My baby got married

One of the greatest joys in this job is being part of those big moments in people’s lives.  And it is especially joyful when those people are part of your own family.

On Saturday my eldest son Craig married Vicky, the light of his life. It has been planned since the beginning of the year and early on it was clear that this would be a wedding with a difference. For my son is not what you might call conventional and we love him for that. However it did make the planning just a little chaotic which does not always sit well with this control freak.

The liturgy was poured over and my wordsmith son had considerable input when it came to names for the deity. From the beginning they wanted to write their own vows but as the day got closer the vows were not forthcoming. It was only the day before that they arrived and were so beautiful that they instantly made me cry. Craig loves the sea and sailing so that was a theme throughout the day and also in their vows:

Vicky said to Craig:

I vow to always remain your anchor, to bring you stability in a chaotic world
I promise to be a safe harbour for you, through the highs and the low tides, to guide you through stormy seas to calm waters
And I vow to remain by your side on our adventure as we grow old together.
And Craig said to Vicky:
I promise to always fight my way back to you from dark mountains, valleys and seas
I promise to recognise the light in you, when the darkness is blinding
You are my lighthouse and my siren, and I will always come to your song.
The wedding was small and informal. No organist, no hymns. Vicky came down the aisle on her mum’s arm to the theme from the film The Life Aquatic and later we all sangalong to Kooks by David Bowie. Craig read two beautiful love poems to Vicky and everyone sighed.
Even my lovely sister who suffers from agoraphobia managed to dope herself up sufficiently to come and sit at the back, along with her son Stevie who suffers from CRPS and although he was in horrendous pain he managed to stay for the ceremony. I know Craig and Vicky were surprised and delighted they were able to be there.
Then some of their closest friends trotted down to the Voodoo Rooms (used to be the Café Royal) for a wonderful meal and my youngest son Gareth gave a hilarious best-man speech. Unfortunately the noise from the wedding next door was such that we didn’t hear all the jokes. And then we hit the dance floor and more friends arrived to share in the joy.
I didn’t stay long after that. Three glasses of Pinot Grigio was just too much on top of all that adrenalin! It was a gorgeous day, not without its mishaps, but a day which I shall never forget.

Christmas past and present

So, as ever, one of my New Year Resolutions might be to blog more and as thoughts of Christmas past and present have been whirling round my head for the past week, let me share them.

My childhood memories are of desperately waiting to go through to the lounge to open those parcels under the tree. Dear old mum loved to have a long lie so there was always the worry that she wouldn’t want to get up and let us in to the lounge. And my sister Carol would never go in first in case Santa was still there so we hovered in the hall coughing loudly. Eventually mum got up and gathered her notebook and pencil to record everyone we opened, taking turns but peeking through gaps in the wrappings to get a hint of what was therein. Of course Carol knew most of hers already for she had been snooping in the top of mum’s wardrobe for weeks but I was always happy to wait for the surprise.

After the pillow cases were emptied and the tangerines and shiny Macintosh Red apples discarded in favour of Selection Boxes and chocolate treats, and the wrappings put in the bin, the serious work of reading or playing began. After breakfast, and I don’t remember what we had but it certainly wasn’t anything resembling smoked salmon, we had to get dressed for Christmas lunch. This was a grand affair when Dad came to pick us up andCafe Royal we opened more presents before heading off to the Cafe Royal where Grandma, Barbara, his current wife, and Lesley and Joanne (our half-sisters) all gathered sharing lists of what we’d got.

The Cafe Royal was probably the most grand restaurant in Edinburgh in those days and we’d always have a table in the Crown Room. There would be luxury crackers to pull and beautiful gifts for the women. That’s when the serious eating of smoked salmon began although I do remember Dad occasionally have scrambled egg on toast if he’d been overdoing the dining out. Dad was always adamant that both families and both wives got on and Mum and Barbara went along with it and did indeed seem to get on although, looking back, it can’t have been easy for mum to be brought face to face with the newer model.

