Tag Archives: Family

Tinfoil hat adjusted

Excuse the relative silence, but I’ve had to watch relatives die recently. The old grim reaper has been on overtime in our vicinity, and grief has been the baseline emotion underscoring our little clans daily lives. Funny thing grief. Sometimes it’s not the person who dies who has the hard time, but their nearest and dearest. So it is with us. Grieving makes people say and do crazy, out of character things. They lash out. Often at people who only want to help. Dealing with the grief of others is a skill I have obtained a little, if unwanted, education in. Comes with maturity I guess. There are times being a grown up sucks. This is one of many.

So I’m not surprised at the reactions to current speculation surrounding Malaysian Airlines MH370. The Malaysian Government are being accused of not releasing information, which they probably aren’t sure about, and don’t want to look like a bunch of idiots by tipping their hand prematurely. Remember all the fuss about the pilot, a highly experienced professional by all accounts, being branded a ‘Terrorist’? Well, here’s a thing; the FBI found nothing suspicious on his home flight simulator. Apart from a few innocuous ‘deleted files’. So he deleted some files on his hard drive. Who doesn’t? Then there was the much vaunted ‘All right – goodnight’ which was a mis-attribution of the co-pilots sign off remark with ground control? Talk about grasping at straws. The most plausible speculation came from a pilot who argued that a cockpit electrical fire would have firstly caused the transponder failures, and secondly, sent the aircrew looking desperately for the closest place to land, but incapacitated them before they could make a landing. So the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea. No terrorists, no kidnaps, just sheer dumb bad luck and maybe a bit of bad maintenance, but that’s for the crash investigators to find out.

There is one aspect of the whole MH370 affair that I find oddly comforting. In the wake of the Snowden revelations about world wide and domestic surveillance, it’s funny that this massive big brother machine hasn’t a clue about where something as big as a Boeing 777-200R, and little media mention of the incident reports on this aircraft type. Maybe the reports of ‘intelligence’ omnipotence and competence are being massively over sold?

The glass is falling hour by hour

I swear the Weather gods are trying to tell us something. This is the mid Island, one of the warmer climates in Canada, and yet again it’s been snowing. Yesterday evening we transported in-laws around Victoria in pleasant but chilly greyness. The minute we get to the Malahat summit, the Malahat being a bloody great piece of rock that literally splits the south of Vancouver Island from everywhere else, snow. Thence snow all the way back home. Fortunately not the settling kind like we had last weekend, but enough to coat the trees and fields in a dusty white. It was a long drive home.

Today we’re in Richmond, I hope, viewing a boat. An ex-military tug converted to a liveaboard. Tonight evil dreams rob me of blessed repose and I’m sitting here emptying the sleeplessness into my keyboard. That’s the last bottle of Crane Lake Cabernet I’m drinking. Not bad on the palate, but I was jarred into wakefulness by dreams of intruders and various misdeeds. It was either the wine or some dodgy Canadian Brie. Whatever. Going back to bed now.

A fishermans tale

This is a completely true story. Not terribly dramatic, no-one famous was involved, nothing really happened, but I’ll try to explain my reasons for recounting the incident in question at the end.

In the late 1990′s I was taking a long weekend down in Cornwall. On my own as usual. I’m a solitary individual by nature, and during those years had grown to like long, lazy time outs casting my cares, and the odd line or two, on the waters. As far as human company was concerned, I’d given up on it and immersed myself in my job. That morning I’d picked up a crab line at one of the local beach shops, and taken myself down to a small rocky bay called ‘Prussia Cove‘, one time haunt of the notorious wrecker and pirate, ‘John of Prussia’. It’s a picturesque little place, popular with snorkelers, and of interest for the cart ruts cutting obliquely through rocks from the beach to the little rocky channel to the west. As you face the water, up above on the left are the grey granite Coastguard cottages overlooking the tiny beach. In Summer it’s as pleasant a piece of English Elysium as can be found on a (mostly) sunny day.

