Everything you wanted to know about lime mortar but were afraid to ask

OK, so it’s a subject you may never have discussed at a dinner party or over the post office counter but I really feel more informed now on the topic of lime mortar than I ever have before. We need minor repairs done to the roof of the house so I invite a number of tradesmen to come and have a look and give us a quote for the work they think needs doing. We had a survey done before we bought the house but felt the surveyor lacked a little in imagination and possibly experience. He assessed the age of the house as being built in 1900. This we know immediately is wrong but let it go and concentrate on the meat of the survey, part of which is that there is a small amount of damp coming into the house.

When we move into the house, we see small patches of damp but the house doesn’t smell of damp and considering it hasn’t been lived in for two years, it is in remarkably good condition. So, with Mr Mason pulling faces that say “Do we really have to do this NOW?” I contact several roofers to come and do their worst. Within minutes, we have responses and have the first roofer coming over that very day. He has been a builder for several years but has had an accident at work and is only now just getting back into building work again. We find people in Lincolnshire like to stop and have a chat and this includes tradesmen, the postman (Tim) and just about everyone else. So, Seve, the first roofer, suggests a few solutions and then is on his way having given us a day rate and an assessment that the work will take up to one and a half days to complete.

Tradesman 2 is Ambrose. He’s very ruddy faced, as a proper roofer ought to be, but also shocks us by saying he is getting old and that he will be 50 this year. Mr Mason and I had been mentally assessing him as in his 60s but mentally he is definitely older than the age of his teeth. Speaking of teeth, Ambrose and Seve both seem to have relatively full sets but the next roofers seem remarkably lacking. Next we have Lee who is amiable but I like less. His quote is cheaper than Ambrose’s, has no front teeth and suggests at one point spraying a weatherproof coating over the roof. Mr Mason’s face must have told him he was on the wrong tack as he shut that option down quickly.

At 5pm we have our final roofer, Alex. He has a range of teeth missing and his clothing is covered in paint and what-not so he looks the part. He is also Scots which may have something to do with the lack of teeth (sorry, Scottish readers). Alex talks the hind leg off a donkey. He starts talking at 5pm and leaves, still talking all the way down the drive just after 7pm. But he is interesting. We discover he is a specialist in old buildings, especially those which are listed. Ours isn’t listed but we know it’s not originally Victorian having lived here for just a few days. He talks lovingly about different kind of bricks, building methods, pantiles and the difference between lime mortar and any other kind of brick filling. Yes, I’ve forgotten all about it already yet I know lime mortar is very important. I know we are going to use his services rather than the others’ when he suggests putting smoke bombs up the chimney. The expression on Mr Mason’s face is a picture.

We continue working on the house during the week, planning each day to go out but having something preventing us. The bed we ordered, as you know, went AWOL. By Monday I have emailed MFW with a strongly-worded missive and later I am called by a lady called Carol who is the Customer Service manager. She tells me the bed was out of stock which is why only half was delivered. In a Universe somewhere, this makes sense but I am too tired of the whole thing to question her logic, especially as she seems to have been actually doing something about it. She has found another bed which is very similar and emails a picture over to us. If we like it, she will order it and it will be with us the following day. We like it and agree. The bed arrives the following day. We dismantle our bed and move it into a spare bedroom. We unpack the new bed. It is damaged. Part of the metal is bent so I email Carol a photo and we then go and put our bed back together again so we have somewhere to sleep. The work is agony but Mr Mason can’t do it on his own so I take oramorph and continue. It’s hard to breathe when I bend over so that makes it even more difficult and I just feel cross. In the night, Dog gets up a couple of times which is unusual for him. I think it is because we are sleeping in a different room but when we get up in the morning, it becomes obvious that there is no heating and he has just been cold. We check the oil level which shows about 3/4 of a tank and although I look up the manual of the boiler online, we can’t get to the bit we need to fiddle with so start phoning around for an engineer. Someone can come the following morning at 8.30 so we know we’re in for a cold night. Dog gets his pyjamas on.

