The Pig Yard

February 11 - Gosh what a strange month it has been with nothing going as planned. It's strange how we can get to our age and still expect life to run smoothly - all goes to show that the human psyche has a positive element that is so strong it will either ignore or overcome adversity and hope is everything. So this month we had to contend with Jane's mum being in hospital; an abortive holiday and Jane having the worst bout of flu that she's ever experienced.

On the bright side we may have found a site for our community living experience, Jane was well enough to enjoy a meal out to celebrate her birthday and Steve reminded himself that once upon a long time ago he could cook simple meals.


Our February Holiday

Before our annual sojourn with our tribe of close friends Jane wasn't feeling too well and had a nasty cough. It was so bad she was sent home from work on the Wednesday and she spent a couple of days in bed hoping to shrug it off before driving down to Ilfracombe. On the Saturday morning she said she felt well enough to travel and was sure she would soon be over it.

Within an hour of arriving and unpacking Jane had taken to her bed and she remained there for the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday. On the Sunday evening Steve made the decision that she would be better at home and so on the Monday morning Steve reloaded the car and we drove home. Steve put Jane to bed and she stayed there for a whole week.

Type A Influenza

Those who know Jane will know she is a fit, healthy person and she has never had more than a few days off work in her 40 years of employment. Steve took her temperature and she was a very hot 39.8 but at times feeling shivery and cold. Although she had none of the aches and pains associated with flu she couldn't eat and with such a high temperature was showing signs of delirium.

With Jane in bed Steve had to raise his game and do all the shopping and cooking, something he hasn't done for a very long time. When we were first married forty years ago Steve did his cooking but within a couple of years Jane had taken on the role. Not only was he cooking for himself he was also facing the challenge of what to feed Jane who had lost her appetite completely. After six days of drinking lime squash and a little bread with mackerel pate she managed to eat an omelette. Over the next few days her temperature came down and then went up again but by the weekend she was starting to feel a little better.

The following week she was managing to get up and she put on a bit of a show for her birthday but it took the whole of that week before she felt anything like going back to work. So after two weeks she went back to work, still weak, still with a reduced appetite but fighting back. Her spirit was lifted by the number of cards she received on her birthday, there was hardly room to put them all up.

The whole episode has shaken Jane because it was the worst illness she has had since a child and she admitted she felt as though she was dying.  On the positive side Steve had to relearn basic cookery skills and in fact he became to enjoy it - it was more fun cooking for someone else than cooking for oneself.

Influenza Type A Virus

Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Penguin Cafe Orchestra

We went to the Derngate theatre to see the Portico Quartet who were the supporting act. We'd seen the Portico Quartet before and Steve wasn't too enamoured but was prepared to give them a second chance simply because our friends Graham and Dave thought they were brilliant when they saw them busking in London. Well the second time around they weren't any different and even Jane thought they were too random and discordant.

The main act was the PCO who we'd never heard before. We loved them and all their tunes were so familiar. It turns out that they have been about since the 1980s when Simon Jeffes led the orchestra until he died of cancer in 1997. His son Arthur Jeffes resurrected  the band in 2009. The line-up play 75% of the original band's music and the rest are their own creations very much in the style of Simon Jeffes. The music has a quality of randomness, spontaneity, surprise, unexpectedness and irrationality.

We really enjoyed the music and immediately ordered a CD from Amazon which is in fact the original PCO and not the band currently on tour however it's brilliant and we may even purchase the new album.

Mother in Hospital

Jane's mother has been in hospital since early January after having another mini stroke, her third in the past ten years. The worst aspect of such events is that it has knocked her confidence and despite getting superb care in Edgware Community Hospital it hasn't really prepared her for her return home. Over the past ten years she has effectively been housebound because she has steep steps at the front and rear of the house. Even with rails alongside they are still challenging and she couldn't manage them without help.

We've discussed the prospect of her going into what is referred to as an extra care placement. This would provide her with her own flat and 24x7 support as and when she needs it but she would prefer to be in the bungalow that she has lived in for the last 40 years. Her care package consists of care workers visiting first thing in the morning to help her to get up and get breakfast, again at lunchtime to help with her "meals on wheels", once more in late afternoon to assist with her supper and finally at 9pm to help her to bed. We've arranged night-time support so that if she needs to get up then there's someone there to help. We are hoping that this high level of support can be wound down as her confidence grows but if it doesn't then other options will have to be considered.

Getting old is not for wimps and this episode has given us a good insight into the future for ourselves however we won't have any children running round after us!

Mother in hospital

The King's Speech

The King's Speech

We struggle to get to the cinema because Jane works on two afternoons a week and she has other activities most evenings but we made a concerted effort to see the King's Speech and we were so pleased we did. There is always a danger that a hyped film might not meet one's expectations however this was not true in this case. On paper the story line seems weak - how a king overcomes a speech impediment aided by an unqualified, unrecognised commoner. The simplicity of the story is the very thing that allows the friendship of the two men to come through as something really special. This isn't about a speech impediment but about the building of a friendship and the support of a loving wife who had a natural affinity with people. It helped us to realise the importance of the strong friendships we have and how fortunate we are to have developed such relationships.

We were warned that we needed to take some hankies with us but nobody warned us that we would need a box of tissues. We wept, we laughed and we felt wonderful afterwards knowing we had seen a classic film and possibly the best film we've seen in the past ten years.

Barlaston Building Site

Thanks to our friend Nick's hard work we have found some potential land where we could accommodate four properties. It sits on the edge of the village of Barlaston, six miles south of Stoke on Trent and one mile north of Stone. The area is not too hilly and not too flat so it gives everything we have been looking for to take us into our old age. The key question is, will it suit everyone? This is an enormous decision for the whole tribe and we are all in different places as we approach the change. Some of us are moving away from an area that we've lived in for nearly forty years. Graham and Sue have lived in the same house for over 35 years so this is not something to be decided on the flip of a coin.

In practical terms the village is the right site with good amenities: small supermarket, hairdressers, butchers, doctors and good transport links; the nearest town, Stone, is only 3 miles away and it has a Morrison's; the site is large enough at 0.8 acres and all mains services are available.

The doubts that have still to be resolved concern the state of the site - there used to be two Victorian properties on it but they have been demolished and it isn't clear as to whether the foundations are still in place or been removed and backfilled in which case the ground might require considerable work to establish firm foundations. We also need to agree where the different houses would be built and like any site there are some parts that are more attractive than others. With open fields on two sides of the site it does have a lot going for it.

Apart from the foundations our biggest concern is the railway line that passes within 100 metres and trains pass by every twenty minutes at peak times. Admittedly there isn't a great deal of noise and it passes within ten seconds but this is in stark contrast to our present home where it is very quiet unless the children at the school next door are turning out or are playing on the field. There will be more on this next month but for a more regular update check the blog by clicking here...

Barlaston Staffordshire Building Site

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