A Fitting Farewell

I’m not sure if it appears strange to write in a blog about a funeral. The last few weeks of my dad’s life were really hard and I thought that the funeral would be too, but although it was a difficult day, I write this feeling very peaceful and calm, honestly believing that my dad is now at rest. Yesterday, the funeral was very sad in many ways, but mostly it was a celebration of his life and a chance for us to share our memories.

Well Made Plans

Although dad was a great storyteller, he was never someone who really discussed personal issues or emotions. I guess he comes from that era of “stiff upper lip”. However, a few days before he died, during the night he sat in the living room with me and my mum and told us what he wanted us to do when he died. This made planning dad’s funeral a much easier process.

He said that he didn’t want a massive fuss, he didn’t want a fancy coffin or to spend a fortune on flowers. He wanted to be cremated.  He chose the music that he wanted, said that he wanted to go to church, but most importantly of all, he wanted us to be together as a family and he wanted to go on a bus.

Dad was a massive fan of buses and trams throughout his life, so it was inevitable that this would appear somewhere in his final wishes. We discussed as a family that it would probably mean hiring a bus and travelling together as a family to scatter dad’s ashes. However when we began to discuss this with the funeral director, it became apparent that in the world of funerals, almost nothing is impossible.

Special Messages Or Coincidences

Yesterday dawned, clear, bright and sunny. It reminded me of days when we would be complaining that it was cold and dad would say “It will be too hot to walk about by dinner time”. I was awake early and was watching the news. There was an interview with Michael Caine and during it they showed a clip of the film “Zulu”. This was my dad’s favourite film ever! At that moment in time I felt that dad really was watching over us and that all would be well.

Just What He Wanted

All the family met at my mum’s house. We were all quite anxious. Me and my brothers had all chosen to be involved in the service. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who doubted that I would actually be able to hold it together at the time.

Dad’s hearse then arrived. This was a vintage red London bus. It was really emotional to see my dad’s coffin inside initially, but then we knew that it was the right thing. He would have loved travelling on the bus and it also meant that as a family we were all able to go to the funeral together.

When we arrived at the church it was moving to see how many people were there. The first hymn was “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”. My older brother, sang the first verse as a solo. A very brave thing to do, which he managed with hardly a wobble in his voice. I manged to read a poem ” Remember me”, by Anthony Dowson. I had a few wobbles, but managed to get through it with a few pauses for deep breaths. My youngest brother then read a eulogy, which contained some lovely memories of dad. Again he held it together throughout.

We then had the hymn “I vow to thee my country”. We picked this as dad had been a rugby fan and liked a rousing patriotic hymn.

Afterwards we had a slideshow of photographs which were accompanied by Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. Dad asked for this music as he loved the film “Brassed Off” and this particular part, where the piece of music is referred to by the band as “Orang Juice”. The photos were very moving, but there were also some really happy memories of dad and of us together as a family.

At the end of the service we left the church to  “Land of Hope and Glory” Dad had asked for this music, which we were we going to sing as a hymn, but we realised when making the plans that it is not actually a hymn and that other than the chorus from last night of the proms, no one actually knew any more of it.

After church we went to the crematorium, which was the hardest part of the day. Mum had chosen two songs from my dad’s favourite singer, Doris Day. On arrival we had “Que sera sera” and on leaving we had “I will always love you”. It was difficult leaving the crematorium, knowing that we had finally said goodbye to dad.

 

 

 

 

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Getting Together

We then went on our final bus journey to the local Golf Club, to celebrate dad’s life and share memories of him. It was lovely to chat about the good times we have shared as a family and as friends, what we will do in the future and to know that we had done the best that we could do to give him a good send off.

Families can be funny things and our family is no different. There are always people that you are closer to and those that are not so close. There are celebrations, disputes, disagreements, laughter and tears. There are those that you get on with really well and those who you have little in common with. There are friends who support you through the hardest times who become as close as family. There are those friends that you don’t see for ages, but are there when it counts. Yesterday,  we all worked together as a team and made it a day to remember, just as my dad wanted.