Carol asks if we can live with the defect or do we want another bed delivered? We say we will try to put it together and see if it works. The damage appears to be at the back of the bed where it will not be seen so we decide this is OK. We put the new sheet on, open the new duvet cover and then the new packs of duvets. We have chosen wool again (honestly, if you’ve never tried it, do. It’s the most comfortable thing to sleep under and really seems to regulate your temperature) and have bought a spring/autumn weight and a summer weight. We look to see how they clip together. Ah. One has button holes and the other has button holes. Hmmmm. Neither has buttons which means they will not join together. I phone the company (Soak and Sleep – what a rubbish name) and explain my problem. She knows exactly what I am talking about and can arrange for the summer duvet to be collected and a new one with buttons on delivered when they have some in stock.

The engineer arrives at 8.30 on the dot the following morning and is a cheerful man who explains to us how the boiler works. He also tells us that part of the problem is that we are out of oil. Yes, our lovely vendors omitted to tell us that the gauge on the tank does not work. We phone a local oil company and beg them to try and come out today. They promise they will try and that’s where our story ends for today. We seem to have had a range of minor disasters ever since we moved in but we have also had some lovely events and I promise they will be in the next blog. More than anything, I wanted to catalogue for myself everything that’s been happening so that when everything is running pretty smoothly, I can sit back and really appreciate it. And there will be lots more about lime mortar when Alex starts his work on the roof, I promise.

Happy anniversary!

As you know, in the Mason household we are busy sorting, sifting and throwing things away in preparation for our move on Thursday. I have a large collection of papers in the sitting room and today they have to be gone through. I spend most of the morning in bed with a chemo headache which refuses to abate but likes to cling on, booming away behind my eyelids. I vainly try the Post Office mail redirection helpline but, of course, despite advertising chirpily that they are open, no-one answers the phone. I give up and decide to make sure we have electricity connected and then book a train ticket home for Mr Mason jnr who is going to come and help us move in. After a snooze, I eventually prise myself out of bed and make my way downstairs to face the awaiting paperwork.

One of the first things I find is the pathology report I received on the day I was initially diagnosed with cancer, exactly 3 years ago today. It’s a bit of a gulp moment as I read it through and remember the day I went with my lovely friend, Mrs Halford, and we saw a consultant whose interpersonal skills were so poor he should probably not work with live patients. We are now 3 years down the line and those years have flown by alarmingly quickly. Combined with finding old school reports, cards – particularly birthday cards from Mr Mason jnr which start ‘Dear Mother’ and usually contain instructions such as ‘eat lots of cake and so forth’ – and other memorabilia, it’s a bit of an emotional day. Eventually, I have sorted enough papers out to feel satsified. The rest of the pile will just have to be chucked in a box by the removal men.

Tomorrow most of the packing will be done and then we have a day to clean before everything will be packed into the van. I am almost tempted to pay tribute to the Australian who posted himself back to Australia in a box by allowing myself to be packed into the van but I suspect the idea is more fun than the reality and anyway, we’ve probably thrown away all the small bottles that I could posibly wee into.

I know we’re embarking on a big adventure, one that should enrich our lives and give us the peace and wide open spaces we have always dreamed of but when I left Maggie’s on Friday, I felt bereft. My stomach clenches and I feel really sad and quite sick. We have brought our two beautiful children up in this house, we know the area, we have friends within a few minutes’ walk and I know my way around Charing Cross so well I can direct other people. Seeing our home dismantled is thoroughly unsettling for me. My head knows what will happen but my heart just can’t keep pace. I feel as though anything I put down will be packed up and that I need to carry all the things I need for the next few days around with me like a snail with its shell. Time will sort things out and this time next week, as Mrs Halford puts it, we’ll be in our new crib.

Don’t think for a moment that I am regretting our choice – to move into a house we have been in for a maximum of 15 minutes – but it’s just with chemo, waiting for CT scan results and not being able to find anything, it all feels a bit much. This time next week, things will be very different.

