MRI — The Machine Did Not Explode


Well, my Wednesday was very annoying. This was partly my fault, as I managed to get extremely stressed over something which I know, from past experience, is not a thing worth being stressed over. But I’m out of practice.

As my regular readers will know, a few years ago I had a small brain tumour removed, via craniotomy, and hence ceased a 5-year migraine and a lot of hassle, and a whole new lot of weird things needed to be coped with, but on the whole, I was much better. However, the nasty little tumour they removed (I think all brain tumours are nasty, but perhaps I’m biased) has a tendency to regrow. It’s not malignant (cancer) and so I suppose if you have to have a brain tumour, my type was one of the better ones. But it was still nasty.

Now, when they operated, they told me that due to nasty tumour’s tendency to regrow, I would have occasional MRIs for the rest of my life. These have become further and further apart, and in November they sent through an appointment—for Wednesday. I have been in many MRI machines, I know the drill, I know it is mainly boring and very loud and slightly uncomfortable because you can’t move and you’re lying on a hard surface. But they are nothing to worry about, there is no need for stress. I know all this. However, Wednesday morning I was tense and snappy and couldn’t concentrate and the whole morning was spent waiting to leave for London.

I left far too early, telling myself that trains might be cancelled and I did not want to be late, and I could have a cup of coffee at Victoria. Then, as we sat on the train, watching the rain-saturated fields whiz by, Husband’s phone rang. For some reason, the hospital only seems to have Husband’s number (I have given them mine many times, so perhaps they don’t really trust me). Anyway, it was the imaging centre, saying that my appointment had been cancelled.

We got off the train at Croydon, and I called them back. The administrator told me that yes, she was very sorry, but the MRI machine had broken, and the engineer needed to get a new part, and therefore my appointment was cancelled.

I tried to change her mind. I asked if they had more than one MRI machine (they do) and why I couldn’t simply be scanned in the other one. I told her that we had already set off, and that the scan was to discover if my brain tumour had regrown (which I don’t think is the case, but we can’t be sure). She checked her lists, and tried to fit me in, but eventually told me that sorry, I need to be in the machine for 45 minutes, and that was just too long to fit into an already full schedule. She made another appointment, for Friday. Which was not so very long to wait, but I was still annoyed. I really hope I was also polite—it wasn’t her fault, and she was being very kind.

We walked across to the other platform, and caught a train home. As I travelled home, I wondered how they had chosen which patients to phone, because I’m pretty sure we would not have been allocated to a specific machine. I then realised, that actually, some of those appointments would be emergencies. There would be people with hydrocephalus, or in agony, and for them to be scanned ahead of me was completely right. My appointment, whilst important, is not urgent. I need to be checked, but I won’t die while I’m waiting. If I learnt anything about being ill, it is that medical things rarely go smoothly, and you need to be a little chilled about it. I tried to forget about it, and got on with my day.

***

Friday arrived and I repeated the process. I travelled up to Victoria again (managed to get further than Croydon this time) and Husband kindly met me after work. We wound our way through the busy London streets, because I prefer to walk than take the underground. Walking calms me, and helps me to focus on not getting lost rather than on the unpleasantness ahead. Husband wondered if they had fixed the machine properly, and said he hoped it wouldn’t explode while I was in it. I didn’t find this a very helpful comment.

We arrived at the imaging centre, and I filled out a questionnaire, and assured them that I had been scanned several times since my surgery, therefore whatever they rebuilt me with must be safe in their machine.

Then it was time, they gave me ear-plugs and headphones, I lay on the hard bench, they secured my head so I couldn’t move, and lowered something like a visor over my face. I was given a plastic thing to press if I needed their attention, and offered a blanket. (I always accept the blanket, those machines get cold!) I shut my eyes, so I could pretend I was in a wide open field, and I felt the bench being slid into the machine. The voice of the operator boomed into my ears, asking if I was alright, telling me she was ready to start. I like it when they speak to me –some operators are better at that than others. Then the machine started, with judders and thumps and what sounded like metal grinding against metal, and at one point the whole machine trembled and shook, and I wondered if the world outside had exploded, and I was the only person left alive. I kept my eyes shut, and tried to not move (does swallowing count as moving? I’m never sure if I’m allowed to swallow in there!) I tried to pray, because there’s not much else to do when trapped in a machine, and it seemed a good use of time, to pray for friends and family and the possibility that the world might be about to implode.

