Sciatica – short update

Twenty days ago, or so, I wrote about my sciatica attack. I am pleased to report that it has got progressively better over the last two weeks and is, essentially, over.

 I started taking the amitriptyline that the doc prescribed, as I wrote before, and nothing much happened. It still hurt so badly that I could have happily had my leg just cut off. I took myself to the pharmacy and discussed with the pharmacist what I could do. She very helpfully suggested Cocodamol but warned me about becoming addicted and said not to take it for more than three days in a row. Being risk-averse I took it only when the pain was terrible – that was always at night – and it was very effective. It didn’t take the pain away completely but took enough away that the amitriptyline could help me sleep. One Thursday night the pain was faint and I slept really well. I put that down to the fact that I had walked to my Tai Chi class, had done the exercises and had walked home and was determined to exercise the next day as well. I walked and exercised on that Friday and was in terrible pain that night!  

But, after that night it all got better.

Yesterday I was in Ramsgate so decided to make an appointment with the acupuncturist, Steve. He could fit me in later in the afternoon so I waited about, went shopping (bought a great dress!), then had my acupuncture session. Steve told me that acupuncture works really well on sciatica on the second day of an attack. He said, “I’ve had people limp in here and walk out with no pain.” Though I hope I will never have another bout of sciatica, I will remember what he said.

The white haired woman free from sciatica pain

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Rosie supposes her toeses are roses – or, I used to live with the best dog

In 2005, we retired to the seaside.

My grand-daughter, Chloë, had begged for a dog since she was old enough to realise that it wasn’t really Sandy, the cat, who talked to her on the phone and I had promised that “when we move to the seaside….”, so then, all I had to do was appeal to Julian’s better nature.

Julian never had pets when he was a child and had had one or two bad experiences with dogs. He somehow believed that if a dog barked at you, it was shouting its hatred and would attack any time, so it wasn’t exactly easy to persuade him to go to the Dogs’ Trust to have a look, though he did realise that having a dog might be a good thing.

We visited the rescue centre and walked along the row of cages. In each were one or two dogs and all were barking. They were obviously saying, “take me, take me” but Julian believed they were saying “I hate you!”. Suddenly we were standing before a cage containing two dogs, one of whom ran into the back and the other, which sat and smiled at Julian, saying, “I love you with all my heart, please take me home.” We did – a couple of days later, after checks to make sure we would be good adoptive parents and our garden would keep Rosie safe.

Rosie, November 2005

That first day we took Rosie on her new lead out of the centre and opened the rear passenger door of the car. In she jumped and I sat alongside her while Julian got into the driver’s seat. Immediately, Rosie joined him by going through the gap, over the gear shift and hand-brake and onto his lap. From the photos you can see that she was not a small dog and, anyway, it’s against the law to drive with a dog on your lap, or it should be if it isn’t! So, I pulled her into the back and held onto her very tightly. She decided that she wanted to sit where I was so perched herself on my lap. All Rosie’s twenty five pounds were focused in her two front feet and onto my left thigh for much of the remaining twenty or so minutes it took to drive home.

We adopted Rosie just before Guy Fawkes night. I was a bit apprehensive because I knew that dogs were not any more keen on the noise of fireworks than I was/am and, what I was reading on the internet about dogs on Firework night made me even more worried! There were tales of dogs leaping through closed windows and disappearing into the distance and I had visions of Rosie smashing through the double glazing in the lounge and taking off for parts unknown. We did what we could to keep her calm we turned on loud music, sang, pulled the curtains shut, and tried to make more noise than the firworks but to no avail. Rosie went to her newly purchased wicker bed and tore it apart while I kept picking up the bits so she wouldn’t swallow them and get them stuck in her throat. The fireworks petered out around one am and so did we.

The ex-waste paper basket

In he following February Rosie proved that she didn’t need the noise of fireworks to cause damage to wicker! I had emptied a waste paper basket and left it on the stairs to take up later. At some point in the afternoon I went upstairs and found Rosie, surrounded by the remnants of said waste basket. After that I hid, or at least made it difficult to get at, anything that she might think was available for the same treatment.

