Journal – November 2012 (Nan’s Death)

My Nan, sitting in a chair and smiling, looking healthy at the age of 101 in 2008.

Welcome to another set of journal entries. There wasn’t anything to mention in October, but this month we had another family loss with the death of my Nan, resulting in another trip to London, for her funeral and to sort out some bits and pieces. And I do still mention other little things as usual, including DVDs and music I was buying. So I hope you enjoy!

Sunday November 4, 2012

My Nan has passed away, just over a week before her 105th birthday. She had chest pains and was taken into hospital a few weeks ago – the first time ever she’s had to stay in hospital for illness. It wasn’t a heart attack, and they never did find out what it was. There was a risk of her getting pneumonia, and they kept her on antibiotics while she rested. Initially she was on a ward with other people, but then she got a urinary infection of some sort, and they moved her into a room so she could be by herself. My Aunt visited her and kept her company every day for a number of hours.

The chest and urinary problems were cleared up, and over the last few days Nan had been up and about with the help of physiotherapists. Slow and tiring, but there was a possibility she would be able to come home. But it wasn’t to be – and, for Nan’s sake, it’s probably a relief anyway. She did extremely well to live to the age she did, and the fact that she was still able to think and communicate and do things for herself is remarkable.

My Nan smiling, as she sits in her armchair holding her 100th birthday card from the Queen

So my Aunt’s going to register the death on Monday, having now got the relevant information from the hospital, then she’ll get in touch with us to sort things out regarding the funeral, and we can plan our travel up there. I don’t know how long we’ll stay, but it’ll probably only be a few days. There are things going on at work that I need to be around for, including the Police & Crime Commissioner election this month, but I’m sure we’ll sort something out.

As for what happens going forward, Mum and I are already talking about going up to London for Christmas to stay at Nan’s place now. My Aunt won’t mind, and at work we’re closing all but the most essential services for Christmas this year, so I have to book the days off anyway. So we may as well go up there. And hopefully we’ll be able to gradually sort out what will happen about Nan’s house. If my Aunt’s happy for us to use it and even move in, then that will be ideal. We can’t rush that, obviously, but it might open the door for us to start putting the wheels in motion for our move. We’ll get Nan’s funeral and other stuff sorted out first though, naturally.

In any case, we’re doing ok. It’s not a shock for someone of her age, and not as big a blow as Dad’s passing was, so in that sense it’s easier to come to terms with. But it is still sad, of course.

Away from that, meanwhile, I’m buying plenty of DVDs, as quite a few are coming out this time of year, as always happens in the run-up to Christmas. Blu-rays for the Olympics and Paralympics are naturally among them, along with DVDs for the final series of Chuck, The Bill: Volume 6 (48 episodes!), an up-to-date box set of Men Behaving Badly, a new documentary about Status Quo (Hello Quo), a 1975 Texas concert by The Who, and there are various stand-up comedians releasing DVDs during November as well.

I’ve also started collecting all the DVDs and albums by AC/DC bit by bit over the past couple of months, slipping two or three of their releases in with each order I do. They never get represented on rock compilations, and refuse to let their albums be available for download (as they prefer the albums to be bought complete, not as separate tracks), even though I’ve waited in the hope that they will one day (like The Beatles eventually did). Yet I still hear them on the radio sometimes. So I decided to take the plunge and get into them properly, and I’m glad I have. They do have a very set style of doing things, but it’s a great, rocking style, and they clearly enjoy playing live. If you put on any song by them, you have to nod your head or tap your feet to it, it’s hard not to! Madness have also got a new album out (the unusually named Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da!), and The Rolling Stones have had a new single out (Doom And Gloom) ahead of a new tour, so those are things worth getting too.

And that’s it really. Not the most cheerful start to November, but I think Nan’s passing is generally a relief – for her due to her age, for my Aunt given that she was caring for her 24/7, and for Mum too. So we’ll be able to move forward from it, we’ll be fine.

