Friday, 11 October 2019

Comedy of errors.....

Today started out well enough.  

We had to take Small Dog to the groomers, as, although she definitely rocks the Fu Manchu look, she was beginning to look more like an ancient dreadlocked hermit.

On our return, with SD neatly trimmed and smelling like a summer flower, we set about trying to fit the new carpet in the office.

It was never going to go smoothly.

First, we cleared a space in the sitting room in a manner not dissimilar to those games with a grid of little tiles that you move around inside a frame, trying to complete a picture.
Then we dragged the roll of carpet through and tried to lay it out flat.


While we were working out our next move, we tried to lift the old carpet, which had welded itself to the floor, especially where both our office chairs had been rolling over it for the past however many years.  We finally had to resort to chipping it up with a knife. leaving piles of black/grey dust, where the gel backing had degraded and disintegrated.  

While we were both rolling up the old carpet on the floor, Small Dog got the devil in her (possibly as retribution for her grooming session this morning) and despite our cries of "NO... DON'T COME IN HERE"!!!! she blithely hopped over the carpet, dodged round both of us trying to catch her, then ran around in all the dust, before hot-pawing it out, straight into the sitting room where she jumped up on the sofa, complete with black-dusted paws.

As we could only cope with one crisis at a time, and were already on our knees and keen to avoid the 10 minutes of moaning and groaning that accompany standing up, we carried on rolling up the carpet, both of us starting to look like chimney sweeps, then taped it into a massive black refuse bag, acknowledging that it was too far gone to use as a template, even if we had the room to spread it out in the sitting room.  

Which we didn't.

So, after we'd vacuumed ourselves, the floors and the sofa, we decided there was nothing else to do but try to cut the carpet to size, in situ.

Obviously, we don't have proper carpet fitters tools, so we raided the tool cupboard and made do with a wallpaper scraper, a bit of wood and a hammer, as well as various other household utensils.

Three hours later, having broken a screwdriver, ruined a perfectly good pair of scissors and rendered the air bright blue, we finally finished, and I have to admit, it's not a bad job, despite all the drama.

It's only 4pm but we've thrown in the towel and poured two LARGE G+Ts, which aren't even touching the sides.  

Tomorrow....*sigh*....... relocating the desks and computers etc, and I'll be giving the bookshelves a (hopefully) final coat of paint.  It feels as through the house will never be tidy again, but I'm on the home straight and determined that by end of the weekend the ground floor will once again be habitable.

I know I've said this many times before.... but..... what could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, 10 October 2019


Office makeover - Day 4

I am never, ABSOLUTELY NEVER, doing an office makeover.... ever again!

Not only is the entire ground floor awash with office stuff, and we can't find a damn thing, I'm also teetering on the edge of complete and utter exhaustion.  I suspect I was a tad deluded over-optimistic about my energy levels/competence/enthusiasm for the project, especially given events of the past few months.  I'm a firm believer in 'doing good stuff is positive' but all I'm positive about at the moment is that when it's done I want to sleep for several days.

Granted, progress has been made.  Over the past four days the office has been emptied, cleaned and the feature wall papered.  The bookshelves (which are an absolute pain in the derriere to paint) have had two coats of paint and are currently drying on the dining room table.  I'm dead beat now, so if they need another coat it will have to be done tomorrow.

Also, tomorrow we're planning to fit the new carpet, which will probably take 3-4 hours and no end of cussing.  We need to find a big enough space somewhere in the house to lay out the new piece, so that we can use the old carpet as a template to mark out the cutting lines.... which means moving even more stuff *sigh*.

Then, over the weekend we can begin the process of relocating the desks, bookshelves, filing cabinet and all the office stuff.

After which I can take my time to make the finishing touches.... well, yes, alright..... the bunting.  Plus I have to make SD's cosy nook, recover the pin boards and add some quirky elements and accessories.

I'm sure it will look lovely when it's finished, but right now I wish I'd never started......

Monday, 7 October 2019

The thick of it.....

Office makeover.... Day 1

For such a relatively small room, the office contains a LOT of stuff.  Aside from two desks, a filing cabinet, 2 sets of bookshelves, 2 office chair and Small Dog's bed, there is all the paraphernalia which running a small business requires..... 2 computers, printer, router, phone, assorted software and books, printer paper and card, envelopes, labels, specialist papers.... plus pens, pencils, marker pens, staplers, postal supplies, notebooks, storage boxes etc etc etc.
It's been a mammoth task getting everything out, in preparation for cleaning and jooshjing.

Predictably, it didn't go entirely smoothly.

