2019 – The End of an Era

Where did that one go?

As we move through life there are some years you will remember forever and some which disappear from your memory. We remember the year we started work, the year our first child was born, the year we got our first house, even got married dare I say. 2019 was full of such  memorable events, mostly positive but some sad.

We started with the death of Adrian’s mum’s partner. He made the newspapers again, as he had done frequently in life. The funeral was delayed which allowed us to go on the first of our many “holidays” in 2019. This was to attend the wedding of Craig’s friend in Sydney, Australia, the start of quite an adventure. We swam in the bay which last month was entertaining a great white shark. We flew over the Sounds in New Zealand in an aeroplane where the window blew out next to the pilot. Adrian tried to close it but couldn’t so the pilot handed control to a 16 year old passenger who had never flown before while she got her feet on the door and levered the window shut. At least it took our mind off being sick. Could that have happened in the UK? We went to check out the University of Auckland where Craig thought there might be a research job for him.  It was our first UBER and our first AirBnB too. It’s a good job Craig was there to show us the ropes.  It worked a treat and we stayed in some marvellous places with incredible people. We were entertained by stories of being forced off a South African farm and conscription into the South African Army, and stayed in some expensive places. We learned how the British supposedly tricked the Maori out of New Zealand. It’s a bit more complex than that of course but that’s one view. Sue was enthralled by Milford Sound where they apologised for the weather. It was sunny so it was one of a few days a year when the waterfalls were not in full flow. And Milford Sound, like most of the “sounds” in New Zealand, is not a sound at all, it is a fiord. The difference is that a fiord is caused by glacial erosion of the land, whereas a sound is formed when a river valley gets flooded by the sea. See, it wasn’t just a holiday, we had to learn stuff too. And New Zealand was like the UK in the 1950’s, but with modern technology. It was a lovely, friendly, place with spectacular scenery, people left their doors unlocked, and, unlike 1950’s Britain, it was full of Germans again! They’re everywhere. It was nice to be British and feel welcome.

On the way home Adrian got a text asking if he wanted to go skiing next week. For the first time in years he felt able to say yes, although Sue didn’t feel up to it. So the next week was about getting the old ski stuff out, waxing the skis, new ski jacket and salopettes due the extra 20 kg on the belly. It was not the kind of ski holiday we had in the past. More of a gentle cruise from one restaurant or mountain view to another for a drink or food. A late start and an early finish this time. Skiing on the gentle slopes. We are more used to charging down black runs, waiting for the lifts to open and being chased off the slopes in the evening and into restaurants and bars for plenty of food and drinks. I blame Mark for keeping me on the green runs but in all honesty I was just glad to be on slopes I could deal with easily, at least to start with. Of course you always want to challenge yourself like you did in the past. Maybe I’m not in my best physical condition for skiing, but I had to try it at least one last time. We’re not ready to give up the things we love in life just yet. At least not without a fight.  It was no more challenging than going for a gentle walk really, but that’s because of all the training and lessons we had in the past. We spent 25 years practising skiing with minimal effort. We were so successful that Sue is thinking of going next year. That suits Adrian who will be back on the green slopes taking it easy, but maybe a red or two if feeling up to it. At least we proved that skiing can be like a stroll in the park, with a few stops at restaurants and bars along the way. We used to navigate by the runs and lifts, now it’s by the bars, restaurants, and bus routes! And we had a first time: it was the first time Adrian had two vin chaud and couldn’t ski home. He asked for two medium vin chaud. They came in pint glasses. Then Mark asked for another round. Adrian could barely stand never mind ski..

The delight of being able to ski again must have given Adrian confidence to venture further. A few weeks later he took Terry to Bruges for his 60th Birthday. Terry always wanted to go there. Since it’s just a short hop across the channel, Bruges seemed no problem. Adrian drove past there when travelling to Essen when he was well enough to drive to Sue’s. Terry’s main interest seemed to be the brewery but since Adrian cannot drink beer, he got pretty sick of coffee. “Don’t drink beer, it’s Liquid bread”, the doctor had said, “drink Vodka instead.” Well, I can honestly say that drinking vodka at 10 in the morning is not possible, even on prescription.

All these holidays sound great, but since the safest gluten free option is steak and chip, and the only option in many places, the food was proving an issue, and so was the expense. But hey, some people have bigger problems in life than having to live on steak and chips.

At the end of June Sue left E.ON. We planned to do a “Southern Tour” and a “Northern Tour” to see those friends and family we hadn’t seen for a while. Sue didn’t really want to leave home when she came back from work in Germany. All that travelling for work was quite enough. I still can’t believe she commuted to Germany for 5 years, and a bit more before that. Needless to say, those of you in the North or the South, or even closer will have noticed that we didn’t make it!

