Monday, 24 December 2007

Happy Christmas!

Hoping this message finds you well.

I hadn’t had a cough since 1994 (and we MSers know how important it is to avoid them) but the last few weeks – ah! More on that later.

And, sadly, I’m still not photogenic, nor anything like it (I leave the self-portraits to those like Herrad and Merelyme who look so good – thanks for the blogs guys).

Plus, my new digi. camera is wrapped up for Christmas (“Love, Tom”!) so I can’t even pretend I’m still covering big stories for the ‘paper (Tom took this pic. but I’m always in the background “urging” on!).

In other words, a shambles.

But the love is there. And without further ado, Tom, Lucy and I would like to wish all Travels readers a very happy Christmas (those that celebrate) and a peaceful New Year.

It rhymes, so 2008 is bound to be GREAT! Optimism abounds.

God bless you.

Love, Virginia x

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

A post about a poster

You know what, I’ve had enough of moaning about Tom. And I bet you’ve had enough of hearing it. He goes. He doesn’t go. He never goes when I tell him to. He’s halfway out the door when I beg him to stay. I’ve had it. Let him go or not. I don’t care any more (like he keeps saying he doesn’t). After this last (I’ll try!) piece about him, how’s about you and me, we just let him fade away. Disappear into the proverbial sunset. We’ll wish him well. From time to time we may hear from him But...

I decided that, rather than recount for you some of the finer points of our verbal sparrings, I would illustrate just one of the more, I say ‘duplicitous’/’cruel’, he would say ‘clever’/’amusing’, wranglings of recent weeks.

The one that, very sadly, involves a holy (T. bought it in a Church shop!) poster of the Blessèd Virgin Mary.

It goes like this: sometimes – if I’ve got any energy (and as I said above, if I have, it’s usually the result of anger) - I’ll try and give as good as I get. But it’s exhausting (maybe he remembers a time I almost invited a good debate but now it’s just resentment/belligerence on his part and hardly ever “interesting”) and often I feel ill –giddy – as a consquence. And my brain stops working. So, I’ll put on a so-what air and pretend I’ve got plans anyway – it’ll be better without him.

And a couple of times I actually did make plans as to how I would utilize the “spare” (once he’s gone) bedroom. And the other week I told him.

The first, if I was well enough I’d still like (but only in theory!): I’d open a women’s only poker den. And the first person I’d invite to join would be a best friend of his who I’ve got on with when we’ve met and lives nearby! Hah! He wasn’t amused by that one. Think he took it seriously!

I love poker and at one time planned to call this blog “Poodles, Poker and Penance”, because I meant to play so much more than I do. I think it’s the perfect remedy for cognitive dysfunction, it so livens the brain. And it’s social. Not a word to say against it (never bet money at home nor on the “Tables” but, in moderation and with a healthy bank roll [i.e. no one will suffer too much if you lose] the Catholic Church sees nothing wrong with gambling* and so, of course, neither do I).

The trouble for me now is that I’ve lost my main “Heads-up” opponent: Tom. He just won’t stay up to play any more (or he’s out). I have to rely on brother Blob coming to dinner (T. cooking) and that’s not often. But it’s fun when he does and we usually play a good “mean” game (I taught Blob!) with as much bluffing as we can possibly get away with (“tight agressive” they call Tom and me!). And we all agree that whatever is said at the table (ours) stays at the table. No hard feelings! See, good sportsmanship! Great game. I love poker. More later!

So Tom took that plan seriously.

But not half as seriously as he took the second plan. Because for that one I have to be alone – and that’s what he’s planning or at least anticipating. And that hurts because I know he’s probably right. But it seems pathetic which means he thinks I’m pathetic, so I’m sort-of embarrassed, which I shouldn’t be since it’s a beautiful plan. Then I have to remind him again: there’s a difference between humility and humiliated.

And there certainly is. And I thank God (which is being humble) for my knowing that.

My second plan was to turn the room into a Marian shrine. Dedicated to our perfect Mother in Heaven, Mary. You know the kind of thing: Renaissance paintings covering the walls; statues; candles; incense, and lots of flowers. A kind-of grotto filled with light and peace and a sacred aroma.

I love that idea. Tom said he liked it too. He would “enjoy being in it” when he came to stay, which would be “often”!

Yes, well, I didn’t mention it more than a couple of times. I thought it was forgotten (I wasn’t going to invite mockery, or “convince” him I was fine about his leaving). And a few weeks went by. We were heading for Christmas. Then: “Oh,” Tom blurts out one day, “I’d better get down to the Church bookshop and get cards, an Advent Calendar...” (and then, cruel blow) “... and I thought I’d get a big poster of the Virgin Mary, you know to put on the wall there”, he waved his arm into his room.

And that was it. More pain. I was horribly confused and torn. At first I actually believed it was for him, just for half a second. And I think I started to smile. But almost at the same time, I remembered and knew what he was thinking, and was struck through the heart: he wanted to start preparing the shrine, in readiness for his departure. His absence. My physical (but for dear Lucy) aloneness. I shrieked.

And he laughed.

And I said, “No, no, no!” I said “No” to Mother Mary and what I knew was truly good and beautiful. He just thought I was gullible and kept laughing.

And went to “the shop”, even visited the Chapel with one of the sisters, and came back with a pile of treasures and wanted me to be grateful and pleased.

But, hidden at first, he showed me later, was a fabulous poster...

I leave the rest to you, friends!

* Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) # 2413

P.S. I really would welcome your comments. But before you all rush to defend Tom and push him out the door, let me just say: I’m not a bad person, or selfish or spoiled and objectively, I see what you see – looking in. He should go, and with love, I know it.

It’s just that being taken over by progressive MS means, by definition, beng subjective: needy; demanding; scared; moody; angry, and sometimes, irrational. It’s hard to think clearly when all you can feel is fatigue and pain.

The best thing would be to find a live-in companion-carer. They could have the room. But that would have been easier at the old place – more central and close to one of the University of London’s colleges (my Alma Mater!). Here is not much good for anyone (including poor Tom) and, besides, I’m on benefits and Social Services don’t provide them.

Are you thinking Care Homes/Nursing Homes?

Please don't!

Oh, all right I’ll get an air-purifier (perfume allergy) and a load of carers. Thank you. I got there!

Monday, 3 December 2007

It won't get better than this!

Ah, but these are the best days of my life! Yes they are – praise God. They’re not going to get any better than they are at the moment or have been for the past few, family years. Tom, Lucy and me (“Mummy” again - to Lucy!).