My corner desk, which was assembled in situ, wouldn't go through the door no matter which way we turned it, or how much we swore.  In the end we had to take the top section off, and were then able to manhandle it out of the office and into the sitting room, where it will be a temporary home for PP's computer. 

Removing it revealed a quantity of dust, webs and spider husks.... presumably any live specimens quickly abandoned their lairs when we started the operation.  

Small Dog is not a fan of the vacuum cleaner, so she looked a bit disgruntled when I dragged it through to deal with all the debris, and burrowed down under her duvet while I dealt with years of hitherto inaccessible dirt and dust.  When I then started washing down the skirting boards she still stuck to her guns and refused to move, giving me a hard stare when I tried to move her out of the way.  However by that time I was ready for a break so she was granted a reprieve.

So far so good..... tomorrow we will move PP's computer and dismantle her desk.  Then I can finish the cleaning and assess my next move.... *sigh*

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Solace in action.....

The past two months have been a trial, with every emotion possible, sometimes all in the one day.

In order to avoid sinking into a deep slough of despond, especially as this is my least favourite time of year, even in normal times, I'm trying to keep busy and find things to do which might cheer me up, and if they improve our lives in the process, so much the better.

I know I really should be concentrating on other stuff, but this coming week I shall be attempting a makeover in the office, which has become unbearably scruffy and rough round the edges, as well as looking incredibly boring and a place of zero motivation.

PP and SD spend a lot of time in there, involved in various pursuits, although SD's mostly involve napping.  It's a small room, just 2.6m x 2.0 metres, with the advantage of a large bay window.  It's already painted white, and I don't intend to repaint it, but we will be replacing the flooring, which is tatty and threadbare, and I'll be jooshjing up the room with one wallpapered feature wall and assorted quirky touches, some of which still exist either in my head or as ideas on a Pinterest board.

I've started to pack stuff away.... I've cleared the two bookshelves (which will be painted) and thrown out loads of junk which has accumulated on them over time.  My relatively small desk will be relocated into the sitting room for the duration, for PP's computer.  My laptop will take up temporary residence on a table in the workroom and PP's large office desk will be dismantled and stored in the dining room, which currently looks like a huge stationery repository , as ALL the stuff from the bookshelves is on the dining table.

When the room is cleared I will clean like a mad woman, then paper the wall and we will fit the new flooring, using the old carpet as a template.  The bookshelves will be painted.... they're currently bare wood.
I'm going to create a cosy nook for SD and I'll make her a new dog bed, as she currently resides on an old duvet in a cut down flannel duvet cover.

I'm also going to upcycle our tatty old pinboard, and create wall space for photos and prints.

At this point in my planning musings, SD perks up, having heard about her new dog bed.....

SD:*keenly* A nue bedd?!  Fore me?!!!  In a kosie knook?
Me:*proudly* Yes SD.  All lovely and fresh.
SD:*warming to her theme*  And whoot els?  
Me:*blithely* Well.... new carpet, quirky wallpaper, new pictures, and, of course....
SD:*interrupting* kno whott yure goen to sai.
Me:*innocently* Yes?
SD*accusingly* Yure goen to maik bunten.... arnt yue?
Me:*guiltily* Well... yes.  I will make some quirky bunting.
SD:*triumphantly*  AI KNUE ITT!
Me:*defensively* What's wrong with bunting????  I love making it, it cheers my soul, and by dog my soul needs cheering.  It will look lovely.
SD:*suspiciously* Aim knott haven bunten in mai kosie knook am ai?
Me:*evasively* Possibly.......  I've not decided yet.  But if I do it will be absolutely lovely and totally in keeping with the ambiance of your sleeping arrangements.
SD:*scathingly* Ai have kno ideer whott 'ambeeyons' are, butt ai doant thinck ai wont them.
Me:*cajolingly* Oh SD.... come on.  You will love it.  Promise.  No other dog in the land will have such an amazing sleeping nook.... fit for a Proud and Noble Yorkshier Terrior.
SD:*mollified* Hmmm.... wel oakai.  Ai supoas itt will be fyne.  *thoughtfully*  Prowd and Knowbell.... yess thatts me to a tea.

To be continued......

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

In memoriam.....

This time last week we were in Cornwall for my brother's funeral.  After a week of brilliant sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures across the south, our time in Cornwall was characterised by grey skies, epic rainfall and impenetrable fog, especially around Bodmin, on the edge of the moor.... which felt entirely appropriate and in tune with the purpose of our trip.

It was an emotional end to a harrowing six weeks.  

I took an album of photographs of Tom when we were growing up... all those 'bucket and spade'  seaside holidays, learning to swim in the sea, birthdays, Christmas... high days and holidays, when photos were taken sparingly and took weeks to be developed. 