When I became a mum of two little boys some traditions remained the same. The pillow case became a proper Santa Sack but the orange and apple remained and the notebook always came out to make a list ready for thank-you letters. Mum came to us for Christmas and helped make lunch, a more informal affair round the dining table with no white-aproned waiters in sight. Breakfast might be smoked salmon and a wee Croft Original sherry, or maybe a bacon roll.

Then ordination changed all of that. The boys were growing up but still around but Mum died in 2006 and I was left to make the food myself. Friends who know me will also know that cooking is not one of my gifts. Heating things in a microwave is my gift but cooking things and having them all ready at the same time is definitely not one of my gifts and charisms. And I was exhausted. I was so busy in the week leading up to Christmas that I sometimes didn’t get to the shops until the last turkey was gone and there was not a potato to be found.  One son was a fussy eater and the other had cordon bleu tastes so there was never an agreement on what we should eat. One year I remember a fridge full of lobsternibbles and savouries and only a lobster platter from Marks and Spencer as a main course.

For a few years it fell to Son #1 to make the food but as he and Son #2 had often been up late drinking the night before they never felt like cooking or eating until about 7pm. By that time I’d done about 14 services over the past few days and made so many bacon rolls to see me through I never felt like eating and was ready to go to bed by 6.30pm.

Then Son #1 decided he’d rather have Christmas with his new partner, and who can blame him? And we were left, the two of us, who really didn’t like the same food as each other. He didn’t want to get up early to open presents before I went off to do the Christmas day services but I was desperate to see what Santa had brought. No sherry for breakfast when you’ve got the Holy Mysteries to see to and bed was only a few short hours before. Midnight Mass can really up the adrenaline levels and it takes hours for me to come back to earth after the high. No sleep for me before about 4am. And so I come back from the Christmas Day eucharist and Son #2 is still in bed and reluctant to leave his cosy pit and share the love of the baby Jesus.

A few years ago we made a splendid decision to have a Chinese carry-out for our Christmas meal. I can’t believe we hadn’t thought of it before. It was the perfect solution for we both loved Chinese food and I didn’t have to cook it. And it worked beautifully. Until last year… the Chinese restaurant decided to close for Christmas Day. We phoned every Chinese carry-out in town and not one of them was open. That year we had a plateful of chipolatas and some sausage rolls. Oh how we laughed.

This year I actually planned ahead and no Chinese restaurant could be found. I asked Son #2 what he’d like instead and he said the only meal he could remember that I’d ever cooked which was edible was a slow-cooker stew so that’s what we had. I put it on after the Midnight Mass and it was really tasty at 5pm. (The veg were pre-packed and the gravy came from a bottle.) This was also the Year of the Lindt overload as I’d casually lindor-003.jpgmentioned my love of Lindt chocolate and I received rather a surfeit. 8 boxes in fact, not to mention the Thorntons boxes of chocs. That did nicely for breakfast and lunch.

What I failed to do this year was get that old notebook out to write down the presents for the thank-you letters. So thank you, dear friends, for all those lovely presents. I love them all, even if I can’t quite remember who gave what.

Ordination really messes with your Christmas folks. Unless you have a lovely spouse who happens to enjoy taking care of that kind of thing, it can be a messy business and a stipend doesn’t quite stretch to dining out in the Cafe Royal, although I hear its not quite the same these days. So spare a thought for the poor children of clergy who don’t get to open presents at a reasonable hour and have to eat stew on Christmas day after mum has snored her way through the afternoon movie and is ready to go back to bed at 7pm.