On this particular morning, I’d picked myself a spot on the rocks, sat down and waited for a couple in wetsuits to slip into the water before baiting a hook. After a few abortive attempts (standing on the line, throwing too hard, in the wrong direction, getting caught up in seaweed, usual shore fishing mistakes) I cast the weighted orange line some fifty feet or so into the desired middle of the channel. Not really expecting to catch anything. To be honest, at the time I was wrestling with a coding difficulty, and was making the best of this weekend time out for an exercise in contemplation. Taking my mind off the immediate problem, and just letting the light, wind and water work their magic on my hindbrain. Disengaging my mind from its usual over the top frontal assault and trying to slink up on the issue sideways.

“What are you doing?” The voice of a little boy quite startled me. An ordinary looking little lad, about four, maybe six. Slim build, wearing blue (I think) canvas shorts, off white T-shirt, curly dark brown hair forming a sort of mop on his head. Can’t remember what shoes he was wearing. Almost what I’d call the Christopher Robin look. I glanced around, media warped paranoia on overdrive. I’d briefly noticed the same rambunctious little lad annoying his Mother as I made my way down to the waters edge. I think they must have been staying close by. Dark haired woman in sunglasses, mid / early 20′s, lightweight floral dress. Wearing a wide brimmed sun hat as I recall. When she’d been speaking to him earlier I’d registered her accent; educated middle class Surrey. Did I mention I used to pride myself on my ear for English accents? Never mind. Not important.

At the time this whole “All white men are racists, paedo’s and rapists” thing was just beginning to gain ground in the tabloid media, and smelling possible trouble, I tried to brush this intrusive kid off. “Fishing.” I shrugged, reeling the line in. My thinking was to let him get bored and drift away in case Mum came storming over and called the cops. Not that I was doing anything wrong, just fishing. Why couldn’t the little tyke go and amuse himself elsewhere? Leave me in peace? That’s all I wanted.

“Can I have a go? Please?” For a nanosecond I thought about telling him bluntly to go away, but that’s not really my nature. He was being so polite, and Mum was less than a hundred yards away, no doubt keeping a watchful eye on her child, so on the next cast I demonstrated what I was trying to do, reeled in the line and let him try his luck. What can I say? I’m a sucker for lost kittens, puppies and children, and would rather die than see harm come to them. He made a mis-throw, I reeled the line in and let him try again.

For the next half hour, we took turns casting the lead polo mint weighted line out into the little channel, the snorkelers snorkelling in their wetsuits out where the calm waters were ruffled by a light swell, with the peace of a pleasant Cornish Summer late morning wrapping itself around us. Simply revelling in the small pleasure of male company while chilling out on a relatively fruitless task. His Mother seemed quite content to let her little boy please himself around the big stranger fishing at the waters edge.

What happened next made me sit back and think; “Danger! Warning! Warning Will Robinson!” He put his arms around my neck and gave me an unashamed hug, then sat down on our perch overlooking the water and leaned against me, rubbing my back as a kind of ‘thank you’. I clearly remember the rich soft warmth of a child’s physical contact, which gave me quite a jolt. Apart from handshakes, this was the most physical contact I’d experienced from anyone for several years. Did I mention I’m mostly a solitary soul? With a surprised look on my face, I glanced sideways to see his Mother (or female guardian) still sitting calmly in the same place and looking completely unconcerned. I’d shown him how to peel a limpet off a rock for bait, given him a pointer or two on how to cast the line, and received a hug as thanks. Then he used my shoulder as a lever to clamber to his feet and dashed off to tell his mother all about what he’d learned, who neither chided nor chastised her little boy (at least not in my hearing) for approaching (and hugging) a total solitary stranger.

About half an hour later, as the day grew warmer and the beach began to fill, I felt the call of a cold beer and packed up, wandering back to my beat up old Ford Sierra (I was between motorcycles at the time) and moved on. Yet the sudden pleasure of a hug from a completely strange child who I had never met before, never would know the name of, reminded me of my own humanity. My own instinctive need for human company. To ramp down my paranoia. To be part of a family and enjoy the innocent gift of unguarded affection.

This was over fifteen years ago. Since then I’ve married, helped steer two feisty stepdaughters through the uncertain waters of their teenage years, learned to smile and laugh a lot more, become a little more comfortable in my own skin; and somewhere along that path become a better man than I might have been. Not as cold, nor as driven. All because of that one unguarded, unsolicited hug.

