Whit! Another Blog from her?
Yes, sorry for the blog surge but now that I feel free to blog again, I will! You might remember that Roddy and I spent a month in Scotland for Christmas and up until his mum’s birthday at the end of January. Then we returned to Perth and had intended to take up the roadtrip again. However, two weeks later, his mum had a fall and it became obvious to us that we should fly back to be with her. I think that we are fortunate that we had the freedom to do this, as it was a time that we both value immensely and that we will treasure forever. I could have written my blog while I was in Scotland but I chose not to. Writing about myself, Roddy and the things we do and see is one thing but the day-to-day in Scotland was very personal to Roddy’s mum and so it was inappropriate.
A slightly different aspect to the privacy of blog writing: it is a delicate matter and I know that my own filter is coarser than some other people’s who like to keep everything private. My filter has slightly larger holes. Although I wouldn’t divulge all my deepest and darkest motivations and thoughts to the public as you will be pleased to read, I feel that it is actually a positive to be open. In my opinion, many problems arise because people don’t talk to each other and are too precious about their thoughts and feelings. I believe that people all over the world have a lot more in common than divides us, so people will understand you mostly if you tell them stuff. Of course, on one side, opening up appears to make you vulnerable as others know things about you. I know several people for whom “Information is Power.” They want to know everything about others but don’t divulge anything themselves. Some think they can manipulate you because they know something about you. Quite pathetic and untrue! I believe opening up makes you stronger because you have “come out” and so the fear that might have been associated with the thing you told has evaporated. It loses its power to hurt. It can’t be used against you either, because you offered it, and, by expressing it, you have thought it through and are at peace with it. I find people respect you for being honest. If they have a wee snigger behind your back – so what?
The Beast from the East
We arrived back in Glasgow on the day wee mum went into hospital after the fall. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day and the Beast was galumphing over from the East. We snuck into Shiona’s old childhood room and made ourselves comfortable in Bearsden’s 17 Larchfield Road. From there we stomped through the deep snow to Gartnaval Hospital every day. We didn’t have access to a car, which would have been no use anyway as all traffic came to a standstill. The Switchback Rd looked like something out of the 19thcentury and we could walk in the middle of the road. Trains, buses, even planes were stranded and groceries ran low in Morrison’s as the trucks couldn’t deliver stock. Perhaps that’s how Brexit will pan out!? Living in a warm house, we loved the snow and even did some shopping for elderly neighbours who couldn’t use their cars. It’s great to be a do-gooder, and our step count went through the roof!
Maybe we should all be thinking about our plans for old age!
Lillias was in the hospital for five weeks. She must have been one of the most popular patients and certainly the one with the most visitors. One lady on the same ward was terrified of going home as her daughter had sold some of her things, assuming that her mum was going to die and never return anyway. Awful!
After her 5 weeks in Gartnaval, Lillias came home and we looked after her. She is the easiest patient to care for and our time together was very special in so many ways. However, it became apparent that she would not be able to live on her own after we return to Oz, even with the home care put in place by East Dunbartonshire Council. So the family decided together with Lil, that a care home was the best long-term option. Roddy and I stomped through the snow to inspect six care homes in the Bearsden area. We had a spreadsheet to account for a variety of criteria and found it to be quite easy to decide on the top three. The costs didn’t vary that much across the homes. The modernity and fitness for purpose of the buildings did, as did the friendliness of the staff and the overall atmosphere. Roddy and I knew which one we preferred and then his siblings went to see our top three. They agreed with us and we found that wee mum, too, had hoped that Westerton Care Home was going to be the one. And so it was to be. The neighbours were invited for a tea party, the best china emerged from the recesses of the sideboard, Roddy put on his Paisley patterned shirt, and Lillias was in great form, coiffed to perfection by one of the fabulous home carers.
The big day arrived at the end of April. Leaving her home of 64 years was very hard for Lillias and I was blown away by her inner strength when she touched the outside wall of her house for the last time.
“I could cry a thousand tears but I won’t.”
She is the frailest elderly lady you can imagine but she has inner steel, facing up to realities with a determination not to give in. Perhaps this comes from being from the generation that lived through WW2; perhaps it is a personality trait she would have developed anyway; or perhaps it’s genetic and runs in the family. Roddy, too, has the ability to always look for the positive, for the opportunity in any given situation. Wherever it comes from, Lillias is my role model and heroine. I have spent a long time in her company and learnt so much from her. I feel like a wuss in comparison.
