. A certain fee I can understand but some are really excessive.I am sure these fees are set by people who are in "couples" who may not have been single for a long time and forget how it is to be single.

I just wish that people who are lucky enough to have someone to share their life with would think before they make comments that upset those of us who are for one reason or another on our own. Even though Im happy to be single it doesnt mean I dont have any feelings. I also hope that firms will consider the marketing value of singles and stop penalising us. Our money is as good as the next consumer's and there are a lot of us out here in the real world.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

World Wide Photo Walk Peterborough Cathedral

What a grand way to spend an afternoon! And what weather! Couldnt have ordered better!

A good way to meet people with a similar interest but each of us very different. There were just shy of a dozen of us and we set off on our very relaxed journey around the Cathedral just after the agreed 1pm meet time. There was plenty of time to take photographs, chat, enjoy the weather and surroundings. Our walk leader, @TipSquirrel made sure everyone was ok & that no one got left behind when we moved between areas, pretty much the perfect host I guess :) Oh & he did manage to take some photographs of his own I believe. By the time we got back to the starting point, a cup of tea and a slice of yummy cake were much needed and appreciated, thanks to "Coffee & Cookies".

I had never been on anything like this before and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.. think there may even be a few half decent photographs too.

I know the heat and concentration certainly tired me out but Id recommend anyone who might be interested to just get brave & give it a try.
Life is for living after all :)

Many thanks to my fellow photowalkers for their company & making it a fun afternoon & special thanks to @TipSquirrel for leading us on our merry way :-)