29 August 2016

Me. At Sixty. I wasn't altogether certain I'd last this long - the Moody Blues song 'Never Thought I'd Live To Be 100' has been on mental continuous loop all weekend. Today is a bank holiday so tomorrow I'll take my 'proof of age and residency' down to the Access office and get my bus pass, the 60+ bus pass that means I can ride buses all over Scotland FOR FREE!! Total(ish) freedom - with that bus pass I can FINALLY go shopping down to Dundee alone! Actually, that bus pass means I can do a shopping trip or explore anywhere in Scotland and even to Carlisle. I may bus up to Caithness to visit the old home place, even.

I came over to the UK in August 2010 (meaning I've been here now six years) and while I do have a 'provisional' license I can't afford a driving course that would get me past my 40+years of driving in the US on the right side of the road in a left-hand motor and very rarely encountering roundabouts. I NEED a driving course because Paul's Asperger's makes him a horrible passenger and worse driving coach. Sigh. Still, I do have the provisional and in an emergency I know I could manage to drive us to a safe place.

Having the 60+ bus pass means real independence - WOOT WOOT WOOT!!

Oh dear. It's been nearly a year since my last post. Whoops. It's not even as though 'Life gets in the way' - if I'm honest, my life is, well, boring even by my definition. Perhaps more on that definition later...

Life does trundle on - in 2014 Paul was found to be an Aspie - and that REALLY took some adjustment on both our parts! He's 'typical' which means living with his condition takes a lot of work. I've changed - planning to do anything means days or weeks of pre-planning to avoid a meltdown. And losing my temper with his Aspie ways is a waste of time - that exasperation only results in him having the sulks for weeks.

He gets 'stuck' on activities, foods, and drinks, and as Paul's 'mystery illness' has finally been diagnosed as coeliac, him getting stuck on a particular food and/or drink has made things, ahem, difficult. He can't tolerate beer or spirits (mostly owing to the hops and malt). A year on and he's at a point where he concedes he 'doesn't miss' a pint and the Christmas-New Year bottle of single malt. Fizzy drinks (colas, etc) are heavily gluten-laden, we discovered, so he has to stick to fresh squeezed fruit juices, milk, coffee, tea, and water - he can't even enjoy squash (for the American reader, 'squash' is a sort of sweetened drink) without consequences. And at the same time we found out he's got Asperger's and is coeliac, we were told he's also hypoglycaemic. (Idiopathic, apparently this is common with Aspies).

Soooooo, I'm learning how to make tasty foods that 'keep' so he can hit the pantry/fridge when he senses his blood sugar dropping, and won't make him so unwell he can't function. We're also learning gluten lurks EVERYWHERE even in so-called gluten-free (GF) foods and meals taken on the road, so I've become quite the accomplished GF picnic maker. I even make GF bread Paul likes. He cheats, of course, but those occasions are becoming fewer as he is coming to terms with the reality - eat gluten-laden foods and suffer for days after or stick to the diet and feel 20 years younger. No brainer, really. I make GF breaded fish and chips (the malt vinegar is hell on his coeliac so I use plain white and it actually tastes the same as with the malt version); I've found a source for genuine (!Hecho in Mexico - ole!) corn tortillas and I can whip up a batch of home-fried tortilla crisps in a half-heartbeat now. I'm learning to make GF nans (curries are amazingly easy to make GF at home) and flour tortillas - I got him hooked on burritos (hey, anything to get salad in him!) but store-bought flour tortillas are hell on his coeliac.

GF is reasonably easy if the chief cook and bottle washer cooks from scratch - I do so the only real struggle has been learning to make GF picnics that travel well for our continuing exploration of Scotland. I found a completely fab company that will deliver great tasting GF pastas and exceptionally good tasting-easy baking flours (Doves Farm - if you're in the UK and need GF flours and pastas, Doves Farms are your Go-To) - he can now enjoy an egg-salad sandwich, have a 'full English' breakfast with a side of scones, and nibble on American style chocolate chip cookies. Last Christmas my entire Christmas bake was GF and even the neighbours thought the biscuits were incredible.

