28 February 2016

English Language

I don’t read as much as I used to. By that I mean long sessions of reading, but in the last couple of years I have read several novels on an on-off basis because duty called elsewhere. There was always a book waiting to be picked up, though. My taste of subjects and plots varies so long as the author writes well and convincingly. Anything remotely conflicting with the English language gets tossed aside and given to charity. Charities get all my books but the conflicts get there first simply because I don’t wish to read further.

In recent months I read some good novels but one really stands ... not because of its brilliance, although the author does know how to write. The author is well known for writing criminal based fiction; in fact I can’t remember her ever changing the style so that she wrote about decent law-abiding folk. I could be wrong though. Many years ago I vowed never to read one of her books again ... this year I thought I’d give her another go. My mistake!

It can be interesting to learn how other people live and I admire anyone who can put a story together no matter what the background, but what annoyed me throughout the book was the over-use of the F word. I say ‘over-use’ ... what I should have said was ‘liberally peppered on all pages’. Admittedly there are folk in the world who frequently use the F and C words who would not take offence at seeing them in print, but it makes me wonder what is happening to the English language. Yes, I finished the book because of a need to know the ending ...  but was it worth it? I’m afraid not.

Is it laziness that makes people use such words? Or perhaps it’s because they don’t know what a lovely language we have? I admit to using the F word once in one of my books, but it was to demonstrate anger and seemed right in the circumstance written about. Overuse can be less effective, leading to people not bothering to talk properly. God help the children born in such a world.

The book I refer to is called ‘The Good Life’ and the author is Martina Cole who, according to a write-up in the front of the book, is the acknowledged queen of crime drama. Maybe, but perhaps she should realise that people can take offence at the excessive use of bad language. Another critic wrote that this book was ‘A blinding good read’ ... good description, with emphasis on the ‘blind’.

21 February 2016


The hall in my bungalow was once beautifully carpeted but like all entrances the muck walked in. Whatever the weather the carpet caught it. It didn’t matter how many shoe-wiping mats were down folk never seemed to use them. So, we modernised. 

I went to a shop called HAPPY FEET FLOORS because we knew they stocked Karndean flooring. Karndean is the company Rosanne works for so we knew the product would be good. 
This is the one we eventually chose
Actually I must have had a premonition when I said I would like a change. Little did I realise the advantages. Just a few weeks after the job was done I discovered the real benefit. That was when my Joe became really poorly, when the cancer took hold and there was daily blood loss. Little did we know when choosing the new floor that it would make life easier, a wooden floor being so much easier to clean than a carpet, especially a floral, cream based carpet!

It wasn’t until after the floor was fitted that I discovered Joe preferred carpet, yet he made no
objection when we chose the colour and style. It was only when people complimented us on our choice that he admitted he was a ‘carpet man’. I heard later that he had gone along with the idea to please me, because - and I’m quoting other people now - I deserved it. According to others he was so grateful for my domestic and caring skills that he wanted to give me something I really wanted. And there was me thinking he wanted it too! So now, every time I walk on the floor I give silent thanks for being married all those years to an extremely unselfish man. 

The finished product

13 February 2016

Tidying up...

Although I had heard of hospices, I didn’t know what they actually did until my Joe was sent to one. I really thought it was some kind of hospital but geared towards end of life. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I found out that they don’t attempt any cures but simply make things easier for their patients. They certainly did that for Joe and me, as I was to find out.

The view from Joe's window

Under normal circumstances he would have loved his room. It was private, nicely decorated, with separate shower and toilet in a well fitted room adjoining his bedroom. An enormous television and radio on the wall, There were four easy lounge chairs and a coffee table. A door led to a small private patio overlooking the gardens where patient and visitors could sit out on a fine day. Honestly, it was more like a hotel room.

One day I was approached by two members of the nursing staff. After introducing themselves one of them asked ‘Would you like a massage?’ What? Seeing my hesitation, I was told that I could just have my shoulders massaged if I didn’t want the whole programme. Naturally I asked ‘Why me?’ to which they explained that they had found that the carers needed as much attention as the patients. Actually the invitation came too late as Joe died the following day. I didn’t get the massage but I got plenty of loving attention and help as well as a pack of tissues for the tears.

So now, just over a week after the funeral I am busy sorting out the house. Joe, bless him, had a tidy mind and that’s where his tidiness stayed. It has given me some sort of pleasure to strip his office room of stuff he accumulated over the years. Client files (remember he was an accountant) some of which dated back to the early 2000s. Fortunately I’ve got a good solicitor! 

Years ago I bought Joe a lovely desk on which he could work. He loved it. He loved it so much he kept it covered, not as you might think with a cloth – no he used bits of paper, envelopes, folders, letters, special account paper, envelopes, scraps of paper, pens and pencils, rulers and rubbers, and a magnetic paperclip holder. There were pots and cartons and dishes holding small things, like caps of biros (the pens themselves long since lost or worn out), rubber bands, erasers, charity badges, corks from medicine bottles, the odd gift card or two, some marbles, oh and the bottom part of a set of false teeth. Don’t ask! Yet he never lost anything. He knew where everything was – even the teeth – but many’s the time if I asked him to get a cup out of the cupboard he would ask which cupboard!