Tuesday November 6, 2012

Mum spoke to my Aunt again yesterday. Nan’s funeral is next Monday at 2pm, so I’ve booked off Friday to Tuesday from work. On Friday we’ll get a big Tesco shop delivered and pack what bits and pieces we need to take with us, then we’ll get a train straight through to Paddington just after 9am on Saturday. My Aunt will meet us and take us back to Nan’s house. She’s getting us some food in, and we’ll probably have fish and chips from the shop nearby too. Nan’s bedroom is currently in the lounge (with the settee in the front room with the other junk that’s in there), so it may be that I sleep downstairs in that, while Mum sleeps in the fold-up bed in Nan’s room, until we can get Nan’s bed back upstairs again. That’s fine, the lounge will be nice and warm though – as is Nan’s room upstairs, which is why Mum will sleep in there, as the front room upstairs isn’t heated.

My Aunt has said that we can stay in Nan’s house whenever we like, and offered to get us a set of keys cut that we can keep. She’s also happy for us to move in there, as it’ll be good for us all to be local to one another and keep the house in the family. She’s suggested that we go up there a few times – say, for long weekends, as well as Christmas like we’re already planning to do – so we can get used to living there and take the opportunity to have a look around the local area, such as the shops, park, etc. Obviously we still need to sort out Nan’s estate and the get the funeral out of the way and things like that, but we have the green light for moving up there – which we already had having talked to my Aunt a bit about it before, but it’s nice to know for sure with Nan now gone. While we’re up there this coming weekend we’ll probably have a bit of a walk around the area to see what’s about.

There won’t be a lot of us at the funeral – as well as Mum & I, and my Aunt & Uncle, I gather there will also Nan’s next door neighbour, a friend of my Aunt’s, a cousin, and possibly a friend of my Uncle’s who has done some work at Nan’s house before now. And there will be a marquee with food to nibble on outside the crematorium after the service, which saves us having to set up food at home and get everyone in there. We’ve let my Aunt choose the music and the flowers, as we couldn’t think of anything specific we wanted and we trust her judgement.

So that’s the main update for the moment. Once the funeral’s out of the way, that’ll be a big step over and done with, then we can get other things sorted out and look ahead.

Saturday November 10, 2012

We came up to London today for a long weekend, after I had yesterday off work so we could have a Tesco delivery and get ready.

The train journey to London Paddington (straight through without changes) took about 4 hours – which is normal, it wasn’t late. Once upon a time it only took just over 3 hours, but the direct train goes round the houses now, to places like Bath Spa and Chippenham, and not through Westbury, Pewsey, etc like it used to.

We were in the entertainment carriage on the way up, so the seats had screens in the back of them, where you can enjoy a very small selection of TV shows or audiobooks, get news headlines, look at maps of the train route and the London Underground, and get safety information. But we didn’t worry about that – Mum had her Victor Reader Stream player and I had my iPod of course, so we were happy listening to our own stuff.

I’ve been able to get a lot of things on Mum’s player now – not just the RNIB’s Talking Books, but also regular MP3 files, so I’ve been able to put her other audiobooks on it that I copied from standard CDs (including full and unabridged novels, dramatisations, and comedies like Dad’s Army, The Good Life, etc). And it accepts books from the online audiobook seller Audible as well. 

So it means we can download audio books from the internet and put them on Mum’s player for her to listen to, and I’ll probably get into downloading more for myself as well. Now that Mum’s used to listening to the RNIB’s Talking Books on it, it’s been easy for her to learn how to get to the other ‘shelves’ for the other types of books. And it’s ideal for her to listen to audiobooks around the house while she’s doing things, as it’s small and portable.

We were in Carriage D, which was designated a quiet carriage, meaning there shouldn’t be any noise from mobile phones, loud personal stereos, etc. So of course we had people making calls, playing music and kids being noisy, without the ticket inspector stopping them when he came through. Not that any of it was bothersome, but it still seemed pointless calling it a quiet carriage when it wasn’t!