Eventually, it was finished. The very nice operator sent someone to slide me out from the machine, and I returned the ear protection, and folded the blanket, and felt a little dizzy from lying still for so long. They couldn’t tell me anything, I have to wait for my appointment with the surgeon in 3 months for that. But I didn’t really care. It was done ( and I know from experience, that if there had been anything urgent they would have delayed me until a medic had checked the scan).

We left. Jay met us on his way home from work, and we ate at The Natural Kitchen in Baker Street, and the evening was rather lovely.

I hope your nasty things this week have lovely endings too. Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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 You can read more about my brain tumour experience in my little book: How to Have a Brain Tumour by Anne E Thompson

Available from Amazon (free if you have Kindle Select).

 

The Beast of Exmoor


One of my favourite places in the world is Exmoor. I love the wildness, the untamed views, the weather-deformed plants, the wildlife struggling to exist in an austere landscape. I love that people have had so little impact, and that wild ponies wander over areas of toughened grass and wiry heather. So, when we were in Devon, and Husband suggested a walk on the moors rather than another beach walk, I was very keen. 

I dressed in my new bobble hat and gloves and thick coat—because whatever the weather when you leave the house, the moors can catch you out with harsh winds that push through layers of clothes and freeze your bones. We drove to one of the roads that meanders through the moor, crossed the cattle grid, and looked for somewhere to park. There are several areas along the road where cars can pull off and stop.  There were various cars parked on areas of rock, and we were in a 4-wheel drive, so it was easy. I’m not sure how the Fiesta would manage. (But then, our Fiesta has moss growing on it, so I’m never sure it will even make it to the shops and back!)

The moor is covered with tracks, and we followed one towards a triangulation point (a small tower of concrete used in mapping). The earth was black, sodden from the rain, rivulets of water running between the granite stones. The wind snatched at our hats, tangling hair and tugging at our clothes, the heather whispered beside us as we walked up the hill. Kia had to be kept on the extending lead, because I didn’t trust her not to chase sheep or deer, but actually we didn’t see any animals at all, only their tracks.

We saw lots of footprints, and Exmoor is home to sheep, wild ponies, and deer–as well as possibly a panther.
We didn’t see any of them while we were walking.

The water was seeping through the peat soil, meeting a layer of granite and trickling down in a mini waterfall. Kia used it as a drinking fountain!

I was also looking out for signs of the Exmoor Beast—a probably mystical animal that has been sighted for decades on Exmoor. Apparently at one time, after a farmer had a flock of his sheep killed, the government based the Marine Commandoes on Exmoor, in hides, to try to confirm whether the animal existed. They didn’t see anything. Most people think that probably a panther was released there in the 1970’s, when the law changed so it was illegal to keep them as pets—but who knows? Unless it eats some people, it’s unlikely to be discovered.

We didn’t have a compass, and Husband worried that we might get lost if we wandered too far from the sight of the triangulation post. I thought we’d be fine, and marched off into the wilderness. It was surprisingly hard to find the same route back. If the mist had come down, I think you could wander for hours.

As we drove away from the moor, we saw a herd of deer, the males standing tall against the horizon—beautiful.

There is something about Exmoor that reminds us how small we are, how vulnerable we are when immersed in a wilderness, whether there are panthers or not, which is a good thing to be reminded of occasionally. A long walk in the wind also makes you feel a tea with scones and cream is completely justified—which is the part of Devon that should be enshrined in law.

There are triangulation posts scattered over Exmoor, which make helpful markers for not getting lost. Other places have standing stones: large slabs of granite standing up like soldiers.

I hope you have a wonderfully wild time this week. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Snappy Lids Are Very Loud!