My flowers were a mixture of thistles, heather and white roses, echoing the Scottish theme which ran throughout the day.

The funeral service was personal and moving and I was pleased to be able to contribute my own memories of his childhood and teenage years... adding to the stories from his later life. 
There was his favourite music, relevant readings, and the views out over the valley were stunning.  Afterwards, the wake was held at his favourite pub, where tales were told, tears were cried, and laughter lifted our sad spirits.  

He would have enjoyed it.

A very sad day, but one which affirmed his place in many hearts.

Sleep tight Tom.....

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

A difficult post......

This has been a very difficult piece to write, over the course of several weeks. It’s also a difficult read and I’ve vacillated on whether or not to post it.
But, on balance, the issues at the heart of it are very important and I feel strongly that people should be aware of them.

Tempus fugit
Time is relative
Time’s up….

Wednesday 26th August

When the phone rang early this morning, time seemed to simultaneously slow and speed up.

3 hours…. The clock is ticking.

12 days ago, my sister-in-law contacted me to let me know that my brother had been admitted to hospital following a fall at home. Early indications that he had fractured his skull and had an intracerebral haemorrhage were confirmed, and he underwent emergency surgery to relieve the resulting pressure in his brain.

Hope the operation is a success.
Hope he regains consciousness
Hope the damage won’t be too bad
Hope he’ll make a good recovery.

Following surgery, he is semi-conscious, and signs are cautiously optimistic.

Then they’re not. 

More surgery and an induced coma, to give the brain time to recover.
Time passes.  Scans, then more scans.  There is damage but the extent won’t be fully known until he wakes up.
During the attempt to bring him round from the induced coma, he has an epileptic seizure and must be fully sedated again.

Hope they can control the seizures
Hope the seizures haven’t caused more damage
Hope they can stabilise him.

Critical but stable.  It doesn’t feel as though those words belong in the same sentence.

Hours are spent, hovering by the phone, waiting for news, trying to comfort and gain comfort.  My sister-in-law is exhausted… the combined effects of overwhelming distress, worry, many hours spent travelling to and from the hospital and the high stress experience of intensive care …. ICU is not a relaxing environment… but she still finds time to update me daily, as we try to make sense of what’s happening.

The fight for life enlists the aid of a battery of cutting-edge technology.  Each problem which arises is carefully assessed, treated and monitored.

Days pass.  Hope fades.

He is no longer in a medically induced coma, but is deeply unconscious and on a ventilator.

For the first time I hear the word ‘catastrophic’.  The brain damage is widespread and irreversible.  He can breathe a little but requires support from the ventilator.  His heart is beating, his body is quietly going about its business, more or less as usual, but the prognosis is devastating.  He will not recover.

Brain stem death is confirmed.

Then, suddenly, things begin to move at a different pace.  He is on the Organ Donation Register. No longer concentrating on treating for recovery, but on organ optimisation. 
He is now on the ‘organ donation pathway’.  It takes time to process this new information.  They will maintain life support while blood and tissue samples are taken and the organ donation team swing into action.
I am no longer in contact with the ICU nursing staff but receive direct updates from the Regional Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation team, (or SNODs)  who are endlessly patient, answering my barrage of questions, and gently comforting, when emotion overwhelms me.

Good news….they have found matches for both kidneys, liver and lungs!

As soon as the specialist surgical teams are in place, they will remove his breathing tube and wait.

3 hours.

In the UK, that’s the protocol, during which time, in order for surgery to go ahead, he must die.  If he doesn’t, the whole surgical team, and the selected organ recipients, will stand down.

7.50 am. The ‘process’ to which the SNODs have been referring for the past two days finally begins and they’ve removed the breathing tube. 

Hope it’s quick.
Hope he doesn’t suffer any distress.
Hope it happens within that crucial 3-hour window.
Hope the phone rings soon.

In hospitals and homes elsewhere, there are four other people plus their families and friends, also waiting, also hoping, but for a different outcome.

Whilst the kidneys and liver will be viable for some time after removal, the lungs are time critical.  I’ve been told that they would be ‘blue-lighted’ to the recipient’s hospital.  Presumably a person in urgent need of lungs is already very poorly, and lungs are rarely available.

9.30am.  Still waiting, but hope is fading.

The one potentially positive thing to come out of this awful situation is beginning to look very remote.
Time slows, and still we wait.

Too late now.  The 3-hour deadline has passed but he hasn’t.  It’s impossible not to feel conflicted…. all the planning, time and effort by so many people.  The meticulous matching and cross-matching, clearing theatre time, assembling surgical teams, organising organ transportation… a logistical triumph, all for nothing.

