abendgules: (self-portrait)
I came back from the colonies with a lot on my mind.


Ageing sucks. Avoid at all costs.

If you cannot avoid, start now to strengthen your body so you're not as vulnerable to falls, fragile bones, collapsing vertebra, and loss of muscle tone. Just keep at it.

Nurses (and other medic types) remain the worst patients. They know it all and are lousy at taking advice from their own GPs.

If you insist on getting old, start downsizing now. Do not leave emotional cluster-bomb crap for your relatives to deal with.

My mum's house is thick with photographs and it feels physically oppressive to me, this celebration of the past; no photos less than 10 years old, most of them much older. Cannot imagine inheriting a stately home, if just a bunch of pictures make me feel loaded down with expectation.

Do it now, whatever it is.

I attended the funeral of a man 2 years younger than me: son to my parents' longtime friends K&A. I grew up w/ Tom and his brothers, though as a teen you stop going to dinner at your parents' friends' homes, so I'd not seen him since late teens.

Tom lost control of his motorbike on a dry straight road on Father's Day. Of the 4 brothers he was the only one with a wife and 2 small kids of his own.

The funeral service was packed with people who, I suspect, were not used to mourning; adults who have not yet seen elderly parents and ageing friends die, who had little experience with death.

I'm not an expert, but it felt to me like there were a lot of people not certain how to mourn; men, in particular, used to being happy, angry, outgoing, but not grieving. It was really breaking them.

Once again I had a chance to observe a good 'court herald' in the funeral home staff - setting the tone and pace, directing people and providing cues without appearing to push - and an experienced minister who was excellent at keeping it brief, and focusing on the joyful life rather than the sudden death.

There's real skill in making people welcome when they're not at their best, when emotions run high, and to make them as comfortable as possible. I was impressed by the funeral home's professionalism.

One slightly eerie aspect: Tom had recently started playing guitar again, after giving up his teen dreams of stardom. Just this week he'd recorded himself playing and singing one song, about 3 minutes, on his phone. His wife found it after he'd died, and she played the clip at the funeral. It was peculiar, but very apt, for Tom to sing a song at his own funeral.

The takeaway message though was - live today like it's your last. Don't put off plans, dreams, goals. Do them now.

My extended family remain a pretty remarkable and cool bunch of people. I caught up with several cousins and 2nd cousins, and am grateful that they are still really awesome folks.

I was deeply, profoundly grateful for old friends in Canada who were untroubled by my phoning them out of the blue, to ask for help. My friend Julia and her household made me welcome and I stayed more than a week, mostly just overnights, as a place to unwind, close to Mum's house.

I didn't manage to reach everyone I wanted to, which was disappointing. Will have to follow up online.

Am finishing this post and going to bed. Hoping to get to sleep sometime before 3.30am this time...
abendgules: (Mountjoy)
...w/ one of Robert's brothers and his family. They're passing through en route to the continent for several weeks' tour.

It was a splendid dinner at a fine restaurant (duck with fennel and green sauce for me); the kids found it a bit 'weird', though dessert went down easily. Hard to argue with chocolate terrine and Eton mess.

The family's strongest observations were about the multicultural mix in London and European migration. Of course they're visiting in touristy London, which is, well, full of foreigners. :-)

And they think the Tube is brilliant. Christchurch NZ doesn't have much public transportation.

I was surprised to hear that Christchurch still has a lot of buildings not yet rebuilt - not even yet knocked down - after the earthquakes a few years ago. The cathedral I can understand would take time, but I'd have thought agreeing on rebuilding the centre of town would be straightforward.

Sadly the handsome limestone 19th c university buildings, the ones that reminded me strongly of Queen's and Kingston, built in the same era, are all gone, lost to the earthquake and subsidence.
abendgules: (Default)
On Sunday we braved the downpours and went to meet my cousin Sarah at Guildhall Gallery, to see the 'Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker' exhibit of livery company regalia and craft examples. Guilds and companies have a long history in London, as the first trade unions and examples of early charitable organisations, looking after their own aged, infirm, orphaned and widowed, when noone else did.

The companies still exist, but their joining requirements have often changed to accommodate whoever is interested in them - I know that the worshipful company of gold and silver wire-drawers no longer require that you be in the trade to join (so I was told by one of their remaining token wire-drawers, at a MEDATS conference some years ago).