But most of all, Tom, who’s been with me (bar six months, five years ago, when he shared a flat with a colleague), 27 years. Even with progressive MS (and things getting harder physically), taken one day at a time – as MSers must – every day is a day to be celebrated.

Take this moment: I am sitting in the sitting-room, post-herbs, third coffee and Hob Nobs, and Lucy is opposite me asleep in her “Igloo Bed”. All is beautifully quiet (daily Mass on EWTN ended, the TV off again); the girls upstairs not back from school at least another hour (and even they seem to have SAD, they’re so “still” at this time of year!); Tom is at work in the Herbalists and will be home this evening for our usual “banter”, dinner (always cooked by him – he’s a great cook, one day I’ll write more about that) and TV viewing – or game. And, mercifully – after the last council flat on a building-site in the middle of four main roads (with a siren-junction!) – now in this, ‘wheelchair-accessible’, council flat, off a footpath and well away from traffic. Spiders allowing (every c. flat seems to have at least one infestation: in the last it was pharaoh ants and a wasps’ nest, here it is myriad arachnids (but there’s an encouraging new spray on the market we’ve been trying...)) - horrors allowing, it is perfect for writing. So, as you see, that’s what I’m doing.

And that to me constitutes a very good day. Free to write, as much as I like, when I like and, really, for how long I like.

And, perhaps more importantly, after being on the newspaper and also realising how carefully we must guard against losing it: free to write what I like. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. The life-blood of democratic society, keeping it alive and vital.

We must maintain it.

The horrible thing (some might say) is, in order to gain this time and this “ability” to write, I had to become disabled – give up the ability to take part.

Ah, but that is why I know the MS is a gift. A grace. And I thank God.

I look up to Jesus on the Crucifix above me and see that through uniting my suffering with His I can come closer to Him. And way before I got this computer, and for years before Lucy’s arrival, I was grateful for that blessing. Through prayer and constant communion comes joy and peace.

I am thankful for this time, these “best” days of the rest of my life. Even though, of course, they are coming to an end.

Tom says he’s leaving in January! Well there’s a good Christmas present! What a jolly festivity that will be, looking forward, eagerly, to the pleasures the New Year will bring! Oh great! Can’t wait! Is this a panic? Oh yes, undoubtedly. And probably a permanent state of affairs – at least until the “affairs” are dealt with (will they ever be in this world?) – and everyone knows what they’re doing.

It’s okay: the Lord will provide. It’ll be all right. It’ll be God’s will – whatever.

But really, how miserable. the wretched boxes he’s had packed for at least a year. the reminding me constantly that I will be alone (well, humanly maybe!). I swear he just likes seeing me squirm (just because I changed his nappies? Get over it!). Anyway, I am. And that makes me angry (as do pain and emotional lability, both par for the course with MS). ‘Anger is an energy’ (Sex Pistols). Ergo, that’s how I keep going much of the time. And I hate it.

It used to be so good when we could get out together. Even in the later stages when he was pushing the wheelchair and having to load it in and out of taxis. We used to get on so well.

Whether it was dinner and trying to talk Italian (we did a couple of years’ evening classes), in Rome; steamed fish at our favourite fish & chip restaurant, or fry-up (Tom) at the local caf., we used to laugh. A lot. Even at home, at the old place where it was noisier, louder and madder. We always found the “funny” in everything.

But now it has grown so bitter. As Tom sees it, nothing but gradual decline, degenerating, not only of my physical state, but also his own. His social life (he goes out, he’s going away at the weekend!) – worse, his mental health (he says – and I can’t prove otherwise or make him change his attitude (he’s “lapsed”. I pray!)). The MS is never stable but at the best he calls it “stagnation”. He’s had enough. It wears you out. There’s no reward as in most illnesses of getting better. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s no quick end as in fatal accidents or terminal disease. No, this one just goes on and on, dragging everyone close to it (if they let it) down with it.

It’s like when I was in hospital from the windscreen accident (c. 1971) and felt for my siblings coming to visit me and having to look at my face (“bride of Frankenstein’s monster”!). Now I feel for Tom and I know he has to leave. But I wish he wouldn’t.

I can’t have carers, I’m allergic to their perfumes (MCS – Multi-Chemical Sensitivity [see ‘Environmental Illness’ in Comment Column]). Not unless I try an expensive air purifier (but I don’t like the intrusion either!). I can’t cook, clean, shower myself or Lucy. I won’t be able to look after Lucy...

One day at a time. You see, there’s no other way.

This is a good day. I haven’t tried to walk for at least two hours, I might not be able to. Lucy needs some attention and another love (don’t we all). And the girls upstairs seem to have bought a light-box (did I mention that mine has been on?!) and got lively. So it’s time to move.

And count my blessings. It won’t get better than this!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The obligatory SAD piece

Well, there has to be one. Every year, in any journal-type writing I’m doing. Somewhere, there will be a paean to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

A ‘paean’! What am I saying? A paean is, of course, a song of praise in tribute to something. And this black cloud (literally and figuratively) is in no way deserving of that.

But it sort-of gets one.

Almost annually.

And why?

Because, for some reason, depression – and let’s face it, that’s what it is – hydrates the creative juices, feeds that voracious, masochstic animal they call ‘art’.

And drives, if you allow it and don’t give up first, the motor of mental mobility.

Whatever metaphor you give it, SAD will be with you (if you’re a sufferer) right through from September to March, and, at some point – for me usually November (the name makes me shudder and I used to ban it!) – more painfully and, consequently productively, than the rest..

Therefore the ‘paean’. The enemy at least shall be recognised. And, who knows, perhaps with respect, even befriended.

Ah, the writer in me! So far, so good. Trying to make good out of bad. A blessing out of a curse (and, oh boy, does the Devil seem behind this!).

But I’m older now, and wiser than I was when I used to let it beat me (I couldn’t help it – see MS – My Scene (October)), and even than I was when I began hoping it would inspire important prose.

And I’m a cripple now. Sufferer of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). Because physically, without a doubt – having failed to finish me mentally/spiritually – SAD has wiped me out. Knocked all the stuffing out of me. Pulled the rug out from under my feet. Etc. Etc. All the analogies that go with not being able-bodied any more – if ever: there was always wanting to hide/hibernate during the winter, even as a child. Physically I’ve had it.

So why bother at all, you ask. I’ll tell you.