Lil has settled very well in Westerton. The staff are very kind and she has managed to develop good relationships with them. It hasn’t been so easy to connect with other residents as she is nearly deaf and has poor eyesight now, which makes communication hard. She is getting weaker all the time but still manages to enjoy herself to a degree. Leaving her was one of the hardest things. I hope we will see her again. Skyping with her used to be a weekly event but now even that is not really possible any more due to her weakness. All the more reason to be grateful for the time we had with her in her own home.
How do you say good-bye to your family home?
The Macduffs couldn’t leave the Clan domicile without a proper bash and so a 1970s themed Larchfield Farewell Party was organised. Now the Macduffs don’t do things by half. We had 70s decorations (the coolest posters around) and food: prawn cocktail, coq au vin, basked Alaska, Mateus Rose, Rose d’Anjou, plus Twiglets, cheese cubes on grapefruit, etc. Roddy had collated a slideshow of old family photographs and we boogied to 70s tunes courtesy of Alastair until half three in the morning. Teenagers coming from a party up the road in Ravelston thought they were cool, walking down Larchfield at 3AM. One courting couple was trying to sit on our wall for a snog but we scared them off with our middle aged authority and by our dad and mum dancing moves. It was a night to remember, which was obviously the point of it.
Another Macduff family highlight was Colin’s 60thbirthday. This event was celebrated slightly in advance in Westerton with Lillias and most Macduffs in attendance. To celebrate the occasion, Roddy re-wrote special lyrics using the tune of The Song of the Clyde, tracking highlights of Colin’s life. He clearly has a long memory as he managed to sing 13 verses, including a patter (like rap) verse! After Lil was worn out we retreated to Shiona’s house to continue partying.
Expanding my professional skills
While we were in Scotland I made myself useful in other ways. Initially and throughout, I tutored students for their SQA exams in Hillhead and Bearsden Libraries (as the results came out yesterday, I know that they did really well!) and coached a Mexican woman for her IELTS English language exam which she needed for her UK visa. I renewed my PVG and my GTCS teacher registration, did my Professional Update and worked for Glasgow City Council as a supply teacher in a special school. Now this was another eye-opener for me. I had always had my suspicions that inclusion, as it is handled and financed at the moment, doesn’t work that well. The idea is fine but, in practice, most kids with ADHD, autism, Tourettes, etc, spend their time in the Base, away from other kids, so inclusion it is not. In the special school, all kids had quite severe problems, often all of the above combined and more. One boy could only face being in school by wearing a spiderman mask – I never saw his face. It was a small school with only 57 kids, most of whom came from Easterhouse, a very deprived suburb of Glasgow, and were looked after/accommodated. Still, in that school they fulfilled roles such as prefects, they ran and played in the school show, which was Romeo and Juliet (a modernised and abbreviated Glasgow version without a suicide at the end) and they were awarded the academic prizes, not only the “cuddly” ones. The school bell was a gentle chime and the atmosphere in the school was very calm. Bullying was non-existent. Most had severe learning difficulties and it was a learning curve for me to adapt everything I did in the classroom to their needs and abilities. I managed to be there for sports day, which included a mindfulness session, as well as an assault course, golf, etc. Often there was no lesson plan and I was only told to do RME… so I made it up as I went along, doing RME, art, home economics, English, modern studies, … As always, it was mainly about forming relationships, being flexible and adaptable and you take it from there. I loved it! Not sure that it would be for me in the long run – in fact it wouldn’t be, I know that, but it was a very worthwhile experience.
Making the most of a situation.
I loved being able to see Tina and Paul who both spent some time at Larchfield. I would love to be much much closer to them. To be able to meet up without having to fly for 24 hours would be great, but they are very busy with their own lives too and I love to see them being absorbed in the paths they have chosen. Who knows who will live where in the future? I could be in Troon and not see much of them either. Still, the heart-strings are strong and hurt sometimes.