A Few Thank You’s

In ending this I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has sent good wishes, cards and flowers to me and my family. For those who have helped to support us over the last few weeks in every way. For those who have put up with the varied emotions that I have gone through, particularly my husband and children who have had to live with me.

In particular I would also like to thank

The nurses and carers that looked after my dad in his last days

Andrew Box and everyone at the funeral directors, Eric F Box, who did everything possible to grant my dads, last wishes, making the planning less painful and helping the day go smoothly and of course, finding “the bus”

Father Martin Naylor and Tineke Bentley and those at Batley Parish Church for the warm welcome, prayers, eulogy and commendation

Hanging Heaton Golf Club, for the food, drinks and lovely surroundings

And lastly to my mum, who is an amazingly strong lady, who has lived through so much and faced it with strength and dignity, an example to us all.

 
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When “The System” Fails

I haven’t written a blog for some time, as you read on, the reasons will become clear. I write this with the sad news that my dad died yesterday after a frustrating and difficult few weeks, which were made harder by failings within the “system” and a lack of communication. This is not meant to be a rant and it certainly isn’t a slight on anyone who works in any of the areas that I have mentioned. As you read on, or if you have been through this experience, you will know that people working within “end of life care” deserve a medal.

Early Days

Almost three years ago, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer which soon spread into his bones. He was treated with hormone injections and also had some radiotherapy for the pain in his neck and back. He is 83 years of age and has a number of other health problems too. Sometimes he was really positive, but other times it felt like he had given up. In any event he has managed to live fairly well for three years. with a few hiccups along the way.

Long Hospital Stay

My dad had started falling a bit at home so about 7 weeks ago we got him a care alarm, to help him and my mum. Within days he had fallen. My mum used the alarm and an ambulance came and took him to hospital. He didn’t have any injuries, but was very confused and disorientated. Then followed a long stay in hospital, various infections and another fall.

Some of the individual staff in the two hospitals that he stayed in were committed, caring and compassionate and a credit to their profession. Some were not so good, including staff that were disinterested, patronising and sometimes downright rude. I know that everyone is busy and overworked, I work for the public sector myself, and know how frustrating it is to be lacking in resources,  but the treatment of vulnerable elderly people in hospital should be absolutely top notch across the board.

The lack of information for us as a family was frustrating, leaving us feeling that we were being annoying or difficult if we asked questions about his care. A decision was made that he was medically fit for discharge about three weeks ago and arrangements could be made for him to come home.

I may be naïve, but I thought that being elderly and having a terminal illness would qualify you for care, but apparently not. When I started contacting Social Care and other organisations, I soon realised that the first thing that agencies want to know is how much money they have in the bank.

After a fall in hospital, where dad tried to get out of bed on his own when the fire alarm went off, dad was placed on a ward with constant supervision. He had stopped eating at this point and varied from being alert and chatty to being confused and disorientated.

Last Friday the decision was made that dad could be taken home. No one gave us any information, choices or assistance. We only found out he was being discharged when we went to ask staff what was happening. We were told that dad would get carers four times a day, but didn’t need any other care as he could mange quite well and would need to deteriorate a lot more before he required other help

The week from hell

My dad was brought to my mum’s house at 530 on Saturday evening. Mum (who is 82 years old) was at home on her own. Dad was sat on the settee and left with a bag full of medication. I went up to stay with her as I was worried that she may not be able to manage him.

At 730pm dad decided that he wanted to go to bed, so me and mum helped him into bed. I then started a series of phone calls and found out that no one within the community. who would be responsible for assisting us, had been informed that dad had been discharged from hospital.

The first night was extremely hard. Dad was in pain, distressed and confused. He wanted to get in and out of bed all the time, assisted by me and mum. He didn’t sleep at all. By the next morning we were exhausted and honestly considering putting him in a nursing home.