No longer a potential donor and hope, across the board, is gone. 

He is now on the ‘end of life care pathway’.

Hope he doesn’t suffer.
Hope he’s not aware of what’s happening.
Hope his passing is easy.


Still waiting.

End of life care… not palliative care.  There is a significant difference.
The slide towards death is mercifully technology free.  The person emerges once more, freed from the maze of machines, probes, tubes and wires and the continual clamour of alarms.
He is moved out of ICU and into a private bay, elsewhere in the hospital.
Fluids and nutrition are withdrawn and replaced by the administration of a carefully  calculated cocktail of drugs, intended to reduce potential distress and relieve pain, until, eventually, gradually, a cascade of organ failure overwhelms the body and he slips away.

The sad fact is, that many families, perhaps even yours, will go through a similar experience.  At a time of profound shock, loss and impending grief, there are potentially the added challenges of preparations for organ donation with their attendant stresses, deadlines and protocols.

Obviously, being on the organ donation register is A Good Thing.  There are nowhere near enough donors and often, even those who are willing and suitable, like my brother, don’t succeed.  In fact, there is only a very small chance that your organs would ever be used, as the conditions necessary are relatively rare.

This is why organ recipients face disappointment time and time again, while waiting on the organ transplant list.

It is a widespread fallacy that people who die in road traffic accidents… such as motorcyclists, are the primary source of donated organs for transplantation.  If you die outside hospital, your organs will not be used for transplantation.  Even if you die in A&E your organs will not be used although body parts/tissues such as eyes, heart valves, bone, skin, veins and tendons can be harvested post mortem. 
To be an organ transplant donor, you must die in an ICU and have been ventilated and/or on life support.  ‘Ideally’ you will have had a head injury resulting in Brain Stem Death.  Donation following Brain Stem Death represents the main source of organs for transplant in the UK.

Even if you are not on the Organ Donation Register, if you meet the above criteria, your next of kin will be approached, carefully and sympathetically, and asked to consider organ donation.

Death and dying are not comfortable topics of discussion, especially with those closest to us, but if there is anything which this incredibly sad experience has taught me, it’s that waiting until it’s too late is A Bad Thing. 

My brother and sister-in-law did discuss organ donation and end of life choices so she was able to make sure his wishes were known, and be the very best advocate for him, during his final days.  It’s the bravest, the best, and the most incredibly difficult thing anyone can ever do for a loved one.

So if you, or a family member are on the organ donation register, and even if you’re not, I think it’s really, REALLY important to talk to each other and think about what you want and perhaps more importantly, what you don’t want, in your end of life care plan.

Accidents can happen to anyone.  Anywhere. Any time.
Don’t wait until the worst thing happens.  
Get information, ask questions, make informed choices.


 This is a good place to start

For detailed information on the organ donation process in England, this document is excellent.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Love triangles......

So.... Yayyyy!  The fabrics arrived for my workroom bunting the other day, so I've been sewing up a storm and the pile of beautifully lined triangular flags has been growing steadily.

There are enough on that little table to make up 4 strings of gorgeous bunting to go all round the walls.

HOwever, I still seem to have quite a lot left over.....

Sadly I've run out of the cotton lining fabric so I can't finish them all off yet.
I'll use the spare ones to do something quirky in the room.... not quite sure what yet but I am sure inspiration will strike at some point.

Buoyed by my success on the bunting front, I'm also determined to finish off the lovely cabinet.  It still needs a knob fitted to the drop down desk flap, plus I want to stencil on the inside of the flap, to frame the area where the leather writing pad was, which I'll also paint in a different colour.

I'm still working on the organisation of the cabinet itself, which needs to be a bit more user friendly.  I find myself surrounded by boxes of stuff from the drawers in the base, which are tricky to access when the desk is open.  Although I have two folding tables which really come into their own while I'm working... the smaller one as an 'ironing table', and the larger one for stuff which needs more working space than the desk flap.

I also need to properly organise the cubby holes and small drawers inside the desk, as they're currently in chaos.  I've re-purposed some empty coffee containers to act as storage for tools but it's all the small bits, which I use all the time, and which I need to have to hand, which are proving more difficult to keep in order.

I've fitted a length of LED strip lighting inside the desk, to better illuminate the working surface, but I need to fit a power socket with integral USB points on the side of the cabinet, so that I can run the lighting, mini iron etc.  

I'm also considering fixing some lightweight storage pockets inside the cabinet doors on one side, and a lightweight pin board/whiteboard on the other.

Things are slowly evolving as I get used to working in a radically different room layout and I'm gradually working out the best place to store things for maximum findability.  It's still a work in progress but at least progress IS being made!