Friday the 13th

Everyone knows how tiring and stressful moving home can be. I just want to add the weight of my voice to that. Oh, it is SO tiring and SO stressful. Even the most simple thing like getting electricty connected to the house for the day we move seems a trial. Our address does not exist. We are quite happy to stay with the company who currently supply us with electricity but they want to connect us to a house called Castle View when we will be Castle House. I don’t imagine the owners of Castle View would be too happy to wake up and find we have changed their electricity supplier. How can we get round this? We need either the number our house occupies in the road or the serial number of the electricity meter. Once again, our vendors are proving tricky to get hold of.

In the week we are due to exchange contracts, they go to ground and don’t respond to texts or emails. As they live in Saudi, telephone contact is not really going to happen. They give information about replacement windows which is, well, not correct shall we say, and this means they will have to provide an indemnity policy should the local authority decide to penalise us over this. They are not only uncontactable but seem to have forgotten to instruct their solicitors to exchange contracts once everything is ready. Cue rush of blood pressure and our buyers in tears. We suggest the buyers might like to come over at the weekend to ‘measure up’ so we can reassure them that we really are planning to move. They are distraught, their solicitors having told them that exchange will happen “tomorrow” for several days. We share complaints and they leave feeling reassured.

On Monday, at the point where we have decided WE will pay for the indemnity policy, our vendors resurface and with just 6 minutes to go before the end of the working day, we have exchanged contracts. A bottle of champagne is put into the fridge by Mr Mason and I delay taking pain medication as long as I can so I can enjoy a sip. I bite the bullet and arrange for Sky to supply us with tv, internet and phone, despite my better judgement. The following day we cancel our service with Virgin Media only to be told we will have to pay a disconnection charge of over £200. We have been with Virgin for many years and this seems wrong, especially as the ‘disconnection’ does not involve anyone physically doing anything like coming to the house. I speak to the Customer Services man who says if he could waive it he would but he can’t. He urges me to complain by writing a letter but I would rather use social media so I tweet and Facebook outlining my complaint. Within minutes I have a response and by the end of the day they have withdrawn the disconnection charge and apologised profusely.

It’s at this point that the fibromyalgia really seems to flare up, leaving me in more and more pain, making it difficult to get comfortable and leaving me very, very tired. It is difficult to stay awake past 8pm and I certainly don’t want to get up before 10am. My day is shrinking dramatically with so much to do. Nearly every plan I have to meet with friends before we go is postponed or cancelled. I really am finding it hard and, with such a short day, I still need a nap in the afternoon. My friend, Ms Marsden, often refers to me as Mrs Dormouse and I really think the dormouse is making a comeback. We are still sorting through the last few areas which haven’t been looked it. It’s hard to know what to do before the removal men come and what to leave for them to do. The moving and all its attendant needs are happening alongside the usual medical and hospital appointments. This week it is oncology, a CT scan (to check whether the current treatment is working – slightly scary) and chemotherapy.

The removal men start packing on Friday morning, the same day as chemo, and will then continue on Wednesday and Thursday next week, delivering half our posessions on Thursday and the final load on Friday. Yes, it’s Friday 13th. Why – do you want to make something of it?

Oranges ARE the only fruit

At the weekend the attic is emptied. Firstly we are up at the crack of dawn as Mr and Mrs Safaie are flying back to Bangkok at 10am and have to leave at 6am. After this I go back to bed for a while having had a dose of Kadcyla the day before and feeling tired and a bit achey. Next it’s off to the vet with Dog who needs his claws clipping. The vet is always known as Dr Bum as usually the first thing he or she does is stick a thermometer up the bottom of whichever animal we have taken along. In case you are wondering, we do not refer to the vet as Dr Bum in the surgery. Dog is never keen on visiting Dr Bum and usually stands looking out of the window, his tail between his legs, plotting ways to escape as soon as the door is opened. By mistake the vet nurse charges me twice the going rate and now I have to go back to have the excess refunded on my card.

