Sunday, 15 June 2014

End of Life Conversations in a Waffle Bar and a New Liverpudlian Lodger

Here I am with Eileen, on her last visit to Bognor, before she moves to Tanzania for three years.  I am sitting on my sofa, and opposite me sits Eileen, drinking tea and staring out of the window.  It strikes me that if she is leaving me I should stop doing the blog and talk to her.  She has been so busy getting ready to emigrate, I wonder if a bit of nothing is a godsend to her, but I have not checked so maybe she is just polite and is very surprised, as I tap away at this blog, that our last hours together in this house are not more conversational.

As I laid aside my laptop in order to chat with my dear old friend, Giant Boy came in to play the piano.  Eileen and I are now only able to nod kindly to each other on our sofas through an explosion of piano and all the while, her departure date gets nearer.  Ah well.  Perhaps this is what life is about.  We do not know what is around the corner.  Neither of us knew that Giant Boy was going to do some furious and enthusiastic Rachmaninov while Eileen and I sit on our sofas for her last hour on her last visit here to Bognor before she moves to Africa.

Eileen and I have no real need to talk anyway, we know what the other is thinking after all these years.  And so I have taken up my laptop to continue the blog because I know Eileen is thinking that I should do so.  I am going with her to the airport when she is flying out, so I do have one more afternoon with her, which I look forward to.  It will be strange to leave the airport and know that she is no longer in the country, but probably not nearly as strange as Eileen will feel sitting on a plane flying to Africa where she will be living and working for the next few years.

Since last week, when I was in a bit of a post exhibition trough, things have picked up.  One of my lodgers told me I look calm these days. I wonder if she is mistaking calm for vacant, which I have been, since the exhibition ended.   But now, the low is not so low, the down is not so down, and I am on the way back up to a happy and jolly medium.

The Conversations Project

I am excited about this.  It is very important that we have the ability to start to discuss, mention, think aloud about, and ponder end of life things without feeling it is gloomy, or distasteful, or odd.  Just to open that door in our consciousness could make all the difference when at some point, we are faced with someone (or ourselves) dying.  Gail Willington and I will roll out these simple, enabling and gentle sessions as often as we can wherever we can.  Gail is the owner and founder of Elizabeth Way Funeral Services in Lancashire. I wrote a piece about her work here

The poster for our next Conversations is below.

Our Conversations event coming up, just for you.  No waffling ha ha ha.

As you can see, at last, I have found a venue for this session of our Conversations.  I had a few nervous rebuffs from other people I approached, which shows how sensitive this subject can be.  A very nice man here in Bognor called Richard, has recently opened a bright and airy Waffle and Ice Cream Parlour; just the place to chat about the dying.  Val from Community Organisers (who is supporting and helping with this event) put me onto him, and I expected him to look pained when I cycled up to the shop to ask if Gail and I could chat about death in his cafe with strangers, but he didn't.  Fine, he said.  And so the venue was sorted.  What a Waffle is a bright, colourful, American Diner type venue, so I think it will be perfect and, there will be waffles.  Lots of waffles.  Put the 9 July in your diaries, and come on down.

On the Home Front

Today, as the new lodger was moving in, Giant Boy decided to cook dinner.  The kitchen is like a mad scientist's lab from an old black and white film while he is in there, and I wonder if the new lodger thinks this is normal.

Giant Boy channelling his inner Doris
My new lodger, a charming, twinkling Liverpudlian Bouncer who reminds me of Ricky Gervais, has taken the tiniest room in the house.  He arrived today with an X Box and no other discernible luggage.  In the kitchen on his first day, was Giant Boy in an apron and a pair of trousers.  Dear Giant Boy, the meal was wonderful and while we were eating it in my sitting room, (a noodle stew/soup with veg which we ate with forks which took a long time) my anxious Polish lodger cleaned up the entire kitchen for us.  I wonder if the Bouncer thinks that is normal too.  Either all my lodgers clean up after me and my boys, or just this anxious Polish man has been singled out for endless washing up.  Whatever, I have eaten, the kitchen is cleaned, and when I last saw him, Giant Boy is still wearing the apron.   My new lodger seems to have gone out, and has not come back.  He may be in a hotel nearby phoning for a courier to come and collect his X Box asap.

This Week

This week another dear friend comes to stay, Sam from Ooop North.  Sam ran a care home for years, became utterly exhausted, and gave up.  She has lost four stone since we last saw each other, so leaving work seems to have been the right move.  There will be much to catch up on, and so much to say.  Sam put together a wonderful programme of training for care homes called Soul Carers, which goes very well with A Graceful Death.  Now that she is not at the care home any more, and may have more time, I think she should take on lots of work with A Graceful Death and very happy about it.  I think she should long to do all the difficult stuff like organising, PR, finance and admin.  I shall put it to her and wait for her to thank me with tears in her eyes.  Actually, there is much that Soul Carers and AGD can do together, I will see what she says.  She calls a spade a spade, so will tell me quite quickly to get knotted if she thinks it is not a good idea.

Sam requested this painting be done, of the wonderful way she trained her staff  to sit with the dying at any time of day or night at the care home.  Winnie here is dying but it is the relationship between the two carers that is so lovely.  The carer on the right is training the carer on the left to vigil.
And Finally

Here is why I am a bit tired tonight

  • I have had a new lodger move in today, I have waved the last one on her merry way back to Poland for an operation on her leg. I saw on Facebook that she stopped off in Brighton to go to a Rod Stewart concert first, and wonder if her leg mysteriously improved for the evening. 
  • Eileen has been to stay for the last time before moving to Africa. I felt a bit sad, but she is letting me have her flat screen telly so I think I can hold out till she comes back
  • Other Son, my rather enigmatic and fashionable older son is here but does not like to communicate facts, so I have to guess how long he is staying and why.  
  •  Giant Boy is walking around in trousers and a flowery apron making bad jokes to the foreign lodgers who think he is being serious.

On top of all this, I am making my daughter's wedding invitations.  We, Fancy Girl, her friends and I, are setting up a factory on my dining room table where we will churn out the most amazing hand made wedding invites, RSVP cards, and wedding direction/information cards.  There will be lace, there will be brown card, and there will be tartan.  Say no more.  I have promised to give them vegetarian scotch eggs and coleslaw with home made garlic mayonnaise as a treat, so I have special dispensation to go into the kitchen and cook.  I expect there will be lots of cake too, but I shall buy them from Sainsburys.

Some things to look forward to

  • Bed
  • My new trashy detective novel
  • Old age
  • Giant Boy finding a purpose in life
  • Other Son finding a purpose in life
  • Breakfast
  • Huge success and adulation
  • I have 4od on my phone now and can watch One Born Every Minute all the time
Some things to not look forward to
  • Clearing up after this weekend
  • Worrying about the boys' lack of purpose in life
  • No one turning up for the Conversations
  • Old age
  • Eileen's flat screen telly not working
  • Giant Boy not remembering he has the flowery apron on until after college tomorrow
  • Winter 

Lying happily and cosily at last on my bed.  The sooner I can get to sleep the sooner I can have my breakfast.  Night all 

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