Bah Humbug! – And the Grumpy Old Woman. Lost car keys. Social Services. Freezing weather. Colon Cancer & the Bag Lady!


Bit of double entendre in the title –

since my radical surgery my sons have referred to me as ‘the bag lady’!

The fact that I always use carrier bags for everything is incintental.


This will probably turn into a rant, but I have to unleash it somewhere otherwise I’ll go completely off my head (already part of the way there).

It’s been brewing for some time on the run up to Christmas. Such a bad time of year for me – New Year’s morn being three years since Paul died.

Every year I ask myself why I make things more complicated by making my own cards. Well, I don’t really know, other than it seeming more personal and interesting for the recipient. I certainly don’t save money, in fact quite the contrary with the cost of printing ink and paper, but most of all it’s the time they take. This year’s card was almost ready made, in the sense that the photo Lyn took of me when we went back to Trafalgar Square for the final day of the 4th Plinth was hilarious, as it looked like I was suspended from a corkscrew. (The corkscrew actually being the edge of the safety net receding into the distance). I say it was ‘ready made’ but I still had to eliminate the woman on the phone just behind the bags and remove the ground from beneath my feet.

Then there are the gifts – heaps of them, most of which have to be posted, as I don’t usually see family at Christmas. The Scottish family come down for a couple of days between Christmas and New Year, so their presents wait till then. The Hong Kong gifts are a nightmare and I keep saying I will send money instead, but never do. All the gifts packed in one parcel would have cost over £80 to post, so I broke it down to three parcels to go ‘small package rate’ at just over £50! So that’s three lots of wrapping weighing and custom declarations on top of the individual gift wrap with more than one to each member of the family. The irony is that probably most of the gifts were made in China!

Tuesday I was expecting two heating engineers at 9am to come and fix my central heating – the two downstairs radiators haven’t been functioning since July and mum and I have been freezing. At 10.30am they still hadn’t pitched up, so I phoned the company. They had previously told me it would take five hours to flush the system and I needed to be out at around 5pm for the Thrivine meeting and Christmas party. The guys came soon after and I managed to get off to Thrivine around 5.30 and how nice it is to come back to a warm house!

When I returned I found my mother in bed – fully clothed! I woke her and asked if she would like a cuppa to which she replied ‘yes’, so as she was still dressed I suggested she come down for it. Off I went to make the tea – still no mother, so I went back upstairs – she’s fiddling with her slippers, I go down – still no mother – I go back – she’s fiddling with her cardigan – I go down – no mother – she’s back in bed! And so it goes on till eventually she materialises. In the meantime I’ve been back to the cards and the parcels. More of her excrement to deal with (and I don’t mean metaphorically) before she is safely tucked up and I’m really tired so decide to call it a day, gather up a few things to put in the dustbins for collection in the morning and as I’m multitasking I also pick up some things to deposit in various places en route.

Next morning I go down to unlock the doors, only to find I haven’t locked them! No sign of car keys and after turning the place upside down I can only conclude that they have gone into the dustbin and off to the tip!

I go to the dealership to order a new key, only to be told that I should have a ‘key card’, but as Paul wasn’t planning on dying he had never informed me of the whereabouts (or existence) of such a card.

I return home very disgruntled and on the narrow parked-up roads repeatedly wait patiently for oncoming traffic – not one of the drivers gave me an acknowledgement! Entering the house to the pile of ‘wonderful’ Christmas greetings I also find a slip left by the postman at 1.30 – ‘parcel too big for letterbox’. ‘Goody, I wonder who that’s from’, I exclaim to myself, but don’t have time to go back into town to collect it, as Mum will soon be home from day-care. When she comes in I have to take newly serviced car back to garage as the washers aren’t working!

Back home I turn the place over again, looking for the key card. I find a key card for the crook-lock, but none for the car, so it looks like another £30 on top of the price of a key.

Realising my stress levels are rising, I phone Wayne, my mum’s social worker, to ask for some more respite vouchers as I’m currently without. ‘Oh, Wayne left this department months ago. Your mother currently doesn’t have a social worker; you’ll have to have another assessment!’ ‘But my mum is almost 92; she has a mixture of dementia and Alzheimer’s, so you think she is going to improve?’ ‘Does she have anything else wrong with her?’ ‘Yes, she has arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome (I forgot to mention the cataracts and glaucoma).’ ‘Does she live with you?’ ‘Yes’. ‘What do you have to do for her?’ ‘Just about everything!’ ‘Okay, I’ll notify the department and ask for a referral. Let me see which area you are in. Oh it’s the West and I know they are very busy, so if you haven’t heard by midweek, next week, give them a ring on this number … .’ When Wayne issued my last lot of vouchers he indicated I could just phone again for the coming year. The lady who runs the care-home my mum occasionally goes in, said I have an entitlement, so why must I go through this ritual over and over again. Exactly the same thing happened with Karen, my mum’s previous social worker. Why aren’t we carers told when they move on, then there can be continuity? I’m saving the local authority thousands a year. Because I’m on Pension Credit, my carers allowance is literally a few pounds.