In April I flew to Germany to spend two weeks with my sister. We spent some days in Stuttgart where I hadn’t been for a long time, so it was great to explore and to get to know the city better than I had. I managed a trip to Heilbronn, my hometown, and met up with friends I hadn’t seen for decades. We will be back in Germany in September for Anna’s wedding but it was great to touch base with my native clan beforehand.
Roddy and I also managed a wee trip to Mull, took a wee shoogly ferry to Staffa and to Iona. Magic!
A few weeks later we went to Wales for a week, getting to know his cousin James and his wife Cathy better and exploring Carlisle en route (the whole town smells of McVities!) Aberystwyth, Conwy, Caernarfon and Llandudno. The trains were a disaster like on so many occasions during our time in the UK but you take the rough with the smooth.
Roddy was treated to a few days in Orkney by his brother Colin and Colin’s son Duncan.
People make Glasgow
I loved living in Glasgow and roaming the Westend. It took me back to my earliest time in Scotland when I lived in the Westend for five years before moving to Troon. I discovered several wee lanes that I had not known about before and soaked up the atmosphere. I am not sure that we will ever live in Glasgow or Scotland again for that length of time so it was a treat that I did my best to enjoy as that. Living in Bearsden for six months made me feel a lot more posh, too. Bearsden is THE show-off suburb and I became a part of it, getting to know all the neighbours.
Alina and Colin, our Glasgow friends, love urbexing – urban exploration – and we did some of that together with them. The area around the Saltmarket and the Clyde where we were in danger of getting “jibbed” by a wee ned with a broken off bottle. The Banter! We also jaunted “doon the watter” to Dunoon on the Waverley with them and most outings ended at Mr Singh’s for a curry.
I spent as much time as possible with my Troon friends, Kath, Anna, Linda and Barbara, as well as Alan and Annette. Barbara’s daughter Clare got married to Peter while we were there so we managed to squeeze that in after having previously thought we would have to miss it. I met an ex-student there whom I taught in 2ndyear. I recognised him immediately and was flabbergasted when he told me that he works for the Queen, as a footman! He travels everywhere with her and said that she is very funny. She has a dry sense of humour apparently. I guess she needs it.
On a sad note, my friend and ex-colleague Bill died during that time. I am glad that I managed to visit him with Helen a few weeks beforehand but Bill’s death was nevertheless so awful. I still find it unreal and terrible to think of it and it must be so hard for his wife.
I managed to see several old friends from Marr College. The two Claires, Fiona and Anne and I went on an open-top bus tour of Glasgow, which was a brilliant day and I loved meeting up with Anne for a few coffees. It’s so nice to have these impromptu meetings!
Pauline and Willie put me up in Prestwick a few nights and will hopefully be able to stay with us in Perth next year! I already have plans to create a proper guest bedroom in Moondine.
One of my favourite things was to spend time in my own house in Troon. The previous tenants had moved out and I decided to paint the front room, which gave me a few days in the house. God how emotional it was to walk through the door! I could see in my mind’s eye, the dogs rushing towards me, I saw the spot where Sam died and I felt like calling the kids down for their dinner. It all came flooding back. My dear neighbours, Angela and Des were around and we had lots of chats and hugs.
After the Beast from the East early in the year, our Scotland stay ended in the great Heatwave. After having finished my painting job in Barassie Street, I spent a few blissful hours lying in my garden under my apple tree, next to the dogs’ graves, just like I used to do when they were beside me. I shed a few tears but had enough time to work through all these full-on emotions and left in a very peaceful state of mind.
In the end, Larchfield was sold, the content was distributed and the remainder sold on Gumtree, and it was time to go home to Australia. Our last full day was Colin’s real birthday which coincides with our wedding anniversary, so we took the train and bus to Ross Priory on the shores of Loch Lomond where we got married in 2014. We had a romantic lunch, a meander through the gardens and a sit by the Loch before going back and visiting wee mum.
The next morning we saw her again and, after a stoic bye-bye, drove to the airport.
So now we are in Perth. We spent the first few weeks with Kate and Tim, our long-suffering friends who were so generously giving us their spare bedroom to sleep in and then I flew to Adelaide to drive the motorhome to Perth. Back at Karrinyup Waters Resort like last year around the same time, reunited with Alex, Jane and Karina. We will be here for a while in order to try to help Alex through a rough patch as much as we can. Such is life!