Thursday 31 December 2009

Is It A Guinea Pig?

Photos copyright: Maggie May

This thing arrived in a little box the other week. What ever is it? A guinea pig perhaps? A new little member of the family?

No....... it is my new wig! I went to the orthotics department in the hospital for a fitting and was surprised to be taken to a tiny room lined with hundreds of little boxes. I knew I was going to be flummoxed about what to choose, so I took my longstanding friend with me who just happens to be a hairdresser.
I had thought of myself as grey and asked to see a wig in that colour. I tried on a light grey one with thick curls. What a mess....... I looked twenty years older. I was told by the very kind lady, called Audrey, who was in charge, that my hair was really quite dark with light grey smatterings on top. Funny how we don't realise what we look like to other people.
It was suggested that I try on a chestnut thick haired, short, wavy wig. Well I felt a bit like mutton dressed as lamb. Definitely not me. I tried a thick, wavy, short wig that was half grey and half brunette. I don't mean that the top half was one colour and the bottom was something else. No I mean that the brown was interspersed with grey. Although my friend and Audrey both inferred that this was me........ I was not impressed and thought, "If I have to take this wig, I will never wear it."
I then asked to see some that would quite obviously be unsuitable for me. Maybe that would persuade me to like one of the others. A really wild brown one was then passed over for me to try. It made me look as though I had been pulled through a hedge backwards and I knew if I took this one, I would be forever feeling that I needed a trim as it was really untidy and stuck out everywhere.
I was now feeling really despondent and guessed that I would never wear a wig, ever. Until Audrey produced this one. The wrong colour and in a style that I hadn't thought of.
Putting it on, I guessed it would be more suitable for a very young person. Then voila....... Audrey said my face lifted. She knew it was meant for me. I looked at my friend, thinking she would say, "Ridiculous." However, she really liked it.
I had always wanted thick curls and had always been lumbered with fine straight hair. Well best to stick to what I am used to and I felt straight was more me.

When I got home, I put the wig on and the oldest grandchild didn't notice, however the youngest one broke out into a smile, but said nothing. Husband said, "Oh that's nice" and son said, "I was expecting you to get something outrageous but I see you didn't."
Well this colour is outrageous for me........
Now I have to find the nerve to wear it. I think I will save it for best. In any case, I will wait for the natural hair to fall out as the wig will grip better, I was informed.

This post was put in draft before chemotherapy. I know that my hair will fall out anytime now.
I am wearing scarves because I don't want it to happen in public!
A few days ago my brother, Eddie and Maria his wife came to see me and asked to see the wig. I put it on for the duration of the time they were here. Maria seemed to really like it. However, my daughter said she liked me better with a scarf. I don't feel particularly confident in the wig. We shall have to see.....

Happy New Year Everyone!

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Back Today

Sorry about that blip, which I wasn't expecting.
I was able to read your comments from time to time.
It was so encouraging to read your good wishes and know that everyone is rooting for me. That means so much to me.
I had meant to keep this blog fairly cancer free and carry on writing like I used to...... with humour and photos and memes etc. However, that is never going to work now as I am being treated for cancer and I feel every day there is a struggle to just do the necessary things for survival. I have got some things in draft form and later on I will post them. Today though, I feel that I have to be true to myself and I guess you are all wondering what I really feel like. I think it would be more real to be honest and if anyone is upset by it, then I'm sorry. Some of you have already been treated with chemotherapy and am really pleased you took the trouble to write to me and encourage me.
The treatment is different for everyone and each person is probably being treated very differently from someone else.
When I had the the chemical put in through a drip (it took hours) I had been told that if it got onto the skin it would cause burns. How the body copes with it I do not know. So its not surprising that it has taken its toll and given me some nasty side effects.
The worst part, I think was not knowing what is going to happen to me and for how long. I got a list of possible side effects and other cancer suffers could tell me what they felt. Its not the same though and I had nothing to go on as to how I would cope.
The main problem that hit me straight away was screaming joint pain. Obviously I have arthritis at my age and that seemed to be amplified big time. The thought of that going on for months made me wonder whether it was worth it. Fortunately for me that passed after several days.
The next thing was even worse.
I became extremely negative and had visual disturbances ....... things that slithered on the floor like snakes. I knew they were not real but I thought I was going mad. I kept feeling I couldn't go on with it and the family had to get me to a locum doctor, who said I wasn't psychotic but the chemicals were causing me to have visual effects. Fortunately this only lasted a few days.