Snappy lids are very loud!

 

It’s that time of year when all the ‘vouchers’ my family gave me for Christmas are being used up, and I am having lots of nice treats (much nicer than another pair of socks!) Last week I used my ‘afternoon tea’ voucher.

To be honest, when I suggested a voucher for afternoon tea, I had been thinking about a trip to London, to one of the big posh hotels. I have already been fortunate enough to have been invited to a tea at The Ritz (which is sort of the ‘ultimate’ traditional English afternoon tea venue) but I have heard that Claridge’s does a very good tea too. (At £70 per person, it jolly well ought to be good! The Ritz is a bargain at only £60 per person—though don’t be tempted to pay another £50 for a birthday cake, as the cake which arrives is the size of a cupcake and looks rather dry, in my opinion. I have rather strong opinions when it comes to cake).

However, my gift was not for tea in London, it was for afternoon tea at the Watersmeet Hotel in Devon—where you might remember we had an exceptionally lovely tea last year. We were staying in Instow, Devon, for a few days (Husband tends to take me there every January so I can recover from Christmas—I tend to be not very nice and exceptionally explosive when I’m over-tired, so it’s probably a good idea). I packed some smart clothes (ie, clothes not covered in dog/cat hairs or mud) and we drove to the hotel on Sunday afternoon. The drive was a pretty one, through lanes bordered with high hedges, past tiny streams meandering through valleys, and through towns with old churches and stone cottages and lanes only just wide enough for a car.

 The Watersmeet Hotel has a dining room with big windows overlooking the cove. It looks very nice on their website, but last year when we arrived for our tea, we were seated in the lounge—still nice, but not quite as nice. Last year I had commented, and tried to show them my voucher, with photos of the dining room. Husband whispered that actually he had made the voucher himself, by stealing photos from their website, so perhaps my position wasn’t as strong as I thought it was! This year though, Husband had specifically asked if we could sit in the dining room when he booked the tea. We were shown to a seat, in the window, looking down on the cove. It was perfect.

The tea, when it arrived, was enough for at least four people. I had remembered this from the previous year, and had come prepared. Smuggled into my smart blue bag, were tiny plastic containers with snappy lids, all ready to store any leftover food.

We sat and drank tea (proper, strong, made with tea-leaves, tea). We admired the food, and ate the sandwiches and some of the cakes and one of the scones. I then, very stealthily, drew the first container from my bag. It was small—the perfect size for a fat scone. Husband laughed at me, and commented that his nan* would be proud of me. All was going well, no one else noticed, until I came to close the lid. Snappy lids are very loud. The sound echoed around the empty dining room, and the family sitting in the lounge looked up, surprised. Husband laughed. I looked at the remaining cakes, and glanced at the row of small containers sitting deceptively quietly in my bag. Dare I use them to store the leftover cakes and cause a whole series of loud pops?

 Yep, I dared. It was loud, and the waitress popped in to find out what was happening, but the cakes weren’t wasted.

Actually, we were offered boxes to take home the leftovers, but the cakes were delicate tarts and soft sponges and last year we arrived home to find a mangled mess of unidentifiable flavours, so snappy-lid containers are much better. If somewhat louder.

We enjoyed the view, which is so much more spectacular than any London hotel could offer.

When we arrived back at the cottage, the cakes were still perfect in their containers, and we enjoyed them over the next few days.

I hope you have some things to enjoy too. Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne

PS. Afternoon Tea at Watersmeet Hotel is £22 per person, and with an incomparable view—but remember to ask to be seated in the dining area when you book. And don’t forget to take some containers for the left-overs.

 

 

*When I first met Husband’s family, way back in the 80’s when we were teenagers, his family were still eating the sugar which his nan had stockpiled during the sugar shortage of the 70’s! I am never sure whether being compared to her is necessarily a compliment. . .