New Year Revolutions 2015

Jumping on the blogging bandwagon of making some New Year resolutions (though Revolutions sounds more fun) for 2015. You should know that I am not very good at keeping them, however. Last year, or was it the year before, I made a resolution not to buy any more books until I’d read the all the unread ones I have. That lasted until May. And I still have a 6ft bookcase outside my study which is positively bulging with unread books. So that brings me to my first revolution:

books and coffeeReading
This year I shall put in my diary some time for reading. For the past few months it has taken me 4 weeks to read our book group offering and occasionally I can fit in another one but I read two pages in bed and fall asleep. As for reading theology and books to feed sermons… pathetic!  So this year I shall put some time blocked out in my diary and not feel guilty at all about reading. Which leads me neatly on to my next one…

Sabbatical
From 14 April to 14 July I shall be taking my first Sabbatical. 12 weeks of time away from the parish to restore, refresh and renew myself and ministry. For years I’ve wanted to put together a Lent Book/Blog using a piece of art each day with a meditation. I am a visual person and really look forward to gazing at lovely paintings and matching them with meditations for the 40 days of Lent. I’ve taken some advice and have been told New York and Washington are the places to go to see great art so that’s where I’m headed. Then perhaps some time in Gladstone’s Library for putting it all together. My Bishop tells me there must be some rest in there too and I’m not arguing with that. Of course this is all dependent on getting some Grants to help finance it so if you know of anyone who can help…

Health and Fitness
I know! Can you believe I even have considered including this? Last year was not a great year for health but was much improved when I was sent for Pulmonary Rehab at the hospital. 6 weeks of exercise and diet left me feeling so much better and my plan is to carry on with that in the new year. I’ve been referred to the local gym and some lycra may even be purchased. Steady, Ruth! I also have liver disease (of the non-alcoholic kind, she quickly added) and was given a scary warning about losing weight (not before time, I may add) so I need to continue to eat cottage cheese and resist all cakes and biscuits on church premises. I will need your help in this, so if you see me reaching for a wee slice of malteser cake you have permission to smack my hand.

Miscellaneous
I’d like to say I will spend more time keeping my study tidy and organising it better, spending more time visiting family and friends, learning how to crochet, avoiding wasting time on stupid computer games, spending less money on purple Purple-Leather-Handbaghandbags (how many purple handbags does one woman need? really?), making time for mutual support with clergy friends, tidying up my computer files which have been desperately needing doing since I got new computer and can’t find anything, blogging more on topical issues, not leaving my tax return till the last minute, etc etc. I’d like to do all these things but suspect they are an annual hope which take more effort than I’ve ever given. Maybe this year… Oh, and stopping smoking again. Yeh that.

Ian Innes MBE RIP

A few weeks ago my Uncle Ian died. He was my day’s elder brother (by one year) and they were very close. Ian and his wife Marie lived in Headingly, Leeds and used to come up several times a year to spring Dad out of the Twilight Home for the Bewildered and take us all out for a lovely lunch. Ian and Marie were great characters, having lived and worked for many years in Kuwait, with great stories and love for us all. We always enjoyed their visits.

Sadly, just over a year ago, Ian was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Last year was their last visit to Edinburgh and it was shocking to see how quickly he was forgetting things. There was dad with dementia who hasn’t improved or got worse really since his diagnosis 14 years ago, and within months Ian was forgetting us so quickly.

Ian’s wife Marie is a Roman Catholic and decided that they should move house into sheltered accommodation where they could have help on hand. Marie’s church is a convent which has rooms and all the help she needed so they moved in there. But within six months Ian was too much for her to look after and he had to go into the Nursing Home part of the convent where she could visit him every day.

Then he died peacefully with Marie, nuns and a priest by his side. It was a comfort for Marie and I’m sure for Ian, if he was aware. My sisters and I and my youngest son were able to go to the funeral last week which was held in the chapel of the convent. Marie had told her priest, Fr Dan, that I too was a priest and he asked if I would like to take part in the funeral. It was a generous ecumenical offer and so I took my robes.

Fr Dan and I met the coffin at the door of the convent and I noticed that all the nuns had come to watch and pay respect. We processed in with the coffin behind us and as I turned I realised that it was not the undertakers wheeling the coffin in but four of the eldest nuns. It was really so beautiful to see. The chapel was full with standing room only, Marie was brave and dignified, and the overwhelming scent of lilies were in the air. I had been asked to do a reading and the Commendation which was an honour and privilege.

