Archive for June, 2011

Dear Diary – A Care Giver in England
June 23, 2011

23rd June, 2011.

I am not sure what happened when I uploaded my last Blog, but the first sentence got garbled…something like my brain feels at the moment, totally scrambled, because I am feeling like the walking dead today.
I went back to edit it and it was fine; perhaps I am at my wits end.
At two am I bolted out of my bed as I thought I heard Molly shrieking and visualised her tumbled out of her bed, bare butt in the air lying prone in her blue nightie on the plush Persian bedside rug that languishes lavishly in her large boudoir.
No, there she was snuggled under the duvet where I had kindly tucked her in at midnight.
Mystery, had she been sleep talking and yelling “Susan come here right now!”
I stumbled back to my room and was just dozing off.
The shriek sounded again right outside my bedroom window.
It was a pheasant…can you believe it?
I opened my window and hissed at him, “Go away you fool, I’ve just got Molly to sleep, – just bloody go away!”
The handsome fellow shook his tail feathers and strode off into the night, leaving me to toss and turn until I finally got back to sleep.
It’s soon to be shooting-season in the countryside and the gamekeepers are fattening the pheasant up in cages.
Before the shoot, they shall be released. As tame as tame could be.
Then a group of men called beaters round them up and steer them into the field where all the gentry are sitting on numbered seats with their rifles, – waiting.
The beaters flap their arms and brandish sticks frightening the pheasant up into the air. Then the gents shoot the birds as they take off.
Wow, that’s brave hunting…
The beaters rush around and bag the creatures, but only a few are turned into a meal for the table.
Most of them are buried in a large hole that is previously dug by the gamekeepers and gardeners.
In the fabulous Estate homes the cooks have sumptuous meals prepared for the brave shottits.
After the “Shoot” they grandly gather over their good sherry, eating whatever the hosts have provided, they discuss and boast of their exploits of the day.
Hanging on the surrounding walls the forbears in ancestral portraits look benignly down upon the gathering in silence, reflecting on their long ago days of yore.
(You can tell I’m from Africa, there you generally eat what you have shot for the pot. Unless it’s a snake…I don’t eat snake.)
If anyone ever says in my presence that Care Givers earn too much and hardly have any work one more time I’ll pop.
Molly told me yet again today I was lucky to have such an easy job where I have so much time off.
I thought, “Yeah Moll, I wish!”
My sister-in-law Elsie has been Caring for a year and is a wise woman.
She advised me before I left South Africa for England that I should only accept 2 week Assignments with a Client, or face total burn-out.
I thought one extra week won’t hurt, surely?
Now I understand and humbly bow to her experienced knowledge as I shall have been here two weeks tomorrow and it’s time to leave.
Actually, it was time to leave the day after I arrived!
I believe there have been six Carer’s here before me and not one of them have lasted ten days, I still have a week to go and I’ll boast a survival rate of three weeks, so watch this space…

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Dear Diary – A Care Giver in England
June 22, 2011

22nd June, 2011.

For two days last week Molly was in extremely good humor.

At first I had to tip-toe around her, just in case I caught the sharp edge of her tongue.