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Little Women


Little Women

When I was a child, one of my favourite books was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. We owned or borrowed from the library all the books by Alcott, though Little Women was our favourite, possibly because at one time there was also a dramatization of the book on television. It tells the story of four sisters and their mother, and the boy who lives in the big house next door. It’s set in America, and is based on the author’s own life (though I’m not sure how closely). There is something wholesome about the stories, and the characters have flaws and strengths, and are easy to relate to. I guess I was about ten years old when I first read the books for myself.

When I was very young, once a week, we caught the bus to visit my grandad. We would walk up to his house, and he would give us sweets, and then we would escape upstairs to play while my mother chatted and did jobs for Grandad. My aunt and cousin would often visit at the same time, and when my cousin was there, we would often ‘play’ Little Women (this must have been based on the telly series and my mum reading us the stories). Grandad’s house had two spare bedrooms, smelling of mothballs and dust and lavender. There were wardrobes, still filled with discarded clothes from my mother and her sisters, and we used these as our costumes, pulling the dresses—long on our child bodies—over our clothes, and swooshing around the room in them. They felt very grand and we felt beautiful (luckily, no one had phone cameras in those days!) We acted variations of the plot. Every week there was an argument/discussion about who would be which character. My cousin and sister were 3 years older than me, so I had very little influence, and they would only let me play if I was Beth—which meant that I had to spend the whole game in bed, not speaking, because I was too ill. I seem to remember that on one occasion, they told me they were starting the story after Beth had died, so I wasn’t allowed to move or speak. For some reason, this felt completely reasonable at the time.

So, last week, when Bea suggested that I joined her and my mother and went to see the new film of Little Women, I was very keen. We collected Mum, and drove to the cinema, and I worried about whether there would be an easy parking space, and whether our tickets (which were on my phone and unprintable) would work, and if the film would irritate me by shattering my childhood memories.

I wasn’t disappointed, it was fabulous.

Now, it’s a long time since I read the books (now on my ‘to do’ list) but I vaguely remember the story. The film is brilliantly cast, with the characters depicted exactly as I imagined them. However, the plot varies from the books slightly. I once watched a John LeCarre interview, and he said that a film is a very different medium to a book, and something that works for a book might not work as well for a film, therefore a film should be left to the script writers and not be constrained by the original version. I think these are wise words. The essence of the books remains constant, even if the plot has slight differences. As a film, it works brilliantly (I think). I won’t tell you how it differs, because you might go to see it and I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a good way to spend a lazy afternoon.

One aspect of the film, which will strike a chord with any aspiring author, is the difficulty that the character Jo has when trying to get her work published. She is depicted as being just as unsure and nervous as every author who I know today, and you see her motivated by encouragement and wilt when criticised. Clearly writing, whichever age we live in, makes the author feel vulnerable.

Do try to find time to watch the film, I fully recommend it. Though if you’re tempted to re-enact scenes at home, try to ensure you’re not cast as Beth–I can assure you, it’s not a great role.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Christmas Mishaps


Hello and I hope you had a good Christmas. Ours was fabulous—but that probably doesn’t make for exciting reading, so instead I’ll tell you about the disasters (always much more fun to read about other people’s mishaps than their successes). They will help me to make some resolutions for 2020.

This year, Husband who has more time, offered to help write the Christmas cards. Great! I thought. Writing Christmas cards is one of those jobs which takes ages and is never fun but simply has to be done, and usually I write all the cards, for all our friends and family, on my own. I handed Husband the address book and cards, and made myself a cup of tea.

Several hours later, I was aware that the cards had not been touched. Husband had been designing a ‘system’. It was a complicated chart of names—the names of our joint friends, his family, and his friends. It was our new list, and he hadn’t included anyone who he didn’t know, on the assumption they were past friends from my childhood and no longer in contact with. The system was way more complicated than simply going through the address book. By the end of the evening, he had written seven cards. Seven.

The following day, I attempted to follow complicated system and write the rest of the cards. Apologies if you didn’t receive one this year. Next year I will do them all myself, using the address book.