My Aunt met us at Paddington, and took us to where my Uncle was parked near the station. We’d expected to be going back on the Tube, but they wanted to pick us up, which was nice of them. Mum and I each had a new case that we’d bought recently from M&S – which we needed because we were carrying clothes for Nan’s funeral of course, such as my suit and shoes for me. The cases are useful in that they have wheels and a handle to pull them along (which stores away when you push it down inside the case), so it was easy to wheel them to the car. They even fitted into the overhead rack on the train too, so we didn’t have to leave them in the luggage rack at one end of the carriage. It just makes it easier to keep an eye on them when they’re right above you.

My Uncle had been lucky to get a parking space by all accounts, as the road layout and traffic has changed a lot since they used to take us there in the past, so it takes a bit of getting used to. Plus, not only was it Saturday, but the Lord Mayor’s Show was taking place, so various roads were closed, and traffic was busy on the free routes as a result. The result being that it took us 2 hours to get back to Nan’s, whereas in the past it would have only taken an hour.

But we got there in the end, dropped our stuff off, and then went and got fish and chips and a saveloy each from the local shop. So Mum and I had that for tea, and my Aunt also showed us where stuff was and how the oven and microwave worked. My Aunt also fed the 2 cats which come around to Nan’s house for food, one of them belonging to the next door neighbour, Then my Aunt went home to have whatever she and my Uncle were having for tea.

Mum and I didn’t do much for the rest of the day. It was too late to go out anywhere by the time all of that was done, so we watched TV for the evening – Challenge being the channel of choice, as sitting through quiz shows is a good way to kill off the time. And I stayed up late to watch some other stuff on TV after Mum went to bed of course.

Sunday November 11, 2012

We didn’t go out today, as there wasn’t much reason to, while we were still getting used to being at Nan’s and relaxing before the funeral. So we saw plenty of shows of Challenge during the afternoon and evening again. But we did also have a good look around all the rooms to see what was about. Nan had already cleared a lot of stuff out, including old vases and the like, so there wasn’t anywhere near as much to get rid of as we had for Dad.

The front room is full of clutter, including Nan’s wheelchair and commodes, which the Council will take back, as they only lend them. There’s also stuff that my Uncle had left there when doing some work, which hopefully we can get rid of somehow, as it’s a nice room if it’s clear of rubbish! We had a look in the bureau as well – not a lot in there of note, although there was an envelope full of invitations for birthdays, engagements, weddings, etc (including for Mum’s 21st birthday), and notices of a few deaths, so I learned a little bit about relatives I was only vaguely aware of.

The living room is much the same as usual really – the same sofa and chairs, and that handy table with the pull out sides to make it larger. The flat screen Freeview TV is nice too, with perfect picture quality, no doubt aided by the fact that the area finally went fully digital earlier this year. My Aunt had to get in one of my Uncle’s friends to do the tuning, as she hasn’t got a clue about such things.

The kitchen’s a bit of a mess, but useable. Lots of old utensils and cookware that needs replacing really – it was adequate for what Nan needed, but not really ideal. The cooker is only partially functional, in that only the front 2 rings on the hob work, and the oven doesn’t work at all. It hasn’t been fixed because there’s a microwave there, which is very simple to use, so Nan had got the hang of it easily. It was ideal for doing the ready meals that my Aunt bought her. Mum would need a talking microwave really, but it’s easy for me to do things in Nan’s current microwave for now.

The fridge freezer is old and needs to be defrosted manually, so we’ll need to get a new frost-free one really. My Aunt had stocked it up when she thought Nan was going to come home, so there are a whole bunch of ready meals in there. And she’s still letting the milkman deliver until Christmas – she can take it home for her and my Uncle to have when we’re not there.

