I realised I’d not blogged for 18 months. I’ve done very little writing either. Except for #VSS365 & #StoryCubesTales on Twitter, that is. For the latter, follow @VicenteLRuiz. You get an image of two dice (cubes) with funny little drawings on every day. You can interpret them as you wish. It started June 2020 & set me off with my characters, who I use for my #VSS365’s these days too.
My characters are food-obsessed Dom, his Nan, her partner ukulele playing, cheesy mash lover Spike & Dom’s sort-of younger brother Paris, the son of his father’s fiancé, Melissa. I killed Dad & Melissa off and sent Dom’s Mum to Australia when I realised I wanted the boys to live with Nan & Spike. Aside from Spike being kidnapped by a woman from his past who fed him watery instant mash and forced him to teach her the ukulele, they live a great life together with lots of food, fun, music and laughter. Nan & Spike’s wedding’s booked for May but that’s when the court case is.
I love doing these tweet-length writing challenges. I usually do them early in the day in just a few minutes. Whatever else is happening, one thing has been easily done and dusted. Sets me up for the day.
This pandemic has, of course, been a complete disaster for the whole world but I’m wondering if that, for me, was the easy part. In April I was forced to resign from my job by being threatened with disciplinary action if I didn’t go & work in the care home, my Mum declined more cancer treatment, my brother was by this time having his own cancer treatment in lock down, the worst possible time. He fought it incredibly hard, in circumstances made extra difficult by Covid but died in January of this year. My Dad was finally diagnosed with dementia & moderate Alzheimer’s the week after. My Mum’s cancer is stable, for now. She struggles on, looking after my Dad and doing all the things he used to do. With my help & support. Well, doing the best I can from a distance. We used to talk twice a week on the phone, since the first lock down it’s been every day. I‘m embroiled in sorting out all kinds of things; from the stuff that needs a financial advisor and a solicitor to practical things that are more my forté, like ordering food.
I’ve been thinking about what has helped me through all this, what is helping me through, I should say. I made a list.
Ukulele – Even though it seems as if the moment I began ukulele, everything started going wrong, I’m so glad I did it. Cos it is just coincidence, I know that. Up until the middle of March last year I was going to two groups & having my lesson every week. I did go back to the latter for eleven garden lessons in late summer, when restrictions were lifted enough to be able to meet in gardens. But, the whole time, I’ve carried on playing songs every day, practicing & trying to learn songs by heart.
For years my Nana said I should ‘join a group’. I didn’t know which group but clearly it was a ukulele one. It’s been a year. They zoomed, I didn’t join in. They sent emails back and forth, I kept out of it. They met up in sixes. They met up in gardens. Friday group met in a garden but I was at my parents. The last but one Sunday group, I did my song in the open mic. I wanted to have another go as soon as possible. I hope I get to go back to groups some day but I try not to get my hopes up. Cos it feels like everything’s changed forever. I know I’ll always be able to pick up the ukulele and, concentrating on playing/singing, I cannot think of anything else.
Exercise – With lockdown, my exercise regime was over. April & May of last year, while I wasn’t working, I did a lot of walking, discovering streets and locations in my area I’d never been to before. Then I went back to walking to and from work, perfecting the dash for the one-bus-an-hour in June/July. Wish I could say I did other exercise. I rejected Zoom Zumba. There’s been a few bike rides, nothing major. I did swim for a few weeks in the late summer/autumn then the place closed down completely. I miss swimming. Swimming would put me right. Anytime now I’ll be having a dip in the sea, I promise. But still, just getting out for a walk helps. I’ve had prom walks with friends, in various weathers. And when I’m in Coventry I take my Dad for walks. After the police had to find him that time he’s not allowed out on his own.
Food – I have to confess, to anyone who knows about The Impossible Thing, that I have treated myself. Food is my comfort. It always makes me feel better. The pandemic caused me to buy more food, eat more food, have more food in. Many of the things I’d got out of the habit of buying are back: Lurpack, Nutella, Aunt Bessie’s oven chips, big bags of crisps. It wouldn’t matter so much if I was swimming. The food I’d really like is a meal at the Brasserie with my local friend, lunch at the Cosy Club with my Coventry friend, lunch in Garstang Booths before Sunday ukulele group, lunch in Lancaster before a film at the Duke’s. Not cheesy chip butties and chocolate in bed.
Friends – online, real life and in-between. Those I met up with, those I talked to, those who liked & replied to my tweets, who looked at my endless childhood photos. Those who messaged with offers of help. I had sympathy cards off folk I’ve never even met, I had a gift of a cheese hamper, a book, long message chats. So much support. A lockdown birthday visit, good chat and prom walk in horrible wet weather with no chance of even a cup of tea in a café. And big thanks to the two special friends I spoke to on the way to the funeral. With your phone, Twitter & messages, you’re never alone in the back of a far-too-posh-for-you car on the way to your brother’s funeral to do a reading and represent your whole family.
Me – I always knew I’d have to step up and help my parents as they got older. I never imagined it would be like this, in a pandemic & with my brother dying. What the actual HALIFAX?
I got through the funeral and the next day when my parents, myself and family friend Janet as witness, had to sign all these papers. I waited till I was on the train on the way back to have a bit of a cry and a panic attack about everything; Andy, and Mum and Dad. Then I had to change trains at Manchester Piccadilly. Running in a mask with two bags and a ukulele and social distancing & panicking at the same time, I do not
recommend. Then, on a breezy platform, my ukulele blew away from me. Arghhhh! I was very glad to get home.
I’m actually astounded how well I’m coping. A lot of it is because for every time my Mum says ‘Andy was going to do all this’, I tell her I can do it. I almost convince myself. And … there’s also a bit of ‘What next? Bring it on?’
Here’s a gallery of images from the past year …
My notice is now handed in at work … again. I’ve been a nursery cook for thirty years and worked in kitchens since I was seventeen. It’s time. I know I’m lucky I can do this.
Next time … Future Plans