26 November 2016

The boogeyman is dead - Fidel Castro has died aged 90.

I was born in August 1956. For my generation in America, Fidel Castro was the boogeyman and now he's gone. My grandchildren, the oldest being 12 years old, have grown up with a different boogeyman (probably Putin, or Trump for the sick-making leftie luvvies) but for my generation, Castro was the man we were raised to fear would come out from under the bed or spring from the closet to terrorise us if we misbehaved.

I even remember 'the grown-ups' huddled around the telly for what seemed to me FOREVER at the time as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded before our very eyes. I remember hearing the 'B*stard!' and worse aimed at Castro - not that Khrushchev wasn't damned and cursed at the same time but with far less vehemence. I distinctly recall several of the adults murmuring something about Turkey and Italy (where the US had deployed armaments) as being something of a provocation to the Soviets. Those murmurings were followed up quickly with angry, shocked proclamations against Castro for falling in with the Russians and thereby putting the West into terrible danger.

We had a bomb shelter - nearly everyone with a garden did. Ours was cleverly disguised as a root cellar. My aunts, step-mother, and older sister scurried back and forth to load in blankets and clothing, check the water supply was functioning and the air vents were unclogged. All the while cursing Castro for endangering all of us.

My dad and uncles, their preparations completed once the convoy of farm trucks and other vehicles were tucked up in the barn with full petrol tanks and the log stores moved from convenient locations near the house to hidden spots to protect the seasoned wood, were on the edge of the sofa or pacing the living room as they focussed on the television and radios. 'NBC Radio is reporting...', one of the uncles or my brother would shout to the room, the women stopping their scurrying to check the latest updates. We smaller children were sent to the root cellar under the nearly hysterical supervision of my older sister (then aged 18 and about to go into convent - she was furious with Castro for killing her before she'd had a chance to take her initial vows as a nun and cursed him for it every bit as vehemently as the 'real grown-ups' were cursing him) every time things seemed to be especially dangerously close to eruption (launching of the missiles).

Castro. Our boogeyman.

Of course, we survived the Cuban Missile Crisis. But Castro remained our boogeyman - my father, like so many fathers, went to his dying day still cursing Castro. When Obama reopened relations with Cuba I was shocked - how on Earth could Obama have done such a thing?! In my eyes Obama had just flung open the cupboard door and invited the boogeyman to tea complete with us as the teacakes, ffs! If I'm honest (and I do try to be), in my opinion soon after Obama moved into the Oval Office he outed himself as, erm, perhaps the worst POTUS ever but reopening relations with Cuba, in my opinion, just took the biscuit. Castro was the boogeyman - thousands had died trying to escape Castro's Cuba, did their lives and the reasons they fled just not mean anything to Obama?!

And now Castro has died. His brother, Raul, considered to be far more 'reasonable and moderate', has been in charge for years. Raul Castro may end up in history as far worse than Fidel ever was but Raul Castro never going to be The Boogeyman to any generation.

That distinction is reserved for his brother Fidel, and now Fidel is dead.

18 November 2016

A little over eight months ago I fell - badly - in our front hallway, dislocating my right (of course I'm right handed!) shoulder and biceps, 'jamming' my collarbone,  and breaking my elbow and three of the five fingers on my right hand. And later, when I went private, the catalogue of injuries mounted beyond the NHS determination of 'No big deal, you've dislocated your right shoulder and while you were waiting for xray, it slipped back into place by itself, so take two paracetamols and...'.

My injuries turned out to be far, far more than a simple self-resolving dislocation. When I went private and the intake nurse listened to me recount my fall, things finally took a turn for the better - full scans and xrays revealed a two page list of injuries, the consultant said it looked as though I'd been in a car or train wreck. In addition to the NHS diagnosis of a simple dislocated shoulder, the private care team found the dislocated biceps (which worried them the most, I discovered much later), the broken fingers and elbow, the jammed collarbone. They also found I'd bruised my bladder in the fall, and done some damage to my left kneecap - fortunately the knee seems to have healed quickly, so at least I was mobile in those first horrific weeks! Er, when I could move without shrieking from the pain in my right arm-shoulder-clavicle, that is. I only noticed the pain in my fingers when I tried to dry my hands - one of those 'Oh yeah, I hurt those too!' moments there. The bruised bladder meant, well, let's just say eight months on I STILL can't be too far from the bathroom if I've had more than a sip of water!