The week before Christmas, my Christmas order from Waitrose arrived. I chose Waitrose because I was too late to get a slot with Ocado or Sainsburys. The only available slot with Waitrose was the 20th December, which was a bit too early, but I thought it would be okay. However, when the order arrived, many of the dates on the food were ‘use-by’ 22/23rd December. That’s rubbish! Waitrose knew it was a Christmas order, because it was listed as such on their website, and they informed me when I placed it that because it was a Christmas order, I wouldn’t be able to alter anything. I wrote them a snotty email, and went to Morrisons. Morrisons had lots of food dated 26th onwards (this was the same day:20th December). I sent photos to Waitrose.

Waitrose replied to apologise (excellent). They refunded me for the goods photographed (but didn’t check to find out if other products were out of date, which they were–I had only sent sample photos). They also explained that their policy is to send products with a ‘use-by’ date of a couple of days beyond the delivery date. In other words, if you have an early slot for your Christmas order, it is Waitrose policy to send food that may be out of date before Christmas Day! Gosh, I didn’t expect that!

I complained again on their online survey. They sent me a £10 gift card. Better than nothing. Next year, I will order my Christmas groceries on time, from a different shop.

I will also order less bread. (I have a freezer FULL of bread! What was I thinking?)

One of the very best things about my Christmas was Christmas Eve, when we always open our ‘stockings’. Everyone buys a few gifts for everyone else, often joke gifts, and we sit round and open them. This year there were socks with a girlfriend’s face on them, and I found some of those excellent Ladybird books of ‘Brexit’ and ‘The brother’, and there were bath ducks shaped like Donald Trump, and lots of chocolate and laughing. Bea has pottery classes, and so there were various pots in the stockings. Some had explanatory notes attached. It was lovely, my family at it’s rudest, funny, generous, best.

I hope your Christmas disasters were as tiny, and that you had a lovely time. Thank you for reading my blog, and have a very happy 2020.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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How to Not Do Christmas!


How to NOT do Christmas

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by Anne E Thompson

Okay, so it’s that time of year again, when I look around and everyone seems terribly competent, with beautiful houses and cards sent on time. Or are you, like me, still struggling to clear up stray socks and find the floor under dog hairs? Here are some helpful hints for those of you who need to decorate the house, send cards to the correct people, produce a mound of wrapped gifts and cook that all important dinner; whilst also keeping the house clean, the animals alive, and do all the other jobs which fill your life and don’t disappear at Christmas. Hope it’s helpful.

The Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas tree. Here are some things to beware of:
If you take a man with you to buy a real tree, he will lose all sense of proportion. This is true. Crude jokes aside, it seems to be some strange male trait that they always want to buy a tree that is much too big for the space in your home. They always forget the bucket and top decoration adds extra height. And they always forget that you might want to live in the room where they plan to put it – and if it’s too wide everyone will have to scrabble through the branches to communicate. So my advice: do not involve a male of any age in choosing the tree.

You cannot however, avoid them being present for the annual family discussion on where the tree should go. Now, we have lived in our present house for many years and every Christmas we discuss (heatedly) where the tree should be placed. Every year it always goes in exactly the same place.

If you buy a tree in late December, your family will constantly tell you everyone else has theirs already. If you buy a tree in early December, it will probably be bald by New Year.

If you decide to ‘plant’ your tree in soil, over time, as it is watered, the soil becomes unstable and the tree will gradually fall over. If you follow the shop’s instructions and “treat your tree like the living plant that it is” and stand it in water, then after a while, the warmth of your house will have turned the water stagnant and everyone will be asking you what the funny smell is. If, on realising this, you then add a drop of bleach to the water, the tree first gets very pale looking and then dies very quickly. A dead tree will droop and all the ornaments slide off the branches. Your lounge also smells like a public lavatory.

If you ever want a tasteful tree, you must NEVER allow the children to put on their home made ornaments. Every year I produce those faded photos in plastic frames, the robin that sheds paint. I even have the clay angels that my sister made one year, which look like they slept in a puddle after an especially hard night out. It is true, they bring back lots of special memories, but I can now never not put them on the tree, so my tree, whilst full of precious memories, is also incredibly tacky.