During the morning, the carer from the end of life team arrived, as did the district nurses. They were so supportive and gave us so much more information and assistance than the hospital ever had. It was the first time that any actually told us that dad had a matter of weeks to live.

With the assistance of these marvellous people and support from members of the extended family, me, my mum and brothers manged between us to look after dad over the next few days. It was one of the most difficult and exhausting things that I have ever done. There was some really traumatic times, but also some really warm and loving chats.

Dad died, peaceful at last, at his home with his family. There were times when I thought we would never get through it, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I have to say a massive thank you to the many carers and nurses who have spent time with my dad and my family over the last few days. The job that they do is worth more than any money could buy.

A last word

I would say to anyone who is caring for elderly or sick relatives, that it is worth the time looking on the internet or speaking to organisations and finding out your options and entitlements. This will make things so much easier to get the help that you need early on. I’m not sure if it’s the same everywhere, but we were truly in the dark about what was happening to dad. Had someone explained the kind of behaviour and symptoms he might display, before sending him home from hospital, those few days would have been so much easier.

Also I would say that you find out who you can rely on very quickly and that some people distance themselves very quickly. I can understand why some people don’t want to visit a person who is dying as it isn’t a nice thing to see. I also understand that it may bring back memories of your own loved ones. I know that it’s not always easy to find the right words to say to a family who’s loved one is dying. Just remember that it can be a very lonely place. Sometimes all you need to do is call in and say hello, hold someone’s hand or give them a hug. It means the world and, as hard as it is, it will be the best thing that you could ever do.

 

 

 

 

 

Old friends, new musicals, old habits, new beginnings

I can’t believe how many weeks have passed since we returned from our canal holiday. here’s just a little bit about what I’ve been doing since then.

Old Friends

After I returned from holiday, I had another week away from work. Luckily the weather was still really good and I had chance to spend some time with friends that I had not seen for a while. It was a lovely relaxing week. These are the kind of friends that you very rarely see, but each time you do, you just pick up from where you left off. Unfortunately as part of that week, it meant that I did eat and drink a lot more than I should have done.

New Musicals

On the Friday of that week  I went with my husband to see Titanic the Musical. This is one that I have never seen before. Everyone knows the true story of the sinking of the Titanic. The musical is based around a number of people who were known to be on the ill-fated voyage. This includes members of the crew and passengers from each class. The singing in the show was amazing. Despite the serious nature of the story, there are a few lighter moments, but it is a very moving show to watch. It’s obviously not the foot tapping, come out of the theatre singing your head off type of musical, but it is amazing and I would recommend it.

However I have to say that more and more I am finding my enjoyment of the theatre being spoiled by other theatre goers, who feel the need to scroll through their messages/Facebook/snap chat, whilst watching a show, or chat throughout without a thought for other people. I was also amazed that just after the interval in this particular show, a couple on the same row, began eating a full picnic. I kid you not! There were too cans of pop, sandwiches wrapped in tin foil, a big bag of Doritos, all being taken out of the noisiest carrier bag they could find! Please, please, please, if you are going to the theatre, have a little respect for the other audience members who may have come to watch the show!

Old Habits

Despite being really motivated to lose weight and keep fit last year, I find that I have slipped back into old habits and unhealthy eating again. On the Bank Holiday weekend we decided to go for a walk and I suggested walking up Ingleborough. We had a really good day and managed the walk, but I have to admit that carrying all that extra weight really took it’s toll. I had to give myself a really good telling off and vowed that I would not continue to eat in the way that I have done over the last few months

New Beginnings

Yes the new beginning meant that I re joined Slimming World. I tell myself all the time that I know what I should and shouldn’t eat, but I always struggle when I stop going to the group sessions and kid myself that I will stick to healthy eating, but I seem to drift off track and into old habits. Well at least I’ve made a start on the healthy eating. I’ve carried on exercising, over the last months, despite the bad eating, so at least my level of fitness has not been lost all together.

I’ll let you know how I get on

 

Chugging Along

Our journey continued yesterday through the lovely countryside at a lovely steady pace. The weather was a little mor overcast and cooler, but it still stayed fine, so we were really lucky.