The sickness had already set in by then and I couldn't keep anything down. I was getting so weak. I didn't think my body would cope. Not being able to drink anything, the hospital was considering having me admitted to the ward if it continued.

Yesterday, I felt I was able to think more clearly and waves of tiredness consumed my body and I slept for hours.
My wonderful daughter gave me a tiny lunch of a baked potato and a small slice of pizza that tasted so wonderful and I managed to keep that down. While I was eating the meal, she had a friend round, who I knew well from the days when all our children were at school together, and I can remember talking to her for a long time and suddenly I woke up and she was gone. I had slept on the settee for a few hours. I went to bed and slept for hours. Seems I cannot get enough sleep.
On arising today, I ate breakfast and drank plenty. My sight had been affected badly in one eye, making me feel I had done real damage to it through these blasted chemicals..... however this morning, I can read again.
I am not as creative anymore. I cannot concentrate. I had hoped to use this recovery time to read and blog. Maybe I will feel stronger soon. I know that the next week or two will make me very vulnerable to infection as my red and white cells and platelets are having to re build to normal.
However, today I am alive and in a better frame of mind and resting. I can eat and drink without being sick. Theres always something to be grateful for and today I am in a positive enough frame of mind........ so I am grateful about that.
However, the thing that I am most grateful for is that I have noticed that the tumour in the groin has diminished considerably...... so it does look as though that is the right treatment for it.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Feeling Grot

I'm really sorry but I feel terrible and cannot blog or email. Will be back when I can.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Photo copyright: Maggie May

Bristol seems to have concentrated on a German Christmas this year but wherever you are from, our household wishes you a very happy time.
Lets not forget the true meaning of Christmas.... celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Peace, goodwill towards all humanity.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Chemo, snow and waiting.....

Hi everyone....... I have at last started my treatment.
When I saw the snow yesterday, my heart sank. It was thick, as British snow goes, and soon made all the roads a slippery mess.
You Canadians will wonder why this should happen. Well Britain, (England anyway), is never ready for the snow.
When it pitched, the roads were un-gritted and everything came to a halt.
Very selfishly, I was only worried about getting my treatment.
I got up very early in the morning and my husband de iced daughter's car for her. She hates driving in the snow. However once we got out onto the main road, it wasn't too bad.

We found ourselves in the Hospital car park and there was no place you could park without paying an extortionate amount, which for cancer patients, some of them going in everyday, is a great hardship.

The nurse struggled to find a vein that didn't collapse and as I noticed my daughter going a funny colour, she was pleased when I told her I could manage on my own. I was much more worried about the snow than anything else I experienced.

The infusions took a long time to go in, and I was there well over six hours.
They gave me lunch and I had taken lots of things to do. However I was surprised the simple crosswords in the book I had brought seemed suddenly very difficult and I realised that my brain was not as capable of solving easy puzzles. When the chemical was flushed out of the tube in my hand, I started to be able to do the puzzles again, but I am making lots of typos that I am having to put right and I had to think really carefully how to put the signature on the post. I haven't worried about a picture this time. So I think that my brain has been affected already.

All in all, I was surprised how I could eat tonight although I do feel tired.
I have got lots of pills to take and I have lots of dos and don'ts ...... a long list of them.

Thank you to all who have emailed me and for everyones' support.
I will get round to answering soon.
I will have to play it by ear, but I have had enough for today. Will keep you posted.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Past Christmases

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Honey Mommy

Photos copyright: Maggie May

As I have said before, this Christmas will be like no other because I don't know what to expect or how I will feel after chemotherapy. I have to be at the hospital by 8.15 am to start the treatment on Tuesday. My daughter and the grandsons will be here this Sunday and we are hoping to have a chicken roast on Monday just in case I feel too ill to eat over Christmas. I will enjoy a glass of wine with it as I don't suppose I will be allowed to drink or even feel like it from the next day onwards.

So I have been looking through old photos of Christmases past. The younger grandson in the above picture put on two Christmas hats.He must have pinched the second one from his brother. He certainly had a triumphant look on his face.

This one was taken a good few years ago when the oldest granddaughter received a microphone for Christmas and she practiced being a diva for days. She was only here for a short time and had to go back to Japan again after that. It always caused me great distress to say goodbye.

Here she is again showing off....... the same Christmas.