If you do not water your tree, do NOT leave the lights on it and go out for the evening or it might burn down your house. (This did not happen to us, but it did happen to a neighbour in the US. A dried pine is incredibly flammable.)

If you have an artificial tree, you can spend hours sorting out branches and colour codes. My advice is: tell someone else that they are in charge of putting up the tree because it is too hard for you (this works well if you have males in the family, who will actually believe that you are incapable of matching colours.) They will also be keen to supervise the taking down of the tree because they will know how impossible it is to put up if not stored carefully.

Decorations

Do NOT believe that everyone who helps decorate the house will also help tidy up after Christmas. Every year I say, “Only put out the ornaments that you will put away afterwards”. I may as well not bother. I know this is true because one year I was ill, and we had a Nativity scene on one window sill all year. I find family members are very keen to decorate all sorts of random places, and not at all keen to tidy them afterwards.

Gifts

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Do NOT buy gifts too early and if you do, do not forget where you have hidden them. It is annoying to find winter nightclothes for your daughter in June.

If posting gifts, do not forget to name each gift so the recipient knows who they are for (you would be surprised at what has happened in our family).

Do NOT assume you will know when your child stops believing in Father Christmas (sorry if this is a spoiler). When I asked one of my sons on his eighteenth birthday (okay, so he wasn’t quite that old) if he really still believed in Santa, he informed me that he had not believed for years but hadn’t liked to disappoint me by letting me know. This was a huge relief for the whole family, as we could now stop worrying he was completely thick, and it also meant that I could give the children their ‘stocking gifts’ the evening before Christmas. Which meant that we all slept much better Christmas Eve.

Do NOT forget to check that either your husband has bought his mother a gift, or you have bought one for her yourself. Really, I cannot stress enough how important this one is……

Food

Unless you are a very organised person, do NOT buy a large frozen turkey. They take days to defrost – and where will you put it during that time? If you leave it in the utility room, the cat eats it. If you put it in the garage, the mice eat it. If you leave it in the oven to defrost, you are sure to forget and turn on the oven to preheat – melting plastic over poultry is not a good smell, trust me. If you place it in a bucket of brine, as was suggested one year, what are you going to do with the salmonella-infected brine afterwards, and how will you stop the dog licking it? If you put it in the fridge, you cannot fit in any of the shelves, let alone other food. Trust me, big frozen turkeys are a bad idea.

Do NOT forget that supermarkets are open other than on the bank holidays. I always do this; I try to buy enough food for the whole holiday period, which is a military operation in an over flowing supermarket, with insufficient parking, and queues the length of the Nile . Then, soon after boxing day we always run out of something essential, like milk, and I go to a beautifully empty supermarket (which is now selling all the food that is decomposing in my fridge for half the price.) Being overly prepared is always a mistake I feel. Just buy enough for the Christmas Day dinner.

If, like me, you have a problem with chocolates, when you buy the family tub of chocolates, do NOT forget to also buy tape. Then, if by mistake you open them and eat lots before Christmas, you can buy a replacement, add the ones you don’t much like and reseal the tub. Your family will never know. Honestly, every year my husband tells me that there are a surprisingly large number of green triangles in our chocolate tin.

Important Things

Do NOT forget to go to a carol service. Actually, I do not especially like carols, unless they are sung by a choir. They are mostly really really long. A lot of them also have things in them that are very European and nothing to do with the actual account in the Bible. But I do like carol services, full of excited children, and people in thick coats that they don’t have anywhere to hang. One year at our church we even managed to set someone on fire. (It was an accident, I should add. She leant against a candle and she wasn’t at all hurt, just ruined her coat. The following year as a safety precaution the candles were suspended above us. Unfortunately, they weren’t the non drip variety and we all made polite conversation afterwards with white wax in our hair.)

Do Not forget to build some family traditions of your own. On Christmas Eve, if my children are in the house, awake before noon and sober (I assume nothing these days) then they still like to help prepare the vegetables. We all sit round, peeling sprouts and remembering how we did it every year while watching ‘The Lost Toys,’ and the year that the youngest removed every leaf from his sprout and then declared, “Mine’s empty!”

