Macy's Annual Review 2009

Posted on 10:27 In:
Because as someone once said, "History happens to the little people too..." Also since 2009 was a bit of a Big Year for me, it deserves it's own summary....

January. Barrack and Michelle Obama move to Washington. Macy and Cherub have just moved back to Cheesetown from Glasgow. We are ( it will prove) conveniently close to my ex W who's living just down the road.
Israel attacks Gaza - W is admitted to the Southern General where he is to have his left lung removed in his own battle (sigh, see what I did there?)

February. Gordon Brown hosted the G20 Sumit looking for an economic recovery. Meanwhile hopes were dashed here in Cheesetown as W's biopsy result showed his tumour to be malignant. He had Angio Sarcoma, a cancer of the lining of the blood vessels.

I got a phone call from W to let me know there would be no recovery for him, that he had anywhere between 4 and 14 months to live.

The year's just started and it stinks.

March. The Madoff scandal broke, AIG posted billions of $$ of losses . The Big American Bank I work for announces there will be swinging job cuts.

April. First rumours of swine flu appear from Mexico as W's chemo starts. This is not a good time to be starting chemo.
The Solomon Islands truth and reconciliation commission opens; W and I are talking in whole sentences and in detail for the first time in years.

May. Patrick Swayze makes his first public appearance since the announcement of his cancer. For some reason Cancer is becoming a bit of a topic of 2009.

June. Madonna adopts her second Malawian child. I ask the Big American Bank if I can work part time, given my own family circumstances. . I am warned that there is a review of jobs and this may affect any decision made as to my future employment. I reply that if that's their attitude, then I should be focusing on what's important (paraphrasing here...).

July. The last WW1 veteran, Henry Allingham dies. W is not coping well with chemo, but manages to go on his own trip to France with the Cherub. On returning, he is in a lot of pain. I tell him that there is no need for him to feel he has to go through this alone. Cherub and I will stay at his when he's recovering from chemo or infusions. This is the only time I see him cry.

August The Lockerbie bomber is freed on compassionate grounds. Similarly the Big American Bank completes its review, and lets me know that I have been selected for freedom on compassionate grounds aka redundancy - surprise!!!
By the end of this month W is staying at mine when not at the hospice.

September. Earthquakes in Java and Georgia. Similar earthquakes as W not only stays at Cheesetown between hospice visits, but introduces me to the mother of his older son for the first time... We're both fine with this. We're past worrying about history.

There is an outbreak of syringe needle stabbings in China. Here in Cheesetown W's pain is bad and I am becoming an expert in administering diamorphine intravenously.

October. Stephen Gately dies. The Cherub jokes to his dad that he might meet him now... it's a bad joke. Times are bad.
W dies at home, 20th October.

November New Zealand qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1982, it feels unfair that the expatriate Kiwi, W didn't get to hear this.

December The Tiger Woods story erupts. Another idiot who needs to learn the hard way what matters in life. Unemployment figures rise yet again and I officially join their numbers.

ROLL ON 2010.

Yes really snowed in. We had snow: not the-annoying-stuff-on-the-ground-that-makes-the-car-skid type of snow; not the stuff-that's-rubbish-for-snowballs type of snow. This was the real thing, the deep-and-crisp-and-even-St Wenceslas type snow. The roads blocked between here and Q'Ferry type snow. The forget-about-even-trying-to-buy-last-minute-presents, and the-airport's-closed-again type snow.

Yeah, and yadda yadda yadda everywhere else has better and deeper snow. I know.

But it seemed a shame not to show off Cheesetown...

Enjoy the winter slideshow - if there are a lot of graves it's because Ned and I shortcut through there on our way up the hill... nothing more macabre...

Yes really. Cherub and Macy have finally made it three yards across the road to the church....

We went because we were invited. Cheesetown Parish Church was holding a service specifically for all those who had been bereaved in the past year.
We went because I felt that it was time the Cherub visited a church what with it being Christmas already and all.
We went because the minister had visited and prayed with W in his last days. W had already said that actually he did believe in some kind of God, and did want a minister at his funeral so when Petal suggested she fetch the minister, I felt it sensible. This was the same minister who would give W's funeral. A bit of continuity never hurt.

We went because it is an 11th century church, and I've always wanted to see inside.
Maybe we went because there's an irrational part of me that wants to feel that W is not finally dead. As in stone dead.

And it was a good service. We had a pretty full house - a lot of bereavements in Cheesetown this year this year then....
And the church is beautiful in side. All whitewash, dark wood and candles; red roses as the altarpiece.

After the minister's welcome, we started with a hymn - In the Bleak Midwinter. So far so good.

We then had a prayer. And I tried. I really did, but the cynical part of me was starting to kick in.
Nor did my cynicism lift during our minister's sermon. The message of her sermon was that there can be no life without death, no love without grief - that's the deal. "That's the deal" was the refrain throughout her sermon.

And it is, yes, I can see that. But that's still no reason for W to die aged 48. And I'm not clear why praying to a God to "lift the burden" is going to help any when he has clearly so not done so at any earlier point when it would have made a difference. I really can't see why the Cherub got the raw deal when the rest of his pals have fathers and families.

Sorry. I went, I tried, I failed to get any kind of comfort. Maybe cynicism is always going to get in the way.

How fantastic is this? The Cherub has become a pensioner at the ripe old age of 13. Because his dad worked for a fair minded employer, who provided a Final Salary Pension Scheme...the cherub is entitled to a pension until he is 21 or leaves school.

The cherub is, at this moment, earning more than I am... Obviously I haven't told him that because I don't want him dictating a shopping list full of pasta, Ben & Jerry's and popcorn anytime soon.

Compare and contrast with the letter I received last week from the administrators of the Big American Bank's pension scheme. As I was made redundant with less than 5 years service, I am to transfer my pension before the 31st December or lose all my employer's contributions. Current circumstances notwithstanding....