The picture below shows the wonder of Christmas to a small child (same one again) looking at the lights. I think this one was taken when they lived in Japan.
They are flying out to see their other grandparents on Christmas Eve. They will be sadly missed. However when they are here, the other grandparents miss them too, so it seems that one or the other of our families are going to be sad some of the time. Can't be helped.

Photostory Friday is hosted by Cecily.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Gift and Nativities

I went to the school today to watch the second of the Nativities that my granddaughters were in and when I got back, there was a parcel waiting for me in the porch. On opening it, I found it contained two hand knitted face cloths made from bamboo and a bar of lovely rose soap. This was from my friend Michelle who lives in New Zealand, Mickle's Pickle
I was thrilled to bits and will thank her personally by email.
I am amazed that knitting wool can be made from bamboo! I will be cooling my fevered brow with them soon Michelle.
Such a thoughtful thing to do.

Photos copyright: Maggie May

Nativities have changed considerably these days with bits and pieces added on here and there. This scene was about busy bakers at Christmas time making all the Christmas puddings and cakes. It was a lovely play and eventually the Nativity did come into it in the end.

The other granddaughter was a sheep racing around the shepherd's legs as they were visited by the angel.
It is marvellous to go to these Nativities. I wouldn't normally miss them for the world. I was so pleased that I didn't have to this year because of illness and hospital appointments.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Three Days before Christmas......

Photos copyright: Maggie May

This Christmas will be really different for me. You see, I will be having my first treatment of chemotherapy on 22nd of December, which is only three days before Christmas Day.
I am glad to be finally starting the treatment. It seems that I have been waiting for ever for chemo. I'm not sure how long it actually is but I do know what has held up the true diagnosis and start of the treatment.
Right from the beginning, I was warned that I had secondary cancer and that it was difficult to find the source. Now I have a definite diagnosis that is called Occult Cancer or CUP ( cancer from unknown primary.) It is fairly rare not to know where the cancer has come from and only about 3-4% of all cancers belong to this group and to make matters worse, out of that small minority, I am in the 30% of the rarer still cancers.
So treating this cancer will be a bit hit and miss.
I told you before that I am awkward......... or shall we call it special!

Anyway, I have to trust God that the treatment will shrivel up my three tumours and give me a long remission.
I know that many people are believers and praying for me all over the world and others are sending me warm, positive thoughts, reiki and anything else that might benefit me. I am grateful to all who are doing this, I really am.

Last Sunday in Church, I suddenly experienced a tremendous peace that came over me and I know it is all about the power of prayer. I went forward for healing and felt very calm inside. I am lucky to have a really good church family as well as all you lovely people.
I also have neighbours, friends and workmates who are all sending me love, warmth and good wishes and I know that every one really cares what happens to me. So I feel very blessed by these people and I know that I will have to hang on to all this when the going gets tough over the next few months.

I finished work last Friday, until further notice and felt really tearful and emotional about that. However it means that I have a week to catch up with my Christmas preparations that have been sadly neglected.
I have had to have a swine flu injection before I could have the chemo. This has made me feel quite ill, but I am over the worst of that now.
I am also going for a fitting for a wig soon (which I might never wear) and have also ordered some suitable headwear (in case I don't like the wig) from a firm on the internet that specialises in chemotherapy patients' head gear.
So I am all set for whatever the treatment throws at me. Let it come.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Bells and Alpacas

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Rachael

Photos copyright: Maggie May

This post has been in my draft folder for ages....... so it needs an airing!
I will post you with an update of my treatment and progress next post.

Back in the summer holiday my son, Sam, asked me to go with him to Topsham in Devon, where he was going to be dancing with the Morris Dancing group that he belongs to. I realise that some people overseas will not know what that is but if I say British folk dancing with sticks and bells then you will get the general idea.
The weather around that time had been glorious so I was quite eager to go with them.

First hiccup was when Sam realised that he had left the children's car seats in his wife's car. She was somewhere in a different town, but all was not lost, she had gone by train and had left her car a few miles away. Sam whizzed across the city and got the car seats and off we went.
Five minutes into the journey I realised that I had left my handbag that contained all my money and mobile phone and camera at home and had just picked up the bag with the family things for the journey in it. Son very kindly agreed to go back and get it. We were now running slightly late.