I'm not going to waste a lot of time moaning about the total cock-up at the local hospital but it will be a freezing cold day in hell before I trust the NHS again. It took going private to find out the extent of my injuries, and to set a treatment plan that didn't include surgery but did include dedication on the part of the medical team to restoring as much (and more) function as possible. Given the prognosis (owing to the monumental failure by the NHS service I foolishly entrusted myself to at first) of 60-75% restoration of function, the fact that I have 85% function restored is AMAZING, and down to the fine team members (primarily the orthopaedic consultant and the AMAZING physiotherapists) who compassionately but firmly kept/keep me going. Yeah, I still hurt now and again, and will always believe if the NHS had bothered to fulfil their obligation to 'duty of care' I might not have the near constant ache in my collarbone, the pain in my elbow when I bend my arm too quickly...

The first week after the injury is a blur of remembered horrific pain and waking several times a night (and day - I went into shock and after that was addressed, I spent a considerable part of that first week sleeping). EVERYTHING hurt, it was almost as bad as post-op when I had C-sections (medically mandated, I'm not one of those convenience cows!), in fact, come to think of it the pain with my right side injuries was actually worse. At least with the C-sections I had my infants and the reasonable expectation of full recovery. With my wrecked arm-shoulder-clavicle the prognosis wasn't that good. So along with pain, there was a very fear of a very limited future just when I was entering that last stage of middle-age and beginning the downward descent into being 'a senior citizen'. For the first time EVER in this life, I understood what 'being old' meant - and it scared the bloody hell out of me.

I clocked the prognosis even through the haze of shock and pain - I knew it wasn't good and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frightened and depressed. A large part of the fear and depression was brought on by knowing Paul completely unable to cope. I needed nursing and I'm SO kicking myself even eight months on for not taking the doctor's advice to go into hospital for the first few days! At the very least meals would have been brought, and the mechanical bed would have made the thought of getting out of bed to exercise (walking even the little bit I could meant my lungs stayed clear), or using the bathroom less, well, fraught. Seriously - getting in and out of bed with my upper right side hideously painful AND useless was nearly always more than I could contemplate.

Paul's Asperger's means he means well but is not up to the challenges inherent in caring for a wife short or long-term. He's the one needing a carer (not an easy job, really, considering he hates knowing he needs a carer and will need even more caring for as he ages). Yeah, I should have taken up the offer of hospital care. At least for that first week.

Right. It was not pleasant (oh, the understatement!). But...but every day I could see and feel improvement. Something I couldn't do one day I could the next. Exercises at physio I saw others doing and was sure I'd never have that much mobility again - well, I'm doing most of them now:) Even now, eight months later, I reach milestones: WOOT, today I brushed my teeth with my right hand! WOOT, today I pulled on a jumper without crying in pain! WOOT, today I took a lightweight parcel from the postie without dropping it! WOOT, today I rode in the car for 30 minutes without my entire right side screaming in agony! WOOT - WOOT - WOOT, today I thought I might be able to resume driving in the next month or so (the consultant isn't as sure about this as I am:).

Interestingly, had this happened to me when I was a younger person I might not have fared as well as I have - older now, and knowing my limitations, I knew better, for example, than to try showering until the online ordered shower seat arrived. I very highly recommend shower seats. The consultant and physio first ruled out tub baths completely - too risky to try getting in and out of the bath. In fact they told me I probably shouldn't ever think about a tub bath again - not a problem, I haven't had a tub bath in 45 years! Showers, d'uh - who wants to sit in bathwater, eeeew!

Once they understood I understood tub baths were a never again and I'd be showering for the rest of my natural life, they made me repeat the following mantra until they were sure it was engraved on my brain: Stand to soak - sit to soap! Harder than it sounds, surprisingly. Stand to soak, well, that's not hard, I could stand under a hot shower spray to soak all day. But it's such an instinct to reach for the soap, flannel, and brush while standing there! Their insistence I repeat the mantra paid off - I'd catch myself reaching for the soap whilst still standing, hear the mantra in my head and shift the shower seat into position. And yes, I'm still using the shower seat. I will for the rest of my life - dunno how I got along without it!