It’s so that others may learn from it and take preventative measures. Or at least know best how to deal with it. And I’ve come some way with that:

- faith;
- lavender oil;
- give up dairy products;
- probiotics;
- lots of garlic/cayenne;
- extra-virgin olive oil;
- oily fish;
- sunshine – or, failing that, a light-box,
- de-humidifier.

But I’ve said all that before, in more detail (as link above ), and I want to move on.

We all know that one of the strong contenders for “cause” of MS is lack of sunshine. I would add to that damp (due to lack of sunshine), and, of course – also acknowledged - stress. The culminative affect of all these being Candida Albicans (as above).

It goes therefore as read, that right now a lot of MSers are feeling at their worst. And others, I pray for them, are developing it as we speak.

So what we don’t need is more to depress us. And that, I suppose, is the reason for this post now and in Travels rather than MS - MS. I’m not here to concentrate on MS. That’s not what I want to do.

MSers are not the only ones with SAD. And all SAD sufferers do no not develop MS. I want to write – as I always did – for everyone. People in general.

When I’ve been asked to place my blogs in a category, out of desperation, I’ve had to say ‘Society and Culture’. Not ‘Health’. What would be the point of that (I ask myself!)? We’ve all got to die one day. I’m just trying to find the best, and most honest, way to leave this world and get to Heaven, helping as many people along the way as possible. As I’ve mentioned before, the Internet, and blogs in particular, are a great aid to a housebound, would-be evangelist!

So, that’s what all this (blogging) is about.

Last week though, both genres were tied together in two very saddening stories.

The first (perhaps you saw it in the ‘papers) involved a young woman with PPMS who wants to end her life. Because of the PPMS. She wants to go to the awful, shouldn’t exist, “Dignitas” in Switzerland and swallow the lethal cocktail. Because she has PPMS.

Like I have PPMS. Always progressing, getting worse, worsening paralysis... yeah, yeah, etc. We all know the prognosis. It’s not good. and it sort-of IS the end of the world – yours anyway, as it shrinks down and down and leaves less and less life. Shrivelling too, for loved ones. As long as you have any left. The woman in the news does.

She has a husband, willing it seems, to love her unconditionally and take care of her. He doesn’t want her to end it all – yet.

Ay, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say (Hamlet iii. i. 65): apparently he’d rather wait a few years, until she’s really decrepit and useless (presumably) and then he’ll personally escort her (push her?) to her death.

The trouble is, by then, she might not be able to lift the glass. And the fact that he took her there would make him liable to prosecution and possible imprisonment [Suicide Act (1961)]. And quite right too.

Well, this is why the poor MSer is in the news. She is pleading with the government to get the law changed to enable him to take her without blame.

Otherwise, she will go alone and make sure, absolutely certain, that everyone knows it is suicide.

Because she has PPMS and isn’t willing to see it out.

Isn’t aware of her innate human dignity, the love of God the Father for each of His unique children, the eternal life of the soul. and the simple fact that only our Creator who gave us life has the right to take it away.

She has not learnt as a Christian that when Jesus taught us to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23), He was instructing us in the heroic goodness of redemptive suffering. Offering up our pains in prayer for others.

It breaks my heart and I feel very sad for this woman. I pray for her conversion.

And for all the others who have gone before her and will come after.

Which is how we get to the ‘Society and Culture’ aspect.

This “choice”, this ability to take our own lives, those of the unborn and the elderly. This secular enthusiasm for euthanasia is WRONG. Has to change. This is the tenet of the law that must be undone. Before the evil of our actions comes back to, literally, haunt us – in the next world.

My second sadness of the week – compounded with the rotten SAD – came from hearing that another PPMS friend (we MUST all be friends) has taken to her bed until the spring.

Now my first thought, of course, was to congratulate her. It’s what we’d all like to do, especially when the fatigue is such that it crushes you and prevents any action to begin with.

Apparently this friend (from an MS forum) has pressure-sores that maybe (I don’t know) have become infected and forced her to take up a whole new horizontal position for the duration. Pressure-sores (nightmarishly painful) are the reason given anyway.

But the trouble is I know – and so do many others – she’s been badly depressed and lonely for months. We’ve all done what we can, virtually, to comfort her and spur her on.

But she’s angry: her family (adult children) have all left and she’s alone. With inadequate carers (Social Services), paid to give her any attention at all. She feels totally unloved, but for the empathy she receives on the boards (and, yes, you’re right, I am “projecting”. But I’m also telling it how it is, which maybe she cannot do). And it’s all down to ‘S. and C.’.

Whatever happened to families looking after families?

Well, briefly, I surmise that this is what happens when God is removed from society. Replaced by the State (government as the ultimate authority). When people believe they’re their own gods and are free to make decisions for themselves. Blindly following the rules of the State as automatons still believing there is no ruler. As they work every hour God sends to make money for Mammon (god of this world – materialism) and, like lemmings, plod one after another leader, toward the cliff-edge and the black abyss.

When their only goal is an earthly Utopia of eternal youth and physical perfection. And they lose the capacity for selfless love.

This is what happened to families taking care of their own. They became ashamed of the frailties and inadequacies of their weaker members. Better to be gone.

And, if not physically (i.e. death, which as we’ve seen is now actually a feasible option) then, at least, under someone else’s care: enter the Welfare State.

In fact perhaps that’s when it started at the end of the Second World War. 1945. A welfare state (i.e. someone else to look after us), and we could all become parasites.

Women who used to tend the family at home, including often their elderly and infirm relations, were suddenly not so needed. Not so necessary. Their roles were unsure. Blurred by a lopsided “freedom”.

And then, of course, the birth-control pill. Easy contraception. The Anglican Church allowed “family planning”, first in “special circumstances” in the 1930’s and then, universally, without protest (Protest-antism is only anti the Catholic Church). And that was when God became whatever you wanted Him to be. And to many still is.

So women got “liberated”. Lost their feminine gifts.

And the rest is history.

And, boy, can I ramble. But I hope you see my point – any who’ve come this far.

It’s not just the time for SAD, it’s a very sad world.

And that’s why I was sad last week.


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all my (virtual) friends in America a happy Thanksgiving.

I hope everyone has a fabulous day and Lucy, at least, wishes she was there to share it - the food!

God bless you.

Love, Virginia x

Monday, 12 November 2007

Lucy is not going to be a pyjama case

[Written Thursday, November 8.]

No, I can’t do it. I will not make Lucy give up any more of her body for the sake of human aestheticism or ease.

Today, Lucy will NOT have removed her womb and her ovaries. To be added to the furnace of poodle-parts, along with her tail (see previous post – I couldn’t stop that, this I can).