So what’s the point Bill? All men are not predatory monsters? That there’s more to the male of the species than his sexual appetites? I suppose so, yes. Thinking about it, that single gesture was key to rediscovering my own understanding of Agape and Eros. Learning to differentiate properly between sacred and profane love. Discovering the love of family. Finding a new centre. Yet what I’d really, truly like to say, in public, is simply this;

Thank you.

More changes to the point of view.

Have made a few alterations to the look of the blog. Comments and such are on the front page now, but you`ll have to scroll way down to the bottom as with this theme there is no room for sidebars. I did toy with the idea of an animated header, but that would have been a little over the top, even for me.

Stepdaughters are on their travels shortly. One back to blighty to complete legal studies, the other to Africa, and thence to Australia to work. We`re subbing them out of course, and they are staying with friends and family, so no rent and food bills etc. We`ll get the payback in later years, seeing them comfortably ensconced in good careers. Not that this will be appreciated, but that`s my cynicism for you. There it is! I was wondering where it had gone!

No doubt they will have many travelers tales to recount about the long wait at immigration at Heathrow and how many times they were searched on the way to see certain events at the London Olympics. Not that I`d go myself, worked there for a few years and had a bellyful. Sure the money`s not bad, but quite frankly I`d rather bed down in a nest of rattlesnakes. However, we all have to learn for ourselves.

The sun is taking a rest break behind clouds for the next four days, which will give my sunburn time to turn into tan. The pool is covered and there is work to do.

Home again

To my unbounded joy, Mrs S has returned from the UK, and Youngest is home after her four month road trip through the States. They have brought the sunshine with them, which is very pleasing.

Stories are being literally poured out at me about who did what to whom, Youngests visits to FBI building and various cultural centres, like Museums and Courthouses (She’s a law graduate, what can I say). There was also a telling little snippet from Mrs S, who witnessed the Diamond jubilee barge parade up the Thames. The weather on that day in London was not pleasant apprently; “Absolutely bucketing down.” According to my other half, as the Queen stepped off the Royal Barge, there was a moment when Elizabeth II glanced up at the leaden, rain filled sky with an air of disgust, and indulged herself in a small ‘rolling of the eyes’ moment. A kind of “Oh bloody hell, what now?” expression on the regal visage.

Kind of says it all about the UK really.

Am looking out on a sunny BC morning and indulging myself in a small, smug ‘Glad I don’t live there any more’ moment.

At last!

Well it’s nice to have something positive to say about something. I mean all this negativity can really weigh a person down. Stuff like artificial shortages, bans, Governmental incompetence, wars, ever encroaching attacks on civil liberties and free speech, increasing fiscal dithering, currencies about to implode and all the fallout that will entail.

Yet I am like a man watching the predawn light before a wonderful sunrise. A sense of excited anticipation lifts my heart, and raises my eyes from the grim grind of work-eat-sleep. There is hope, a promise of a bright new day despite portents of doom and failure in the outside world.

It helps that I’ve just finished two weeks of back to back shifts, and now have a slightly less onerous work schedule for the next three months. There’s even a holiday in the offing, which is nice. There is the promise of uninterrupted guiltless repose. My social life is going to cough and strain back into uneven existence. I’m positively giddy with anticipation.

The pool is cleaned out, the solar collectors are hooked up once more, and it will be up to swimming temperature is another two weeks if the weather holds. I am going to buy a hammock and sleep outdoors – damn the recent Cougar sightings. If that mouldy moggy wants to snack on my hide, he’ll find himself discounted ten cents a slice at the local Deli. Not that he will, small children and domestic pets are more his speed. As an aside, there are quite a number of ‘lost pet’ notices locally. Mostly Toy dogs like Shi-tzu’s, Pomeranians and toy poodles. Full size dogs generally get left alone. The local Deer population seems to have taken a dent, too. However, this is besides the point;

Yes. Mother in law goes home today. Forever. Never to darken my threshold ever again. Huzzah! I thought she’d never leave. After a hundred and one days of whining, sleep disruption and spreading her own low grade misery wherever she goes. A hundred and one days of no social life. A hundred and one days unable to go out for a meal because she’s so totally dependent (Not to say needy) we could not leave her on her own and couldn’t take her anywhere because even getting her up and down stairs is a two handed affair. A hundred and one days of disrupted work patterns because she couldn’t even go to the toilet unaided. And she wanted to go to the toilet. Every hour and a half.