We were supposed to cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge but when we got there it was closed. That meant a huge detour. This was getting serious.
Sam phoned the group to say he would be missing the first set of dances and apologised. We hurtled along the motorway ( safely.)
"Look at the map and tell me which exit to get off," Sam asked me. This was the map that the Morris Dancing team had given us. Very scant directions.
I studied the map but there was no information to say which exit to get off.
I rang a friend of Sam, who was also going and he had been delayed too, because of the bridge. He gave the right exit number and rang back several times to see how we were getting on with the journey. He had been before.

Millie said she wanted to pee and couldn't wait, so we had to waste more time going to a Service Station.
We started off again and the phone went. I explained we were just coming off the motorway and there was a sort of silence on the other end. Turned out it wasn't Sam's friend but a man wanting him to look at a kitchen to see if he could do some work for him. Sam is a carpenter. We had a good laugh about that and after a few wrong turnings found the way into the harbour side where the Morris Dancing was taking place.
Arriving in the car park, Sam had to go behind some bushes to change into his Morris Dancing trousers. *Don't let anyone think he is a flasher* I was secretly praying.

All was well. The dancing had started but Sam was able to carry on with the rest of the group and his friend, who had also been delayed because of the bridge closure was there just ahead of us too.

From then on, things started to get better. The girls found a friend to play with and a group to keep an eye on them, while I was free to explore the beautiful High Street. A small road steeped in history. I had a good half hour to myself and took some great photos that I will be able to use for a different post. We had lunch in a large room belonging to a pub and we were full to bursting by the time we had finished. I really don't know how Sam managed to dance after that as he had three more sessions of dancing to do.

We went to several different sites and had to walk through the countryside to get to the last engagement which was by a farm. There was a short cut, (we were told) through a lane. All the Morris dancers seemed to have disappeared. We waited and waited for about ten minutes. After a while, Sam rang his friend and asked where they all were.
"Waiting for you," was the reply. They had set off in a different direction from the back of the pub and we were waiting in the front. The friend told us the way was by some railway lines.
We passsed the lines and didn't see anyone and we walked for what must have been a mile. The children were really tired by now and had to be coaxed and bribed to carry on.
After several phone calls, the friend realised that we had taken a huge detour of about a mile and a half out of our way. We had completely missed the small lane by the railroad crossing that was only a five minute walk and had crossed a bridge and walked straight on.
Sam was really tired by now and had to dance for another hour or more without stopping.

However,the children were very happy because they had arrived near a children's play area and next to some farm animals in different pens. The sheep and alpacas had just been fed and were munching their way through huge cabbages. The sheep were enjoying them very much but the alpacas were daintily picking at them without as much relish. The noise of the sheep munching was really loud. I watched for ages. It doesn't take much to keep me happy!
In case you are looking for cabbages in the above picture, the photo was taken before the cabbages were brought to the field in a wheelbarrow and somehow or other I missed the opportunity to take more of them munching.

Eventually the dancing was done and we all sat and talked for a bit and ate nibbles and suitable drinks for the drivers.
Just before sunset, we started off for home. Girls fell asleep in the car and this time we had to stop off for a toilet break for Sam.
I can assure you that everyone fell into bed that night very quickly and slept very soundly. How do I know that? Well they were all at my place for another sleep over.

Photostory Friday is hosted by Cecily.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Houseboat Guests.

Photo copyright Maggie May

This is another photo of the same canal that I used last week for Watery Wednesday. A canal in Essex that we visited while staying with our daughter, and we walked along the banks of it just before dusk.
The ducks milled around the houseboat. Maybe they got fed round there. They seemed to be waiting.......

Watery Wednesday is hosted by 2sweetnsaxy. Why not look at some of the lovely photos from all over the world?

Saturday 5 December 2009

The Quick Brown Fox Jumped...

Photos copyright: Maggie May

The picture above was taken by me while I was out walking with the grandchildren on a lovely Autumn day. Just one of several lovely paintings on boards near some allotments.
This happened before cancer seemed to take over my life and the post has been in my draft folder for some while. So it is time to give it an airing.

Regular readers will remember that I have had a fox coming to my garden at night bringing in eggs and digging up borders and turning over pots.
Most of the time I have discovered these things during the daytime after the fox has left. Only once did I catch his attention one evening when I looked out of the window while he was drinking from the mini pond and we looked each other in the eye for a good while before he turned to run down the garden and over wall into next door.