But much of the other food in there is a few months out of date, and there were choc ices in there with a best before date in 2010! So we had to bin a lot of it. We did have two of the ready meals that were in there for tea today though – bangers and mash for each of us – and that came out very nice after being done in the microwave.

Upstairs, the cupboard on the landing has a random assortment of things, including an old bottle of sherry, the board games Monopoly and draughts, a bible, and more useful items like toilet paper. So there’s nothing too substantial in there.

Not much to say about the bathroom either really, but I expect we’ll get the bath replaced with a shower at some point. Nan still has the downstairs toilet as well of course. The garden looks quite different, incidentally, now that one side has been grown right up like a hedge – apparently done when they had next door neighbours with children who were a bit annoying, and they’ve just kept it like that ever since.

Anyway, back to the upstairs. Nan’s bedroom (which I slept in – the bed was very comfortable) only had her clothes in, and the wardrobes in the big front bedroom were the same. Very few hangers in the wardrobes though – we’ve already decided to bring some of our own down next time we go, as we’ve got loads spare. My Aunt will get rid of Nan’s clothes, either at the charity shop or taken somewhere for recycling.

Nan had jewellery as well. My Aunt showed Mum my Nan’s locket, watch, wedding ring and engagement ring, but Mum didn’t fancy keeping any of them personally. The rings don’t fit her (they fit my Aunt nicely though), she wouldn’t be able to read the watch, and the locket is just a small gold heart on a chain. So Mum’s happy for my Aunt to keep those. Mum asked about an old watch of their Dad’s that should be in the house somewhere, so if my Aunt finds it, it sounds like it’ll be passed to me.

This evening, I put out the cones and sign that had been left for us to reserve a parking space – of which there are very few down any street now. Our road is one of many that has become a busy one-way street, so it’s always got traffic. There was a car outside Nan’s house, so I put the cones in the space next to it, but then I checked again later, and the space directly outside Nan’s house had become free, so I was able to move the cones there and put the sign there (it reads “No Parking Please – Funeral”). I was half-expecting someone to park there regardless – at work, my manager’s put down cones and signs to stop people blocking our loading bay for deliveries and our van, but people keep moving them and ignoring them anyway! But I’m happy to say nobody has moved our cones at Nan’s on this occasion or parked in the way, so it shows they have respect for the occasion.

Monday November 12, 2012

This morning Mum and I got up and got ready before flowers and people started turning up. Most of them I didn’t know – the only one I definitely knew was Nan’s next door neighbour. But there was a guy called David there who works with computers, and a friend of my Aunt who had come all the way from Wales that morning on the train (and had to go back today as well, in order to look after the baby she’s fostering, as it would have been too complicated getting someone to look after it overnight as well as during the day).

It was a mixture of relatives and friends of the family, including a couple of neighbours. In fact, a bunch of the neighbours got together, in order to get us a jointly signed card and a lovely floral tribute as well, so that was a lovely surprise! You don’t imagine neighbours doing that these days, as most people don’t know who lives near them, but Nan got on well with everybody, so a number of people were upset to find out she had passed away.

A large floral arrangement, with lots of white flowers forming an arch standing on a square base. Bunches of colourful pink and white flowers with green leaves are attached to the upper left and bottom right parts of the arch. In between them, stretching diagonally from bottom left up to top right, is silver capital lettering that says From The Neighbours.

The funeral convoy, led by the hearse with the coffin of course, set off from outside Nan’s house at 2pm. We had one car booked which a few people went in, then David (who I mentioned above) had his car, and my Uncle took his too. Mum and I went with my Uncle, while my Aunt went with some of the others. My Uncle had to park a little way down the street because, as I said, parking is so scarce, and with the traffic the way it was, there were already a number of cars between us and the funeral convoy, so we just followed as best we could. Usually it’s customary for the family to be in the car behind the hearse, and my Aunt managed to be in that, so she was able to represent us at least. And we were just happy that the whole thing was getting underway so we could get it over with really. The weather wasn’t great – it was grey and raining a little bit – so it’s just as well we weren’t walking there.