What would be left? An empty, disfigured sack. Hollow – even her oestrogen self gone. No personality, naughty and child-like. No chance of babies.

She would be no better than an unstuffed toy. A rag-poodle. Oh, horrors! A pyjama case.

In all that umming and aahing, wondering whether to get Lucy or not, how could I forget? But I did...

When I was, oh, about seven, one of the Christmas presents my parents gave me was a white, pink-ribboned, poodle pyjama case. With a zip, right up the middle of its tummy.

Exactly! Lucy would have a scar (you remember, I had this done many years ago (kept the ovaries) – I know what I describe). But, unlike the pyjama case, which you could open up to reveal a silky pink chasm, Lucy’s would (hopefully) close up to hide raw, severed flesh and a void where there ought to be life.

In one you stuffed pyjamas, in the other you would stuff food, as some sort of miserable substitute. She would get fat and dopey, dozey. Her bones would become brittle and break. She would feel no meaning to her life, other than to eat and love humans.

It might be easier, especially for my MS (as I said, her last season did seem pretty difficult (i.e. messy, long)). But I can’t do it.

And besides, she’s a pedigree: one day I might not be around (no ‘i.e.’’s needed!) and she may go to live somewhere where they can breed her with another, pedigree, toy poodle. Imagine that... more beautiful Lucys to give pleasure and companionship to the world. (There you are, you see, it’s an altruistic gesture!)

Right now, this minute, she should be in recovery at the Vet’s clinic. In a couple of hours Tom was meant to be going to collect her.

As it is, as usual, he is on his bed (says his room’s ready with his mate down the road but won’t go now – even when I tell him to!). Lucy is lying beside him on the floor (after hysterical “play” earlier). And I – well, you can see what I’m doing.

But I’m living for today. Each moment. And that’s the way it has to be. Which was the deciding factor in all this.

As non-constructive as it might seem to some, I’m afraid it’s better than watching poor little Lucy suffer. For no valid – necessary right now – reason. We’ll all get together later, or just Lucy and I will, and there’ll be some semblance of normality – for an MSer, which is hard to accomplish!

Also, I remembered, I never liked that poodle pyjama case. Wanted a real dog, of course. Well, that says it all doesn’t it?

And helped me make the definitive decision: Lucy is not going to be a pyjama case (and, besides, who wears them any more?)!

I cancelled the op. and we move (?!) on...

P.S. This doesn’t mean I don’t see the sense in spaying normally. But, don’t forget, Lucy is a “house-dog”.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


Please see my post in Comment Column of the same date and title.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Tom is such a hero...

I was reminded of this again, last night, when I saw what he carried home, proceeded to put together, and got working.

But, to start at the beginning of the whole palaver, let me take you back to January ’06 (if I can bear it!). Fortuitously, two months before Lucy joined us.

I can’t remember the exact date but, anyway, it was typical of all that is that month in this country (the UK). Ergo: not Christmas or anything else good; dark and gloomy; freezing cold; scary (as is, to me, all winter, i.e. hypothermia/gas explosions), and too long.

A bad time. And with bad SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Bad.

It was a Thursday. I do remember that, because Tom was forced to take the day off work. Six a.m. Not even dawn. Very eery.

And definitely not a time for someone with MS to be awake. But this is me. And I’ve spent years living independently (that is, many without another adult) and as a mother. As protector. Always on the look-out for danger.

The lights went out and I knew it. Perhaps it was just a light-bulb (we have one of those perilous safety set-ups whereby if one goes they all go – necessitating a trip to the fuse-box (cupboard-under-stairs) with a torch. (Great if, like me once, you’re on the loo when it happens, need to hold on to furniture to walk and didn’t actually take the torch with you! Very well thought-out for the disabled.))

I sat on the commode (MS joke!) in order to ponder this. I pretended. But in truth, it was obvious: no lights; no de-humidifier humming; nobody reading the Bible on TV [Sky 0134]. POWER CUT!

Power off. Panic most definitely on.

I must have sounded like a wild animal brought down by the hunter’s bullet.

And now I needed Tom.

I needed coffee (if I must be forced awake), warmth. Help. My head was vibrating, pulsating, stretching, shrinking, shivering, screaming.

Oh God (desperate prayer), why have you deserted me?

Get thee behind us S----! What is this un-Godly hour?

Anyone without MS won’t understand this but there’s something very horrible about the state of the lesioned brain without enough sleep.

And to a crippled, spastic body, the cold is unbearable.

Suddenly, madness, death, both are very real possibilities. And maybe preferable to the enormous effort it’s going to take to try to survive. It may well be easier to give up.

There and then, everything physical about you longs for that.

I grabbed the torch and “did” the cupboard, pointlessly, at the same time as banging and yelling for Tom. I was beside myself.

And he got up.

And put me back to bed wrapped in the swaddling-clothes of quilt after quilt and another sleeping-bag on top of the one I sleep in.

Then, oh mercy - and thank God I had the sense to get it - he put the Calor Gas heater on, turned it towards me and went to get dressed. Somewhere in the middle of all that he also managed to ring EDF and the council, who –it has to be said were (responsible?) most helpful. Yes, there was a problem. Was it everywhere (i.e.whole borough)? No, just your strreet. It would probably be off (electricity) till the afternoon. Sorry.

Just our street? Till afternoon? The poor wild animal needed putting out of its misery.Hypothermia would set in soon.

And next: genius! Tom went to the cafè to get take-away coffee. I couldn’t believe it. I’d never have thought of that. But Tom is an aficionado of local "cafs." and off he went, perfectly confident, and totally in charge! I was, and am still, so proud of him – for all this.

I had a ciigarette and saw through drawn curtains the sky turn from black to grey. It was not a cheerful shift of ambience, but the heater and candles (like magic!) gave a comforting glow - at least in this room (sitting-room where bed is). And soon it actually felt warm.

After a few minutes, the conquering hero returned and brought with him: two styrofoam cups of hot coffee, and, AND, ANND, a flask of boiled water. What brilliance! What foresight! What empathy... Apparently, I could have coffee and my usual herbal remedies, regardless.

Oh, how could anyone feel bad after that?

He brought everything to me (I was still huddled up on bed) and, as the hours wore on, we entertained ourselves with the “meter’s-run-out-of money” games we used to play, when he was young and before DLA (spare more thoughts for single parents – it’s very hard). It was quite cozy!