However, the other morning I was looking through window at the garden again and I saw the fox lazing in the sun as bold as brass. He looked rather like a pet corgi lying there on the patio.
I ran to get my camera but knew that if I opened the back door he would run away. Hence the foggy photo through my not so clean window!
Eventually the fox got up and jumped the wall next door again, swiftly followed by me and my camera. No not over the wall........ to the point where it jumped over.
The sight of me freaked the animal out and it decided to jump the fence again and disappeared into another neighbour's garden further along the terrace, well out of sight.

A few days later after I had finished my dinner time job, I saw him on our road just sitting there and not running away from me. It was then that I noticed that he didn't look very well. His eyes were half closed and his brush was thin and tatty.

He was seen yet again in my back garden when I was talking to a friend the other day and he came right up to the window and was biting his mange pitifully. He is worse off than me. There is no treatment for him.

Wednesday 2 December 2009


Photo copyright: Maggie May

I have come back from the hospital after a three hour wait for the results of the scan.

My chemotherapy will start in two weeks time.
I will have to have two different chemicals dripped into my body over a period of four hours. This will be repeated every three weeks until six sessions have been completed. Half way through, I will have a scan to see if the tumours are shrivelling. Yes....... they found two more tiny ones behind my stomach.

I will lose my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows as well as any other hair that might be lurking about.
Strange thing is...... they still don't know where this cancer has come from and probably never will. I have probably not had it long. It is unusual for this to happen, but then I am an extraordinary person.

I cannot work in a school because my immune system will get very low. I must also not be in charge of the grandchildren as I will not feel well enough. That will be a blow to my family but cannot be helped. I am fighting for my life here so need to only think of myself.
If all goes well I will be in remission by May.

I hope you will all bear with me if I don't comment as much after the next two weeks. It will all depend on how I feel.
I will live from day to day and as I said before, I don't want this to be a cancer blog. I hope to be able to write about other things too.

Tuesday 1 December 2009


Photo copyright: Maggie May

This was a photo that I took while staying at my daughter's home on the east coast of England, a year ago. We travelled to some beautiful places in Essex and walked along a canal bank just before dusk. The reflections were really striking and I often go back to look at the photos that I took. This is just one of them.
Watery Wednesday is hosted by 2sweetnsaxy.

I am sure that you will all be wondering how I got on with my recent scan and I will let you know when I hear anything. I am also having more scans this week so it might take a while to find anything out. I am learning patience that is not natural to me.
Thank you all for your lovely comments and emails with your good wishes and prayers for Harry & me. It is so heartwarming and I really appreciate it.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Children In Need

Last weekend in England, it was Children In Need Week which is an appeal for lots of money to support childrens' Charities. The bear in the picture is a character who is used to advertise the Appeal. His name is Pudsey. No you are not seeing double, there really are two there.

Every week at school, Amber, my eldest granddaughter has a spelling test on a Friday. Usually twelve new words that have to be learnt each week. As a rule she gets all twelve right and as a reward, I usually buy her (and Millie) a small gift. That is real pressure, isn't it? If Amber gets all twelve, then Millie gets something too.
Anticipating the twelve out of twelve, I asked the children what they would like. It is usually something quite small. This time they both said that they would like Pudsey bears. They were selling them in the local ASDA shops for only a a pound each. They were very small bears.
Well, Harry and I searched two ASDA shops and all the little bears had been snapped up and they only had the larger ones that cost much more than they usually get for a spelling test.
I was getting tired so decided to get a large bear each and go mad.
When the girls saw the bears, they were overawed and their Dad said, "You'd better give them a hug for buying those bears." (Obviously meaning granddad and me.) We all collapsed with laughter when both the girls picked up their bears and gave them a hug.
Wasn't that funny.

On Tuesday evening, Harry and I had to go to the hospital where he has been treated for prostate cancer for seven years. We were both rather shocked to be told that they can only now treat the cancer successfully for six more months. After that it will be much more difficult and will be less and less effective. I thought that they would be able to do another two years, so this is a new blow that we have to bear in our family.
Seems I just get to grips with one thing and then something else comes and takes away the peace.
When you get kicked enough times...... you feel stunned, unreal. However, you just have to get back up and try again.