Rosie was the sweetest-natured dog. She loved all her humans, including Chloë who came to visit several times, but she loved Julian most of all. She wanted to be near him at all times and would follow him around the house. Only if Julian were out, would I get that same treatment (and I was the one that fed her!) She loved playing with her toys, of which she had many. She would chase and fetch but didn’t really have the concept of giving back. Daily, she and I would go upstairs where there was a lot of running room and I would throw one of her toys from the across the bedroom and down the corridor while she sat on the bed and watched, then she would leap down and race to get the toy and bring it back – to the bed. Fifteen minutes of play usually led to an hour or two of nap-time which was good as I was tired out!

BUT, Rosie could not get on with other dogs. We had been told that there was no problem.  We should have taken more notice when we took her for a short walk at the centre before taking her home. As we arrived back we had to go across a yard where a helper was putting another dog through its paces and Rosie, seeing the dog, went crazy, pulling on her lead and barking. Being dog-virgins, we thought it was a one-off and that she had something against that dog. Nope! Every other dog in the world was an enemy. Walking on the prom above Viking Bay or on the beach was a nightmare; Joss Bay was quite good if we got there when no other dogs were around but immediately another dog turned up, Rosie became a menace. I still shudder when I remember the day, two or three days after we got Rosie, when Chloë and I went to the shops and I left Chloë, who was only a skinny kid of eleven, holding on to Rosie’s lead while I stepped inside the bakery to buy some cakes. It is with relief that I can look back and praise god that not one dog walked past on our side of the road – or the other – because Rosie was that bad about other dogs. Another time, some years later, I was walking her down a quiet street and I had, for a moment or two, stopped my careful lookout for other dogs and I suddenly found myself face-down on the pavement and Rosie, across the road, trying to attack a pair of dogs who were being walked by another woman. Luckily, the woman had the presence of mind to grab Rosie’s lead and hold her away from her dogs while I picked myself up from the road and went across to grab Rosie. There was no harm done, thankfully, except to my nerve. I seldom walked her again, I’m sorry to say.

We did try to solve the problem, mind you. A dog trainer came to our house, chatted, played with Rosie, then took her out to his van where, in one of two cages, there was a rottweiler. He put Rosie into the other cage and there was no problem! He – and we took her for a nice walk to some nearby fields and she showed us what a good girl she was, walking very nicely – for the trainer. Later that day, Julian took Rosie for a walk, came across a little dog and Rosie went crazy!

Then, we went to a ‘dog psychologist’ whose practice was somewhere in the country outside Canterbury. We spent an hour or so with  him and he did the same trick, putting Rosie near another dog who was separated, this time by a fence. Her only reaction was interest. Home we went, full of enthusiasm, only to find no change. The psychologist suggested a change in diet, a change in the way we held the lead, a special harness type lead etc etc but, in the end nothing worked and we had a dog who would not or could not be trusted to be near other dogs. We had some nightmare Christmases when we took Rosie to my mother-in-law’s house for a visit. Damien, Julian’s younger brother, also brought his (well-behaved) dog, Jet. The first year wasn’t too bad and I hoped that Jet had a calming influence on Rosie but, as Christmas followed Christmas, it was evident that Rosie would never get better and in the end we either stayed home at Christmas or kept Rosie closed up in another room when Jet was there.

Jet

Despite these problems we all loved Rosie and were happy that she was part of our family.
Last winter Rosie got a runny nose, just from one nostril. Our wonderful vet thought she must have sniffed a small particle of something up her nose and that she would sneeze it out. When that didn’t happen, she gave Rosie antibiotics in case it was some sort of infection. Then we tried several courses of antihistimines in case it was some sort of allergy. Before the spring came, Rosie had become run down, not eating or drinking much and spending almost every minute lying on her bed. Every once in a while she would look at me with sadness in her eyes. She must have known that she would not be getting better. I didn’t believe that. But, then she started struggling to breathe through her nose and I knew it was time. Our vet and her nurse came to the house. I sat with her while they gave her an injection and she fell asleep. Julian couldn’t bring himself to come say goodbye.

Rosie, looking run-down

Rosie went to sleep for the final time

I miss her every day and can’t begin to think about getting another dog – because it won’t be Rosie.