Most of the exhibits were post-1600, but there were some early medieval and medieval gems:

the first guild charter from Henry II, 1155, for the weavers' guild was on display in suitably illegible Romanesque secretary hand;

a 12th century ring seal, found in the Thames by a mudlark;

some 14th and 15th c guild books, listing the membership, particularly those who'd died who you were supposed to pray for;

some late-period plate, and portraits, of course, including the famous Holbein painting of Henry VIII giving a charter to the guild of barber-surgeons, with the key members looking suitably grateful and obsequious.

There was the first known example of a metal candlestick, dated about 1325, and a very innocuous one it was, representing one of the metalworker guilds (not the goldsmiths). There was a post-period horn-plate lantern, created by the horners - those who work in animal horn. Apparently the horners now support research into plastics, their material's functional descendant.

On the metalwork side, there were the 'hall marks' - sheet plates of metal that showed each craftsman's mark, that was displayed in the livery hall. Hallmarks are of course still a going concern; in a way the goldsmiths' company has changed the least in its purpose since foundation. Their website is very slick.

There were pattens, but they were dated to 1800. It hadn't occurred to me that pattens would continue in use after 1600, even though I know that chopines were fashionable well after the 16th c...but there would have been muck to tread through, or avoid, for centuries to come! 

These pattens were strictly functional ones, for a child, and in addition to the wooden sole had a circular metal cleat attached to the bottom, that added another couple of inches of height. They'd be just as big a pain in the butt to walk in as my pattens, I expect.

There were also gloves - an example of a glove of Elizabeth I, laid next to one of Elizabeth II, from her Coronation. Styles in embroidery had changed somewhat, but not greatly (E2's was more heavily crusted with raised work). E1's had extra stitching running from between the fingers onto the back of the hand, to make her fingers look extra long and delicate.

Following the visit, we moved on to Spitalfields for coffee and visit with Sarah, who was passing through for a wedding, and we got to view her wedding pictures and catch up a bit on family gossip.

I'm very fond of my cousins, but haven't seen most of them in over 10 years, often longer. My mum's family worked hard to keep in touch when we were all little, with regular gatherings, weddings, and notably my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary in 1979, where everyone pulled out the stops to show up.

My memories of children and teens I hung out with at family gatherings, fixed in my own teens and early 20s, are often jolted by current pictures of adults, some of them with gray hair, some of them with kids. How can relatives younger than me be going gray?? Goodness knows I'm ageless and untouched by the years...

abendgules: (Default)
...and I'm flying shortly, myself.

Mum is doing waaaaaay better. Still using the walker, but her gait is far more confident, and I haven't seen her stop for a rest while walking since the surgery. Only the occasional pain med. Amazing.

I wouldn't have believed the difference if I hadn't seen it myself.

She still has several other health concerns (what senior doesn't) but this surgery seems to have given her a useful life back.

Splendid visit at Trillium war yesterday - all too brief, and all too many people missed for one reason or another.

Gave Mssrs Rufus and Martin the surprise of their lives, which was charming, and met their little guys. Ealdormere is certainly doing the recruiting-by-reproduction route of many other kingdoms - it's amazing to see, such a different view from 10 years ago, where babies & toddlers were exceptional.

Extracted as much peer-like wisdom from those assembled as I could, and came away with some thoughtful gems. 

Sat in on an illumination class, did a small illumination.

Watched the start of court, but couldn't stay for the whole of it, which was a shame - the Great Court of Ealdormere is a fine display, and was very well attended.

Judging by the many many fine silk banners, the gospel of heraldic display is alive and well in Ealdormere. Next up: the gospel of the pavalino... or perhaps a distinct canvas campground. If people can accept the idea, the visual difference is astonishing.

Rounded out the day with a long call to Sarra Graeham, one of my favourite people - manage to catch her at a good time to talk. I miss talking with her almost above anyone else in Ealdormere (well, I still think of her as such, even though she has roots in both Ealdormere and EK).

Am now packed (just! don't know if my wheelie case will manage another trip after this), washed dressed and ready.
abendgules: (prickly)
Mum seems recuperating at an astonishing rate; minimum of pain meds, doing her recommended exercises, moving around the house largely without the new walker. She'd been unwilling to even walk from kitchen to bathroom without it last week.

She puttered in the yard while I did laundry and ironing. I trimmed my new jeans and pinned for hemming.

I'm almost concerned she'll try to throw herself back into activity too soon; I don't want her to rush, and somehow impede her own recovery in her keenness to get back to normal activity.

She's off driving for at least 2 weeks; someone other than me has to pitch in as driver at least for the short term, for groceries and errands. Driving after that remains tba.