I have now had my CT scan and have been told it will be 10 days before I can learn anything about what exactly is going on in my body.
I also have two more different scans booked for next week.
I am about to start back at work on Monday so it means taking off yet more time and not getting any nearer to knowing what treatment I will be getting or when.
I am thinking that I am being given lessons in patience from above.
In the meantime........ I am experimenting with scarves and hats. Not too keen on a wig.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Counting My Blessings

Copyright: Maggie May

This evening (Wednesday) at 6pm, I will be going to our local hospital for a CT scan. At first I thought I was going to be fed through a tiny space which I wouldn't have liked because I get claustrophobic in confined spaces. It might be because I would feel really out of control of what would be happening to me, as I wouldn't be able to escape if I wanted to.
I am pleased to say that I have discovered that it is not the MRI scan but the doughnut, a much wider piece of equipment so I will be fine with that.
I have to drink a pint of water before I go to have it and pour in a little potion that has been sent to me via the hospital. This will show up my digestive tract from start to finish. I will not get the results until the following Wednesday that brings us up to the 2nd of December.

All this waiting has not been easy for me as I am by nature, an impatient person. I like to get results...... I like to start things NOW!
I am having to learn to accept that this cannot be. I have to wait.
I am rather an unusual person because I have a secondary cancerous lump in the groin and no one seems to know where the primary cause is. It is unusual but not unheard of. Just the kind of thing that happens to us as a family though. Not straightforward ....... typical of Maggie May.
If the scan shows up something....... then I will start chemotherapy and radiation treatment straight away. If nothing shows up they will zap the groin tumour with radiation.
I can see that this is going to mess up Christmas either way.
My son is coming to stay for a week with the girls from the time school finishes till the time they fly to Japan for two weeks on Christmas Eve. My daughter will be coming to take over from him when he is away. (Poor thing, as though she hasn't had enough to cope with already.) There will be a bit of an overlap when all the family will all be together.

To try and make it more enjoyable for the children, my son Sam is buying a wii for them all that will be put upstairs in the roof. So that if I am chucking up in a bucket and losing my hair, the children will be having a good time up in the attic space and hopefully that will compensate.

Usually, at this time of the year, I am wishing the Winter away and longing for the Spring. Not anymore. Now I feel very much alive and living for the moment. Being alive seems much more precious. Everything now seems more lovely, more treasured, more beautiful. People seem more important, relationships seem much more meaningful.
I am living for the moment and am grateful for what I have. When you think there is a chance that you might die........ then everything seems to be more vibrant, enticing you to live. I took everything for granted before and hadn't realised the way I often wished my time away.

I have spent a good chunk of my life worrying about my old age. How I would cope if I was left alone. How would I manage financially. When you realise that there might not be an old age then it all seems to have been a complete waste of time. Living for the moment seems a much better option.
Today I can see and hear and move about. I can cuddle my grandchildren and I can blog. I know I am loved by so many people and that gives me courage to face the future.
I have to chose a picture now to go with this post. I'm not sure what it will be yet......... but it will probably be something beautiful.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Stuck In The Loop

My grandfather on my dad's side was a very intelligent man. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Research Chemist and worked towards that and achieved it. Similarly, my Dad also knew from an early age that he wanted to do the same. He was also very intelligent and before school he taught himself to read out of a medical encyclopaedia that happened to be lying about.
I don't think that he had much attention given to him as a child.
My grandfather was a very strange man, showing no emotion and would sit in silence for hours. I can remember being quite afraid of him when I was very young. By then he lived in a remote part of Lancashire in a farm house with his two sisters and a younger brother. They were all extremely shy people. My Dad's cousin also lived there, as she had looked after him when my grandmother had died before I was born and when he was only ten. I loved this person who I called Auntie M. She was badly disabled by Rheumatoid Arthritis and was often in great pain.
Grandfather and Auntie M had gone to live in the farm house to escape the bombing in Wallasey during the Second World War and when that was over, they stayed on, probably causing distress to the sisters and brother by doing so.

Grandfather was renowned for his disagreeable nature. In fact he used to grunt sometimes rather than answer and everyone gave him a wide berth. People used to *walk on eggshells* so as not to upset him.
My father also had this remoteness about him and he didn't like being touched. I can clearly remember as a toddler learning very quickly not to try and climb up on his knee because I would be pushed away and told to get down. I was never cuddled or picked up by him, though we have photos of him awkwardly holding me in a wooden sort of way.
I don't think he ever understood any of my needs or emotions. No..... he couldn't ever understand emotions.

Fortunately for me, my mother was quite a demonstrative person and gave me plenty of physical love. I went to her for everything and thought of her as the provider of all my needs and very rarely asked my father for anything. I think I was very confused about the extremes of their very different personalities and not having the strong role model of a father.
Can you see where this is going?