Most importantly, do NOT forget what is important. Christmas is not about family or tradition or nice food. Actually, it’s about a God who thought you were special enough that he came to this dirty smelly earth as a baby. Even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And he cared enough to come, so that you have a chance to change your mind if you want to. So spend a little time trying to remember what it’s all about. Look in Luke’s bit of the Bible, and read the account of what actually happened – no donkeys, no inn keepers with tea-towels on their heads, no fairies or snow. Just a simple story of something special.

xxxxxx

Thank you for reading.

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Trying to be ‘Normal’


Trying to be ‘normal’

Yesterday, Bea brought home a friend she wanted us to meet. I knew this was a fairly big deal for her, and so I was very keen that we shouldn’t embarrass her. Usually I consider that I have earned the right to be embarrassing to my children due to suffering through their teenage years when their clothes and hair and general attitudes were often not what I had hoped for when they were 5—but not this time. This time I was keen to be ‘normal’.

Now, I would say that housework is not my forte. Basically, I hate doing it, and although my kitchen is hygienic, you might find dog hairs on the floor and dust on the window sills, so my first task of the day was to tidy the house and wave a duster around a bit. Unfortunately, Husband (always to be relied upon in these situations) had helpfully decided that this was the day he was going to empty the loft of important papers from 20 years ago, and put them into bags ready to be recycled. The whole of his office resembled a rubbish tip. We had an argument (always a good start when guests are due).

I then began to wipe surfaces in the kitchen, when I noticed an unpleasant smell wafting under the utility room door. We have one of the outside cats in there, in a cage, because she has pulled the ligaments in her back legs (fell out of a tree) and the vet said she mustn’t climb or jump, and I have no idea how you stop a cat jumping, so I have put her into the old dog crate, which is big enough for her to walk around in, but has no opportunity for jumping. She is very cross, but the ligaments are healing, so all is good. Except yesterday, she had dirtied her bedding.

I attempt to open cage door and remove dirty bedding without cross cat escaping, and am about to shove dirty bedding into washing machine, when I hear a shout from the garden. Husband is yelling that the cockerels have been fighting.

I have several cockerels, hatched last year. Until now, they have lived fairly peacefully alongside each other. Cockerels will sometimes live for several years in the same flock without incident, provided they have sufficient space and females. However, sometimes you hatch an aggressive bunch, and then you can only keep one. I hurried into the garden.

One of the cockerels was clearly suffering, having been attacked by one of the bigger ones (his brother actually—chickens are pretty nasty creatures). The bird was obviously dying, and in pain, so I quickly killed him. When chickens are dead, the nerves in their bodies continue to function, making them twitch, so it can be hard to know they are completely dead. I didn’t want it to suffer, so to be sure I chopped off the head. (A chicken with no head is definitely dead, though bizarrely they can still run around!)

Looked at time: daughter due at house with friend at any moment. The cockerel had been a big bird, and it seemed wrong to simply throw him away (waste of a life) but there was no time to do anything with him. So, I tied up his legs, and hung him in garage, to deal with him later. Sent Bea a message: “If you give friend a tour of the house, don’t go in garage because there’s a dead chicken hanging from the ceiling!”

Bea replied: “What? You are meant to be trying to be normal! Dead chicken hanging in garage is not normal!”

I felt she had a point.

The rest of the visit went okay, and we liked her friend immensely. I have no idea what the friend thought of us, but hopefully we appeared to be relatively normal.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
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 I am excited to tell you that my new book, Sowing Promises, is now available. A sequel to Ploughing Through Rainbows, it is also a stand-alone book and my best one yet (though I always think that!) A family saga, set on a farm, it is all about a family coping with unexpected happenings. . . and trying to be normal.

Available from an Amazon near you, and if you buy a copy today it will still arrive in time for Christmas–it makes a great gift for someone who you want to make smile.

UK link HERE

US link HERE

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