And with the clarity of the recently TEETOTAL I understand two things.
1. Exactly how expendable people are in the financial services INDUSTRY.
2. Nothing, not fame not glory, not even SKINNY beats a final salary pension**

**Memo check out Craig's post retirement prospects as an NHS dentist.

Craig the dentist is a GENIUS. He looks about 18 but the boy knows his stuff. Specifically he has SAVED my back molar.. in a completely pain-free half hour he drilled and filled and completely saved my tooth. The tooth I was sure was doomed.
If I said I loved him to death and wanted to have his babies I'd only be exaggerating a wee bit. Bless his wee white dentist mask.

But I'm beginning to wonder if he feels the same way about me...Look, for Christmas he has prescribed me DRUGS.
Drugs which mean I cannot take alcohol.
Drugs I need to take over the whole of the Christmas holiday.

And looking up Google , as you do, I also found out that Metronidazole is prescribed for horses and dogs.

Stop the press - no alcohol even after stopping???? CRAIG what have you done???

Yes. There are times when it feels as if I'm living my life as a Cautionary Tale to scare young arts students ("if you insist on studying Social Anthropology you will end up like Macy, mark my words.....").

I'd been putting it off as well. Sitting in a grey/ beige office with furniture screwed to the floor, answering the standard questions - "How realistic do you feel your job expectations are..." Well look, in the past couple of months I've needed cheered up. OK? And I wasn't in a hurry to go over what I've been doing since being made redundant... Helping someone die...well I didn't feel like discussing it with some civil servant.

Anyways, since I already had a dentist's appointment to look forward to last week, it seemed as good a time as any to make an appointment to go down the job centre. Just to round the week off nicely.


But look - it's All Different these days. The furniture still looks fixed to the floor, and the staff look like they'd rather be anywhere else, but those of us visiting on are no longer unemployed - we are jobseekers. I am appointed an Advisor. My Advisor, Allun, and I will draw up a jobseeking agreement together. Under my advisor's guidance I will find gainful employment around the Cheesetown area.

Allun's guidance is fairly unique. Allun was also made redundant recently. Also from a Big Bank. We spend some time discussing Allun's redundancy after working for the Far Eastern Bank doe eight long years. We discuss the trouble Allun had finding work, started work at fifteen, never been unemployed a day in his life....we discuss the causes of Allun's redundancy, globalisation. We discuss redundancies of some of Allun's friends. We discuss the difficulty of having to rely on the partner's wages... I remind Allun I don't have a partner...

We agree we should next meet 15th January.

Memo to self. Find job to cheer Allun up....

It was a dream not a vision

Posted on 08:26 In: ,

Sparkle is much more in tune with her spiritual side, having been through some mills in her time herself.
Whilst I had only a very strong feeling of my dad's presence at one point after he died, Sparkle actually saw hers.

So I was interested to hear from her last week,

Sparkle "You know I dreamed about W last night..."
Macy "Really?"
Sparkle "Yes, he was actually driving a Winnebago! But it was so vivid. The Winnebago was huge, and he invited me in, while he went into the toilet...I could hear him in there and everything, that's how VIVID the dream was"
Macy "And how was he? Was he better..?"
Sparkle "Oh yes, he was right back to how he was before he got ill. He had his hair back, and everything..."
Macy "Oh that's good!"
Sparkle, "But you know Macy, it was just a dream, it wasn't a vision like last time..."

Macy "Oh I know, I know..... it's just I still worry about him. If he's alright.. and everything...."

This one's for ME!

Posted on 16:13 In: ,
I was going to call this one "F'nac, Fags and Tears" after yesterday's post. Then I imagined the (disappointed ) traffic headed towards this blog, what with "fags" being US for homosexuals and all....
Anyhoots, following the comments to yesterday's post, I've spent the day being HUGELY CHEERED by the mental image of me going into full drama queen mode, belting out the showtunes, whilst the Cherub and Ned try to hide the remnants of the whisky...

OK - it's not as if I can summon up a Michael York look alike (if only). But the club scenes do look as if they could have been shot in the New Liston Arms round the corner....

Elizabeth - thanks for that suggestion!

Breaking news.....

Posted on 16:53 In:
This just forwarded from my Recruitment Consultant

Unfortunately we have decided not to bring Macy back in for a second stage interview. We felt that Macy interviewed well but wasn’t quite what we were looking for in terms of experience and fit. Having said that, she does have strong experience and so we would wish her well in finding a suitable role.

Kind regards

How would the Observer have known anyways?

Posted on 07:37 In: ,
OBVIOUSLY I need to get a proper obit written up first...

Pain relief - or the legacy of St W

Posted on 11:27 In:

Wednesday night it started. The first inkling of don't touch the tooth, it'll HURT MORE. Nothing too crunchy for dinner... tsst pffft, great, a dentist visit to arrange.

Thursday it really KICKED OFF. Pain on a major scale; pain drilling into my right jaw; total total MISERY. Up in the wee small hours ransacking the bathroom cabinet for PAIN RELIEF. Re-reading the small print on the paracetamol packets to try and decide what the real maximum dose would be - as opposed to that puny 8 a day guideline they give. Would 8 during daylight hours, and four in the night still be within safety margins?? What levels of stupidity are they assuming on the part of the drug using public that they have such low limits.... What about if I had 8 paracetamol and then another couple of Ibuprofen?? And why are paracetamol sold in such small packets?

NB at times like this Sensible Self is nowhere to be heard....

Then I remembered.... The Drug Stash. Still with W's other stuff, leftover from His Last Visit.

Immediately after his death the district nurses took away any drug with the word "morphine" in it. Yes, although they cannot deliver drugs to patients, they must remove drugs once said patient is dead...{This one could be the subject of a blog post on its own... but I digress}
Because the drugs would be destroyed (guidelines say they cannot be recycled amongst patients) Nurse L decided I may as well keep the others that could be re-used, the paracetamol - big white boxes of 24 a pop - and the Diclofenac. Maximum 3 a day....