This morning the sun is bright, and the house feels a little different, as if it harbours a keen sense of imminent release. Mrs S has the duty of returning Mother in Law to the UK, and we’ve planned everything down to a finesse. Down to the car, to the airport, wheelchair out first. I carry bags to check-in desk and Mrs S wheels her up to security. Everything is packed to ensure a swift transition, and as soon as they’re in security, I’m gone. There is a house to be cleaned and sanitised. Beds to be stripped and cleaned. The washing machine and vacuum will be running red hot all afternoon. The deck and outside windows have already been power washed, and I have industrial quantities of air freshener to rid us of the stink of her passing. This isn’t sanitising – it’s an exorcism. A liberation from the continuous misery she brought with her.

Now I’m going off to have a minor fit of hysterics. Then tomorrow my Whiskey supply will need replenishing. Allow me to leave you with Roger Daltrey of the Who in Ken Russells version of Tommy, the Rock Opera.

Sleepless on Vancouver Island part 4

Yesterday I was bloody exhausted. Too tired even to eat. Flattened, floored, shattered, shagged, and knackered beyond metaphor. I couldn’t remember being this way, ever. This morning, faced with a doorstepping Jesus freak, I couldn’t even be my usual irreverent self.

This morning I saw what Mrs S had written in her care diary, where she logs Mother in Law’s doses, toilet wake-ups and washing, two words; ENOUGH NOW!

Today’s mission young Bill – Respite care. I don’t give a bugger what tantrums I have to face from MiL (Who is convinced she will die if she goes into a care facility). Mrs S and I need the rest as we’re both well into ‘caregiver burnout‘ territory, and need to back out a little to get a good run up to cope with the next sixty or so days. A few hundred dollars for our own psychic survival is a cheap enough price.

What’s surprising is the short length of time it’s taken for us to get to this point. As individuals Mrs S and I are generally both pretty tough cookies. We’re resilient with a high bounceback factor. Yet in just over thirty days we’ve suffered significant debilitation due to sleep disruption / deprivation. No wonder it’s so popular as an interrogation technique. The low level pressure headache is a constant presence. Difficulty concentrating is a given. I have to double check everything I do, because I’m scared of making critical mistakes. My trains of thought are all over the shunting yard, and things which used to raise an ironic smile now just get a disgusted shrug. I’m a zombiform version of my usual self, but without the cannibalistic appetite for brains. Friends are solicitous and kind despite our currently irascible attitudes and we love them all the more for that. Despite that, we’re being ultra-careful not to upset people we like.

Notwithstanding, I’m putting MiL into a care facility for a few nights – damn the cost – damn her tantrums, and damn the judgmental proxy guilt of family who won’t step up to the plate themselves.

Sleepless on Vancouver Island Part 1

Have you ever been so tired you read the word ‘Local’ as ‘Lolcat’? Are your reaction times so slow you make a stoned out hippie look like he’s got the reflexes of a cobra fighting mongoose? Had bags under your eyes so big you feel like Customs, Homeland Security, and the TSA have been rummaging through them? Well that’s how I feel right this minute. My head feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton wool, my fingers are vibrating like quadruple tuning forks, and I swear half the time I’m hallucinating. Mrs S is suffering even more. Stringing two thoughts together has been all but impossible for almost seventy two hours. If it weren’t for the mercy that I got four and a half glorious, continuous hours of unconsciousness last night I’d be even worse.

It’s all down to lack of sleep caused by one thing, and one thing only; my Mother in Law. This is no exaggeration. a few days ago I’d gotten to the point where I actually feared sleep, knowing that my happy repose will be jolted into bleary wakefulness several times during the night by as sound more dread than the pitter of a Tarantula’s tootsies in an arachnaphobe’s mind; a little bell. A wee small tinkling tinny tyranny that shatters somnolence more effectively than a sledgehammer wielding strongman and a very large gong. Every hour and a half, without fail. Christ on a bike, I’m so bloody tired I can’t sleep. This is crazy.

Let me explain; before Christmas my Sister in Law, who lives partly in England decided that it was high time she had a time out from being Mother in Law’s primary carer. So she announced that she was going to the land of Oz, and which one of her other sisters would take on the job for a while. No, Mother in Law was fine, sure she could look after herself most of the time, yes, she’s having a little trouble making herself understood, but otherwise she pleases herself with a little help. She’s no trouble whatsoever. No, she refuses to go into a care home, but that’s not a problem. Honestly.