Sue’s sister, Julie, moved to Cornwall last year and we managed to visit her in the summer. Then we made it Pickering to see Sue’s mum and to do all those things we wanted to do but never managed over the last 30 years including “Eden Camp” where the prisoners of war were kept, and “Castle Howard.”  How can we have spent so long there without seeing those places? And then we returned to Cornwall for a week in the caravan with Adrian’s dad. Now that was an experience. We got him a scooter and he managed to ram the door of the barbers shop open and land next to the barber’s chair. The lady told me off and said I should use the scooter to find out what it’s like for him. He managed to get to the bar on the camp site every evening on his scooter by riding down the centre of the road at full speed with me running behind him. It was interesting coming back at full speed after a few pints too! And he took to mopping out the shower at 5 in the morning. We thought keeping him up late would help him sleep in a little longer but it didn’t. And every morning he had what Adrian had for breakfast, then what Sue had too, and then his own breakfast.  It was lovely to eat breakfast and watch the waves from the caravan window. And when we finally stopped eating breakfast and got out, we found a nice place that served beer and ice cream. While we went for a walk he managed to order another beer and ice cream. Then it was a short drive for lunch. We wondered if he was getting food at home or just enjoying himself!

But the icing on cake was our planned month in Menorca. We always seem to be healthier  out there and have more energy so we wondered what it would be like to live there, or even just to stay for a month out of season. This year Sue booked us an apartment for a month. We booked two bedrooms so people could visit us. Sues mum for the first week and Adrian’s mum for the second. Then we would have two weeks on our own or for other people to visit on a £30 Ryan air return trip. It’s a good job no-one took us up on the offer! After the first week Sue’s mum decided to leap off the final step and break her hip so we could check out the Spanish healthcare system. I must say it was fabulous. In Menorca she was diagnosed, X-rayed and on the ward in 2 hours. On returning to the UK she was kept on a trolley in A&E for nearly 8 hours even though they knew she was coming. Then given crutches and told to go home. She refused, quite rightly. It had taken two of us to take her to the toilet or to move her for a week in the apartment in Menorca. She had been told not to put any weight on the hip for 4-6 weeks by the surgeon who put the screws in. In the UK they didn’t seem able to understand that she was not supposed to be weight bearing with the repair she he had done. And the X-ray to check if the hip repair had healed just never materialised. They only wanted her out. In Spain we were told quite categorically that they “never throw people out of our hospital.” Spain was looking better all the time. In Menorca we didn’t even have to pay for parking and there were parking spaces! I thought we are supposed to be the rich country.

A week sharing a small apartment with the mother-in-law was always going to be an opportunity to get to know her better but I never expected this. We had to take her to the toilet, lift her dress up, and I’m told I should leave the rest to your imagination. We had to hold her whilst she manoeuvred on her one good leg to get to the toilet or into her wheelchair. In the middle of the night Adrian seemed to have a sixth sense when she needed the toilet. He has never been known as the toilet Angel before. When Claire and Craig were small, he slept through everything. Still, he now seems well qualified for the job. Maybe he can inquire of the job centre if they have any paid work of this description. The amazing thing is that Sue’s mum never complained, never turned down a chance to go in the wheelchair to the restaurant, or the bar, or a walk (push) by the sea, or all three at once.

It was not quite the relaxing holiday we had planned for Adrian’s mum either. Adrian followed the ambulance to the hospital since the airport was just next door and one mother got to the hospital just as the other one was landing. A bed share.

Then of course after a week in the Menorcan hospital, a week in the Menorcan apartment waiting for the private jet (air ambulance), and a week in the Queens Medical Centre in the UK, we had 5 weeks together in Nottingham. We moved Adrian’s office upstairs and the bedroom downstairs. We still haven’t quite recovered. At least this time crutches were allowed and we were not on night time toilet duty. We couldn’t do much more of that.

For a week Adrian was left alone in Menorca pondering such dilemmas as whether to say “hola” to naked people on the beach as he did to those who were fully clothed, or whether to give a lift to strange people who appeared to want leave the beach before the bus was due. To top it all Adrian had a lap dance on the bus home from Thursford on an Elders Forum trip in December. She was 85 and terrifying. His mother told her that Adrian’s mother was here you know, whereupon she apologised and said she didn’t “give a bogger.”  At least she kept her clothes on. No more unaccompanied Elders Forum trips for me, but hey, Sue was next to me anyway, and so was my mum! We were relieved, I think, that the tinsel and turkey was cancelled.

After spending the summer getting two houses plastered, sorting out Adrian’s dad’s place to make it easier for him to get around, and attending one or two hospital or doctor’s appointments most weeks, Sue decided it was a lot easier to get a job. She now works part time for Lloyds Bank. At least it gives her a rest.

And that is just the highlights. It ignores Craig’s dog, Claire’s exams passed, and Craig getting a new job and buying his house, Adrian’s mother’s car crash, and Adrian’s definitive diagnosis of his condition. But then, we have to leave something out in case we make one of those tours or we would have nothing to say.


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