A family friend JK was around for lunch, but I found I ran out of steam in early afternoon, growing increasingly short-tempered, and even a meal and coffee wasn't enough to keep me going, and I retired to snooze. The tension of surgery day was catching up with me, I think.

We've had a stream of calls of friends and family checking in, and Mum has answered most of them. How much she's feeling better is audible in her voice.

It's been a strange visit; between doing a lot of worrying about Mum's health and her capacity to live independently, it's been delightful to slouch about in shorts and t-shirt, or go running in full sunshiny warmth - needing sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. I wish Robert were here to bask in the fine weather with me.
abendgules: (tea in winter)
Off to a rough start: first surgery of the day was complicated and ran overtime, creating a domino effect of bumping everyone else later and later, with no spare time to catch up. 

We arrived waaay early for a 11.30 slot to find that the 10am and 10.30 am patients still sitting waiting to be gowned. It made for a long day, with Mum unable to eat or drink, and down to her last pain med, sitting in the waiting area.

The nurses and support staff were terribly apologetic; I guess in a small hospital there isn't much resilience (ie backup surgeon and team, second OR prepped, etc). I'm once again very impressed by the sincere, friendly professionalism at Bowmanville hospital, so different from the briskness or stretched-to-the-limit-of-civility in the largeToronto hospitals.

I finally asked if we had to wait there or could go elsewhere, and we were allowed to escape for an hour, to run errands in the car - no more comfortable for Mum, but at least diverting.

I suspect I was more stressed/tired than I thought: twice I missed the turn into the hospital drive to drop Mum off outside the doors, heading instead to our usual mostly-legal parking spot we occupied when visiting Dad in the same hosp. last year.

Having had my fill of waiting rooms once Mum was taken in, I shamelessly went clothes shopping while she was in surgery, and surprised myself at the local Winners and Marks (now inside the Canadian Tire(?)) with jeans, trousers and t-shirts on sale.

Mum seems very bright for someone just through surgery - after finally getting to eat and drink when we got in, she tried on my new clothes(!) and hopes to find another pair of trousers for herself. I finally said I wanted to go to bed, to prompt her.

I suspect the local numbing hasn't yet worn off, and she'll be sore tomorrow, but the pre-op nurse said 'it's likely less painful than what brought you here'. She has a sore throat from an awkward intubation, but otherwise the nurses commented that she was doing really well post-op.

We've made all the pressing calls and texts to family and friends, and will probably be fielding more tomorrow.

Very relieved today; I was waiting for it all to go wrong, and result in being admitted, real incision surgery, complications, etc etc. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
abendgules: (monsters)
Today's the date for Mum's gallbladder surgery - hopefully keyhole version, though the surgeon reserves the right to make a real incision if needed. We've done the preop paperwork song and dance and in theory she's set to go.

I was struck by the difference in 'care culture' between the GP's office (nothing was too much trouble to help keep the patient from making repeat visits) and the surgeon's (here's your papers, you figure it out).

If Mum is in good shape post-op, I'm minded to visit Trillium war, which is very close by.

[livejournal.com profile] larmer tells me that Saturday has more people, but Sunday has the heralds meeting :-) and the classes. He's lining up loaner kit for me.

I didn't bring a single stitch of medieval anything, b/c the messages I was getting from family gave me the impression that I'd barely get out of the house on this trip. That was probably true when my aunt was here looking after Mum, but she's much improved with diagnosis, and better drugs - better living through modern chemistry, and all that.

Well crap

Jun. 13th, 2012 02:13 pm
abendgules: (prickly)
Another trip to the homeland likely, probably next week. Have to see Mum, and her condition, for myself.
abendgules: (15thc_worker)
 ...mostly back to normal, for a given value of normal.

Mostly I feel...subdued, like I've lost an edge of sharpness that I usually have. It feels almost inappropriate to be fully 'back to normal', so I can't say if this state is one I've adopted because part of me thinks I ought to be subdued shortly after a death, or if this is my actual state. 

I caught myself this week, when someone (who didn't know of Dad) said in the usual social fashion, 'how've you been?'  and I chirped, 'Fine thanks!' in the typical, routine, social pleasantry only mode. I then stopped and said, well, actually, fair to middlin' which is the more honest answer, and proceeded to explain.

I don't want to make a big production of having recently lost a parent; I'm not cruising round my acquaintances in search of tea and sympathy; but I want to remain as truthful as I can. If you ask the question, I'll give you the answer. 