Once we get home, the house is thrown into a dusty, dirty turmoil of Things Being Brought Down From The Attic. Stuff that has lingered there for years and years gets to see the light of day. The breakfast room is piled high, courtesy of Mr Mason jnr, Ms Atherton and Mr Carter, all roped in to help with this most ghastly of exercises. A lot of things go to charity shops, a lot go to the tip and there still seems to be a neverending pile of stuff. We discover a lot of it belongs to Mrs Safaie from various times she has been living abroad. She hasn’t really had a proper home in the UK for several years now. I apologise if I make her sound like a dog. We are in the awkward position of having things to pack but no proper removal boxes because we haven’t exchanged contracts yet so can’t book the removal firm. We are also waiting to hear from our vendors as to whether they will reduce the price a little due to the amount of work which needs doing. So every day we throw a few more things into either a charity shop pile or a rubbish pile. It’s going down but it’s hard work.

This month’s Kadcyla treatment has gone better. Although I have headaches and pain in my neck, arm and shoulder, it is less than the last cycle which is really encouraging. I forget each time how tiring the treatment can be and wonder why I want to sit on the sofa and snooze in the afternoon. In my head I am normal and healthy; it’s just my body which doesn’t know this. Dog comes in for an accidental sloosh of Oramorph. Once the liquid gets so far down the bottle, it can be difficult to syringe out. I am sitting fiddling with it and, taking the syringe out of the bottle, press the top. A gloop of Oramorph shoots across the room and lands on Dog who looks most surprised. Luckily it is a tiny amount and he shows not the slightest interest in licking it, thus avoiding a lifetime of morphine addiction.

This week is also Orange Week. Through a local Facebook page, we have ordered 20kg organic blood oranges from Sicily. Before  you cry What Ho! at the amount, they are not all for us. We had a delivery of navel oranges before Christmas and it made me realise just how old some of the oranges in the shops must be. The amount of juice which comes out of these oranges is amazing and the taste is phenomenal. I am motoring through them at an immense rate  which is probably why I didn’t pick up the heavy cold Mrs Safaie came to us with last week. Hurrah for oranges and Vitamin C!

Apart from the endless sorting out and throwing away, it’s quite a quiet time, really. We are not socialising (no time or energy) and just have our heads down to complete work projects and tax returns on time. We do actually have a couple of social engagements in the diary, one of them a send-off lunch party hosted by our lovely friend Ms De Roeck. I know we can’t move such a distance without saying goodbye to people so we will undoubtedly do more of this once packing has commenced. On the subject of packing, we have had some fabulous offers from friends to come and help which has cheered me up enormously. I imagine we will get a bit of a party atmosphere going although I know some people (Ms Marsden springs to mind) have offered just for the opportunity to rifle through my drawers. Oo er missus!

Doing It All Wrong

For those of you who are interested, the ghastly woman from the removal firm is not getting our business. The quote is significantly higher than that of the other company. I had so many texts and messages on Facebook imploring me not to give her our business, it made me smile. Things have been tougher this week, though. The side effects from Kadcyla don’t really go away. Or maybe it’s the peripheral neuropathy. Or the fibromyalgia. But something is causing me a lot of pain in my right arm and shoulder, to the extent that it wakes me up at night and stops me sleeping. I am reluctant to indulge in a lot of oramorph because, well, I just am, but this week makes it a bit of a necessity. The other cloud on the horizon is the pain in  my feet. This is almost certainly down to the peripheral neuropathy and the reflexologist who treats me on Friday tells me I have bruises on the soles of my feet. No wonder they hurt. This is very vexing as I have lots of things to do, mainly Throwing Things Away and pain in my feet makes it difficult to do anything except sit on the sofa with a wheatbag round my neck. What an attractive picture I paint.