Then I realised that she was not going to be waspish because her daughter who lives in the main house on the farm was back home for the weekend from business in London.
Conclusion made…Molly did not like to be apart from her lovely daughter.
So, when feeling lonesome, Molly makes game of the latest Carer!
In fact she reminds me of a wiry Siamese cat, highly pedigreed and spoilt, but happy to purr if everything is comfortable and running her way.
For someone who is about to turn 90 years old, Molly is as bright as a button, sharp as a blade, and has a tongue that is razor sharp when she feels the “help” must be brought down a peg or two!
I have resorted to visualising myself walking along a long stretch of beach with the waves crashing down on it when I am getting a tongue-lashing.
It’s calming…
Thank goodness Wimbledon tennis is on telly this week.
I have a slight respite from her badgering. She loves tennis and understands the game well.
There is a fantastic all weather tennis court in the gardens here and it is often used by the family and their friends.
By yesterday evening Molly was becoming a shrew, – her daughter is away again, but thankfully her son is coming to visit her for tea this afternoon, so all is not lost and I am able to skulk in the background getting on with my various chores.
Believe me, Caring is not a breeze, I am up and dressed every day by 7am and if I am fortunate, get to bed at midnight.
Apparently I am meant to have a breather from 2 to 4 pm, but it hardly pans out that way and I find an hour, stretched out on my back and looking at the back of my eyelids is as lucky as I’ll get in an afternoon.
(And I thought being an Associate Auctioneer working on Cruise Liners was relentless work, at least it was more glamorous and I got to sail the high seas seeing exotic places around the world!)
No use reflecting, I am presently in the here and now and certainly not sipping good Dutch East Indian coffee at a side-walk bistro in Amsterdam, or some such location.
In retrospect, I guess a Care Giver must consider that they are coming into a person’s home and usually that person is close to a century old.
They have been around a while and seen a thing or two along the way.
I maintain the most important thing is to treat a Client with as much dignity as possible, understand the environment and surrounds in which you find them is their domain, and that often, (that’s if they are lucid, of course) they somehow resent having some stranger doing things for them that they can no longer do for themselves.
However, I draw the line when I have just scrubbed someone’s old bottom, cleaned poop up off the floor or fixed a blocked toilet and am later spoken to like a peasant over something absolutely absurd.
It simply does not work for me.
So I have learned very quickly to hold my council for a few days, and once I have understood just where the person I am looking after is coming from shall firmly draw the line.
This I did with Molly yesterday.
I was in the middle of ironing a pile of sheets and she and her walker trundled into the kitchen.
Head moving from side to side, eyes darting around like ferrets, Molly was looking for trouble.
“Oh-oh,” I thought to myself, “something’s about to go down and it’s now,”
Grandly she addressed me in her beautifully modulated English:
“Well you don’t look as if you are busy, go and dead head the roses,” with a belated afterthought, she added, “Please.”
I was tired. I had had enough of being the unpaid gardener for the past eleven days and besides, I was ironing and I intensely dislike ironing.
“No” was my monocyclic retort.
The Gates of Wrath opened before me.
Molly was not being obeyed…
Switching the iron off at the wall, I took a deep breath and turned around to face Molly.
Very calmly in a low voice I said, “Molly, I have had enough of your bullying.
From now on, every time you are unreasonable, I am going to go for a walk so you can reflect on how nasty and unkind you are.”
With that said, I left the room and the house at a fast pace, partly out of relief that I had finally said what was on my mind, – but also thinking,
“I’d better get out of here before she tries to have the last word whilst scuttling after me like a water-beetle on her walker!”
When I got back she had decided to change tact and went for me about the iron,
“Iron’s should always be flat when you are ironing, not made to stand on their end!”
Looking at the iron I queried, “How so Molly?”
“It’s bad to leave them like that and also I watched you, you put too much water in it. This should only be done about once a month!”
Clearly dear Molly hasn’t a clue about steam irons.
In fact I should think has not done much ironing in her privileged life.
I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and I just could not stop.
“Enough Susan, this is serious!”
I laughed even more and I simply could not stop.
The more she bellowed about the iron the more I giggled until the tears were streaming down my face…
I couldn’t look at the iron any longer and put it away.
By then Molly had high tailed it out of the kitchen and back into her favourite sitting-room chair.
I heard the telly being switched on and Nadal grunting on Wimbledon centre court.
Peace, well for a short while anyway…

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Dear Diary – A Care Giver in England
June 18, 2011

18th June, 2011
One thing that has been a God-send to me is modern day communication.
What with mobile/cell phones, iPhones, the Blackberry, PC’s and so on, there is such a choice of ways to communicate with loved ones back home.
Without this life-line, I do not think I would be able to get though a three week Care Giving assignment with a designated Client, (even if the Client was the sweetest and easiest going little Golden-Oldie on the planet) one needs to touch base and sometimes have reassurance from afar.
Last night I was feeling terribly low and thought I may end up high tailing it down the lengthy drive away from this large, rambling home and Molly, but I was able to chat to Graham half a world away in Mozambique where he has just started his farming stint for a large International Agricultural company.
Life there is infested with malaria mosquitoes, basic living quarters and a daily 200 kilometre drive on a road that has deteriorated into a pot-holed bush-track to and from the derelict rice plantation he has been employed to resuscitate.
To top it all, the locals all speak Portuguese and he does not, which is a challenge in itself.
By the time we had both offloaded our woes on each others shoulders, we both saw the amusing side of our present situations and ended up inventing unspeakable scenarios to keep Molly quiet and out of my hair.
Also how he could tell the cook where he is staying that he required him to cook a meal without thinking the food he had given to the cook was for him to take home to his family to eat, leaving my poor husband starving after a day out in the field.
As so many people I know are travelling and working abroad, I’d like to share a tip on a very good company I found on the Internet when calling Africa and other places that you may use called Rebtel , which is a VOIP company, providing cheap international calling from mobile and landline phones. Rebtel’s customers can use any phone in more than 50 countries to call anywhere in the world for just pennies per minute.
You can make direct phone calls; collect calls, PC to Phone calls, international SMS.
There are no monthly fees, or hidden costs to use Rebel, which is great as I have been caught out by some services and found myself paying hidden costs.
Here is the link to their website where you can learn how to dial Africa internationally and how easy and cheap it is to call to Africa from the US or UK.
Talking about communications, I forgot to write about how terribly lost I got the day I arrived here.
Brenda, (the Carer before me) met me at Basingstoke railway station and drove me back to the farm, where I was duly introduced to Molly and shown to the room where I’d be spending the next 21 days. We then had lunch and I drove Brenda back to catch her train.
She was full of the joys of spring and I was feeling somewhat envious knowing she was about to have a break and I was just starting out on my shift with Molly.
I was also slightly suspicious of Brenda’s extremely good mood and incessant chatting as I knew I was like that when I left my last post.
Although Brenda assured me Molly was OK, she sure was in a hurry to escape.
In fact, whilst I drove back on the highway and through a string of round-a-bouts I found myself wishing she’d stop waffling for a while so that I could concentrate on where I was going.
Getting to the station, Brenda already had her luggage ready and fast footed it out of the car, leaving me to find my way home.
Wishing I had remembered to bring the Sat-Nav that I had borrowed from my daughter, I drove out of the station and pointed myself in the vague direction of the route I had gone along before.
Heck, I found myself driving around a round-a-bout four times before I thought to look at the sign post which clearly indicated the A339 to Newbury. I did very well for about 15 miles, and then took an off-ramp that looked familiar and ended up in a quaint little village with Tudor buildings and narrow roads.
I felt as if I was in a time warp or deja-vue until I realised I had been in this village six years ago when Graham and I lived in the same area on a lovely country Estate belonging to a delightful South African family where Graham was employed as a manager.
Absolutely relieved, I headed home only to be reprimanded by Molly for being late for her tea and biscuit.
Now I understood why Brenda was in such a happy mood when I dropped her off!