Rosie in her wicker bed before Fireworks night

Rosie in the garden playing catch with a broken football

Looking after a poorly Chloë

Rosie and Julian checking the works

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Cats (and Tortoises) I have Known

Until I was in my 60’s I almost always had at least one cat. When we lived in Queensway we had one whose name I think was Madam. She had to be an indoor cat as we lived on the 6th floor of a block of flats. It was she who helped the family dispose of our Christmas tree one year when, while we were all out, she somehow denuded it making it very easy to carry out of the flat without leaving a long trail of sharp green needles. When I was pregnant she appeared to be pregnant as well although, for her, it was an impossibility as she hadn’t had access to any male cats. We thought it was a phantom pregnancy – and maybe it was – but it was also because she had some terrible female problem which, in the end, killed her. It was a very sad lesson to us that female cats should always be spayed if they aren’t to be allowed to have kittens!

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(Above is the block of flats we lived in, with our flat marked in red (not very well!)

When we moved to Chiswick Veronica was around two and a half and was very keen to have a kitten. We were given a little cat which we called Daisy. She was mostly white with little patches of tan and she did not make Veronica happy as, when the two first met, Daisy scratched Veronica on the ankle signalling, I think, that she didn’t want to be bothered by a small child. A few years later Daisy was joined by a mother cat and five kittens.

I was sitting on the little garden space we had on the roof of the shoe shop we lived above when a pregnant cat jumped off a ledge, settled at my feet and produced a little black kitten and then  proceeded to give birth to four more kittens over the next hour or two. We moved them all inside as it had started to rain and we made them a home in the box room at the top of the flat where they lived for a few  weeks. The mama cat – whom we called Mama – went out one evening when the kittens were about six weeks old and was run over which made us all very unhappy. Luckily, the kittens had been weaned by then. We had a friend who was looking for a kitten and she chose ‘Dudley’. A neighbour wanted a kitten so she had ‘Frankenstein’ and this left us with ‘Orpheus’ (the black kitten), ‘Winnie’ (named by my sister after Winston Churchill), ‘Poppy’ and Daisy who was not at all happy about sharing her home with other cats. (Somewhere I have a few photos of the above mentioned cats but I can’t lay my hands on them at the moment. When I do, I’ll add a short blog with their photos and maybe a few more of the others.)

At around this time I started going out with a vet which was very lucky as one by one the kittens and Daisy succumbed to horrible illnesses leaving us with Orpheus who came with us to Ravenscourt Park, West Malling and East Malling after Julian and I got together. Orpheus was a special cat. He tried to talk to me occasionally, not with words or meows but with facial movements. He would sit near me and wait until I was looking at him then would open his mouth and stick his tongue out as though he were going to lick then move his head to the side. After he had done this a few times I realised that he was telling me he was hungry. He went on doing that strange movement for years. Another thing he did was ‘fetch’. If I rolled an olive across the floor, he would run after it, pick it up and bring it back to me. (Don’t ask why I would roll an olive on the floor!) He did the same with wrapped sweets.

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Orpheus when he was quite old

Once, when Judy, Veronica and I were living in digs and Orpheus was living with us, he went out into the back garden. The house we lived in was one in a circular terrace of houses and there were probably twenty or thirty (or even more) houses in this circle. None of the back gardens had access to the roads in front of the houses except by going into a house from the back and out the front door. Orpheus didn’t come back though I called and called. For two days he didn’t come back and I started to really worry about him. I went down the street and round the terrace calling, ‘Orphy, Orphy’, but no luck. Then, just as I had given up hope of ever seeing him again, and was making one last tour of the roads, I called again ‘Orphy’and he came running out from under a parked car and jumped up into my arms! We had a little celebration that evening because our lovely Orpheus was home again.

We moved back to West Malling after our year of living in digs, taking Orpheus, Moosh  and Tiggy (both of whom we had acquired along the way)  with us. First Tiggy, then Moosh some years later, were lost to speeding cars but we were not to be a one cat family for long. We had a friend, Georgia,  who lived in West Malling but worked in London and who was a sucker for stray cats. On her walk from the tube station to work one day she spotted a little cat who was very obviously pregnant and adopted her, bringing her home and making her comfortable until her kittens were born. She invited us to see the kittens and we fell in love with two of them, Piggy and Tiggy II. Not content with making us a three-cat family, Georgia decided to give Veronica her very own kitten and bought a pedigree Burmese for her. The breeder seems to have been rather careless, though, first by selling a kitten who hadn’t yet been completely weaned and then by never forwarding the paperwork proving the pedigree. We didn’t care if Dizzy was pedigree or not! He was gorgeous and so loving.