And by early afternoon – after "caf." food for him (he might have been enjoying this!) and crisps and biscuits for me – even I could wander about a bit (i.e. visit the bathroom/tidy up in the kitchen). The whole flat was warmer and there was a kind-of “we’re making it” aroma of gas and melted wax around the place. It was all right.

But it did start to get dark again and there were more worried ‘phone calls (though Tom had seen the men down the hole in the road so knew something was being done!).

It was eight whole hours after the first no-electric shock that suddenly all the lights came on again, the de-humidifier shook into life and the Gospel of John came out from the TV.

And the b----y council – or was it EDF? I’ll check – rang to apologise for all the inconvenience!

Well, I knew I could sue them. I knew I would have died without Tom. But, what can you do? I had to be grateful for my life and my son. So I offered it all up for anyone else who was cold (“Please God, look after the homeless.”) and asked Jesus to help us get on.

And He did. And I did. But didn’t forget it, and my fear of winter has increased. Plus, I am even less able than I was then. And Tom wants to leave.

So I looked into further means of self-sufficiency and got: a SURVIVAL KIT! From the Army.

And that’s what Tom brought home last night – all the way from his place of work where it was delivered (I can’t get to the door!). By foot and train and foot again!

A big, heavy box, containing a gas (cartridge) lamp, heater and cooker. As well as some toilet-tray pads for Lucy and herbal carpet shampoo for Lucy’s – accidental – stains.

And then he got them all working (except the shampoo - that will have to wait till Lucy’s out (groomer's not pub!) to give enough hours for drying).

And the kit is amazing: lovely little blue-orange flames providing light, heat, and coffee/food/hot-water-bottles. Survival!

So, at last, even though it is bleak, dreary winter, I can sleep at night. If I can still get up at all I should be able to keep myself alive and also, therefore, Lucy.

A bit longer anyway.

Tom is such a hero!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Shaggy Saturday

They can be good, they can be bad and they can be very surreal – well, let’s face it if you’re not a sports-fan or of the Jewish faith they can be bit meaningless - but, whatever they are, Saturdays have to be dealt with.

For many years now, I have thought of this seventh day as the day everybody else has somebody else. In so far as I don’t see or hear (i.e. by ‘phone) anybody else. Invalid (in-valid?) that I am, stuck out here in the “pasture” that is almost Kent but really just the slower, quieter end of south-east London.

Oh, they used to pop in, at the old place, inner-city. One or two of them, once or twice just to salve their consciences (I knew it). Before things got a bit too obvious to ignore and their sympathy was forced, understanding feigned. Usually for about an hour (watch-watching), unexpectedly, on their way to somewhere else.

That was insulting. Yes, hurtful. I think, if you’re not careful, that sort of thing makes you bitter. But, hey, as long as you let them know you knew how it was and were happy anyway, everything was hunky-dory. And is – now that they’re nowhere to be seen – or heard.

It’s more honest and, therefore, much more easily tolerated. (But, while I’m at it, can you see why I find birthday/Christmas cards from these people so irrelevant and irreverant? Jesus told us, whatever we do for the least of His brethren (i.e. visit the sick) so also we do for Him (Mat 25:31-46). No one in my family - apart from Tom and brother Blob, of course - knows that scripture, obviously. And some of them ----- go to church!). Ah well. This is better.

And usually I wake up on Saturdays, filled with optimism. They’re my days. Free days (no official – i.e. social services/MS-related people. – ringing up. No council workmen outside or in). Just quiet and free. I can make of them what I will. And, neighbours allowing (dog next door, chldren upstairs), I’m going to make them good.

And Lucy and I will sometimes party!

Well, I say ‘party’. But that, of course, is normally all we do, say we’ll party. That is, I’ll say somehing like, “Let’s have a party today, Lucy!” and she’ll just look up at me non-plussed, but I like to thiink aware it’s a good moment. Indeed, sometimes I sound so excited and sure, she does jump up and down with enthusiasm. And, at least the mood is up-beat. we can go on from there.

Yesterday, though, didn’t look too hopeful. Things were decidedly ‘shaggy’.

It was dark outside – at ten in the morning – and when I, at last, managed to see clearly, on my second cup of coffee and cigarette, I saw the reality of the unkempt duo in the room.

Me – oh well, I’ve been a mess for a while. but seeing Lucy overgrown and slightly gray from too long without a shower, well, that was a downer. That upset me. Because there’s nothing I can physically do.

And there are reasons, and I don’t like those either

Normally the poor little thing would have been to the groomers in the past few weeks, but, ah, she just had her first full season. And it was horrible. In fact, so bad, that now I’ve actually booked to have her spayed. And I feel guilty and miserable, because it’s bringing back old memories (I had an hysterectomy for fibroids 23 years ago!) and can’t bear to see her go through any more suffering.

The first time was, apparently, at a few days old when – unbeknown to Tom and me (we’d never have allowed it) - the breeder and her vet docked poor Lucy’s tail ('...slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails...’ Ha, now I understand the nursery rhyme!) How barbaric. And, thank God, the law was changed this year (when we learnt of this practice). It tears my heart to contemplate. .

Then, about a year ago, she spent a couple of days in hospital after chewing and eating too much of a Nylabone toy. Our faults. For some ridiculous reason (someone’s not very good at reading small print on labels) we had believed it was edible. What fools. She was violently sick for days and, we realised looking back, had been ill for weeks.

The vet eventually diagnosed ‘gastritis’ but I suspected a lot more: for a start she was put on an anti-fungal medicine; then there was the lining-the-stomach clay, and finally soft food – for a couple of weeks. I still imagine there is shrapnel in her throat when she makes funny noises sometimes, and in her gut. Who knows? But, anyway, I dread her going through something even bigger surgically-speaking. That time she even got an infection from the puncture wound of the anaesthetic!

It makes my stomach turn and I can’t sleep at night when I think about it.

I’m glad Lucy doesn’t sleep in here (sitting-room) with me any more. She actually chose some time ago to go in what was my bedroom with her crate - to get away from the cigarette smoke and commode sounds, I imagine. But maybe, also, just not to be woken up by late night home-comers (we’ll come to that)!

‘Glad’ because that time just missing her was painful. Hopefully this time she’ll be home the same day. As long as she’s well enough.

As you know, I have progressive MS, it gets worse. It has got worse since every other day there’s been. I won’t be able to help her as much as I did last time and that means Tom has had to take time off. And will need to be patient. And kind. And supportive. Oh, hell, it’s scary – can we do it? And what will be the goal afterwards if we do? For any of us?.