Desperate times, desperate measures. W liked Diclofenac...No time for too much research on this. Assume if cancer patient is told max 3 a day, same will apply to toothache sufferer.

What joy. How good is Diclofenac?
And waltzing through Cammo estate with Ned yesterday, I did sort of vaguely remember reading about celebrities addicted to prescription pain killers....
I'll worry about it later. Until Thursday when Dentist Craig is due to re-visit the abscess, I'll float on....

Behold! The tree is a TRIUMPH

Posted on 10:22 In:
Yea verily... why bother spending when you can be brilliantly original, as I said to the (still doubtful) cherub.

Obviously John Lewis had the idea first....

And obviously we're never going to get the house as tidy as their studio...
But behold!

Cheesetown's first minimalist tree!

Mark my words, next year they'll all be having one.

It has been FOUR days

Posted on 07:13 In:

Yes, count them, it has been FOUR days - or as I estimate it 111 hours at time of posting - since my interview....

Yes. They were interviewing another couple of candidates at the beginning of this week.

No, of course they don't work weekends or evenings - so subtract 95 hours from that hourly total.

Well I've done the sensible thing of prompting the recruitment consultant to show my INTEREST. I've been good and not jinxed this in any way. I have thought beautiful and wonderful POSITIVE thoughts.

Well, guess what, I've had enough of the waiting. I'm jinxing it now by blogging....

Please, please please can I have a job for Christmas? I'll be good (at it), I promise....

French Homework

Posted on 19:38 In:

The cherub has french homework to do. He has to write a short paragraph about his family.
In the past year the cherub has lost, through no fault of his own, one stepfather, one stepbrother, grandparents in law and, of course, his dad. This should be an interesting exercise....

He's getting me to check it over.
He has written {and I'm very kindly translating for you all here..}
"There are three people in my family. My mother, Ned and me. Ned is a dog. He is big but kind."

"OK that's a start toots, but "gentile" means kind, I think you mean Ned is a big softy..
Sighs. Well the teacher said it was OK.
"OK. My bad. .. What about your dad? You could add your dad just died last month."
Nah. If I wrote about cancer they'd know I'd been on Google translate.

Sometimes I just miss him

Posted on 19:11 In:

I miss him. Add that to your list of the blindingly obvious if you want, but sometimes it really is just as banal and basic as that. I miss him.

I miss him not being there to tell things to...I know already what he'd have had to say about recent events ..

"Macy, you are not fat " (Because, god help him, he'd already had to repeat this endlessly through most of August and September)
"Cheeky wee fringe there Macy" (Because he knew how to annoy me)
"Did the bridge collapse or something?? "(Because the man was incapable of making any kind of drama, being supremely laid back)

But knowing what he'd have had to say isn't the same as laughing about it all with him.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Posted on 11:19 In:

Oh I know, here we go again. I've been trying not to make it sound as if I live at Crisis Central. There are some things that I haven't mentioned much. One of them was that as of October 2008, just before W's diagnosis, Ned started taking fits.**

Fits that were alarming to watch, not least because of the distress he was in during them. The fits would last about 10- 30 minutes, and involved much shaking, yelping, eye rolling, and saliva. Afterwards he would be disorientated for up to another hour; not walking straight, confused - think punch drunk and you get the idea.

So we went to the vet, who ran a battery of (expensive) tests, and declared it idiopathic - cause unknown. Rare in so young a dog, but controllable, as long as we gave him the right drugs. And brought him in to have his blood checked every quarter, because there were SIDE EFFECTS to these drugs.
For the past year, therefore, I have been feeding him drugs. Ned Likes DRUGS. Since he gets them with a blob of butter, he reminds me if I forget. But after a few months, because I was worried about SIDE EFFECTS, I started cutting down the dose.

So yesterday morning was all MY FAULT.

We were walking along our usual route in the fields behind Cheesetown, when Ned lay down beside the river.
Cute I thought. He's watching the ripples in what had been a stream, but was now a small river following the recent Cheesetown Floods.
Then I realised he wasn't watching leaves and twigs floating downstream, he was starting to convulse. And my only thought was - Keep him out of that water if he's having a fit. He'll drown in it.
For the whole of his fit, I managed to keep him out of the water. As he thrashed in the mud, I was guiding him away from the river. To hell with it. It's an old jacket. The jeans will wash.
It was only after his fit, when we were both filthy anyway, that he FELL IN.

Now every year, there are stories of dog owners drowning after jumping into frozen lakes, or fast flowing rivers to rescue their dogs. And I always thought - how could they be so stupid?
Well now I've got an inkling of what goes through their heads, because there was no way I could NOT jump in after him - though keeping it in perspective THIS water was only knee deep, just fast flowing and COLD. I had to keep his head above water, and stop the hound from being swept down to the reservoir.
And the only way I could do this was by getting in there myself, and trying to hold him close while 18kg of collie thrashed around.

We were both fine. Just wet. Very wet.

Going home through Cheesetown's suburbs though, we gave an old guy the chance to prove that his powers of deduction were as yet unaffected by age.
"Aye, yi been in the wattur then?"

**On hearing the dog was epileptic, W joked to the cherub, "Hey EVERYONE you know isn't well these days. Except me of course...."

Memo to self - Re Interviews

Posted on 14:23 In:

Memo to Macy
From Sensible Self

Before the interview remember:-
1. Do NOT under any circumstances attempt to trim your own fringe. It is NEVER a good idea. Why exactly did you think it would be different this time?

2. Do not assume that interview suit, last worn February 2008, will still fit. Not if you lived on Haribo gums whilst giving up smoking it won't.

3. Shoes. Remember the too-tight suit needs matched with SHOES, not your usual wellies or trainers. (The following are also hopeless: cute blue silk pumps, Uggs, black sandals, green eco shoes, vertiginous spike heels, moccasins, flip flops, everything in patent leather, brown sandals, walking boots, furry slippers, striped ballerina slippers..chiz)

Never mind princess, if all else fails, remember you are not yet being interviewed as style editor for Grazia.