At the crematorium, the service started at 2:30pm and was a simple affair, with the vicar talking a bit about Nan’s life – referring to Mum and my Aunt as the daughters, her joy at having me as a grandson, her 14 siblings (which I’ve only now learnt about!), her working in a sweet shop and her love for sweets in relation to it, the fact that she enjoyed going out to various places, and so on. Then he said a couple of verses and prayers, including The Lord Is My Shepherd like we’d had for Dad (slightly different wording – it seems to vary a bit every time I hear it – but the sentiments and meaning don’t change), and we said the Lord’s Prayer of course. Then, as the curtains closed around the coffin, the music played was We Have All The Time In The World by Louis Armstrong and Adagio Of Spartacus & Phrygia by Aram Khachaturian (the theme tune from The Onedin Line), which I’d never heard before, but it was very nice and appropriate.

After the service we went outside, in the still damp and slightly chilly air, and looked at the flowers that had been laid out on the ground, which looked very nice. Then we were driven in cars (because it’s a big campus with more than one crematorium) to a marquee that had tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes. So we all sat in there and had a bite to eat and a chat. For my part, I was really just sitting and listening to the conversation for most of it, as I didn’t know many of the people there. But it was good to hear about how people thought of Nan and some of the memories they had of her when they were all younger. Occasionally the conversation got into areas about how other people have died or what people have wrong with them, which wasn’t always too cheerful or interesting, but it’s inevitable on occasions like this.

We spent about an hour there before David drove Mum, my Aunt, myself and another guy back (Graham I think, a nephew of my Uncle’s). We dropped Graham off on the way, then David came in with my Aunt, Mum and I into Nan’s house, with my Uncle following shortly after. So we sat and had a drink and a chat, before they all went home after around an hour and a half. Mum and I then had a Cornish pasty each with new potatoes and peas for our tea, before watching some TV for the rest of the evening.

Tuesday November 13, 2012

This morning we got up early, as we had a train to catch from Paddington at 10am. So my Uncle picked us up at 8:20 and, while London was busy as always, the journey was still quicker than when we arrived on Saturday, as there was no Lord Mayor’s Show getting in the way. So we got to the station in good time, and were able to get on the train when it pulled into the platform, with quarter of an hour to go before departure. And the journey went fine.

After Mum and I got home, we had fish and chips for dinner, as it’s nice and easy to do. Then later for tea I had spaghetti bolognaise, one of the ready meals I had in the freezer, and Mum had sandwiches, then we had chocolate trifle and ice-cream for afters, which we’d got in our Tesco delivery on Friday.

In between all of that, and after unpacking of course, we had a look on the internet for various things. First was new cargo trousers and slippers for me, and new slippers for Mum too, the thought being that we can leave the slippers up in London for us. And we’ll gradually get other clothes to leave up there too, so we don’t have to take much, if anything, with us as luggage each time.

Then we looked at talking microwaves, and other talking things like measuring jugs which we didn’t know were available. Things like that would really help Mum, and would be easy for me as well for that matter. We’d already bought a couple of talking cube clocks and took them up to Nan’s with us this weekend, so we’ve left them there. It was interesting to read about the microwaves, especially as you can get combination ones that function as regular ovens as well. And we had a look for a DAB radio and hot water bottles that we can leave up at Nan’s as well, for us to use when we’re there. So that’s given Mum various things to think about.

I’ve done an Amazon order too, as it’s that time of year for comedy stand-up DVDs in particular, so there’s a number of those, plus the Paralympics Blu-ray (I haven’t watched the Blu-ray for the Olympics yet, I’m saving it for a little bit longer), and Queen’s Hungarian Rhapsody (a 1986 concert from Hungary). I’m about halfway through Chuck: Season 5 now as well, and that’s very good indeed still, so it’ll be a shame when it’s finished.