After the funeral the family went on to the Crematorium while the guests tucked into the ‘purvey’ waiting till we returned. At the Crem Fr Dan asked if I would do the prayers. He really was exceedingly gracious to me and I know it meant a lot to Marie.

It was good to leave Marie knowing that in her mourning she will be looked after and cared for my the clergy and nuns in the convent.

Our journey home by train was a complete and utter disaster, but that’s another story!

Rest in peace, Uncle Ian. May the angels lead you by the hand into paradise, a place where there is no more sorrow.

DadIan 2009

Ian on the left and Dad singing, I think, on the right!

In which Ruth ponders her dad’s Life Story

There has been a project on the go now for a number of years in which old folk in homes are encouraged to put together (with help) their Life Story. The Twilight Home in which my dad lives has just got around to doing this with the inmates residents. A lovely volunteer sat down with dad one afternoon and filled in the book of his life – and very amusing it was too. 

For readers who don’t know, my father has dementia. Not Alzheimers, but dementia brought on by a series of strokes. This manifests itself in various ways: he knows who we are but doesn’t always remember our names (but then he never did and we were often introduced as numbers – I am No 1 Daughter); he doesn’t initiate conversations and dislikes questions as they tend to be a test of his memory; his short-term memory is lousy but his long-term memory is not too bad; if he doesn’t know something he has a tendency to confabulate, ie make up something plausible; he pouches food he doesn’t like (like a hamster) which means he eats very slowly because his cheeks are bulging and nothing else will fit in. (Note: he never does the latter with smoked salmon.)

Dad and tiger moth 1952The volunteer had to ask dad about his memories of childhood, school, family, homes, jobs, cars, things he liked and disliked, influential people and friends, spirituality and faith, and jokes. What an interesting read it was too! Most of it was factual but there were some delightful insights into our Walter Mitty papa. At my last visit I had to ‘red pen’ considerable chunks of it and we spent a lovely few hours adding some more memories which I was able to trigger for him. 

I also learned that Dad has spent his first twelve years near here in Polmont. I always knew he was born near there but hadn’t realised that he had lived her for quite so long. He remember where he lived (9 Whitesideloan) and went to Wallace Stone Primary which still exists. He said he’d love go back there some day to see what its like now so I’m planning to do that soon. 

Dad’s cars were a great source of conversation and it is probably a blessing that he hasn’t been able to drive for many years now. I remember vividly as children sitting on his knee being allowed to steer the car and encouraging him to go faster, faster. And he never wore a seat-belt. On journeys we played many car games – counting makes of cars, counting baths in fields (what happened to baths in fields?), guessing when a mile was up, etc. Who needs computer games? We reminisced about his Daimler Sovereign, Ford Capri, Humber Super Snipe, and the one which had a long seat in the front. Anyone remember what they were called? (Just before the Capri.)

So if you should ever read my Dad’s Life Story please take it with a pinch of salt. Especially the bit about his many wives. Not all of it might be true.

In which Ruth takes a trip down memory lane to Penicuik

So my sister and I go out to Kirkhill cemetery in Penicuik to lay a wreath at mum’s grave. There’s something about cemeteries in Scotland – they all seem to be on the top of hills or in exposed places where the wind blows and the snow falls. Sometimes we drive right up to the grave and hurl the flowers/wreath out onto the ground without getting out the car, it is so cold. This Christmas we were a bit braver and got out and tethered the wreath to the concrete flower-pot lest it be whisked away up the Pentland hills at the first gale.