Slowly but surely we're getting the house done up - we're having the bathroom done over (YIPPEE - ciao to the 53 year old commode!) and the new living room windows (double-glazed) and floor covering go in the first of October, God willing. We've harvested the first carrots (too early as it turns out) from our garden. The cat has finally settled (gosh, and after only five years!), and I appear to have a knack for churning out charming crochet blankets that will fit in the clothes washing machine - we no longer use duvets as the damn things will not fit in the washer and I refuse to pay £15 each to have the damn things cleaned as often (once a month at least!) I think hygienic. So I priced blankets in summer and winter weights (WOWSA, that was a shocker - blankets, when available, are really-really-really expensive in the UK!) a couple of years ago and then I got busy with the crochet hooks. I have to say those blankets I make are pretty, fit in the washer, and we prefer them to 'store-bought'. Turns out my crocheted blankets cost (ahem) as much or more as store-bought but I really enjoy making them. We're building a collection of sheets and blankets and Paul admits he can't see himself ever comfortable in a duvet again now I've got him used to sleeping in clean sheets and non-dusty/musty blankets.

In between and during blanket crocheting I've made several cardigans and jumpers - ones that can actually be worn in public. And, I'm learning to knit - so far scarves and hats but I still dream of socks and jumpers.

Speaking of exploring Scotland...we still haven't made it over to the West together but that's on the card for next spring, again, God willing. I've started saying that, I think it's in response to nearing and now being SIXTY. Sixty is actually, in my opinion, pretty damn cool - beats the alternative, really. My 'grey's are actually silver and not even enough to be called 'salt and pepper'. I rather like them and have no plans to colour over. I've gained a bit more weight than I'd like but that's owing to the horrific fall I took in our front hall the 2nd of March 2016 - I broke and dislocated just about everything in my right arm, shoulder, and clavicle (of bloody course my dominant arm, dammit) and have been severely activity restricted for the past six months.

I'll be straightforward here - I never felt 'old' until I was so terribly injured. Suddenly I was afraid to leave the house - people here don't understand personal space and have NO hesitation jostling/bumping/greeting with a shoulder thump - one bump and I was on my knees screaming in pain. The fear didn't stop being in the house - I found myself reluctant to reach for anything for fear of losing my balance and falling again. Housekeeping - something I do owing to Paul's Asperger's making him completely unfit to be trusted to clean hygienically - was an agony only made somewhat easier by the purchase of a small bagged cylinder vacuum with a turbo head brush - I can sweep the kitchen and bathroom floors as well as vacuum the carpeting with that little lightweight vac. Cooking and washing up became monumentally tasks - we ate properly but Paul HATED having to do the chopping so he'd whack these huge chunks of meat and veg then expect me not to need him to go back and make those chunks bite-sized. So one of the best days, like, EVER, was the day I worked out how to do my own chopping and dicing without pain. He is so rubbish at the washing up I learned how to wash the dishes with one hand (no mean feat, you try it sometime).

Early on I learned how to brush my teeth with my left hand. I've had to shower using a shower seat and even then my heart is in my throat getting in and out of the bathtub - part of the bathroom do-over is removing the 53 year old tub with the shower over and replacing it with a walk-in shower stall complete with fold-down teak seat and grab bars. The GP had my driving license marked and I can't drive even if I could afford driving lessons - he says maybe by the New Year for driving. Steps and stairs, well, suffice it say I'm very glad we have a single level home for the most part. But I haven't been able to get out to the gardens as ours are on different levels and the concrete stairs are too many and too narrow. Paul has to take the washing out to the upper level terrace where our washing line is and it is driving me completely mad to see the way he pegs out washing!

This injury has made me feel old - frail - feeble. I bloody hated feeling that way but it was instructive re what really being old is going to mean. Hence the bathroom renovation, and we'll likely be moving from this house with its many level gardens I can't safely access. Next spring we'll be looking for a one level cottage with 'walk-out' driveway and gardens so I can get out-of-doors safely as I grow older. Paul won't actually admit it but I can tell he's ready for the same. Saturday we went for a drive and he missed turns several times - time for SpecSavers for us both, me for the now annual new prescription and he for his first pair of 'real specs' to replace the reading glasses he wore accidentally whilst driving and found he saw better with the glasses on.

Sixty isn't old, not in my book, but it's the beginning of the end of 'middle-age' and as 50 is ten years in the rearview mirror with 70 a mere ten years ahead, we're ageing, we know it, and we're planning ahead thanks in part to what we've learned during my recovery.

I'm slowly, slowly, slowly regaining use of my right arm - I can lift it to shoulder height now! But I'll never be able to play tennis again, free-style and breaststroke swimming is never going to be in my exercise routine again, and as for buttoning or tying back fastening clothing, forget about it now as it's never going to happen again. Oddly enough, I've been able to crochet from about three weeks after the fall but the knitting has been on hold until the past week or so. Writing and typing function has returned but I can't spend more than an hour or so on the keyboard and less with a pen or pencil. AND I AM SOOOOOOOOOOO SICK OF DAYTIME TELLY I COULD SCREAM!

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