Oh poor Tom. He’s lived with me so long, keeping me going and “allowing” me to manage without carers who I (gentle!) would rather not have!

And now all this and giving up precious holiday-time from work.

Well, no wonder he drinks (but, of course, I wish he wouldn’t) - 27, with so much on his shoulders.

And that’s the second reason Lucy looks un-clean. It’s not easy showering a toy-poodle, who’s naturally a “water-dog”, when you’ve got a hang-over. You have to be able to share the euphoria and not mind getting very wet! It’s a bonding experience (one I’ll never have with her) which Tom usually enjoys and puts his all into.

But not recently.

And that’s why [another meaning of the word: ‘marked by a lack of order, clarity of thinking, planning and performance’] yesterday seemed such a ‘shaggy Saturday’. Dark and dismal outside. Not so bright on the inside. And nothing illuminating to plan towards. (except – God willing – Heaven!).

Ah, but you all know me better! Would I let it stay like that?

Heck no. Not if I can help it. And, by the grace of God, I may not be capable of much physically but when it comes to morale, well, that I can keep up. Mine and Lucy’s anyway, Tom doesn’t want to be cheered up here any more (he might want to stay!).

So, on went the light-box and off went the chatter: about the weather in Rome (still sunny, hot); about it being sabato there [related to ‘Sabbath’ - which of course it is, even for Christians though we might not call it such (isn’t that why we have the “weekend”; the Sabbath still for rest from work and Sunday (the ‘first day’ (Genesis 1:3-5) of the week) as the Lord’s Day to praise God? Makes sense to me].

And then, before we (I) went down again remembering the non-visiting family – sabato o domenica (Saturday or Sunday) – Lucy and I were moving through the day.

First - and most important - the herbal regime (see MS- My Scene (Oct 07)), with 'Daily Mass' from EWTN to keep me going through the rest...

We had ablutions to deal with: semi-strip-wash for me and brushing teeth; bowels from both of us – always the biggest bother of the day; pain (me again) to contend with as the legs grew more spastic wih the increasing hours, and fatigue.

Oh, but we also had nibbles: mainly Lucy – Kibble; more coffee/herbal teas. crisps and Hob-Nobs for me (though she wants them and I shouldn’t eat them: gluten/sugar!).

And the writing got going again.

And by 5 o’clock we were learning Italian. I was teaching “Lucia” a few useful words (humour me, dear reader!): “Andiamo!” (“Let’s go!”); “il sole” (you know that one); “Che giorno bello!” (“What a lovely day!”), and so on. Till Tom came home from work.

Looking shaggy, but in a good way (i.e. longer hair, tied back and five days growth on chin). Looks good!

And (very rare on a Saturday night) stayed in. And bought take-away curry, to enjoy while we watched ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ on DVD. Then he even played an alphabet game – “A-Z of places you’d love to visit.” Well, that was just perfect, matched the mood completely.

And hey, guess what, it turned out to be a pretty good Saturday and not too shaggy at all.

And today (Sunday) Lucy got her shower.

P.S. Is this a “shaggy-dog story”?

Well, literally, yes. Lucy is a ‘shaggy dog’. But, then again, no. I didn’t think of the genre till after it was written. (Thank you MS!)

In the long-run? Oh, probably. In my last, interrupted, “autobiography” I compare the attempt to Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, and that definitely is.

We’ll see...

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I never liked dogs...

[A piece I wrote for the MSS book, MS TALENT (published next month) but pulled out for two reasons: 1) I could not condone their recent advertising campaign which failed to support the “progressives”, and 2) it’s the only thing I ever wote that made Tom laugh outloud!]

In fact I hated them. Thought every dog was male and every one, a rampant, raping, pillaging, pooing, parasite. At the very least – even if I couldn’t see them – they were barking, brainless (why didn’t they realise no one was coming and just resign, quietly?) noise pollution. At the most/worst they would bite me, rip me to shreds and leave me dead.

So what is this I now see sniffing round my crippled feet? What is this pair of brownest eyes looking up at me, pleading and tender in the morning light?

And, what, as I sip my wake-up coffee, is this strange sensation of wet-warm licking on my nerve-numb legs?

Is it a dog, Virginia? An actual canine living and breathing in the same space as you? Have you lost your mind?

No, just my body.

I don’t feel like moving today. Don’t want to move. The whole of my physical being cries out: “Leave me alone!” I just want to close my eyes and surrender to the end in peace.

And so, what is this, this bundle of curls, insisting I placate its demanding for food and affection. It’s the antithesis of everything I need, isn’t it?

Well, no. Apparently, aged 54, Virginia has learnt yet one more truth of the world: “A dog will love you unconditionally”. And so she does...

This toy poodle, who isn’t a “what” but most definitely a “who”. Lucy. The only one here, who still wants to be with me. Who suffers my struggles and staggers through the day, just as surely as I do.

And comes running, and licking and loving whenever it’s tough and she knows there’s a need.

And doesn’t mind – in fact, probably enjoys – that I am not washed. When every human being would, and does, turn away.

I look down to Lucy, from the chair I would be stuck in without her, and sure enough she looks up (with those eyes that are prone to conjunctivitis as mine are to optic neuritis) and meets my soul. And I ask her how she is, tell her everything will be all right. And we’ll get there in the end. Yes, of course, I am talking to both of us! And she jumps up, all energy where I have none. So I say, “Let’s get this show on the road!” and sort-of jump up. And she follows, little tail bobbing (I wouldn’t have let them dock the tail if I’d known that’s what they did - thank God now it’s banned) with enthusiasm.

Before I know it, I have fed her some Kibble, hydrated her with fresh water, cleaned up a poo (most in a cat-litter tray, a little on the floor) and given her a love – as I am licked clean by that cute little tongue!

And the day has begun and I offer it to God and thank Him.

And I remember Saint Lucy, the patron saint of those with eye problems and, also, writers.

I might write something today. Maybe tell how I got over my phobia of dogs. And why.

But not before we’ve both had Eyebright (the herb) in the kitchen...

Oh wow, I’m moving again.

In search of the end of the day

[Subtitle - as it should have been to be true to Steinbeck!]

Steinbeck subtitled Travels with Charley, ‘In Search of America’.

Well, not for Lucy and me such grandiose ambitions. Oh no. Not for me a middle-aged frustration and rebellion against the end of my life. I’m content.

No, all we ask is to get from the beginning to the end of the day, without too much to contend with: no serious mishap or calamity to befall us (a tall order given that I’m falling about all over the place with MS and Lucy depends entirely on me!).