On Saturday we have a spate of Throwing Things Away, supervised by Mr Mason jnr, during which we find editions of The Times in which the births of our 2 sprongs are announced, many old photographs and a couple of pairs of toddler’s plastic pants. We manage to rid ourselves of a lot of Star Wars toys, a huge collection of Brio and a lot of hi-fi equipment. The plastic pants go to the tip. (I can tell you which one if you want to go and rummage for them). I doubt plastic pants as such exist any more, technology in the pants department being what it is.

Having done so well in the throwing out department, I have a bit of a wobble on Sunday. I want to know the answer to unanswerable questions such as “How long have I got?” Being a lifelong planner, not knowing the answer to this kind of question is hard. Although I appreciate the impossibility of knowing the answers, I still yearn to know them  – as long as they are favourable, of course. At this point, the only people who truly understand what is going on in my head are other women in the same position – those also facing mortality and without prospect of a cure. Fortunately I am privileged to know such women and they send me messages which make me cry but also help to sort my head out. I suspect some of the wobble is due to trawling through the house contents and the memories things bring back and also the idea of leaving our home of 27 years and the city where we have lived for nearly 40 years. Don’t get me wrong, moving to a rural location is exactly what we want to do and I am sure it will be fantastic but it’s still a wrench to move away from somewhere so familiar.

On Monday I manage to speak to my cancer nurse specialist and she tells me I have been Doing It All Wrong. I have been cautious in my application of oromorph but apparently, I am taking too little to do me any good and I should be taking more. This is strangely comforting in that I am hopeful of a decent night’s sleep if I take it at the rate she is suggesting. This week I am back with the oncologist to see what she thinks of the side effects (if side effects they are) and also to have my third dose of Kadcyla – nearly £6,500 worth of drugs alone. A friend who has had around 16 doses of Kadcyla tells me her side effects grew less intrusive and intense as the course of treatment progressed. I am hoping this will be the same for me. Following the NHS review of drugs in the Cancer Drugs Fund, Kadcyla was not one of those removed due to excessive cost. This is reassuring for me but I still feel for those whose hope has just been deleted.

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God bless Kadcyla and all who sail in her

I realise The Wedding has quite taken over my blogging (and rightly so) but I also realise there is a back story which hasn’t been updated. Yes, it’s back to the pesky cancer and all it throws at me. The Paclitaxel, as you may or may not recall, has caused peripheral neuropathy. This basically means the fine nerves are damaged leaving my little and ring fingers on both hands numb and unable to move properly. I say “I’ll cross my fingers for you” to friends in a blasé kind of way, secretly knowing that I can no longer cross my fingers on either hand. Of course, my right hand is the worst together with the numbness on the soles of my feet. It is quite strange walking when you can’t feel where your feet are going very well. So, when I go to see the nurse practitioner who is taking the place of my oncologist for 2 weeks, she is concerned about my hands and feet and decides she will not be able to prescribe Paclitaxel for me that day. It’s a bit of a blow because this is the third chemotherapy I have been on since June and I am reluctant to let it go. She is firm, though, and says if I continued to have Paclitaxel, my hands would eventually become useless and I may no longer be able to walk due to the numbness in my feet. I reluctantly agree. When I see the oncologist the following week, she is in agreement with the nurse and tells me I can no longer have any of the taxanes. I am now keen to move on to the next drug. Having Herceptin is not enough to keep the monster at bay.

