Thursday, May 31, 2007

She Hasn't Got The 'Guts' To Stay At Home

Dad called me at work yesterday to say that Mum's back in hospital.

I know he was finding it as hard to cope with as me because he said;
'Hi Ali, it's John'
'Hi John, you sound exactly like my Dad, only sadder and more strained'.

Apparently whatever it is that was wrong in the first place is back. 'Whatever it is' being a medical term I suppose, because it seems to be said a lot these days.

I imagine this answers the question of 'what would you do if you were over six thousand miles away and someone you loved was rushed to hospital.'

I am glad it first happened while we were back home, because now I know that I'd be pretty useless if I were to be there. Those horrid first days of my Mum being in so much pain and saying 'I'd like you all to leave now please'. The only thing I could constructively do was cook for my Dad, and after two meals I exhausted my culinary capabilities anyway. I made 'the salmon thing' and 'the chicken thing'.

She's back in the same ward, so it helps that I can visualize her there. I am toying with the idea of being useless and physically present though. She will get the results of more tests back today, and that'll help me decide.

Keep thinking good thoughts and sticking crystals in all available orifices, (orifi?) - Mrs. K.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Now this is how you garden....

One of the things I would have loved to have inherited from my Mum is her green thumb. I'm still hoping it's latent, but it's starting to look rather unlikely. Here are just a few photos of her garden, which she didn't even have chance to tend as she was putting her feet up in the hospital and not even babysitting...

OK, maybe not this photo.....

Every female on my Mum's side of the family is a magician in the garden, speaks fluent latin with respect to plant names, and has an obsession with garden shows, cuttings and compost verging on the obscene.

An example. During our stay my Aunty Jane and Uncle Phil drove over to visit. There was a phone call from the hospital to say Mum would be discharged at some point that afternoon, and there was a chance I might be at the hospital and unable to let my Aunty and Uncle in to the house after their long drive. Obviously you can't leave a huge great sign on the door saying 'dear Aunty Jane the key is under the mat', or as a friend of mine wrote 'if you're the gas man the key's by the milk bottles', but I was confident enough to know that if I wrote 'the key's by the Clematis Jackmanii' they'd be inside on their third pot of tea by the time I pulled up with the invalid.

And yes, I do know what a Clematis Jackmanii is (see purple flower below) the trait as I say, could be latent.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe this gene hasn't skipped a generation....

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back. Home?

We're back. Back to DSL. Hoorah to an internet connection that doesn't give up every time the phone rings. LK types with two fingers and you should trust me when I say he wasn't too happy to spend forty-five minutes morse-coding out a message to J. and Skeletor only to have it zapped by a phone call from someone concerned with my Mum's bowels. The poor boy had to have fifteen pints of Landlord at the Black Swan (aka The Mucky Duck) to recuperate.

Am I glad to be back? Hard to say. As usual I really ache with missing family and England. My heart and insides feel like they've been beaten with a mallet. Although it's true that that pain could be down to the two packets of pork scratchings, pickled onion monster munch and the huge bag of treacle toffee I had before going to bed. Who can say?

Most of the reason I'm not so keen on being back, and the reason why I'm blogging jet-lagged and mopey at 3am, is the huge amount of *stuff* we have to deal with now we're back. This trip was of such monumental length that it allowed me to put off thinking about a lot of crap until we got back.

On a positive note though, I am really glad to be back in a country that has toilet-seat protectors in public bathrooms. Uncannily happy.

As promised, here are some photos:-

Me trying to order three wheels of goat-bollock cheese in the fromagerie.

Caught in the reflection in the shop window. This apparently is what I look like when I speak French.


Vite. Takez-vouz le picture. It's going to pleut any minute.

The view from our not-too-shabby apartment.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Parlez-Vous Franglais?

Ah Paree, how you render me speechless. Literally.