I have heard that brilliant brains have untidy minds. I never could work that one out but I guess there’s some logic somewhere.

You should see his room now. I have rehoused everything so that I know where it all is and it looks TIDY. Now that I can see the desk I’ve quite taken quite a fancy to it. It would be ideal to do my colouring on. If I promise not to mess it up with ink from fibre pens perhaps he wouldn’t mind me taking over. After all, if there was a speck of colour somewhere I could always cover it with bits of paper.  Couldn't I?

06 February 2016

The Finale

First of all I must thank all my blogging friends for your comments in recent weeks. Even though close to tears I appreciated that you took the time to leave messages.

I have been away too long and now I’m wondering what to write on the blog. It has to be about Joe, of course, and I know it will be difficult. I think I’ll start at the beginning ...

At the end of Joe’s terrible illness, when the cancer spread and threatened his life, he was transferred from hospital to a hospice. He had been admitted to hospital two days before Christmas, on our 38th wedding anniversary. At that time he was still able to communicate and he pleaded with us to carry on with the Christmas arrangements. Months earlier he had ordered and paid for the family’s usual slap up meal at our favourite hotel so following his wishes we dined out - rather sombrely - and then went to see him in the hospital. There was a slight deterioration, not too bad but bad enough for him to show no interest in his Christmas gifts. He was in the hospital for eight days before being moved to the hospice. And that was where he died.  Rosanne and I had been with him all day before leaving to come home. It was a half-hour drive but one we wished we hadn’t made. As we walked through the front door the phone rang, the caller asking us how quickly we could go back. He only had 5 to 10 minutes left. We left immediately but got there too late. Joe had gone.

How did we cope? I would say we coped with extreme difficulty. Tears well up when I think of that time. But we had to move on, or sink.

As you know there is a lot to do when death strikes. Arrangements to make, people to tell, all the while trying to live and eat and sleep as well as shed even more tears.  I tried to keep the tears private, though, rather than upset others.

But let me tell you about the funeral, which many have described as wonderful. When I made my funeral plan, something like three years ago, I had been impressed by the firm of undertakers that took me through the plan. Naturally, Rosanne and I went back to them. They did a wonderful job and I know Joe would have approved.

The undertaking company is a family affair, brother and sister known as Daniel and Sarah. Both are well trained and have the knack of putting folk at ease. They don’t push, they suggest. And you can’t fault their suggestions. Right from the start they took over, ordered and arranged everything, always consulting us first. Sarah would ring just to see how I was, all the time offering help if needed. She knew I was alone, you see, Rosanne having her own house to stay in when over here from Australia.

On the day of the funeral we were treated like royalty, chauffeur driven and red carpet! But the service was straightforward. We had tried to keep it simple, well known hymns that got people singing, and an interesting eulogy that told people more about Joe than they knew. We had emphasised his love of football, from his playing days to the less energetic interest of watching his team play and in this regard we had requested that people wore a splash of red – his team’s colour. And they did... it was lovely and genuinely approved of by the priest. There was a surprise ending to the service, though. The music chosen to end was the signature tune of ‘Match of the Day’ which produced smiles and tapping feet as the congregation sat and listened. Many people remarked on our choice of music and they all said that Joe would have approved.

There were people there I didn’t know and it was interesting to hear how the word had spread to the business world which in turn brought people to pay their respects. The small crematorium was packed with, I was later told, 70 people, many of whom came back to the house for refreshments.

In recent weeks I learned more about Joe than I knew. What I didn’t realise was how loved he was by people from all walks of life. Many referred to him as a great man with a terrific sense of humour and one who would talk to anyone. They were SO right. My Joe wouldn’t harm a fly let alone a human being, and if he knew someone had a problem he would do everything in his power to assist. Yes, he was a man of simple tastes but with a heart of gold. Is it any wonder everyone loved him?

Yesterday, whilst sorting out his papers I found a folder full of cards and letters. Inside was an envelope full of letters written by me before we were married. He never threw them away. There was also a poem I wrote when he was going through a bad patch. It wasn’t a great poem but it was my first and he must have liked it to have kept it so long.


If I could reach out and pluck stars from the sky
I would feel the desire to plant one in each eye
Of the one that I care for, the one who deserves more
From one who is willing to try
To make life richer and easier to bear
Let me be the one who is willing to share
In your ups and your downs,
Your smile and your frowns,
Let me be the one to care.

Don’t be afraid, there are no schemes
Just a heartfelt desire to be part of your dreams
Of a life full of promise and hope,
Knowing that one day you’ll cope
And your path will be filled with new themes.
These are the words of a very true friend,
Take love and some laughter and make them blend,
a recipe which in time creates peace of mind.
I make you a promise that eventually you’ll find
If you use my strength you’ll succeed in the end.