The road into Penicuik had been really busy so we decided to go home by another road. Carol tells me that there are plans to demolish granny’s old mill cottage so we decided to go and have a look at it before that happens. And there it is.

cottage frontFor all the years of our childhood my sister and I spent most of our holidays here with granny in this cottage. It is at the foot of Kirkhill in Penicuik and used to be a tied cottage for the paper mill over the road. There are garages on either side which looked after the carts for the horses, then lorries, then cars, and now derelict I think. To us now it looked so small. The room to the left of the front door was the ‘front room’ – the room which was always cold and always tidy. It was the room the minister or any visitors were taken into. There was a piano where I learned to pick out tunes by ear (and yes, I used my fingers too!). The room at the right of the door was the ‘front bedroom’ where Carol and I slept in a huge, high double bed with a bolster pillow. It was a very scary bedroom with a large cupboard which had no door but a curtain in front of it. That’s where the ghosts lived. We knew this for a fact because the curtain moved sometimes and scared the heebeegeebies out of us.

When my mother was a child aged about 7 she contracted TB of the stomach from drinking unpasteurised milk. This would be during the war and she couldn’t be taken to the City Hospital in Edinburgh where infectious cases were sent, because it was being used for soldiers. Instead she was put into the front bedroom and they transformed it into a kind of sanatorium by removing the window completely and letting the fresh air in all day and night. How this cures a child of TB I’m not quite sure but that was how it happened. For months. And months. During the day men from the mill would come to the window and chat to her while she did her jigsaws on the huge counterpane or reading her books.

So as Carol and I peered through the windows, we remembered the stories. The gates at either side of the house were long gone so we decided to go and look round the back. Would grandad’s aviary still be standing? The place where the hens scratched? The stick house? The swing? The dyke covered in snow-in-summer where the huge wasps’ nest was?

Round the side and back it was all overgrown with plants and weeds and trees. No sign of the outhouses or the swing – just a broken greenhouse.    Cottage rear And it was so small. The yard at the back door where we played every day was tiny! The dyke was only up to my shoulder but when I was little it had seemed so high. There were the steps where we had our photo taken with the leprechauns which mum brought back from a holiday in Ireland. The garden sloped upwards to open fields where we disappeared for hours on end during those long hot summers. Pictures of a brown catsuit with yellow jumper came into my mind’s eye. (And you wonder why I wear nothing but black and purple today?)

But where was the hut? The hut had been built by grandad for his own two daughters: my mum and aunt. He must have built it in the late 1930s at the top of the garden. It was really a play-house, not a hut, but that was what we called it. When I was a child it contained an old comfy chair where I’d sit for hours reading anything and everything. There was an old gramophone just like the one on the HMV logo with a large trumpet which we wound up and listened to ‘I tot I saw a Puddy Tat;’ I’m a Pink Toothbrush, You’re a Blue Toothbrush’; Joan Sutherland singing ‘The Maid of the Mountains’ and other such delights.

There was no sign of the hut. But of course, it would be over 80 years old and unlikely to be still standing. “What’s that blue thing over there?” Carol asked. But we both agreed the hut hadn’t been that far away. Or had it? Could it be the hut? The hut where I read and we played and cousins came for tea? The hut where my mother had played? The hut which sheltered us from summer showers? But we fought our way through the undergrowth and manoeuvred our way up the slippery and mossy steps, being whipped by branches and wet leaves, before we stood before the hut. It was still there!

Hut

Our hut! Still standing but smaller than we remembered. OK everything was smaller than we remembered. We were so pleased to find it. So pleased to find a place with so many happy memories of long, hot summers and making jam, and learning to sew, and sticking a needle in Auntie Jean’s nose (serves her right for standing over me when sewing), and adventures up the Targets (yes, I think people shot guns there!), and taking Sooty for walks; and plucking chickens, and gathering eggs, and lying in the grass trying to whistle with it.

In fact I surprised myself with how happy those times seem considering they were practically in the countryside. Readers will know that these days I twitch dreadfully the further I get from concrete. But they were fun. It will be sad when the old cottage is demolished. But you can’t take away the memories. They last forever. Well, until I get dementia!

Good service costs nothing

Last week I had two experiences of bad service, both in completely different spheres, but both leaving a really bad taste in my mouth.