I took French for years, years. From my first french class aged 11 when my Mum asked me what I'd learnt, 'something about apples' I replied loftily, to which she added 'that'll be je m'appelle then won't it', to AS-level french, taking business notes and being all poncey and reading Le Petit Prince. Who me - poncey? As soon as we got off the plane I realised that I was about as useful as a french poodle to LK and Anna. I could say 'j'ai quinze ans et j'habite en Harrogate', and 'regardes les jolies fleures', but that wasn't going to get me via some sort of public transport into the centre of Paris now was it? And how exactly do you say to the lady at the information desk that you'd forgotten to bring a car seat and was it legal to just hold a child in the back of the taxi? (it is, fortunately). LK was rolling his eyes at me going 'this would have been soo much easier if we'd gone to Barcelona because I not only profess to speak the language, I actually do....'. We made it though, and gradually my ear if not my voice came back. Bloody good job too, because the reason we were going to Paris was not just the £9 flights from Leeds Bradford.

£9, that's right, $18.

So ludicrous a fare it deserves it's own paragraph. Thankyou Jet2. No, LK has a friend who just happens to have a pad in Paris. In the Mayfair of Paris, looking out over Parc Monceau and the Arc de Triomphe. A pad that just happened to be empty. Sacre bleu!

We turned up and the concierge very kindly let us in, and handed us the sheaf of keys, and then proceeded in tres rapide French to explain the intricate use of the keys, and the buzzer system, and the elevateur anciente (a blog in itself) meanwhile I'm smiling like a nodding dog and my brain is grabbing every third word in ten and latching on to them like they're going to save me from drowning.

Concierge 'blah blah blah blah la porte blah blah blah ferme blah blah'

Me 'oo, I think he said door there. Yes I'm pretty sure of that one, door.'

Concierge 'blah blah, gesticulate wildly, blah blah absolument ferme'

Me 'crikey, this sounds like I should at least be taking some of this in. Why don't I just say 'lentement', come on, you know the word, just say it, 'lentement', it's easy, you know the word.'

Concierge 'blah blah il y'a beurre et du lait dans le frigo parce que.....blah blah'

Me - oh great, I know there's butter and milk in the fridge because today's a public holiday, but crap, what was that stuff about the keys. Ummm, 'repetez-vous' is that right, just say it you repressed English idiot. Say it!

Concierge 'alors, d'accord, a tout alors'

Me 'merci beaucoup monsieur' suddenly fluent when it no longer matters.

LK looks at me with a 'well sunshine?' you'd better not just have been merci-ing the poor man to death, and I give him a stern don't mess with me look and just to prove I know exactly what I've just appeared to be listening to, I tell him to look in the fridge for some milk and butter, a-ha, just you look Monsieur Americain! And here, while you're at it, you take the keys, I'm having a bath.

I don't think LK fell for the 'hmm this key does not appear to be working quite how the concierge explained it would' line later that day, but we did manage to get back in the apartment later. Thank the Lord. Photos this weekend I promise.

We had a wonderful time, lots of things to write about, and as usual no time.

I will leave you with a superb quote from my friend F. He's a frenchman married to my best friend S. I told him we'd be going to Paris, and did he have any advice? He said, tell them that you're fifteen years old and come from Harrogate, and be sure to comment on how jolies their fleurs are (no, not really). He actually said 'just be nice'. Just be nice, I thought. Huh, how strange. What he didn't say, and maybe I should have read between the lines, was 'be nice because they might not be.'

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Please release me, let me go..

Mum is home! Tucked up in bed mostly but definitely on the mend. Thankyou everyone for all the lovely e-mails and thoughts. We can now fly to Paris tomorrow in a happier frame of mind and get throroughly drunk on Pernod in peace.

I have so much to blog about, and I have been jonesing to write, really missing the catharsis of this blog, which sort of surprised me. Obviously no chuffing babysitting in which to do it though - pull your finger out Mum!

We managed to meet up Brief Encounter-style at Leeds Station with the fabulous internationally famous Ms. T who gave me a letter she unearthed that was written by me three days after I met LK all those years ago; ramblings and musings about the culture shock of being in the States for the first time, things I've already forgotten about, and yes I do mention LK. I'll definitely be writing about that - undecided about how much censorship there needs to be.

Everything on this trip seems to be compounding the 'what if' factor - what if I'd never taken that brief trip to California in '96? What if I'd never gone to that party and met LK? What if I'd put up more of a fight and he'd moved here? I feel so aware of a life I could have had, a weird parallel existence that I catch ghost-like glimpses of here and there. It needs to be made absolutely clear that I do not for one minute regret LK or Anna, but damn it, I've lived in California for too long now to not think that I can have it all!!!