Dear Diary – A Care Giver in England.
June 16, 2011

17th June, 2011.
Every morning at 6.40am my alarm goes off and I feel like a mole. I batter around blindly as I clamber out of bed, pulling on clothes willy-nilly then making my way to the kitchen to get Molly’s tray ready for her 8am tea in bed.
I’m tired, very tired. There is no sleep for the wicked in this house.
That done, there is a reprieve until the 10am tray with breakfast, the cutlery and starched napkin arranged “just so” is to be delivered with a sunny smile and the newspaper.
I go and scratch a comb through my hair, wash my face with cold water to wake up and avoid looking at myself in the mirror for fear the image looking back at me is the fiend I was branded yesterday when Molly accused me of re-arranging her crystal and cut glass collection on the kitchen dresser.
I assured her that I hadn’t touched it, (I knew not to touch or move anything in the house from reading previous Carer’s notes, or risk facing the dark side of Molly’s wrath!)
“The cleaner was here yesterday Molly, maybe she moved things when dusting?”
“Don’t be stupid, I’ve known her for years, she is a good Christian woman and she would not move anything,” Barked Molly irritably.
I said nothing, but thought to myself, “She may be a good Christian, but even bloody Christian’s have to move stuff to dust, – unless they were fortunate enough to be Jesus and could perform a miracle!”
Molly continued; “Now how am I to believe anything you say from now on? When I know it was you. Put everything back where you found it!”
Confused, I ask her to tell me where she would like each piece of glass placed.
She tells me and I do as I’m bid, all the time bristling and visualising the glass in shards, (it made me feel better.)
She had it in for me, for the rest of the day, she found fault with what ever I did or said, making insinuating caustic remarks at my expense continuously.
I eventually did a “Carer’s disappearing act” and fled to my bolt-hole, the designated Carer’s car that I had been entrusted to drive Molly to and from her various appointments.
This is one place she cannot get to easily as it’s parked outside and she has to be assisted to her walker to get to it.
Without me there to do that, she is obliged to stay indoors with her inside Zimmer-frame.
Ah, 10 minutes, that’s all I need, 10 minutes to “gird my loins” and return to the fracas!
I’ll have been here a week tomorrow and I have to say that Molly is generally in good spirits and really quite a nice Golden-Oldie, but every now and again her doppelganger takes over and she becomes and entirely different person, someone you do not want to meet when walking out on the dark side of the street.
That night as I helped Molly get ready for bed, her head popped out of her night-dress and she said,
“Susan, before I forget, you are not to move anything on my table”
“Which table?” I ask, mystified
“You jolly well know the one you took my plasters from. The plasters you threw away!”
“Pardon? Why would I do that?”
“I have no idea, you tell me,” growled Molly now sweetly tucked up in bed by me.
“OK Molly, I guess I will,” I said calmly as I strode from the bed to her dressing table where she had placed the plasters the day before, picked them up and brandished them in the air triumphantly,
“I presume I am a crack hoop-thrower and I must have thrown them right here”
No answer…
Turning on her night-light, I bade her good-night; it was 1am and time for me to fall into bed.

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Dear Diary – A Care Giver in England
June 15, 2011

June 16th, 2011.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, the last time I had time to write I was looking after Joan in a place called Mole Hill.
That post ended on the 7th June at 1pm when Angie took over from me and I high tailed it out of the front door and was whisked by taxi to the closest railway station, bought a ticket and soon was on my way back to London, my daughter’s, my grandson and son-in-law, – and sanity.
I felt like I had just left boarding school for a half term break and was almost wriggling in my seat with excitement!
The first thing I did when I got to Gipsy Hill station was go into the nearest corner shop and buy ingredients to make a large chicken curry and a bottle of white wine to celebrate my liberation.
By the time Kerry, Johnno and my grandson got home, the curry was bubbling on the stove top, and the wine was well chilled and ready to quaff. Absolute bliss.
But euphoria was only to last three days and then I found myself standing at Waterloo station waiting for the next train to Basingstoke and the murky unknown of who I was to Care for next.
Would she be docile, would she be nice, would she nasty and break out in hives?
No one understands the trepidation a Carer has before a new assignment; it’s like jumping into Dante’s Abyss. You never know what challenges lurk ahead.

Oh heck, more tomorrow, Molly’s calling and it’s 11.45 pm….
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