Oddly, at the moment, I don't feel as low as I've sometimes felt for other reasons (all of last fall comes to mind). I still want to make things like scrolls and clothing. I still want to go to Double Wars, learn fencing, read books. I just suspect it will take me longer to do these things than usual.
abendgules: (downhill)
 I know that non-parents' opinions about parenting are about as popular as the Pope opining about birth control. But I recently came across this blog, and thought it was fascinating.

Evidence based Mummy: child and parent psychology for the sleep-deprived. I especially liked her 3 month roundup, that listed topics she'd covered.

It reminded me of the two books that I know affected me as I was growing up, because they were on my mum's bookshelf.

Kids are worth it - I remember Dame Sarra talking about this one. She does not claim to be a perfect parent, but has some of the nicest kids I know, the type that make you think having kids might be worthwhile, not just a bottomless pit of expense and complaints.

How to talk so your kids listen, and listen so your kids will talk, which some reviewers recommend for talking to adults too. God knows I could use the advice sometimes.

abendgules: (Confesse)
We found out about the huge earthquake in NZ on Saturday, but a call home to Robert's family determined that everyone was fine; large tools danced across the shed, a car crunched by a fallen chimney. Sounds like Southron Guard has escaped with just interrupted power, water and internet, though the cleanup of the city centre will take awhile. Remarkable photos available from [livejournal.com profile] basal_surge's post.

After a reasonably lazy Saturday, and being treated to a select menu at Alaric and Nerissa's on Sat PM (Alaric just plain likes cooking for people) we cycled to Knightsbridge/Sloan Square area to visit some pusscats (one of R's gaming friends is on holidays).

This is usually a 40 min ride for me south to South bank, then west across Westminster bridge towards the posher part of town. Unfortunately, we chose the day that the Mayor of London was running the Sky Ride, a day of cycling around the city, with closed streets, marshals, and tons of families herding very small cyclists down main roads. So our easy cycle route was made into a series of detours by... cyclists. Argh.

However, said kitties are well, and were glad of attention.

Where Hackney kitties play with butcher's string and consider themselves well entertained, West Kensington kitties play with ribbons off Hermes boxes. :-) However, the play is just the same - kitties are happily oblivious of status other than their own.

Had a very pleasant visit with Basilia, helping to warm her new flat in Leyton. Just about the nicest rental flat I've ever seen in London, and she looks well and happy. She really deserves some good karma, she's had such a crap run of bad. 
abendgules: (Default)
Man I miss bright sunny clear days. You can count them on one hand in London, even in summer. Today it's beautifully clear, and just around 0. Gorgeous.

On cheery topics, the Cranach gown is getting my undivided craft attention, because it's the only craft thing I have here.
I got the chemise neckline knife-pleated into a band, and both sleeves cartridge-pleat-gathered into a cuff, leaving a big frill on the other side of the cuff band. The rolled hem on the cuffs (I figured out rolled hems! hurrah! with a tutorial online) makes the frill really stand out, because the linen is still rather stiff. I think it'll soften with washing.

As a general gathering method, I think cartridge-pleating isn't much better than regular gathering stitches. It's only worthwile if you're going to stitch down every pleat. The shirts in the new PoF are very precisely pleated, but they probably had finer linen and more of it!

My current flight plans bring me back 3 days before Crown, so if all goes well, I'll still be back, and in time to finish the bustband, hang the skirt, and hem it.

If visiting my folks tells me anything, it's to keep on top of your clutter. They've lived in the same house since 1966, and rather than dealing with their stuff, they've built a new shelf or cupboard to store it: for books, for papers, for old tools, clothes, camping gear, hunting kit, and god knows how much archery kit. I'm terrified of having to clear out the house, without knowing what on earth is important, and to whom.

Mum has kept her notes from nursing college in the late 1950s - they're practically worth returning to the college as historic research material now.

If you can: go home today, and throw out a bag of stuff. Doesn't matter what it is - just deal with it.

Off to make soup with mum for delivery to the drop-in centre, then to hospital to visit, then possibly some shopping - top-grade maple syrup and the toiletries I can't find in the UK. Hoping to hit MEC at some point to see what's available. My current MEC jacket is pretty tired out and is wearing through at the cuffs.
abendgules: (Default)
I'm off to Toronto tomorrow, Sunday 15th, planning to return 24/25th March (overnight flight), based at my parents' home in N. York in between, attending family matters.

If you're Toronto-based, drop me a line with a phone number, and I'll try to call when I get to TO.


abendgules: (Default)

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