Goose wrangling

At the first lock we came across a couple of geese and their goslings that had got themselves stuck in th lock. My husband opened the gate and managed to gently shoo them along whilst someone on another boat tempted them with cornflakes. Luckily they all managed to get out of the lock safely.

We moored for the night at Fradley junction, where there were lots of boats moored up. The area is really pretty and we ate at the Swan Public House (aka The Mucky Duck) which is apparently the most photographed pub on the canal.  It was motorbike meet night, so there were loads of bikes and bikers outside. By this time the sun had finally come out and it was a beautiful evening.

On a go slow

This morning dawned bright and sunny again. We had to start the day by going through the swing bridge and lock at Fradley Junction. There were a number of boats waiting to go through the locks, so it took much longer than expected.

There were some volunteers helping at the locks, who were mostly friendly and helpful, however one of them was slightly condescending and proceeded to explain how to work the locks. Although I said that I had done plenty of locks before, he insisted on explaining step by step quoting the official health and safety regulations along the way. I managed to keep my cool and thanked him for his help before moving on to the next lock.

Me and my husband walked for quite a way over the next hour or so and were surprised when our friends didn’t turn up for quite a while. Eventually they turned up behind a a boat that was moving very slowly. We hopped back on the boat and before long there were three boats stuck behind the go slow. We asked him to move over, but he seemed oblivious and just kept pottering along. Eventually after explaining that he was going too slow and there was a queue of boats behind him, he pulled over to let us past. Unfortunately he wouldn’t let the others pull past him and they had to stay behind him for some time.

Later in the day at the locks and mooring point, we chatted to several people who had got stuck behind him in the course of the day. He had clearly caused chaos on the canal!

We moored up at Shugborough for the night. The sun was still shining and we walked to the farm shop where we bought supplies for the next day and had a coffee and cake at the cafe. It was then back to the boat for a cheeky prosecco before showering and going to the pub for tea. Another amazing day.

History, Concrete And Regeneration

Black Country Living Museum

This morning we awoke to another  beautiful sunny day. We had a lovely breakfast and sat outside with a coffeee whilst we waited for the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley to open.

The museum was amazing. When you think of a museum, this is not what you would expect. It is a living museum, with houses and community buildings set in 26 acres around the canal basin.

We walked around the houses, many of which had people in them to tell you the story of the houses and the family that lived there. I found it fascinating to see how people lived in the past. The museum has houses and shops dated from the 1800’s to post war.

The shops have staff in there who again tell you the story around the shops and the goods in there. There are other people wandering around in costume telling tales and helping people out.

There is also a working fairground, a school, a chapel, a mine, a pub and lots of industrial buildings. Many  of the buildings originated in the Black Country and were taken down and reconstructed in the museum. Even the tilted house, which came from an area of mine subsidence has been rebuilt with the correct tilt to recreate the subsidence.

We had a tour down the mine where the enthusiastic  guide, George told us all about the mine and the people who worked there.

We then had excellent fish and chips for lunch and of course had to buy sweets from the old sweet shop to eat later on. During the day the buses were running up and down the site and an occasional vintage vehicle passed by from the showroom on site.

Everyone that worked there was so friendly and helpful, giving lots of historical information and being genuinely interested in who we were and where we had come from. I would definitely recommend a visit here if you get chance.

 

Moving on to modern regeneration

Back on the barge, we thencontinued on to the Wolverhampton level canal and then the Birmingham main line. This took us through some very built up areas outside Birmingham, including travelling under a long stretch of motorway which was under construction, supported by scaffolding. The workers carried on working whilst we travelled underneath, causing a rainfall of watery cement to fall on the boat (and the driver)

Continuing further along we went through three locks. These were a little run down and were much harder to wind and open than the ones we passed through yesterday. Unfortunately as we were approaching the locks my friend stepped off the boat whilst it was moving and fell headlong onto the path. She is now sporting a lovely graze down her arm and knee.