The first was my birthday meal at Gambero Rosso in Falkirk. (Yes, let’s name and shame them.) I’d heard it was a really nice Italian restaurant and when Son #2 asked where I’d like to go for a birthday meal I suggested there so he booked a table. Three of us arrived on time and stood for a good 5 minutes at the desk waiting to be seated. There was nobody there and although waiters glanced over from time to time, they were all busy and ignored us. Eventually a man, who might have been a manager, came over and barked, “Yes?”  We told him we’d booked and in silence he walked off to a table. We followed and sat down. No, he didn’t hold out chairs or flip out napkins in a showy manner.  Another long wait before menus were produced, and an even longer wait before a waiter came to take our order.  “You want wine?”  So Son #2 has a look at the wine list. I suggest the house wine might be fine, to which the waiter responded, “Pinot Grigio?” (Turns out that this is not the house wine but considerable dearer.) The wine eventually arrived but the waiter had difficulty opening it, in fact the cork broke. He persevered at the side of the table getting little bits of cork out, before skulking off to open it at the bar. This is all done in silence. I watched him dig it out and give the bottle a wipe of cork debris before bringing it back and pouring it into my glass for tasting. I did and it was sour. So I asked for anther bottle which he brought. All of this is done with no conversation whatsoever. The meal itself was okay, nothing to write home about. Portions were small. We decided not to stay for dessert or coffee but waiting for about half an hour after getting the bill before Son #2 eventually took it to the bar to pay. Needless to say, we won’t be going back there again. And no, we didn’t leave a tip.

The second incident was at the hospital visiting a woman who was dying. Her family were gathered around her bed in a single room and had been with her day and night for a couple of days. “What are the doctors saying?” I asked. Then they explained that the doctor had taken her off all food and medication apart from pain relief, although they didn’t really know why. And that ever since they hadn’t seen a doctor. Oh they did do their rounds but stood outside the room with a bunch of young doctors telling her story but never venturing into the room and never explaining anything to the family. It was almost as if they had washed their hands of her now that she was approaching death. I’ve seen this happen before, especially with the elderly. (And yes, I know not all consultants behave in this way, but I’d say the majority do.) Far too often people who are ill and their relatives are told nothing. They have to ask to make appointments with the doctor – and usually it is the junior ones who are sent – to find out what is going on with their treatment. Praise is always given to the nurses, however. This family said they had been super, kind and popped in frequently to turn their mum and make sure she was comfy. But they are always so busy, and sometimes people get forgotten. And that’s the worse thing about being in hospital, isn’t it? Thinking that you’ve been forgotten, or are a nuisance. I’m sure doctors don’t mean to be so rude, but perhaps someone could point out to them that by not coming in to the bedside and actually speaking to the patient or family, they are causing untold upset and needless worry.

Good service costs nothing.

Rita kitten and the Sacrament of the Present Moment

Rita kitten has joined the rectory household and our lives have changed immeasurably. My life has changed because I have become a mother to a lively 8 week old bundle of tortoise fluff who delights in climbing up my legs at any opportune, and inopportune moments. My nose and eyes have been thoroughly investigated and a trail of blood drops follow me around as the wounds of climbing expeditions and wrestling matches slowly heal to make way for a new batch. Who needs to watch the Olympics when you have a kitten around? We have our own long jump, high jump, earring swinging, running up legs, boxing rats on springs, squeezing through tunnels and under sofas, patting balls and hop, skip and jumping just for fun.

Lucy Pussy’s life has changed because she is not happy with this small creature invading her space. This is rather unfortunate as we had hoped that they would be company for one another. So far there has just been hissing and a low growling and they haven’t yet been allowed together in the same room without the wee one being in her pet carrier. But we are doing what the book says and taking it slowly, introducing them for a few hairy moments each day (at a safe distance).

Son #2’s life has changed because he now is told to take tortoise fluff when he comes in from work to give mummy a rest. All of our computer speakers are now on the floor in amongst a tangle of cables and much has been produced from under bookcases and drawers. (Not always nice things.)