Interwoven into this and the wedding story is the story of Us Moving. From the time I come out of hospital, we have the house on the market. The estate agency selling for us send their whole sales team to look at the house so they will know what they are selling. They troop around and all do a comedy double-take when they get to the main bedroom as I am in bed, bald, face swollen with steroids and unable to get up and be polite. I do smile, though. In the following weeks we have 40 different viewings, plus whatever they showed while we were away in Thailand. Some people are nice, some are rude (like the man heard in only the second room loudly asking the estate agent if he had anything else to show him) and some are plain bizarre. We knew one viewing was going to be cancelled because I saw the woman concerned look at the front of the house and say loudly “I don’t like it” to her companion. We have a family who are concerned about schools in the area. We sit on a boundary and the primary school our side has the best OFSTED results of all primary schools in our area but the school on the other side of the road has a more middle class intake. The woman has one child aged 4 in the nursery of the middle class school but knows siblings have not been taken in this academic year as there are too few places for them. She is pregnant now and is concerned that in 4.5 years time when her unborn child should be going to school, we cannot guarantee her child will get into the middle class school. I give her a look. No, she is serious. They visit our house 3 times, including a trip to our kind neighbours who allow them to go up and see their loft extension as they ‘cannot envisage it’ and then they collapse with a fit of the vapours and are never seen again. We reduce the price slightly. Mr Mason and I take a few days up in Lincolnshire to buy the 3 bird roast from the best game butcher we have found and when we come back, we find we have 11 viewings booked in just one day. This is something of a comedic day with people rushing through while Yakkety Sax, the Benny Hill theme tune, runs through my head. By the end of the afternoon we have an offer at the asking price. This is good but the estate agent suggests we wait to see whether any other offers materialise. Another offer also comes in at the asking price. One buyer has a considerably larger deposit than the other and the other buyer doesn’t want to bid more so we go with the bigger deposit, now called Buyer A. Ten days after we have accepted Buyer A’s bid and the whole shebang with solicitors etc has kicked off, Buyer B comes back with a much increased bid. Now, Buyer B is a lovely family and we had some nice chats with them but we think it is not fair that we drop Buyer A after everything has started up. Buyer B then drops a handwritten letter through the letterbox asking if we would reconsider as they love our house and want to live in it. This actually makes me cry, mostly with frustration. Had they made us an offer when they first saw the house or, indeed, come back with a higher offer immediately, they would probably be sitting down now, looking at the survey on the house and planning on where they would put their furniture. I don’t know why they didn’t do this. Probably life got in the way. So we are sticking with Buyer A and scratching our foreheads as to why our house was suddenly so popular.

So we sail on into the waters of Kadcyla (which could be a girl’s name), also known at TDM1. This drug is only provided by the Cancer Drugs Fund (as is Lapatanib, one of the ghastly pair that put me in hospital for a week) and has to be specially applied for due to its high cost. Apparently, 14 sessions cost £90,000. Although I only see the oncologist on Wednesday, she is clearly all over it like a rash (or a rat up a drainpipe – I am not sure which analogy she would like best) as I hear on Thursday that it has been approved and I will be given Kadcyla the next day. It’s one of those drugs where I have to be observed during and after and, of course, my blood pressure decides to play up and soars. I get sent home with a request to go to see my GP the following week. The side effects from the first dose are not too bad. I get a small headache and some pain in my upper body which I attribute to Vitamin D deficiency and ask for a blood test to check it. The pain is not due to Vitamin D, the results say. This is disappointing as that would have been curable very quickly. The second dose of Kadcyla gives me headaches which last for around 5 days. It feels as though I have the worst hangover of all time and nothing touches the pain until I resort to Oramorph. Once the headaches go, I am hit with muscle, bone and joint pain. This time, Oramorph does diddly squat, as I believe the young people say. Mr Mason makes me hot water bottles to hold against my back, my arms and other bits that hurt.

What upsets me the most is that some people will never have the opportunity to experience side effects like this because Kadcyla is one of the drugs the Government is poised to remove from the Cancer Drugs Fund. As I am already on the drug, I will be able to continue with it although it is a little unclear whether that will continue for as long as the drug is effective or for what is considered a course which is currently 14 cycles. As I have whizzed through several types of chemotherapy already, there are not that many more which are going to be suitable for me. Not one chemotherapy fits all sizes. But I digress slightly. There is a lot of argument about whether the Cancer Drugs Fund is a useful entity, whether it is ethical or whether the pharmaceutical companies are just making obscene profits from the drugs they produce. I don’t really want to get into that debate here but all I can think of is the woman (or man) who sees their oncologist just a week too late to get drugs they really need. If I didn’t have Kadcyla, I don’t know what my situation would be. Herceptin is not enough to keep this aggressive cancer at bay and seeing my oncologist a week or so after this drug was removed from my options would be one of the cruellest things I can imagine. Knowing it was there, that it existed, but that I could not have it. I still have people asking me how many sessions of chemo I have to have and when it will end. The answer to that question often brings surprise or shock and I hate answering it. Chemotherapy will end when it no longer works for me and no longer holds the cancer at bay. Horrible, isn’t it? And I really feel for those who will not even get the opportunity to try out the side effects of some of the more expensive drugs.