Yeah, right. Lies, damn lies, statistics and bigger porkies than an entire decades output from the Melton Mowbray pie factory. Much against my wishes and better judgement, Mrs S put up her hand to say of course we’ll look after Mum, it’ll be all right Bill, really. I objected, but had to back down as all the womenfolk on my wife’s side of the family voted against me. I was outnumbered. Being right had nothing to do with it.

The truth is, my ninety plus year old Mother in law is incapable of even going to the toilet without assistance. Even wiping her own bum is a task obviously beyond her. She is effectively deaf, dysphasic and has no, repeat no sense of balance, and a short flight of stairs might as well be a vertical rock face. She has to be dressed, fed, pottied and washed. There is no task of self care that she can perform unaided. Her every need must be catered to, no matter the time of day or we’re left with spreading puddles and the stench of urine all through the house. Hence the bell. We cannot leave her alone because she cannot walk or stand unaided. She’s also a major stroke risk. By stroke I mean Cerebrovascular Accident, and according to prognosis, she’s due for the big one.

This would not be a real problem were she a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident, but she’s not. I know my wife and her sisters insist current insurances will cover all eventualities. I, as a humble male, have serious doubts. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to weasel out of coughing up, quoting clauses citing ‘pre-existing conditions’ etc. If Mother in Law dies or worse, becomes even more incapacitated, my concern is that we will get saddled with a bill that may just wipe us out financially speaking. Now every day has me waking after my fitful repose with the following small prayer; “Please. Not today.”

Mrs S and I both work at two jobs apiece. We’re not high fliers, but those jobs swallow up most of our daylight hours, and a few more beside. Up until recently this wasn’t much of a problem. Now it is. A major league problem with little dayglo warning stickers all over it which say; Crisis. This way up. Fragile. Do not bend.

So far it’s been twenty days and twenty of the longest nights I can ever vaguely remember, and that is no small statement. We have seventy more days to go.

Fuck. Fuck. fuckity fuck fuck, arghhhhhhhhh!

Update: The bell has been confiscated, nocturnal nappies have been applied. Nurse has been hired twice a week. Mrs S and I actually got a full nights sleep last night (apart from one alarm around 4am). Now Mother in law has developed Hives. Emotional stress seems to be the most likely cause. She’s stressed? I’m surprised that Mrs S and I aren’t covered head to toe in nasty red welts. Insurance has been notified. Visit to clinic arranged. Ho de doo dah day, wibble my millennial hatstand your worship. Where’d I put my straitjacket?

Update 2
: Oh sod, it’s bloody Shingles. Fortunately I had my dose of Chickenpox when I was five, so my likelihood of developing Shingles late in life is much reduced. Or so says my friend Mister Flibble.

A mere rifling

A couple of work buddies and myself are awaiting the final demise of the long gun registry before rejoining the local fish & game club as shooting members. I’m looking at something like a bolt action Browning 30-06 and possibly a pump action 12 gauge for hunting in general. I’d keep them at the club for range practice of course, as the tacit agreement is that we’ll only fit out one of our trucks with a decent lock box for the guns and ammunition.

My general preference is for a bow, but what with it looking like another damp summer in western BC (Although I really hope I’m wrong), bowhunting is no fun with a damp bowstring. That and a halfway decent shotgun and fifty rounds of solid rifled shot costs less than a modest sixty pound draw recurve, twelve arrows and six broadhead tips. Several local friends (All well respected people) have agreed to support my application for a firearms license. Which I think is jolly decent of them. In the meantime, I shall be renewing my salt water fishing license, and going to spend some quality time standing the rocks with my rod in hand, casting my cares upon the waters and watching the Seals, Sea Lions, Otters, and if I’m really lucky, the odd passing Orca or even some Pacific White sided Dolphins passing by. There’s been some rather unpleasant windstorms of late, with trucks and cars almost bisected by falling trees, and I’m getting a bit twitchy for some sunshine.

It’s been a stressful few months, what with visiting family and all making demands on my time, and I really need a decent time out to recharge the old spiritual batteries. Never mind, Spring is almost here, and the buds are beginning to break. I shall feel happier when the Birch and Maple are in full leaf.