We then carried on into Birmingham where we moored up at Cambrian Wharf right outside the sea life centre and the Birmingham Arena. This is a beautiful area which has had some regeneration and is lively and bustling. There are lots of bars and restaurants.  The buildings are beautifully restored and the area looks very smart.

Other than the slight mishap, it’s been another great day!

Back on our travels

Hi it’s been quite a while since I last wrote my blog. I feel that the first part of the year has kind of crept past mostly unnoticed.  So just a little catch up. Our eldest daughter is now working abroad in the show team for Thomas Cook. Our youngest daughter has now past her driving test and bought herself a car. Other than that nothing much has changed and life is ticking along fairly smoothly.

A leisurely four miles an hour

On Saturday me and my husband and a couple of friends set off for a weeks canal boating holiday in the midlands. It’s something I’ve always fancied doing but not ever got round to it.

We booked a hire boat from ABC Boathire and collected it from Gailey Marina. After unpacking our bags we were instructed on the daily maintenance of the boat, how to drive it and a quick practice with the locks, then we were off.

The first evening we travelled about 8 miles (at about 4 miles an hour), then moored for the evening close to the Anchor Inn, where we had a very nice meal.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a massive fan of boats. For the first day I panicked a little every time the boat rocked. I also really struggled to step from the boat to the canal side without worrying that I was going to fall in. I survived the first day! I actually really enjoyed it. I didn’t try driving the boat as it’s huge (62ft long) and I’m pretty sure I’d run aground or crash!

Locks, Locks and more Locks

Today saw the second leg of our journey. Me and my husband started the day by walking on the tow path, keeping up with the boat which was driven by my friend, ably assisted by her husband, the navigator.  After walking for about 4 miles, we jumped back on the boat for a short while before beginning the rise up the 21 locks  to take us into Wolverhampton.

The locks are an amazing feat of engineering and we soon got into a good team routine opening and closing the gates and using the windlass to wind the paddles up and down to fill and empty the locks. It took us about 2 1/2 hours all together with a short stop for lunch in the middle. It was a brilliant experience, helped immensely by the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day.

I had a short turn at driving the boat, but it wasn’t massively successful and I had to concentrate so hard to keep the vote in the centre of the canal. I soon handed the tiller back.

Our journey ended today at The Black Country Museum. We moored up there for the night and then had a short walk to an amazing pub called Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory. The pies

 

were amazing. I had allotment pie which was topped half with pastry and half cauliflower cheese. Amazing food, ooh and I had a sneaky violet gin too.

All in all a superb day. Looking forward to visiting the museum tomorrow and then travelling on a little further.

 

Old Friends and Fat Friends

Dealing with change

This week I went to a leaving “do” for a friend that I used to work with. I left the department almost two years ago, as it was time to move on and have a change in direction with my career. Since then it seems that a lot of my old friends and colleagues have also moved on. Some have moved to other departments, but this particular friend has moved on completely, leaving the job and starting a new career and a completely new direction.

It was lovely to catch up with old friends and colleagues during the course of the evening, but also quite emotional, as it was the end of an era, with the department that I worked in completely changing. The sad thing is that a lot of the staff who work there are very disillusioned and demoralised. It is such a shame as it used to be such a great place to work, with a brilliant team spirit. Hopefully as new staff move in, it will have a new lease of life and will become a great place to work again.

To all those that are leaving, I hope that they find a new challenge and a role that they love and are passionate about. I certainly feel that I have found that in my role, although it doesn’t stop me moaning and getting frustrated at time.

 

Fat Friends The Musical

This weekend me and my husband went to see Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre. I like Kay’s writing and have enjoyed the different series that have been on TV. I definitely liked the Fat Friends series as it was really funny and was so recognisable by anyone who has ever had a weight problem or attended a slimming club.

