Thursday, 3 December 2009

touching base and keeping in touch

I did a load of laundry but there is next to nowhere left to dry it.

I have a tumble dryer at home which I forgot is a luxury. Here, there are radiators and a couple of clothes horses and that is it.

Double quilt cover, double sheet, double mattress cover, clothes, more clothes, underwear (which had to be soaked first) and towels. And random stuff which I keep finding in unexpected corners. Like face cloths in the front room....

Speaking of which, the front room has seen better days. Once it was pristine. It was the pride and joy. Gold and deep red flock velour wallpaper, a sideboard, a 'posh' coffee table (with its own sheepskin style rug), an original dark wooden mantelpiece with all the original tiles, a velour three piece suite (yep, it matches the wallpaper), a display cabinet and a large dresser all crammed with knick-knacks, brass which Dad collected from various building sites over the years, tea and dinner services, old wedding presents, cutlery services, photographs and, well, stuff.

MwK's gold record for his work on a Matt Bianco album, YMB's graduation pictures, wedding and christening pictures and souvenirs from various holidays all on stands and displays.

When Mum died, it became obvious, as we went through the house finding random crap, that a lot of money was wasted. Well, we knew that. At least £35,000 went missing from the account that Dad used for business. The vast majority of it was/never will be found.

As Mum went through her mental health sections AND after she died, it became apparent that there are all kinds of leeches out there, happy to relieve the vulnerable of money and possessions. We found begging letters asking for money for various "causes", handwritten receipts for thousands of pounds and pieces of frank rubbish still with their price tags on.

As we sorted through all the drawers and cupboards, we found Elizabeth Duke necklaces and earrings that we had never seen worn, balled up in knots at the bottom of her wardrobe with some pieces deliberately broken, expensive catalogues for overpriced collectibles some of which she bought and dozens of pricey craft projects that never left their bags or boxes. There were also American gun and knife catalogues hidden under the front room floorboards. All paid for and all dearly priced.

We found some Aran wool from a "charity", complete with a badly photocopied knitting pattern which she had paid the best part of £100 for. Dad's sister, Miserable Auntie, took it home and used it up before she died. Even with arthritis, she could knit a basic jumper from scratch without a pattern.

I want to be able to do something like that. (Jealous)

Instead, I took a load of pointless embroidery projects home with me. All the threads had been knotted into balls and it took ages to sort them out. Some of them require a level of skill I don't possess, so I'VE got them hoarded away in a box now.

As Mum ran into her manic phases, the knick-knack count shot right up. "24K gold" labelled vases that were clearly junk, broken brooches (or brooches she had broken) from charity shops, 'collectible teapots' (no one drinks tea in our family), statues, tea trays, 'collectible toy vans and trucks' and cheap plastic toot all had the same value to her as her wedding and family photos.

The hoarding covered every aspect. Dad had no idea that he had pyjamas, let alone four pairs. If the house ever needs new nets - we're fine. And there's plenty of material (floral and velvet) for new curtains.

Dad will never run out of hand towels, bath towels, bath sheets, face cloths, shirts, vests, underpants, bed clothes or socks. After we had rounded them up from all points around the house, he's got an entire drawer so stuffed with socks that it can't close.

Anything of use is packed away in the right cupboard, but there's a load of crap just sitting in the front room as if in some forgotten storeroom. Along with a table in pieces MwK found lying in the road and a occasional table with drawers that MwK was told to get rid of because it was broken. He took it back to Dad's house to fix it instead. It's all sitting there gathering dust and unloved.

This hoarding thing has been inherited by her kids. YMB, when he lived at home, worked at Tesco while he was at university. Every time there was some sort of special offer (3 4 2, BOGOF etc) he bought stuff. There's a row of bottles of shampoo STILL in the bathroom cupboard years after he left home.

Along with the lifetime's supply of 100W pearlescent light bulbs I bought for Dad and the twenty odd rolls of toilet paper.

I hoard, although I know I have a problem and try to keep on top of it, MwK will not throw much if anything away AND, with a large van, he is capable of picking up pieces of furniture and toys left in the street because they're too good to throw away or "might come in handy" or "someone might buy it".

In the middle of the front room, in what little floor space is left, is a clothes horse. There's nowhere else to put it. Dad is so doddery now that it would simply get in the way anywhere else.

Walking back and forth between the garden shed where the washing machine is, through the house and into this dreadful dumping ground with armfuls of wet washing, picking my way through all this crap on dark and rainy days like today, is just......, well........, depressing.

My heart sinks every time I have to go into that room. It is God awful. And there's not much I can do about it.

And all that was before I visited Dad in hospital.

He was even less happy today than yesterday. He didn't want to wash, wouldn't get out of bed, didn't want to watch television. He just sat swearing and gesticulating at the staff who were at a loss.

No, he couldn't go home. No, he couldn't eat anything until 17:30. He was given food last night and refused to eat most of it so yes, he was going to be hungry now. No, he couldn't go home......

One nurse took him on as a personal project. She was going to get "Mr Popular" shifted to the Operating Theatre before she left for that night. She was great.

Of course, she got a racist tongue lashing from Dad every time she went to him to explain what was happening though. Dark black, with a thick African accent, she was on a hiding to nothing. But she did it. And fair play to the poor woman.

I left at 17:45 just as Dad was being wheeled out of the ward to the theatre. I told him I'd be back in the morning.

It was only after I lost sight of him that the nurse reminded me that visiting hours didn't start until 14:00.

Crap! He'll remember what I said and start with me tomorrow.


I walked down the Fulham Palace Road towards the Broadway. On my way, I found an internet place and logged on (at 50p per half hour) to keep up with my emails. Mainly just to keep the spam down.

I did the usual. I logged onto the NHS website to scan for jobs and check any messages, logged off again and carried on walking.

Down through the bus station, across the Broadway and down the Shepherd's Bush Road to the Green and then on down the Uxbridge Road.

Down to a dusty, neglected house that sucks any joy out of me whenever I go there.