Wednesday 10 December 2008

A Busy Turn Of Events

Since my last post, in late August, my husband and I have been swept along on a tide of events which has taken up the majority of our time and energy. People matter most in life, and in my book, family comes before everything else. When it comes to a choice between giving up our time when they are facing major difficulties and upheaval in their lives, or spending time writing about the story of the Barleycorn garden, without question, their needs will always take precedence.
Those of you who have been in the habit of reading the Barleycorn blog must have noticed how sparce the stories have been this year compared to the previous. This has been due to the amount of time taken up each week visiting my husband's elderly parents and seeing to their every need. Their frail health has taken priority over everything else in our lives, including our personal hobbies and interests.
As this year progressed, the health of my husband's step-dad deteriorated to the point where, for the entire month of August, we found ourselves travelling 80 miles every day to visit him twice daily in hospital. As if our lives weren't busy enough, we were also very busy, in the throws of preparing for a trip to France, where we were looking forward to participating in the wedding celebrations of our younger son and his new bride.
However, to add to our already busy schedule, and to complicate matters even further - bearing in mind there were only three days left before we were due to leave for Brittany - we received a very sad telephone call from the hospital, and found ourselves, therefore, madly rushing around, trying to organise a funeral. I'm not quite sure where the extra energy we need in times of crisis comes from, but we were certainly filled with enough adrenalin, from dawn till dusk on those three days, to make all the necessary preparations.
Around that time the weather had been poorly, but, on the day of the funeral the sun shone brightly. The Service of Thanksgiving was a happy one, for the eulogy, written by me, was full of humorous stories and concentrated on celebrating a life well spent. Late into the same evening, my husband and I did not forget our manners, and took time to express our thanks to many people, for we knew we would not have the opportunity to do so the following week. Three days later, we arrived in Brittany, feeling more than a little drained, but, happy in the knowledge we had been available to do all that was necessary and spare my husband's mum, who, at her time of life, would not have coped by herself.
After breakfast on the first morning, six of us decided to take a stroll. There we were, a happy little group, chatting about the beauty of the town with its picturesque houses, busy harbour and beautiful floral displays, when, all of a sudden, my left foot jarred, turning my left leg to jelly. I found myself careering along sideways, like a crab, at a speed of knots, trying to keep myself upright and prevent myself from falling.
Unfortunately, the pavement was sloping down towards a steep kerb and onto the road, where the inevitable happened. I landed on my left side with such momentum, I immediately ricocheted onto my back where I lay motionless for a minute or so. After a little while I felt able to be hauled to an upright position by the three strong men in our group, and after checking to see no bones were broken, I was able to stand.
From the fierce impact, I knew I would ache from head to toe, and I did. But, since I was able to walk, and everyone agreed it looked as if I had, at worst, nothing more than two staved fingers on my left hand, I determined to cause little fuss so as not to detract from the wedding celebrations, which were three days hence. We made our way to a nearby chemist where my hand was strapped up and, like a good Brownie, I used my scarf as a sling.
The next morning I awoke to a rainbow-coloured left hand, which I continued to nurse throughout the holiday, and a stiff, aching body, which I was able to ease with hot showers. Just as with the funeral, I was now blessed with an inordinate amount of adrenalin, coupled with the excitement of looking forward to the wedding and the part I would play in the celebrations. I am convinced both of these factors helped to give me an even higher pain threshold than normal, because, fall or no, I was determined nothing was going to spoil the wedding.
The day before the wedding we were visiting a nearby coastal town, when I happened to chance upon an old lady crocheting a pair of those dainty little lace gloves which Brittany is famous for - and perfect for disguising an unsightly hand. The weather, on the few days leading up to the wedding, had been a bit dull at times, with the threat of rain. But, in the morning, we awoke with excitement and looked up into a beautiful blue sky.
One of our favourite memories of the day was when my son and his bride were standing in the doorway of the church with the bells ringing, two Breton pipers playing merrily, confetti of rose petals falling around them, and that special glow of happiness on their faces. The bride was a vision of understated French elegance. Our son stood beside her, proudly showing the world his beautiful new bride. Her surprise for him was a rose, made from the tartan of our clan, in her hair. His surprise for her was the French tricolour ribbon pinned to his plaid. Both signified a new marriage, a new life together, a new merging of two cultures. They never stopped smiling the entire day. It was all so romantic! We were so proud to be there sharing in their joy.
When our holiday was over, I went to the Casualty Dept of our local hospital and had my hand x-rayed, just to be safe. I did, in fact, have a break between my ring finger and my pinkie. These two fingers were taped together and I had a plaster put on the following week, which then came off three weeks later. Since then I have been doing exercises, from my physiotherapist, to straighten my pinkie and make it mobile. Initially, I was unable to close my left hand and make a fist, as my pinkie stood upright.
For the three weeks the plaster was on, whenever I needed to be at the computer I used my right hand only to type and used a lot of cut and paste to save me typing the same information over and over again. During this time my husband and I received another call to say his mum had collapsed. And so we were on the treadmill yet again, travelling 80 miles each day to visit her in hospital.
With the accumulation of events, we both found the travelling more tiring the second time around. I was wearing my plaster all this time, so could not share in the driving. The bruising had started, two weeks after the fall, to come out all the way down the left side of my body, which had taken the impact of the fall. The weather was cold and raw, or blustery and wet. In the hospital nothing pleased my husband's mum. Everyone and everything was at fault. She had had enough, having nursed her husband for the best part of six years, followed by the month of hospital visits culminating in his funeral.
However, after three weeks she was allowed home. We then began travelling to her home, on a daily basis for the first two weeks, then, after that, thrice weekly to see to her needs. She progressed from the stage of us doing her shopping, to being able to come with us, to going independently. I had cleaned her house before she had gone into hospital and she was making great progress. Great, we thought. Breathe a sigh of relief. All's well with the world again.
But life is not that simple. I don't think I could make up what happened next! For fact is often stranger than fiction. When we got home from church one Sunday there was a message on our ansaphone to say there had been an explosion at her flat. We rushed down to discover water pouring down through the light fittings in four of the rooms. We needed wellies to wade through the mess!
We brought her home to stay with us till we ascertained the problem. It turned out to be a faulty gas coupling in the flat above which had caused a gas explosion and burst the water tank and all the pipes. It was good fortune indeed that neither of the occupants of the two flats had been hurt in any way. My husband's mum didn't seem too bothered about having to be moved to a new flat.
And so began the removal of her belongings, lock stock and barrel. She is happily ensconced in her temporary abode, with a beautiful picture window overlooking a park, till after the New Year. We are thankful she is well, and happy, and looking forward to a permanent new home, smaller than the previous one as she is now on her own. Being fiercely independent, she wants to remain in her own place and not live with us.
I did not imagine I would end the year writing about catastrophes in my life, rather than another episode in the life of the garden at Barleycorn. But, throughout all the disasters, I have never failed to appreciate the changing moods of the garden, which have sustained me and uplifted me. On dark days, when things felt a bit weary, the reflections in the ponds have charmed me. Being serenaded by the birds each morning has kept my spirits up. Jack Frost has sprinkled his glitter across the bare bones of the garden and created a magical landscape. Who could fail to smile and count their blessings living in a paradise such as this?
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!
Robert Browning.
Plant list
Betula Pendula Youngii
Betula Pendula
Betula Ermanii
Rosa Fruhlingsmorgen
Berberis Darwinii
Cornus Alba Siberica
Click on each image to enlarge and read its common amd botanical name.