Pre Interview

Posted on 09:13

I have to call in at the recruitment consultant before heading off to my interview. Recruitment consultant will prepare me for my interview, and check my passport - presumably to make sure that I'm not actually an extremely clever MIGRANT who has disguised herself with a Scottish name, pale skin colour and strong west coast accent. Though it strikes me that if I've got this far, I might have been able to forge the paperwork too....
Anyhoots. I digress.

On the phone last night, the recruitment consultant has already explained that this Esteemed Financial Services Institution is looking for people who can give 150%. I have refrained form pointing out that they'll be lucky to get 50% from me, seeing's how I'm planning on going home evenings and weekends. But then, since my best is about 300% better than anyone else, this probably averages out OK.

RC: Now Macy, are there any parts of the interview you think you might have a problem with? Any questions you would have difficulty in answering?
Macy: No -o-o-o not really. The only question they could ask me, where I might wonder how best to phrase the answer would be that old chestnut about what I've been doing in the past year. Do they know at all?
RC: No, no they don't. What do you usually say?
Macy: Well I usually just come straight out and say W died. Because, erm, he did. Sometimes people become a bit flustered; other times they just ignore it..
RC: Mmm.. maybe better to not mention it at this stage.
Macy: I could, but then I think any employer is going to have to know some background, just because it does affect my current ability to work 150% for 24 hours a day.
RC: I think I might phone and mention it first then.

To Be Continued.

The Cherub has his Uses

Posted on 19:20
"Andrew says to come back to his tomorrow afternoon"

"Oh .. right... why what you doing?"

Deep sigh, "Well you've got that interview tomorrow haven't you?"

OMG I completely forgot! Thanks for reminding me!
Too late to get my hair done then.


Posted on 13:40 In:

The cherub never fails to surprise. Yesterday he announced he was CAN'T WAIT for Christmas.

Yep, here I am worrying how he's going to get on without the annual visit to Edinburgh Winterland with his dad, or the annual Christmas Day footy match after present opening. Dur, I forgot he's focused on the possibility of getting a PSP, or WWE SMACKDOWN 2010, or Skate 2. School holidays and disco might also have something to do with it too; maybe not even in that order... a Blonde Girl has been figuring in texts lately.

Then, as if there was any doubt about this EXCITEMENT being GENUINE, this morning he put forward his PLAN for the 23rd December.. yes, bear with me, the 23rd.

On the 24th he won't be able to sleep for excitement. To make sure he gets some rest he's planning a sleepover on the 23rd. He's rounding up some pals for an all-night X Box session.
On the 24th we have to go to his gran's. Being exhausted from his sleepover, he will go to bed EARLY. Miss sitting up with aged relatives, wake up to presents.


Life is good, non?

Headlines can be misleading

Posted on 19:54 In:

Some headlines I have to discuss with the cherub. Like this one

As, I pointed out to Cherub, it wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference to W. His cancer was a rare angiosarcoma, and although it affected his lungs it was incurable.

Also, maybe because we are in Scotland where everything is better (sorry, sarcasm...), or maybe because W was diagnosed at a quiet time for oncologists??.... well whatever, there were no delays I could see in his initial diagnosis.
Scans had followed the X rays which in turn had followed his GP visits so quickly that at the time I kept thinking all this for a false alarm. Ha! Hindsight!
The only delay was in diagnosing the tumour cells they removed from his lung. Which is fair enough when you look at how rare this sarcoma is, and what the diagnosis would mean...

Nope. From a very very small field sample of one, which I know doesn't make me a subject matter expert by a long chalk, the problem in W's treatment wasn't any delay in diagnosis. It was, and this I don't discuss with the Cherub, an apparent inability to treat the pain. As I think I've mentioned already. Endlessly.
Whether we need new drugs, better drugs, drugs that allow the patient to think coherently or remain mobile whilst under treatment; or whether W's doctors needed to improve their game plan sooner, I don't know.

But then there are no punchy headlines to be had in "Cancer patients suffer pain..." DUR

And probably good reasons for not making the news too public if you're trying to encourage the public to come forward for earlier diagnosis...

A complicated bereavement

Posted on 17:35 In: ,

Apparently I am going through a complicated bereavement.

Ha! And I'm reminded of W being upbeat about having a rare and complicated cancer when first diagnosed. "Now they have to take notice of me...."

It's complicated, what with only being reconciled a few months before he died; complicated what with having just finished with the Dybbuk before W was diagnosed; complicated with being made redundant, and so having no Structure.

All I know is there are some days, when his dying just hits me like a steam train all over again - and I can't believe he's gone. That's so not possible.

Not W. He wouldn't leave the Cherub.
He just wouldn't. He was the World's Best Dad.

Don't get me wrong, I don't envy other people with uncomplicated bereavements. Wouldn't wish any kind of bereavement on anyone. All bereavement is equally crap.

Macy would like to apologise

Posted on 18:53 In:

Sorry...If you are the man in the kilt and dinner jacket, who was jumping back into the big silver '09 Mercedes parked outside Tesco yesterday evening. Or, if you are the woman who was with this man; the woman in full evening dress, red shawl and Big Earrings: sorry.

It was me who was GLARING at you.

I know, I know. It's not my problem is it? Just because you're parked in a disabled parking bay outside the shop despite quite obviously being fit and fighting....So what if I never used these bays, at least on those times when it was only me going to the shop whilst my own disabled badgeholder, W, was waiting in the car. More mug me, huh? Thinking other people would be more in need of them.

And you guys were obviously just popping in to buy cigarettes or something..

So what if driving W made me appreciate these places, without which he could not have made it into shops. That was my misfortune to have gone through it... and your good luck that you haven't.

You keep on being dead chuffed with yourselves that you've got the nerve to park there why don't you?

Sorry, sorry, oops ranting again, tsk .. what I meant to say was SORRY, how could I have been so selfish and thoughtless glaring at you like that? Don't know what got into me.




