Live Every Day

Live every day as thought it's your last, and one day you'll be right.
Live every day as though it's your last, and one day you'll be right.

A stooped old woman leans on her zimmer, eyes unfocused, mouth flapping like a clockwork tortoise – I doubt she knows where she’s going or why.  From an adjacent ‘activity’ room a painfully earnest piano hammers out All Things Bright and Beautiful, the chords mixing with an odour of stale urine that manages to overpower even repeated applications of shake ‘n vac.  I wheel my mother along the carpeted corridor past an inaudible flickering television playing to an audience of unoccupied high-backed winged armchairs.  ‘Thirlmere’, room 24 – we’ve arrived.

An efficient dark-haired woman with tombstone teeth ‘assesses’ my mother.  ‘So, you’re 86 Marjorie, how many grandchildren have you got?’, ‘Where were you born?’, ‘Did you have any pets, you know, before?’, ‘Do you want to be resuscitated?’ I can see my mother is bamboozled, and not a little irritated by these enquiries.  Perhaps she is railing against the superficial interest in her well being.

Two weeks respite care is what’s planned.  My sister is with me.  It is she who found my mother after the stroke, she who moved in to look after her, she who has borne the brunt of disrupted sleep and is now on the edge of reason.  To her the care home is a lifeline, to my mother it’s death row.

We leave together passing a marooned quartet of geriatrics.  Thinning hair, thickening ankles, slumped to their sides or heads down asleep.  They’re all women, presumably men for once have done the decent thing and died a decade or so earlier.

The next day my sister calls.  She’s distraught, exasperated, angry even.  My mother wants out.  I speak to Mum.  ‘It’s full of sick folk who’ve lost their marbles.  It’s depressing.  They say it’s all very nice but it’s all top show, they cut corners.  They wanted to serve us tea in plastic beakers last night.  I said no thank you, there are some nice china cups in that cupboard I’ll have one of those.  It’s depressing.  I’ll just have to manage at home.’

I drive over to Cumbria to pick her up.  ‘Sorry she didn’t like it.’ Says the receptionist as she hands over the bill.  They’ve charged for the full week despite Mum’s stay being six nights, ‘It’s all done automatically, by computer’ I’m advised – so ‘effing what I’m thinking.  ‘Thank you.’ Mother is just pleased to be leaving.  ‘See you… er later.’ Suggests the receptionist.  ‘Oh, I don’t think so.’ Replies mother.

My sister is moving out.  It’s the right thing to do.  A full care package has been instituted; visits at 5.30am, 8.30am, 11.00am, 12.30pm, 3.30pm, 6.00pm, 8.30pm, 12.30am.

Life goes on.

PS Apple’s Steve Jobs gave an inpirational speech to Stanford graduates not too long ago – ‘How to live before you die’ – see it here –

Italy With Kids, Without Sex

An early morning amore is arrested by three small children, only partly unaware of their poor timing, leaping onto the bed like puppies. ‘They’re becoming more intense aren’t they?’ remarks my wife in one sustained exhalation.  Time to get up and at least take pleasure in smelling the Segafredo.

I light the gas and charge the pot.  A gecko patrols airside on the flyscreen, each jerky advance consuming moths still dazed and confused by last night’s lights.  Outside, splashes confirm that childish obsession with parental chastity, not flushing the lav, supporting the Chinese plastic toy industry, losing my tools and creating global entropy has now shifted towards maintaining the swimming pool as an adult-free zone.

Job Done...

My wife drags a chair into some shade and loses herself in a novel written for the blind, at least that’s what the heavily embossed cover suggests.  In the kitchen half a dozen bottles of alarmingly modest Italian wine stand reassuringly shoulder to shoulder – I can lose myself later.

This early the World Service is still audible above static whistles and clicks and with ears plugged and a thumb on the tuning knob I follow the story of a man in a shed who believes that 1936 marked the pinnacle of British endeavour.  He cites automotive manufacturing, scientific prowess, and the quality of valve radio sets to support his assertion – I don’t think he’s got a girlfriend.

I’ve just been shot in the neck by ‘the boy with the plastic air pistol’ – my time is up…

If you’re still inclined to take a family holiday in Italy, even after my recollections, a friend of mine has good quality apartments to let near Montone, Umbria – see As well as excellent olive oil and er… characterful red wine, both produced on site, Ben is happy to expound dryly on life as a foreigner in Umbria.

If you’re after something a little more modest then there’s our place

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