I don't think Asperger's Syndrome became known about until the '70s and so no one ever put a name to either of these men and lets face it we are all on the Autistic Spectrum to some degree. Both men were known to be Odd Bods........ eccentric people and accepted for what they were. My Dad had many strange obsessions ...... collecting things for the sake of it was one. Dad spent a lot of money on all the technical gadgets of that day, leaving us without money for adequate clothing. He just couldn't understand the need for such things as long as the body was covered. I was always so ashamed of having to wear the same things over and over again and was made fun of quite a bit at school. However my Mum could make something out of anything and I can remember her chopping up curtains to make shorts so that we could go away for a holiday. A bit like The Sound Of Music when the Van Trapps did the same.
At the time, I didn't think any of this was unusual until I started to see how other families interacted together and then I realised that our family was different. Other girls had a wonderful relationship with their fathers.
My dad just couldn't understand why I wasn't as intelligent as him. I suppose he wanted to have a daughter who carried on the Research Chemist tradition and was bitterly disappointed and after being told I was no good at his favourite subjects, I just gave up on them altogether. I wanted to be *normal* and concentrated on art and pop music and dancing and having a good time.

By the time I was married with children, he had mellowed into a really kind grandfather who my children loved but couldn't quite understand.
Even they knew he was eccentric but loved him anyway. It was quite common for them to be told to *grow up* if they had a view that was different from his and his favourite saying was..... *The man's a blithering idiot*.

So it was no surprise to me that my own children have been drawn to people with similar characteristics......... that zoomed along towards the Asperger's line. I cannot and will not say any more about this for obvious reasons.
However it has come to my notice that families seem to attract the very types into their fold, that they are trying to escape from.
Family members who have put up with a difficult family member for years, often subconsciously choose an identical partner to that very one, even though they feel there is no chance of it happening.
Alcoholics unwittingly choose other alcoholics, depressives go for other depressives and Aspergers are no exception to the rule. If there is an Aspergers person in the family you can get so used to this condition that you don't recognise the problems that are going to happen when you meet someone who has some of the traits. It is normal for them. They have been programmed to accept certain types of people. They are comfortable with that type of person. They deny that they ARE that type of person.

The Book *Families and How to Survive them* By Robyn Skynner and John Cleese puts all this in perspective beautifully. This is the book that made me aware of what was going on in my own family.
Walking on eggshells so as not to upset a volatile personality. We are very used to doing this in our household.

It is like being caught up in a loop. Our family members continually get hurt because they choose people who will not or cannot make them happy and it goes down the generations and the mistakes are made over and over again.
I sincerely hope that my grandchildren will be more aware of the lifelong misery that this can cause.... but I have a feeling that they will possibly stay in this loop unless they have help breaking out.........
We must recognise these family traits and beware of the pitfalls.

What is there in your family?

Thursday 19 November 2009

In My Grandmother's Day

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Sue

Photos copyright: Maggie May

Although these photos were taken in the Black Country Living Museum in Birmingham, I can remember similar scenes in my Grandmother's home.
The fire range above with the brass fender round it was the heart and soul of my grandmother's back room. The coal fire used to be lit everyday, no matter how hot it was outside and I can remember feeling as though I was in a furnace when I was a child, visiting.
There was always a kettle on the hob, just like in the picture and sometimes there was washing drying or airing on the fender.

This was a typical kitchen scene but it was a room that was always called a scullery. There was cold water in the tap but any hot water had to be carried in from the fire.

This is just some of the equipment that was needed for washday. Notice the wooden rollers on the mangle and the dolly tub for rinsing that had to be hand filled. The dolly is the wooden paddle that had to be twisted by hand to agitate the washing. If you look above the mangle, you will see a tin bath hanging on the wall for the weekly baths (shared by all the members of the family) and all the hot water had to come from a small kettle heated on the coal fire. Understandably the bath was never very deep and the water was filthy by the time the last member of the family got in.

Notice the boiler in the corner for boiling up clothes. There is a space on the other side of the wall for a coal fire to be lit to heat the boiler. Think how that would be on a wet day, having to go outside and try to start a fire before the washing was even started.

The photo below was a typical toilet called a midden! It was just a hole with a bucket to catch everything. Fortunately, my grandmother had a modern outside toilet with a flush! The towns had sewers but out in the country the slops had to be buried.
Remind me never to moan again about my chores.