As I watched Rita kitten last night it occurred to me that she was absolutely living in the moment. She will sleep where she drops (on the bookcase, under the table, in the pet carrier, on the back of my neck…) and when she is awake she is completely engrossed in what is currently taking her attention. She will play with a ball for ages and then move on to the scratchy post with dangly pom-pom then investigate each of my five fingers and their bitability before moving on to intense scrutiny of my nostril and then eye-lid. Each moving part is focused on with such attention. Her own back leg can amuse for a good few moments and I can’t wait until she discovers her tail. The bookcase with the glass door and the shiny fire place surround have caused great amusement as she catches her reflection and flies at it with a resounding thud and embarrassed look. But the sideways startled leap into the air with all four paws off the ground amuses me most. (You can’t be depressed with a kitten around.)

We have tried to photograph her but she just doesn’t sit still long enough. I think I need an action camera or something. So I have many shots of an empty space or her bottom. Our lives have certainly changed for the better and I have definitely enjoyed living in the moment with her. (I have even forgiven the pee on my duvet and then feather bed, all parcelled up to go to the cleaner later today.)  I fear I am indeed turning into an old cat lady, or at the very least Mrs Slocombe continually talking about my pussies.

I thirst

There is a horrendous story in today’s papers about a young man who died in a London hospital from dehydration. Throughout a catalogue of disasters and omissions by the hospital, the 22 year old even dialed 999 to try and get the police to get him a drink of water. It is a horrible, horrible story and one which resonates with me too. My father, who has multi-infarct dementia, has been admitted to hospital several times in the past few years with dehydration. The care-home where he lives often ‘forget’ to give him water to drink and as a result he starts to become seriously unwell, fits and eventually is admitted to hospital. Although he is given coffee at certain points of the day and juice with his meal, he has to be prompted to drink it. He forgets to drink what is in front of him.

It is not a huge care issue – to prompt someone to drink. Without the prompting he just forgets. It is not like dealing with incontinence or wandering or shouting which many others in the home do. All it takes is for a member of staff to remind him to drink whenever they pass him. And to make sure that he has a drink beside him all the time. That’s not a big care issue in my books. We’ve even had it written into his Care Plan because for a while there were so many temporary staff nobody knew about it.  But still I will visit and find him with no drink beside him.  He has a catheter so it is important that he drinks plenty fluids. There’s barely a month goes by without him being on antibiotics because of an infection with that and I wonder if drinking more might just help.

We used to always take drinks in for him when we visited but were told we didn’t need to because they would provide it. And sometimes they do. But not always. He has gout too and what is one of the causes of gout recurring? Dehydration. It just seems such a simple thing but somehow it doesn’t always get done.

And hospitals are not excluded from this either. For when he is admitted and is given a drip it sometimes takes 4 days to rehydrate him. Then when he is taken off the drip the problem starts all over again. Water jugs out of reach, full cups of coffee removed because they are cold but nobody thinks that this means he hasn’t drunk anything.

You’d think it was such a simple thing. We are not a developing country; water is freely available. But time and time again I visit people in hospital suffering from dehydration. It is just so preventable and so simple really. Their needs are few. They thirst. Just give them a drink.

7 Up … 56 Up

There is a programme on TV just now called 56 Up. I could be taking part in it. For I too am 56 just now. (Pause to allow you all to gasp with horror… “Surely not, Ruth!”) I have followed it every seven years although I’m not sure that I did watch the very first one when I was seven. So I wondered what I would have had to say every 7 years of my life.

Age 7 – Mum, my sister and I had just moved to Valleyfield Street, Tollcross in Edinburgh and I was walking to James Gillespie’s Primary school over the Meadows by myself. I remember school milk and begging to get a letter to excuse me from it, as it was warmed by putting the crate next to the fire in the classroom. (Yes, a real fire.) If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d probably say ‘A man’. I was a tomboy who played with cars and never with a doll. Hobbies: reading Enid Blyton; collecting comics; buying jokes and disguises from joke shop.