That, and for me to be able to do something, by God’s will, for somebody else. Even, as often, without seeing or speaking to another human being.

I thought the only way was through prayer.

But now we have blogging!

And suddenly the world has opened up. We can - in theory - talk to anyone. Anywhere.

Oh, just imagine bringing a smile to someone’s face through something you write. Or maybe helping, by example, with some annoying problem.

So, this is ‘where I’ve been’ (see ‘Intro.’ to this blog) - getting to know how to blog (which meant learning how to use the Internet first!). And it’s taken ages to get this far.

But I seem to have time – praise God!

And thank you Blogger, Google, Bill Gates et al. Lucy is especially grateful for a wider audience - more people to love and amuse!

At the end of the day I thank God for getting us there. And also for my lap-top and the ability to use it. (In this society where family is less tolerant of the infirm we need this virtual interaction!)

Then I lay down the cross of my physical suffering at the foot of Calvary.

It’s what our Lord asked us to do (Luke 9:23). And there’s a peace in that.


Friday, 21 September 2007

How long is a piece of string?

[Original introduction, drafted Jan 07, included for being the one that got me started. Where have I been? I will explain when I understand!]

So, whose bright idea was it to get a poodle? Well mine, I suppose. But that was it: an idea. I was diggle-daggling.

diggle-daggle (this is me putting it in the dictionary – it’s not there really!). v. to shake a gypsy clothes-peg with a length of knotted string attached to it while play-acting an imaginary life. *n. a gypsy clothes-peg with a length of knotted string attached to it (tied round neck of peg).

I manically diggle-daggled - first with bootee and then rattle, before my mother’s fateful design with the peg – from age nought to 11 when I took up smoking and more seriously the ball-point pen (I knew I was a writer by then). But the pegs were the stronger, and more available, drug until aged 13 when my first thought every morning became, “How many cigarettes do I have?” And hormones had kicked in and the family were making a move to another part of the country. Bad times. I didn’t actually give them up till then.

My first run-away occurred at 13 – hitch-hiked Somerset to Edinburgh – but that’s another story. And was then. I prefer now and the future

Just to add, on the diggle-daggle days: it was a painful parting. I still don’t know why I did it. But into the dustbin went this perfectly weighted and worn collection, one sad, final time. And it was good practise for giving up a son three years later and prescribed sleeping-pills 16 years after that.

But they too are other, very sour, stories written about elsewhere and not public yet.

On a much brighter note: only a couple of months ago, dear Tom, in an effort to wake me up and get me writing I suspect (as well as, bless him, finding me some comfort) located gypsy-pegs on ebay and bid for them all one jolly Sunday afternoon. And here they are. A beautiful, vintage collection from Liverpool (Irish descendency? Romantic caravans?!) complete with knotted string (again Tom) and I love them. The feel of them, just as I did.

But I don’t have the strength to shake them now. and Lucy keeps chasing them – of course. They sit on the book-shelves beside me and I admire them. And it’s comforting to know they are there. And shakeable!

Now I just day-dream things out. A sort-of metaphorical diggle-daggling. Until sometimes they do become goals and they happen.

Many of the scenes I diggle-daggled as a child became reality in later life. As though pre-ordained and I just caught a glimpse of their future. My own. I was acting out destiny.

In memory: diggle-daggling was special and always exciting. But there were those in the family (most?) who thought I was mad and didn’t understand that I was bored. Intellectually bored. They just “labelled” me delinquent and turned their backs.

I know now it was incomprehension on their part and I forgive them. But it made life difficult.

As did announcing I would be Catholic when I was nine.

I know, and knew, all these things were blessings, graces from God.

And in a “diggle-daggle” day-dream, after my first watching of “Crufts” on TV (I watch lots of stuff now I’d have ignored before, just because I can’t move easily out of this chair – and I didn’t yet have Internet) the idea of Lucy was born. And planned. We found a breeder (Google) with a pregnant bitch. Apricot colour. And the puppies came into the world.

Lucy literally existed and, in theory, was ours. Tom just had to "train it" from London to Crewe (and back!), choose a female, the best temperament for our dysfunctional home and pay a deposit. Which he did. And fell in love. And we have a gorgeous photograph of tiny Lucy, just three weeks old, curled up in his hand, again on the bookshelves. (How precious these Argos shelves have become. Filled as they are with nearly every book I studied for my BA when I was in my mid-40’s, and now decorated by the special mementos of our lives. They were the first piece of furniture Tom erected when we moved in here, just four years ago, to make me feel at home. God, what a good son. And brilliant buy from the great council-house store!).

Anyway, so Tom had chosen Lucy - and vice versa by the sounds of it and what I see now! - and that was when the arguments started. Was it a good idea to have a dog (“never call a poodle a dog, they take offence!” I read somewhere)? Practical?

No, of course not. But Tom was smitten. And I still loved the dream...

Roman apartamento - large enough for Tom to own half with his family. Companion poodle. Companion/PA/helper - live-in. Bells of a Basilica, pastoral priests. Pizza (preferably ristorante downstairs which – who! – can bring me my food if Tom is out!). Sunshine, warm. Sound of Vespas and cheering “Ciao’s” mixed with aroma of espresso coffee. Tinkling fountain in the courtyard for Lucy and her friends to splash about in. Red Ferrari for Tom to be a boy in. Oh, bella, bella! It goes on.

And I am kidding. For a while just the idea of a friendly poodle at my feet (never under!) was enough.

And you see the blessing of the diggle-daggle?!

We argued and neither of us was consistent. We kept contradicting ourselves and, more vociferously, each other.

Quotes from Tom during this time:

* “but if we don’t get her now it will be like a miscarriage”;
* “I went all the way up there.”;
* “we’ve paid the deposit”;
* (pained face) “but we bonded, she knows who I am”;
* “it would make us more of a family”;
* “I always wanted a dog”;
* (pleading expression) “but she’s cute!”.

Even my brother, Blob (family nickname - origin unknown!), who still visits, agreed it would be Tom who was heartbroken if Lucy didn’t join us. We should “give it a go”.

You know, try as we might to convince the world we’re hardened, heartless individuals, Tom and I really are a couple of softies. True sentamentalists. And the arguments truly were from the heart. Because we both loved the idea but were hurting from the knowledge that I had MS and might not (probably would not) be able to look after her.

And Tom wasn’t going to be around. He didn’t want to be because he had to be “young”. And that hurt him, that he knew he had to let us down (though the hurt wasn’t showing, only the resentment at my having presented him this dilemma).