And there have been other little bits of good news since we got home. We got 2 x £2.50 prizes on the Lotto Plus 5 over the past few days, so I’ve spent £4 of it on two lines for tonight’s £130 million EuroMillions draw, and £1 for a line on tomorrow night’s Lotto.

Mum and I are next planning to come up to London for my Aunt’s birthday weekend. I’m hoping to book the Friday and Monday off work, so we can go up and come back on those days, freeing up the weekend to do whatever we like. Then we’re aiming to have a full two weeks up there for Christmas, starting on the Saturday before Christmas, and returning the Saturday after New Years Day. I’ve got plenty of days owing at work anyway, so there’s no problem in using those. I’ve also spoken to my best mate today – he and his girlfriend are coming over from Guernsey for Christmas to see her family, and they’re going to see a matinee performance of The Lion King in London as one of their outings. So we’re hoping I’ll be able to meet up with them while they’re in the city if we can arrange it.

And that’s it. Back to work tomorrow, to see how everything’s going. The Police & Crime Commissioner elections are this week of course – it’ll be interesting to see who votes, as it’s not been publicised as much as it ought to be. We haven’t done our postal vote, but we have a good reason, having been away! So we’ll see what happens there. And there will be other bits and pieces to keep us occupied in the run-up to Christmas as well.

Sunday November 25, 2012

Just thought I’d do another quick update, now there’s a month left until Christmas. Mum and I have booked our train tickets for going up to London during December. We’re going up for my Aunt’s birthday weekend, so we’ll use that to look around the shops and other stuff. We’ve bought 2 DAB radios to take so we can leave them there – 1 in Mum’s room and 1 in mine – and I’ve just ordered a new shaver for me to take up there too. And Mum wants to get a new kettle, so we’ll look for one of those. Once we’re in London we’ll get an Oyster card each as well, and set up automatic top-ups online when we get home, so then we can use the Tube as much as we like whenever we visit.

I was also able to book a ticket for The Lion King, just across the aisle from my friends, so we’re looking forward to meeting up on that day. Booking by email was really easy, and instead of £67.50 I got the ticket for the disabled concession of £35 – not bad at all considering we’re in the front row! The show’s got rave reviews online, with my Aunt and people at work saying it’s very good as well, plus the videos of it online look cool. So I’m really looking forward to seeing that, as well as spending Christmas in London in general, it’s been a while since we last did that.

As for home, the weather’s been terrible the past few days – persistent heavy rain has resulted in flooding all over the country, but particularly the Westcountry. Some roads have had flooding in Torbay – we had to use the back roads on my journeys to and from work on a couple of occasions to avoid it – and there have been one or two landslips as well. Exeter’s been affected too, with a wall coming down on one day, and a tree coming down a couple of days later, and the River Exe was overflowing in some areas. Cornwall’s really been hit bad as well. Trains have been cancelled or severely delayed on various parts of the line between Plymouth and Bristol and beyond. So it’s caused a lot of problems, and there might be a bit more to come over the next few days. It’s hammering on the upstairs windows as I write this in fact, the heaviest we’ve had it so far today.

Mum’s got her third dentist appointment tomorrow, a follow-up to her trip a few weeks ago, though that might depend on the weather at this rate! There shouldn’t be so much to do this time, so hopefully we won’t be sitting in there for one and a half hours like last time. I’ve also been getting through the latest DVDs I’ve been ordering. I finished Season 5 of Chuck, which has been thoroughly enjoyable, it’s a shame it’s over. Then there’s stand-up comedy for me to watch, so I’ve started with Ross Noble, who’s as funny as ever. And there have been various things going on in the music world too – Madness’s new album is very good, The Rolling Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary so there are various things on the TV and radio about them, and I’ve watched Queen’s new DVD of their 1986 Budapest show, where they’re on fine form as always.

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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