Age 14 – Still in Valleyfield Street and still at James Gillespie’s, but this time the High School (all girls). I may have started smoking and other such rebellions (short skirt, multiple badges on blazer, etc) but boys were still a mystery. There was a school trip this year to Switzerland along with boys from Boroughmuir School and I could barely speak to them for shyness. Was feeling drawn to dentistry and medicine but as I couldn’t do science this was looking less likely. Hobbies: reading; movies; music of Marc Bolan and David Bowie.

Age 21 – Still in Valleyfield Street with a husband and two babies. Dreams of being an actress have had to be put on hold but the dream is still there. Convincing myself that having children at a young age means that I’ll still be young enough to have fun when they are grown up. Have worked in the bank and now part time Auxiliary nurse at Simpsons hospital. (As close to medicine as I ever got.) Eldest son is hyperactive and proving to be a bit of a challenge. Nobody agrees with me that it might be related to artificial colouring. Hobbies: knitting; reading.

Age 28 – Divorced and living in Brougham Street, still in Tollcross. Rebellion is my second name. Working part-time in a Cocktail Bar and having lots of fun. Dabbling in New Age spirituality and reading lots about Native Americans and Shamans. Dreams of being an actress have been shelved. Both boys are at Gillespie’s, which is now co-ed, and it is very weird being summoned to the head teacher’s room when I spent so much time outside it in my childhood. Hobbies: reading; Bach flower remedies; crystals; Shamanistic drumming; crosswords.

Age 35 – Still in Brougham Street, but have my own business making and fitting self-adhesive signs with Jenners as my biggest client. Loyal member of St Michael & All Saints across the road from my flat. Have been Confirmed and now read, do intercessions, on coffee rota and help run the Youth Group. Still trying to integrate New Age spirituality and Christianity but finding some Christians rather hostile to the notion. Against the ordination of women because ‘Father says so’ and rather a spiky Anglo-Catholic in love with ritual. Learning how to be an Altar Server – first time for women in our church. Passionate about Cursillo (renewal movement in the church). Hobbies: reading; church; cross-stitch; making jewellery.

Age 42 – Have been made homeless and am now living in a council flat in Hyvots, Edinburgh. In my second year at New College, University of Edinburgh studying Divinity and in my first year of Tisec (Theological Institute of SEC) training to be a priest. Working part time for The Rock Trust working with young homeless people. Still dream of being an actress but wondering if priesthood will fulfill at least some of those desires (standing up and showing off in front of an audience). Not able to watch anything on TV except for Casualty once a week because every night is revision night. Loving it! Hobbies: church; theology; reading fiction during holidays; exploring churches.

Age 49 – Living in Linlithgow as priest-in-charge of St Peter’s & St Columba’s Bathgate. Have been curate in Perth but glad to be nearer home to visit sick parents. Dad is in a Care Home in Edinburgh and Mum has been diagnosed with cancer. Juggling two churches is hard work (12 hours days not unusual) but loving being a parish priest. Surprised at how much I love working in a small town where everybody knows your name and stops for a blether in the High Street. St Peter’s has just been redecorated in shades of lilac. Also working as Diocesan Co-ordinator of CMD 1-3, General Synod member, on Mission and Ministry Committee and Board, and on I&C Board. Hobbies: reading; romping round churches.

Age 56 – Now in Falkirk at Christ Church, having done nearly 5 years in Portobello, Edinburgh. Only serving on one committee now – I&C but about to serve as Diocesan Vocations Adviser. Blogging seems to keep the attention-seeking actress in me amused some of the time but I have learned that it is not always wise to blog everything. Looking forward to living on my own some time soon (one son moves in as the other moves out, and so on and so on).  Hobbies: knitting prayer shawls; reading my Kindle; blogging.

So there we have it. Looking back it seems as if there is no clue to what the next seven years will find me doing. I seem to leap from one thing to the other, changing opinions willy-nilly as I go. Ah, ever fickle and flighty. So where will I be in 7 years, I wonder?