The show was really funny. It’s a long time since I heard my husband laugh out loud like that. The cast were really good, with some really strong singing and acting. It was nice to see local actors, particularly Neil Hurst, who we have seen many times in pantomime at Halifax. My only real issue with it was Freddie Flintoff. I know that having a celebrity sells tickets to a show, but there are loads and loads of young people out there who have studied drama or musical theatre that are desperate for work, that I fail to see why an ex cricketer who cant really act and definitely can’t sing, would be offered a role like this.

I know that I am biased as my daughter and many of her friends are seeking Musical Theatre work, but the same goes for pantomimes who have “famous” people in them, with current or former careers (or who are famous for being famous), rather than employing talented actors singer or dancers.

I am also a bit of a theatre snob and find it a bit annoying when someone famous comes on the stage and everyone cheers. Not particularly a problem in the Fat Friends production as it was very light hearted and a little “pantomimey”, but in a serious moment in a production when people screech and whistle, I find this irritating.

At least there was no one texting, facebooking or taking photos in the middle of the performance for a change, which is another pet hate of mine.

Diary of a Wimpy Woman

This week I have been feeling a little bit sorry for myself as I have had cold, a sore throat and now a very annoying tickly cough. Normally I don’t bother about this kind of thing, but I think it gave me a reason (or an excuse depending on how you look at it) not to do the 10k run that I had signed up to. Basically I wimped out and talked myself out of doing it. I feel a bit annoyed with myself now, but at the time, I just couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to do this.

Blood Brothers

On Saturday evening I went to see Blood Brothers at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford with my husband and my friend (Funnily enough I wasn’t too ill for this!). I have seen this show quite a few times, but it never loses its appeal. I love the story and the songs are absolutely amazing. The acting and singing from this cast was brilliant and it never ceases to amaze me how the characters change from the first part to the incredible ending.

There are some superb characters within the show. My husband loves this show and always says that he would love to play the part of the narrator. I’d love to play Mrs Johnston. The only chance of this happening is in our own kitchen when we have the soundtrack on and we sing along. It doesn’t hurt to dream!

A nice winter break

So today my husband and I (I sound like the Queen!) have travelled with a couple of friends to Center Parcs at Whinfell  Forest, for a short break. It is quite cold, but its lovely to be out in the fresh air and away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Today is the first day of the Christmas period for them, so there are lots of lovely twinkly lights and Christmassy things around. It’s a bit early for me, but it actually looks lovely and has a really nice feel to it.

 

Friends and Family

Catching up with friends

On Wednesday I met up with some friends that I used to work with. We went out for a lovely meal and had a really good catch up. At one time we all worked together, but slowly we have all moved on to work in different places, one has even retired.

During my working life, I have met and worked with countless people. It is strange how there are some people that you work with and then never really keep in contact with, you kind of know that all you ever had in contact with each other was work. Then there are others who you really connect with and make sure that you continue to see, even though you no longer work together.

Family Duty

On Saturday I took my mum and dad out for the afternoon. They wanted to go for some shopping and they don’t get out very much, as they are both elderly and neither of them drive. I took them for some shopping and they had a bit of lunch, before I took them back home.

Some weekends I find it really hard to fit in spending time with them. I know that that sounds really bad, but by the time I’ve done shopping, washing, cleaning etc. I feel that my weekend has gone. However at the minute my youngest daughter is helping out by doing some cleaning etc. on the days when she is not working, so this has freed up a little time.

One of the things my dad wanted to buy was a new DVD player. When we got back to the house I offered to set it up for him. After scrabbling about at the back of the TV sorting out wires, I managed to unplug the old one, then found another DVD player that wasn’t plugged in, which was exactly the same as the one we’d just bought. For some reason, they had forgotten buying a new DVD player and carried on using the old one which didn’t work properly!

Anyway they now have a working DVD player and one to return which they didn’t actually need to buy. We managed to have a laugh about it, which was good, but it did make me realise that perhaps they do need a bit more help than I thought.

I also got home and realised that after all that I’d forgotten a few things that were on my shopping list. Perhaps I need looking after too!