Posted on 16:20 In: ,

I clocked the photo on Sparkle's wall last night. It's a good one, Sparkle and her three kids plus dog, in the snow. Sparkle and kids sledging downhill; everyone looking and laughing at whoever is taking the photo. The dog in pursuit.
Lots of white snow, and coloured ski clothes.****

Love your photo was it... Yes - W took it. It's great isn't it? That was last February, up behind the hospice at Fairmilehead.

That was last February. Possibly three weeks after the failed surgery to remove his lung. After a diagnosis, but before everything else.

Last February he could walk uphill through the snow. There was no pain; it was pre-chemo. He was out taking photos. Not one of the people in the photo, nor the man taking the photo had any idea of what was coming.

The two of us looking at it last night knew with hindsight though.

***Obviously Sparkle's photo is still on her wall. This isn't the photo in question.

Jock - A Newsflash

Posted on 09:06 In: ,

Yes, in an uncanny follow on from Tuesday's dog-themed post, today we have an update on JOCK DOG, W's old dog. He who was last heard of going to live with Kirsti ,what with him being bounced from Cheesetown after falling out with Ned then bounced from Nurse Laura's after her cat objected Well (deep breath) ...


OK it's not that bad. No need to panic (yet). I was only told yesterday (no point in upsetting me...yadda yadda yadda). He is still alive, and recovering back at Kirsti's. Apparently he escaped from Kirsti's,on Sunday night. A full-scale search was started around Q'Ferry. Was he trying to get back to W's old flat? Was he headed for that social hub of Q'Ferry - SCOTMID ...?

No. As Nurse Linda suggested, he was headed back two miles down the road to CHEESETOWN. Back to where he left W...

He went under a car a mile from Kirsti's. He's small, and black, and hard to see on a winter evening... he is apparently shaken, but still as with us as he ever was.....

Some days it does not get easier.

What do you DO with a dog?

Posted on 19:58 In:

That was the question a workmate asked me just after W and I got Jock Dog. At the time I thought it was an incredibly stupid question**...even from someone working in financial services where empathy and imagination are downright discouraged.

Thinking about it, though, DJ who was asking, came from the West Coast, so all the dogs he knew were probably working animals, getting sheep and tourists down off Ben Lomond or some such.

Anyway at the time I gave him a completely wet answer such as... "well you walk it and play with it don't you..."

Let me now, with 15 years to dwell on the question, come back with a fuller answer.

You walk it. At least twice a day, you go out in all weathers and you walk the thing. And obviously whilst doing this you get exercise yourself; for free - which is even better if you are currently without a job and unable to justify gym membership.

Whilst walking it you meet other people. Obviously getting a dog to meet people would be beyond sad - but having got the critter meeting the people is a great bonus. There are great people I would never have met if I didn't have a dog.

You give it routine - because, bless, dogs love routine. And in return they make sure that your day has a structure. Even when the bottom's fallen out of your world, it's the dog who's going to make sure you don't crawl under the duvet for a week. Because, guess what, it's the morning and he needs fed, walked, talked, attention..Every Day.

You play with it. You play great games that have no rules, and no bad losers. And you do stuff together, and all the outdoor stuff like camping and beach combing is much better with a dog - because they are always so dammed happy about doing stuff. All stuff, any stuff, just as long as it's stuff with you....

And you can hug it and pet it. If things get really bad, you can bury your head just behind their ears, and breathe deeply and smell that lovely warm comforting doggy smell. Dog as Prozac.

No I don't know why they don't come on the NHS either.

**Yeah I know, it looks like W's asking the same question in the first picture...

Missing sharing the news

Posted on 17:20 In: ,

There's one massively obvious fact, which for some reason I've never heard anyone mention. It is that there's no better person for chatting about your kid with, than THE OTHER PARENT.

Teachers are professionals, they're doing their job, and looking after a hundred other kids too; friends with kids, well there's always a shade of distance, and comparison with their own kids; friends without kids haven't personally been there, and step parents - well shoot me because there will be some exceptions to the rule, but step parents, well they're still one step removed. I know. I've been there.

No, for sharing stories about the kid, the other parent is the best bet. One of the best bits about being reconciled with W before he died, was being able to chat about the cherub. Stuff that drove us both mad (XBox addiction), stories we both found funny(cherub getting both wellies stuck in the mud and falling flat on his face), stuff we both liked about the kid (the jokes, the gentleness).

Well the cherub's just got a 1 in his foundation course English. His essay was the best in his year - despite everything.

And saying W would have been proud is not the same as telling him at all.

Sleepovers are a GOOD THING

Posted on 20:20 In: ,

The Cherub has always been Mr Sociable. (That would be one thing he's inherited from his father rather than his mother). In the cherub's book if anything's worth doing it's worth doing in company. Even his homework is done with constant phone calls to double check and confer with his mates.

Nothing's changed.

Except we have a problem in that he's not at his dad's at weekends anymore. He's here in CHEESETOWN, when all his pals are in Q'Ferry.

The cherub has, therefore, found his own solution. He imports his pals for sleepovers. We're on his fourth sleep over since his dad died last month. For a decent sleepover you need your pals over by lunchtime on Saturday. You need industrial quantities of pizza, popcorn and FANTA.
Pals will contribute sufficient supplies of chocolate to keep everyone buzzing all through the night.
Activities focus around X Box games. We have such sound politically-incorrect and age-inappropriate games as WWE SMACKDOWN, FIFA 2010, Call of Duty... I know, I know, but we do also have board games and Top Trumps.

Hey it's great therapy.

And here's the news. It is not possible to brood and get maudlin whilst there is an ongoing soundtrack from teenage boys in the next room:
Waark! No! GAYBO's after me
Toss -eh-eh-er
Ah, no man that's SHAN
Come on Toxic! Get him!
Toss -eh-eh-er
No! Nowee!
HAR I Will Prevail! HAR!
Sleepovers also have the great effect of stopping anywhere in the house becoming too, well too shrine like...Straws, bought for W to use when he couldn't raise his head are commandeered for blow football sessions and DRINKS. The iPod docking station W had use of to listen to CDs and radio 4 is taken back and re-tuned.