It was horrible.

And then a friend of Tom’s, Richard, offered to take him up to Crewe, this time to collect Lucy and bring her back – to live! When she was eight weks old. Perfect.

The ulterior motive for Richard was that he wanted to try out his new Porsche. “Run her in”!

So, together at last, Tom and I said “Yes!”

It was all good. Except it wasn’t. On the morning they were to set off I changed my mind...

Once in a while I see the reality of MS. The reality as others – mostly officials who haven’t got it themselves but feign to be experts (i.e. neurologists and MS nurse) - see it: the given prognosis for PPMS – the progressive worsening of symptoms and deterioration to be expected. And of course, the more my body validates their conjecture the stronger my anger and denial become. Which, in turn, gives me energy and a burst of enthusiasm. I believe in miracles. I use herbal remedies.

But, this morning, as Tom was travelling across S.E. London to pick up his Porsche pal (dear Richard!) and after saying my prayers, I looked back, over recent years.

And that’s when it looks bad - and I have to admit
“they” know rather more than I want them to – when I actually look back at the decline and fall (often literal) of it all. In recent time.

You see, day to day, even though you are often aware you’re worse than yesterday, you don’t recognise that this is permanent degeneration. You may have a “good” day tomorrow. What you don’t want to realise is that a good day now is what would have been considered a bad day, even a year ago. But five years ago? Six, when I got the eventual diagnosis (2001)? It would have seemed catastrophic/soul-destroying.

And, of course, it’s not. You go with it – especially by following the cross of Christ’s crucifixion. You join Jesus by offering your suffering up, as sacrifice, in prayer for the world (“Redemptive Suffering”). And it’s not hopeless. It does have a point. You are useful.

But able to look after a puppy? Keep it clean? And the house? Train it? Not likely. It was a pipe-dream. No. Everything we’d done, almost certainly, was for nothing. All the books we(I)’d read, the room we’d got ready, the supplies; Richard volunteering to sacrifice his Saturday; Tom, in love with a cuddly “toy”. The whole notion was ridiculous. I’d be permanently in the wheelchair (waiting in the hall) any moment and bed-ridden soon after that – give it five years. Poodles live, on average, 15! This must not be allowed to happen...

I rang Tom up – mobile-definitive-decision: “STOP!”.

But he wouldn’t. Said it was too late, all planned. We couldn’t let Richard down or Anne, the breeder, or Lucy. I’d had plenty of time to say this before. (Well, I think I had, at least once, but maybe not with so much conviction.. It’s not something you want to make a habit of, admitting you’re a helpless cripple (only I can say things like that!)). And it was no good. He wouldn’t listen (probably didn’t even engage – that would have made him panic (not because of my state you understand but those reasons he gave above!)). Mumbled something about ebay if it didn’t work out (what, selling her like a cast-off coat?).

And Lucy was on her way!

And I was kind-of glad.

And now, as I write this, it’s ten months later – January 2007. And Lucy is curled up at my feet - the sweetest, calmest creature you could ever wish to meet.

And let me tell you, because I know I’ve gone on too long, how we reached this point..

Well, after Tom stayed home the first week with Lucy - rushing up and down to pet shops, visiting the vets and groomers to put all in place – and after we’d successfully (?) house-trained her (Anne had already got her used to cat-litter trays), during the day and a couple of evenings a week, I was alone. Humanly. It was just Jesus and me and a canine (albeit a very small, timid one).

And it was too much. The pain in my legs was excruciating. And the fatigue was, as is with MS, chronic. I had known physical exhaustion before when Tom was born by caesarean and I was put in a strange council-flat (for the first time) with a violent, Chelsea-fan, husband – I make no connection! Maybe even with MS. Probably. But this was worse. My stupid legs and fatigue were letting everyone down.

But the Good Lord urged me on. I added more cayenne pepper into my daily regime of herbs and kept going. But it was showing, and I was a bit worried. And did shout about finding her another home.

Tom though, still besotted and absolutely adoring of his little “sister” just - as usual - buried his head in the sand and left me to get on with it. If anyone was going to do anything to change things it would have to be me. Of course!

And so time wore on and Lucy and I grew closer – I was liking chatting to her (though I was slightly concerned it might spoil my silent communion with God). I started to see she was the “companion” everyone (including the MS nurse and priest) had said she’d be and that, in fact, she was saving my sanity – there just is too much being alone. She was helpful to all (?!) my other relationships.

And I began to feel, she too, was a gift from God.

Physically, it was – and still is – a nightmare, but golly gosh (where did that come from? Enid Blyton? ‘Bunty’?! I’m a child again!) it does do good for the soul to be putting another before yourself. And on that she insisted!

The only thing left to worry about – as long as I could keep standing – was my writing. Because without that I am not me. I do not recognise myself.

And that’s when - oh blessings! – I learned about John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. And Charley being a (standard) poodle.

Oh joy, joy! Someone (the great and prolific Steinbeck!) had written with a poodle at his feet, alone in a customised pick-up truck (wow!), roughing it across America.

Oh, could anything be more comparable to Lucy and me in our cramped little council-flat with our diggle-daggle dreams, struggling to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’? It was perfect. I would write Travels with Lucy!

And Tom, again, with brother Blob, came to the rescue. By the time I had proved the point by writing this in draft they knew enough of this former journalist to know that when she said she’d write a blog (or two!) she meant it and had better be set-up with the Net (spoilt or what?!).

I bought a new lap-top and the DLA (Disability Living Allowance) let me install wireless (at least I hope it did; having Lucy was already more financial burden than I was used to. But you know how it goes: “It will be an investment!”).

And the boys got it going.

Thus, I set off on a huge learning exercise: not only was I still training Lucy but I had to get used to this cyber-space thing. And peruse all the information on blogs. I had to study blogs. And then there was the odd forum to join and join in on. Very unfortunately, the MS Society’s Forum is totally addictive.

I had to learn to conquer the universal addiction to surfing the Net. Quite a task!

Anyway, there we were, the end of January. And, all of a suddden, for the first time, I could say: “Happy New Year!” and mean it. It was “All systems go!” (except of course for the Central Nervous System which was going but in the wrong direction!).

And, because it’s the kind of person I am, with prayer and a diggle daggle I am filled with optimism.

Lucy and I are on our way...

Blog Note: okay folks, this post looks fine here (Word) but now I have to paste it onto Blogger (I can’t see well enough to write on that screen!). Please bear with me and forgive imperfections!