I already have photos galore to sort through when I get home (be warned.....). The evenings here are long and beautiful and I've been trying to capture it all.
The evening light doesn't disappear until well after nine, close to ten really. We've been walking across the fields, the hawthorn flowering in the hedgerows, meadows full of buttercups, cowslips and giant rambunctious lambs. Everything is
green on green and so soft and bucolic and beautiful, until a fighter jet screams overhead from RAF Linton, so close to the ground that you can see the pilot, the sound thundering across the countryside long after the plane has disappeared. A definite reminder that we are a country at war.

I commented to my Dad the other evening when we were stopped at a stile between fields 'when it stops raining this is the most beautiful country in the world' and he said 'ah but it doesn't though does it?'

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Beryl the Tea Lady

First of all, whatever Mum and Dad are paying for their internet connection, they're being overcharged. It's allegedly broadband, but it's as temperamental as the British sun. Now you see it now you don't.

Mum is still making the most of her taxes by staying in hospital, with an as-yet undefined diagnosis. Apparently it's looking like it's not appendicitis, but they haven't exactly ruled that out either.

We try and smuggle Anna in to see her every so often, but bringing a toddler in to an adult ward is never a good idea, particularly one who likes to touch and taste everything in sight. My Mum loves seeing her, but is terrified at the thought of her catching some horrid hospital super-bug, so she makes us smuggle her back out as fast as she came in. We keep Mum entertained with photos of Anna and anecdotes, but it's so bloody unfair that this is precisely what we've been doing for the last year when we've been thousands of miles apart.

Happy Birthday Mum!

Obviously our plans for this trip have changed somewhat, but at least we're over here. I can't imagine how I would have felt if all this was going on and I was stuck in California. I may yet find out, as it's unclear if she'll be 'released' by the time we fly home. I asked my Dad what he would have told me if I was still in the States, and he said 'oh we probably wouldn't have said anything'. Reassuring. Mind you, that would be hard to do now that she's been in hospital nearly a week, and had to spend her 60th birthday there too.

With all of this going on you can't help but draw parallels between the British and American healthcare systems. My Mum is in a ward with five other beds, and a blast-from-the-past tea-lady called Beryl wearing support tights up to her knees that reveal a jaunty three inches of pallid knee before the hem of her uniform. My Mum has a bed by the window, and free radio, but pay-by-the-day TV and phone (so far ignored). She couldn't get a 'scan' ultrasound/CT or MRI for several days as it was a bank holiday and they were seeing emergencies only. Her test results were similarly held up.

So far her hospital experience is more akin to Tenko than Grey's Anatomy. There are absolutely no good-looking nurses/doctors/orderlies (is it just me, but does everyone in North Yorkshire look like they'd be much more comfortable knee-deep in sheep dip?), but she is developing quite a strong bond with her other inmates - one distinct advantage of the ward-system as opposed to the isolation of a private room. I can imagine them trading cigarettes for a TV-viewing card and devising elaborate escape-plans involving orderly Keith Olrenshaw and his laundry cart.

I can't help but wonder, given the preoccupation with money and insurance in the US whether they would have been as happy to let her sit and stew for so long without a diagnosis and a 'plan'. Who knows. It may well be that she has something that's not easy to pinpoint, something that will require a battery of tests to define. My uncle who's a GP seems to think so.

At least at the end of this, whatever the outcome, she won't be ruined financially on top of everything else.

In the meantime - can anyone find me a babysitter? I'm supposed to be on holiday. Who's the real victim here?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Short and Sweet

Hello Blighty. I could wax lyrical about what it's like to be home after so long, what it's like to feel like a foreigner in your own country, but I'll save all that.

We arrived Friday morning and on Saturday my Mum was admitted to hospital. She'd had a 'gyppy tummy' and we knew things were serious when she wasn't well enough to pick us up at the airport. Turns out she'd been trying to treat an 'upset stomach' with bio-yogurts, an approach that apparently does little for you if you have acute appendicitis.

I'll keep you posted.