Even catering is great. I haven't made chocolate croissants since W's last weekend. With a houseful of boys, I've got the energy to do this again.

W would have loved it. He might have been able to get them to settle down before 4am though.

A short conversation with Sensible Self

Posted on 17:30

Sensible Self: OK so you had a cold, wet and windy couple of days in Amsterdam. Which was EXPENSIVE.
Macy: Hell it was worth it - the cherub and I needed a break
Sensible Self: Not as much as you need a job....
Macy: Yerm mumble, should have checked the euro the £ exchange rate I suppose...
Sensible Self: Should be updating your CV more like
Macy: Sigh....
Sensible Self: And if you can't manage that much, you're at least going to have to notify W's pension fund of Cherub's existence.
Macy:Well I have managed to get a copy of the birth certificate looked out....
Sensible Self: AND there's the small matter of child tax credits, which needs a TAX RETURN done before you can even start sorting the alleged overpayments 2008-2009.
Macy: Sigh.... tomorrow....Monday..will do...

Sensible Self: And buying a lottery ticket is going to solve nothing is it?

Macy: Remind me again why we never got on?

The cure for fear of flying

Posted on 08:22 In:
The cherub and I made it to Amsterdam, finally. After a 5am start from Cheesetown, through turbulence over the North Sea and a slightly bumpy landing at Schiphol. By 7pm we were at an Indonesian restaurant.

You'll need to make allowances for some of my conversations with Cherub. I have no idea how you take a kid through a bereavement, so I'm just making it up as I go along.

Me: You know, sometimes I still can't believe that your dad's dead. It just seems so final. Like he just went on ahead there, big world traveller that he was and Did This Thing.
Cherub: Yeah. Now and again I think that too.

Me: But you know, it's funny; today on the plane when it was really bumpy, I wasn't scared at all.
Cherub:No me neither

Me: It's as if, well if the worst happened...whatever... you know...he'd be there anyway.
Cherub:Yeah. We'd see him again.

Me: Yeah. Well it looks like I've got over my fear of flying then....

A (non) conversation with my mother

Posted on 11:14 In:

RATIONAL SELF: Macy. No. Let's not go there. It's not a good plan!
Macy: She'll never find out.
RS: But others will. And she's old and arguably doesn't deserve it.
Macy: Well she's allegedly still rational and arguably does..
RS: You Will Be Sorry. Mark My Words. Transcribing conversations with your mother onto blogs IS NOT NICE
RS: Go on then. I dare you...
Pregnant Pause....
Macy: Right OK. The bits in pink italics are the bits I didn't say OK?
RS: Sighs, crosses arms and looks pointedly at the ceiling.
Macy: Hi Maw! {Hi, thought I'd phone you, since you never phone me these days}
Maw: Oh hello. How are you then?
Macy: Oh fine, fine {Actually some days I could go running down the street screaming, or just HOWL. But I don't think you want to know that}
Maw: Oh that's good. And how's the cherub?
Macy: Oh fine, you know....looking forward to Amsterdam. {Look his dad died two weeks back. How do you think he's doing?? Actually if you really wanted to know, you could come and visit him. Although you have pointedly not done that since I moved W back in}
Maw: Oh that's good. Did I tell you I met {insert name of other old lady here} the other day? She was asking after you.
Macy: No {Who??? dim memories of casual acquaintance} How's she doing?
Maw: Oh fine. Her leg's not been too good though. And we were just saying we need to meet up for a cup of tea sometime.
Macy: Oh that'd be nice. {Yeah right. The reason you didn't come to W's funeral was because you had arranged to meet a pal for lunch that day}. Listen, are you going to be OK babysitting Ned while we're away next week? Petal and Bob are OK for walking him and everything..
Maw: Oh aye, me and Ned get along fine.
Macy:{That's more than you ever managed with W} OK, I'm just worrying that you'll get a bit lonely over here. Do you want to invite someone else? What about Myra? {Oops Macy, you might have done it now...}
Maw: MYRA?? Why would I want That One?
Macy: Well she was offering to come over sometime too {Yes my aunt Myra did want to come to W's funeral. And she caused A Major Diplomatic Incident for even suggesting it}. Or what about Jean?
Maw: Oh Jean will be too busy.
Macy: Oh well if you're sure {Because personally I think you never told your pal Jean. She liked W, and would have been at his funeral in a minute}
Maw: Oh I'll be fine me. I'll come over on the Monday though.

Rational Self: Happy now?
Macy: Yeah. Feels better getting that off my chest.
RS: Sighs....
Macy: AND I'm going to leave the sympathy cards up for her when she comes....
RS groans.
Macy: She never liked him you know, never. But I don't get what her problem is now. I really don't. He's dead. Why can't she even say she's sorry? Why was she pretending he wasn't even here the last months?
RS: People do the best they can do Macy. Maybe she's just jealous of the care and attention he got. Maybe she's embarrassed at all the fuss she caused around the funeral.

Next week is SORTED

Posted on 12:24 In:

Next week is SORTED. The cherub and I are off to Amsterdam.
Yup, we like it there, and the kid needs a break. I'll worry about the cost later. Right now we're headed off on a BMI flight which cost £1.04 out and a whole £3.64 back. HA!

We're going to stay at the Hotel Filosoof, where we always go, and we're going to cycle around the place all the time, stopping off at the places the cherub loves like the Aquarium (which is the best aquarium in the WORLD. The fish are HUGE), and the resistance museum, and the science museum. If he's lucky we'll go to the theme park at Efteling. If he's unlucky and it pours with rain, or Efteling's closed, we're going to CoBrA and the Van Gogh museum.

Either way we're definitely going to the Worst Chinese Restaurant in the World, which is hilarious (we found it last time we were there), and having a rijsttaffel at our favourite Indonesian...separate nights obviously.

The cherub hasn't been this stoked since, well since last Christmas basically.