We're moving once the house sells, and the next house will have three things fitted before moving in - a fold down shower seat, a dishwasher, and a tumble dryer. I've regained enough use of my right arm to be able to do the washing up but it's still not the simple matter it once was, and the thought of climbing those narrow riser steps up to our back garden terrace to hang out laundry fills me with such dread! I do have indoor drying racks including a very clever reproduction of a Victorian hanging rack but I still can't reach my arms up to the top of these racks comfortably and as a consequence the laundry is piling up. A tumble dryer would be a huge help to keeping to the laundry done. Another 'new house must have' is a level, walk-out entry/exit, garden - no steps so when I can safely carry a laundry basket and reach high enough to peg out laundry I can just walk out the door to the clothesline (I use an 'umbrella' style line, so much more efficient!)

I honestly don't think I'll ever be able to play tennis again, and I know in my bones I'll never be able to tie an apron behind my back again.

But never say never - I'm doing things today I would have sworn yesterday I'd never do again!

05 November 2016

The iceman cometh...it's Guy Fawkes Night morning, and sleet is hitting the house and windows. SO COLD we kept the heaters on all night last night, BRRRRRR cold - GRRRRRR to the coming electric bill!

We went down to Arbroath Victoria Park late yesterday afternoon and it was simply too cold to get out of the motor to walk along the promenade. Yes, we were cosily bundled up including hand knitted hats and hand crocheted gloves (SO glad I finally learned to knit, and SO glad the mittens and gloves crocheted last year are still lovely!) but we were so cosy in the car we just couldn't force ourselves out into the blustery winds. I did get a lovely photo through the windscreen though (see below).

Also presented here is what's on the lap frame this month. I have two embroidery projects going - this one on the frame which is a table runner/dresser scarf, and a Christmas design (photos to come on another blog post) in the 10 inch hoop. And of course I'm working on a crochet project - this time a pair of gloves for Paul...that I'm avoiding as I have to rippit back to the cuff section, sigh.

Paul is busy as well - he did over the bathroom and WOW, why did we endure that horror for six years is what I'd like to know! Nothing terribly fancy, we had a plumber in to change the over-bath electric shower (the old one finally gave out - not even a trickle from it and once the new one was in - OMGsh, WOW-WOW-WOW, water pressure!! Best shower I've had outside a hotel EVER!) sanitary-ware and hand-wash basin mount then Paul went in there and decorated (painted to my American readers:).

Dark sage green 3/4s of the way up the way to pick up the tiling over the bath, a medium grey band (2 inches) to pick up the chrome on taps and other 'furniture' (what the British call door knob/handles, towel bars, etc), and a creamy 'magnolia' to pick up the slight hints of gold(ish) in the bath tiles. The same grey on the wood floors goes down on the wood floor in the spring - it's now too cold to try painting a floor in NE Scotland - personally I think we should just pick up some inexpensive (yeah, I mean cheap(ish) floor tiles and just 'get 'er done' but heigh ho, Paul's in charge...

TIP: when marrying an Aspie, it's best to be sure you're marrying a rich one so you can hire in jobs - otherwise the work drags out for MONTHS and even YEARS! The truth of why it took so long to transform the one and only bathroom in this bungalow from 'Tijuana Texaco bathroom' (if you've been there, you know exactly what I mean!) to bathroom a person can bear to use comfortably is...we couldn't agree a decorating scheme or even a plumber to change out the fixtures.

I'm very sadly serious. I walked into that horror 19 August 2010 and immediately walked out saying - 'That entire bathroom has GOT to go!' and six years on, it has:)

Quick note on the current affairs here...Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish First Minister) continues to bluster and threaten (and I continue to pray Paul and I experience a miracle and can move South of The Wall - the woman and her SNP have made Scotland both a hellhole and a global laughing stock), Theresa May (UK Prime Minister) is facing an onslaught of 'the honeymoon is definitely over' attacks on her ability to lead Britain through the Brexit process, Nigel Farage is hoped to be on the verge of returning full-time to saving Britain, and Boris Johnson is proving himself a rather uniquely abled Foreign Secretary who should be PM if there is any justice at all in this world.