Yesterday afternoon a visit from a nice man who is going to attempt to sort out the TV, which no longer works on ITV nor several other channels. I know he thinks I haven’t got it tuned properly, so to his surprise, I have – and my theory of an insufficient signal is confirmed. He arranges for a man to come and see to the aerial today. Would I prefer morning or afternoon? Afternoon would be best as it means I can pop into town in the morning and call and get my parcel.

Later in the evening I’m still making cards and I stamp some of them, but one that requires posting is still missing an address. My friend Shahla has moved, but if I write her name on the envelope and stamp it, I can ask a mutual friend for the address when I’m in town. Sorted!

8am ready for town, but will just take the stamped addressed cards around to the box before I leave. Done! Right – got parcel to take to PO, shopping bags, Shahla’s card. Where? I’ve only gone and posted it (un-addressed) with the others!

Town. Desperate need for coffee. Stop at little van in the precinct. ‘Sorry, not open yet!’ Go to market to see if I can find ‘old lady’ dress for mum. ‘Sorry, don’t think you’ll get any in the market’. Since TJ Hughes was pulled down last year it is impossible to get a dress for my mum. She doesn’t like anything waisted as she is narrow in the shoulder and broad in the bum, so dresses that hang from a yoke are the best. I would normally make them, but no time and no room.’ Go to buy new baby gift/card/wrapping and a few groceries in M & S, leaving by the side entrance as a ‘mature’ man is entering. I stand back and rather assume he will hand the open door to me when he has entered. He doesn’t, muttering something along the lines of ‘don’t think I’m holdin’t’ doo-er for you!’ Thank you! Shaking my head.

Leaving town I see an old man with a stick struggling on the icy pavements (apparently it’s okay for pedestrians to be slipping and sliding all over the place these days). I stop the car, get out, slide over to him and ask if he would like me to drive him into town where the pavements were less slippy. By his reaction you would have thought I was trying to mug him. He all but shook his stick at me!

Drive out of town via the parcel sorting office. As soon as I saw the box I realised what it was because I have had several before. Energy saving light bulbs – which never fit, because they are bayonet and all my lights are screw fittings! Happy Christmas!

Call in at Aldi and Iceland on the way home. Aghhhhhhh! The car park hasn’t even been gritted (courtesy of ‘Euro Car Parks’, I suppose). Outside of Aldi they had made a bit of an attempt, but directly in front of Iceland entrance was like a skating rink – even by their disabled parking! Well, I’m sorry, but I really think they could have done better for their customers – or maybe they would say, ‘well – we are a freezer company!’

Now for my last port of call – into Mill Hill to post my parcel and face the most miserable sub-postmaster – ever! You may ask why I didn’t post the parcel in town – answer – the snaking queue about 30 metres long! What a bonus to find Sour-Face must be taking a break, but on the downside more queuing on account of it.

Got home to find two cars nose to nose in my disabled parking bay!!!

Plenty of time to receive the aerial man, except as the afternoon wore on; I began to wonder if he was coming, so phoned the company. I actually thought the weather might be too bad for him. ‘Oh – he came this morning at 10am. No access and customer not answering her phone!!!’ ‘His visit was specifically arranged (by the man who came yesterday) for this afternoon. 10am is not this afternoon – it is morning – and I have an answer machine – no messages on it!’ ‘Very sorry, I’ll put you through to someone else and you can rearrange.’ It beggars belief!


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Born in Liverpool at the end of WW2, but raised in Skelmersdale. I first studied art in Southport from 1960-63 and worked in graphic design till I married. In December 1969 I moved to Zambia with my husband and two young children. There I taught art in the local girls school, illustrated for the National Correspondence College and did all sorts of other artwork, paid and unpaid. In 1978 I divorced and remarried in the summer of 1980. In 1985 I became ill and the following year cancer was diagnosed. There was no treatment available in Zambia and so I had to go to the UK. After recovering from a radium needle implant I went back to Zambia, but 18 months later the cancer recurred and it was off to the UK again for radical surgery. This time I realised I must stay in the UK where treatment was available, so I never returned to Zambia nor my husband. A few months later I applied for a degree course, but two years later the disease metastasised and I spent most of my final year in and out of hospital. It’s been a long hard road, but I’m still plodding on and it is now 24 years since my last cancer treatment. Because of my experience of cancer and surviving against the odds, I try and help others cope with their devastating diagnosis and prognosis.

One thought on “Bah Humbug! – And the Grumpy Old Woman. Lost car keys. Social Services. Freezing weather. Colon Cancer & the Bag Lady!”

  1. I enjoyed reading this, thank you. I have used lots of different corkscrews in last few years. I have tried all kinds of corkscrews, from original to electric. I think the best choice would be Houdini Wine Opener. It has really simple learning curve, so you’ll be able to remove corks in no time. You think I’m kidding you?. You can search more in google and find out what people talk about it.


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