And we're taking the guide book W gave me back in August. Back then he'd started the Great Giveaway. Everything he had, had to be found a home with someone. DVDs were getting bundled up and handed over, and books sorted. The aquarium had to be moved to its new home, not after.. now... E was to get the music centre, Cherub would get the camera...I had to take the moroccan blanket and big mirror, and he was constantly deciding where his furniture would look best at mine.

By September it was getting embarrassing.

The guide book was the first of his giveaways. He was still offhand at that stage. "Here, you and the cherub enjoy Amsterdam don't you? I got this through a Guardian offer, I'm not going to need it."

As if we wouldn't be remembering him while we there anyway.

The photos are GREAT

Posted on 17:57 In: , ,
He was into photography. Everywhere we went he carried this great heavy rucksack with his camera, filters, zoom lenses, and equipment stuff. He worked mainly on slide film; a lot of abstracts, friends in pubs, friends at parties, family in NZ, scenery, holidays, and of course endless ones of the cherub once he arrived on the scene.

And when we split up he took all the albums, and files and loose snaps with him. And I was sure that in the first months after we split he would have been happily destroying any of the ones I was in...

Well I've inherited the albums. And the photos are all there. And it's great. It's not sad at all. It's really great looking at them all again.
I'd forgotten so much, and now I have the slides and photos to remind me.

The photo above is us in NZ Feb 1993.
Me " the camera's going to leave a hair's a it in focus?...I'll do it"
Him "It'll be fine: SMILE"

Sums up a lot of what went wrong between the control freak and the laid back kiwi, non? Hey, whatever, turns out we were BOTH right. Which could be the moral of this blog.

Now all I need to do is get a gadget to convert those thousands of slides to digital...


Posted on 12:42 In:

John Lewis is selling very trendy trees for minimalist scrooges for £50. Although since Scrooges aren't going to pay £50 for a paper tree there may be a flaw in the JL marketing plan were they to think that one through.

Anyhoots, I saw it, I love it, it fits my mood and I WANT ONE!! This afternoon Ned and I are off on a reconnaissance trip to see if we can find any freebie substitutes lying around Cheesetown.

That'll be step one.

Step two will involve a can of spray snow, and my best Kirstie Allsop impersonation.
Hi Kirstie!

Step three will be training Ned NOT to pee on or chew it.

Christmas. It's out there, and it's LURKING and it's not going to go away.

There were warning signs awhile back....the supermarkets were featuring Christmas specials even before W died. Now, though, Cheesetown has its Christmas lights up, we've got Christmas trees on sale, and the school has announced the dates of its Christmas show. Christmas is becoming Very Likely To Happen For Real - Soon.

Early last month, when we met with W's care team at the hospice, they said that "Christmas might be problematic"... Plan A was, therefore, to have an early yule.
I'd even started stockpiling W's beloved chocolate oranges.

So, yeah, we didn't even make it to Halloween. Now we're on Plan B. Plan B is in its draft stages. So far all I know is that it will ideally be Very Cheap, and feature too many chocolate oranges....


I can do this thing. Can so too.

Sometimes he just couldn't be bothered. Endless, endless patience with kids, a real interest in and concern for the adults with learning difficulties he worked with all his life, but no time at all for time-wasters and the small minded. None.

Unfortunately he put his social worker in that bracket.

There was never going to be a meeting of minds between W and his social worker.

Wee Mary, I could see as being great with the elderly palliative care cases. The cases that needed lots and lots of slow talking from a very respectable looking middle-aged woman. But W? Nope, nope, noppety no. There would have been a personality clash if W could have been bothered clashing, and if Wee Mary, well if Wee Mary had a personality. Sorry but true.

Today Wee Mary phoned to check how the cherub and myself were doing - and I remembered the last time we met. Wee Mary, the cherub, W and I were at the hospice having a "family" session, when W suddenly just manoeuvred himself out of his chair, got his walking stick, and started hobbling slowly towards the door. No further ado. No comment. He was off.

"Oh...oh... well em if you're tired W, we can just carry on" said Wee Mary, who had been in mid-flow as to the notice periods needed for personal care services.
W couldn't turn round anyway, but half raised his stick and left.

I got out that meeting as quickly as I could. I was worried about W taking another turn for the worse; though if I was honest, I was more worried about the cherub falling into a coma with boredom while we discussed W's ongoing care support, or me having to stick pins in my eyes to stay awake.

The cherub and I got back to W's ward, to find the patient, NOT in any deep sleep, NOT in any more pain but sitting up in bed listening to his MP3 player and reading the Guardian.

Are you OK? What's up?? Is it your back hurting again?

Naw naw, just couldn't listen to her anymore.


{Big grin}. Had a good meeting then?

Today Wee Mary was phoning to let me know she was available if the cherub or I needed someone to talk to... urm....well some of my memories she might not appreciate.

Something worth knowing

Posted on 17:45 In:

Sometimes you learn something, some fact that stays with you.
I learned this a couple of weeks ago:

Nurse Linda was talking about undertakers (as you do), and she said she'd been surprised that some of them didn't talk to the corpse. She always accompanied her (ex) patients out to the hearse, she always talked to them. Just saying things like "That's us going through the doors now... you'll be all at peace soon...." Lots of nurses do.

I like that thought. I'm not sure how that level of patient care is being measured on performance appraisals within the NHS these days though.

Because It's Rememberance Sunday

Posted on 16:31 In:

Apologies to those looking for updates from Cheesetown. Today I've gone all POLITICAL....

To me, Remembrance Sunday is about remembering those servicemen and women who have died for their country. It's not a political event, or even necessarily a pro war event, it's a simple acknowledgement of lives laid down.

This year, for one reason and another, I'm thinking especially about the kids who have lost their father.

I don't want to be too pathetic here, but Dads are important. They're there to teach you to swim and ride a bike, to cheer you on through all the primary league football games, to encourage you to climb hills, sail a boat, scale Alien Rock.

At least that's what the cherub's dad did.