Wrestling with old people

We’ve been to see the in-laws. Sigh. Fidget. Sigh again. It wasn’t a duty visit because we don’t do those but we did have a distinct purpose. For some time, we’ve been planning to move to the country and it would mean we would be further away from the in-laws. As they’re in their late 80’s, we would like them to come with us so they could either live in an annexe or very close by. That way we could keep an eye on them, do the shopping, a bit of cleaning, make sure their health is OK – all the usual stuff. I think this is a pretty cool idea. They retain their independence and we get to spend more time with them and help out as and when we’re needed.

My FIL would come with us like a shot. He has already said so and, being gregarious, would make the most of small town or village life. But what do you say to someone who says ‘All my family are here, I can’t move’. Which family? ‘My mother, brother, grandmother’. Er, they’re all dead. ‘Yes, but they’re all in the cemetary’. You’ve never been there. Would you like to go there? ‘No’. How will they help you if you’re taken ill? ‘They will’. OK, well if they could come to the hospital and help you, do you think they would mind travelling a few extra miles to come to where we’ll be living? ‘Ha ha ha ha’.

The blinds are drawn in the real world and in my MIL’s mind. The house is dark and when I open the blinds, drawn against the possibility of someone with very long sight being able to observe her from a vantage point of approximately 50 yards away, she eyes me suspiciously. We raise the possibility that if they are unable to cope, Social Services might want to be involved and that might remove an element of choice from them. Having just had a conversation in which she said an old people’s home would not be for her, suddenly it is OK. This response is not based on any shred of realism but a childlike determination to say ‘No!’ to anything. Not leaving the house has been normality for years. Drawing all the blinds during the day is fairly new. Discouraging my FIL from leaving the house even to do small errands, like buy bread at the shop at the end of the road, is also fairly new. Any excursion is met with an enquiry of ‘Why do you need to go out? How long will you be?’. Kind neighbours are filling the gap in terms of getting shopping. Since a bout of shingles last Autumn, my FIL has gone out less as it left him exhausted but now he feels stronger, it has become something of a battleground. He needs the mental stimulation that Countdown and reminiscing about the war cannot give him. A trip to the opticians in a taxi gave him enough stimulation to make it an exciting experience. Six weeks later he is still talking about it and fondly remembering the taxi driver who waited for him as he went to collect his glasses.

We leave to drive home and I feel dejected, rejected and any other jecteds you can think of. Oh, and add frustrated to that list. For some strange reason I want these 2 people to live near me so I can keep an eye on them and smile fondly at the repetetive stories. I want to be able to roll my eyes when they talk about strange, hopeless friends we know by reputation only and answer up for my adult offspring when I am asked, in their presence, if they want a drink. I want to hear all over again about my FIL’s exploits in his career, his near misses with international disasters and having his footprints examined by a Bedouin tracker in Saudi Arabia to see if he was innocent of a payroll robbery.

I want to do all these things because I love the daft old buggers and I think living near us will be the best, healthiest decision they could make. I understand it’s a tough decision to take but I’d like them to make the leap of faith and believe we can deliver what we are offering.

So in the meantime I growl quietly from time to time feeling impotent and frustrated, wondering how they are feeling after our visit. I was so cross at one point I sat at my laptop and ordered hard copies of details of suitable bungalows for sale to be sent to my FIL. That’ll get them talking.