And as a teenager you still need them to sub you if mum's being tight with pocket money, to work through the various levels of Call of Duty with you, to cheer when you pass another science test, to take you to rugby internationals - especially if you are entitled to cheer the All Blacks.

So the cherub is far from alone in losing his dad this year. 403 British servicemen have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. I was thinking that a lot of them would have had kids. Being young men, they would have had young kids....For some reason there's no readily available figures on how many kids have been affected. I bet there's A LOT

You'll notice I'm not even going on to consider the orphans and carnage in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or American kids.

I'll tell you what though, if I was a politician I'd make sure I was really certain the cause was clear, achievable, and RIGHT.
How else could you justify even one kid losing someone as important as his dad?

Sorry. Normal apolitical service continues tomorrow.


Posted on 11:03 In: ,

Despite being on my to do list for the past week, Collecting The Ashes wasn't happening.
I didn't want the ashes in my house. Which is odd, because W's body yes, but the ashes...too grim and too final maybe.
So the excuses piled up
  • No box to put them in
  • No time to collect what with the cherub's orthodontist and other stuff...
  • Didn't want to upset the cherub
  • Not sure I'd be able to without all the paperwork, whatever that might be
  • I didn't want to go back to the crematorium

It took Nurse Linda to suggest that she accompany me. Friends of W were meeting that evening to commemorate him, and it would be better if his ashes had been collected and saved from a possible ignominious loss at the crematorium by then.

We drove back up to the crematorium yesterday. Because we were late, we had to knock on the door and get the cleaner to collect the ashes (there's something wrong about that sentence, I'll worry about later). Anyway we had the standard discussion about who we were, and why we hadn't collected the ashes on the scheduled date, and forms to sign, and then I got given the box.

That's it. It's a box of ashes. They grind them finely after cremation to disguise remaining bones, teeth, oh don't think about it.
It's quite heavy.
And I had such a sense of W when I held it.

And I said, as much to him as to Linda, "Oh Jesus. Who'd have thought ... when I went into the Prince of Wales that night in Aberdeen..."

National Insurance

Posted on 17:36 In:
If it's Friday then it must be time for a quick discussion about National Insurance.

I know, I'll keep it short....

Working for an enlightened employer in the public sector, W was entitled to six months sick pay on full salary, and six months on half salary.

Since he died less than a year after first signing off with a bad cold / chest infection, his final payslip arrived last week. It's dated 31st October - or 11 days after he died.
It shows:-
  • 15 days holiday paid in lieu - check. Well he was hardly going to book a holiday was he?
  • 5 Weeks severance pay - check. Standard. Would have been dismissed on grounds of ill health if he had lived.
  • Less tax - check. Everyone pays taxes. Two things in life being certain, etc etc
  • Less national insurance and pension contributions????
Memo to self. Phone tax office and check if dead people need to make provision for their pension.

Magical Thinking

Posted on 17:38 In:

Being a (mainly) rationalistic and slightly cynical type of person normally, I am AWARE that there is the danger of falling into the trap of Magical Thinking; especially now, when I am in a wee bit of an emotional state.

Magical thinking is endowing objects with more power or meaning than they actually have. It's a belief in spirits manipulating the physical world. Alternatively it can be read as a projection of mental states onto the external world.

Joan Didion had a whole year of it after her husband died- apparently.

Not me. Sentimental, yes; irrational no.

So just because I keep finding coins in the strangest places - on the ground at the garage forecourt, inside one of my welly boots, and at the bottom of a waste paper bin; means only that I and others like me are careless with small change and £ coins ...

The rose flowering in the garden in November, means only that we've been having a mild autumn, and I planted that rose bush late in the year. It is not relevant that it is directly under the window of the room W died in.

And the beautiful sunsets we've been having over Cheesetown lately would, obviously have happened regardless of when W died.

So in a supremely rational thought mode, I can recognise that I am attributing meaning against inanimate objects, recognise that this is irrational, but enjoy it; because I like the thought of W sending down the Karma.

It's my new rational magical thinking therapy.

Conde Nast Have Been in Touch

Posted on 19:42 In:

Conde Nast have been in touch. Unfortunately not to take me up on my earlier suggestions for a new magazine...

No, but the next best thing - they want to know my opinions!


Nothing I love more than giving my opinions. I am a market researcher's dream.
This evening they want to know my opinion on watches and jewellery... why? how has my name come up on their survey database???

Whatever, since completing their survey means I might win a holiday..... I have answered very honestly, that I am female, I am professional ( well the ICAEW wants its subscription fees again...) and that yes I own four watches, and yes I buy myself jewellery.

So far so good.

From the jewellers which they list (Asprey, Bulgari, Cartier, Channel, De Beers, Gucci, Tiffany, Van Arpel et al), I select those I think of as good quality, and those I would like to own (Tiffany and Boodles if anyone's wondering....).

I indicate that my last jewellery purchase was for myself, in the past three months, and that yes, I do have an engagement ring.

No my purchase was not influenced by celebrity endorsement nor an item which I saw in a magazine.

But my last jewellery purchase cost £4.99 from Acessorize.

Before that I spent £3 on bangles from Poundstretcher...

Survey people, you haven't allowed me to indicate anywhere that I am currently on carers allowance! All I can do is hint this, through indicating that I will be spending less £100 per month on jewellery ...

I gave them some more hints. On marital status I ticked "widowed"; my annual household income is shown as being under £35,000 this year..... and I showed myself as reading the Guardian more than four times per week.

All of which will still let some Conde Nast Executive go off to Tiffany to enthuse about how they are reaching professional female Guardian readers who are active purchasers of jewellery.

Unless the Gruaniad suddenly starts carrying ads for expensive jewellers

Welcome to the car crash...

I have a complicated bereavement. I was only reconciled with my ex, W, months before he died of cancer. Luckily (for him) I was made redundant and able to care for him while he died here at home - October 20th.
Currently getting through it with our son, aka the Cherub, dog Ned, and friends here in CHEESETOWN.

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