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Dizzy (sorry, it’s a little blurry!)

When he came to live with us, Dizzy was small enough to sit on my hand (which isn’t a particularly big hand). He decided that I was his mother and that my earlobe was a teat! If he wanted comforting he would climb up me and start to suckle on my earlobe. It was really sweet for the first few months because he didn’t have very sharp teeth but later it became quite painful and I had to discourage him. He carried on trying for about five years but, eventually forgot what my earlobe was for. Several years after Julian and I set up home together, Veronica went off to uni and I suffered from ’empty-nest syndrome’. In some ways Dizzy became my surrogate child. I didn’t dress him up and push him around in a pram or anything stupid like that but I did probably treat him as a child rather than a pet. Of course, the inevitable happened to all four of the cats who went to East Malling with us. First Orpheus (who was about 20 by that time) died, then Piggy and Tiggy and finally my Dizbo left us.

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Mitzi

We still weren’t entirely cat-free, however, as Mitzi, a stray abyssinian mix took up residence under our shed and, in the coldest months, came into the house and allowed us to feed and pet her. When we moved from East Malling to Wateringbury we left Mitzi with Sue and Keith, our next door neighbours as she still liked living under the shed in the warmer months. We also left Tortnaytootinalumbine with them as Keith was very fond of reptiles and we were frightened that our new garden would not be safe for her (it was huge with ponds and many places for her to hibernate and never be found).

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Dizzy with Tort on the left and Chronos on the right.

Tort, as we called her because her real name was far too long to keep saying, was a lovely tortoise which I had bought at a garden centre the year before the sale of tortoises was banned. The first couple of years we were careful to hibernate her, following all the rules but later we left it to her. We had a wood-burning stove which was our central heating boiler as well and when winter came she (Tort) would usually disappear behind the wood-burner until March. Occasionally she would make an appearance around Christmas, maybe to munch on a bit of lettuce or cucumber, then would disappear again until spring. About two years before we moved a friend gave us another tortoise called Chronos who laid several eggs in the middle of the lounge one New Year’s Day and promptly died. Of course the eggs were not fertile, but just in case, I incubated them for a few months.

During our time in Wateringbury we didn’t have a cat of our own although we were visited by two black cats which we named Belle and No-Belle – they were both pretty, both girls and both wore collars, one with a bell and the other without. Then one cold, wet evening along came Sandy who was a ginger-ish cat who had been in a fight and was bleeding. Julian brought him in and we took him to a vet who cleared up his injuries. When he was well we tried to persuade him to go home but he had decided that we were his family so we kept him and, when we moved to West Malling, took him with us.

He was a sweet old cat who just wanted to lie around and not go outside which was lucky as we lived in a busy high street. Only once did Sandy get out of the premises without our knowledge. Our building was on the High Street, as I said, but it backed onto a small lane separated from our yard by a high brick wall with a wooden door in it. At some point during the day Sandy must have walked out into the yard and gone out the door when someone had opened it to throw rubbish in the bins which were outside the brick wall. When I went up to our flat (from the antique shop which was on the ground floor) I called Sandy but he was nowhere to be found. I rushed back down in case he was locked in the shop or workshop then opened the door into the lane and, there he was, sitting and waiting patiently for me to come find him!

After Sandy we had another old cat called Ozzie. He had belonged to Sue and Keith but they needed to find him a home and, as he was old and liked being indoors, they offered him to us. He was a very handsome fellow and we had him for a year or two.

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Ozzie, our last cat (until the next one?)

After Ozzie came a lull. We retired, moved to the seaside and got a dog, Rosie about whom I will write another time.

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A reminder…

….that I exist! I’ve been trying to write more about Patty but it isn’t coming easily so I might have to postpone “Patty 3” and write something else! (Sorry!)


Soon, I hope x

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Who are you?

Hi. Just a quickie. Every day I look to see how many people have looked at my blog posts. Today I can see that five of my posts have been read or, rather, two people have read my second blog about Patty, one has read about my sciatica and two have read Home page/archives, which I assume means they could have read any or all of my earlier posts.

Being an enormously curious person, I would love to know who has had a look at what I have to say. I know of one person who has read yesterday’s post (my daughter, ‘Veronica’). If you read this and have the time, perhaps you could just write a word or two in the comments section so I know. You’d make an old lady very happy!

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Patty, the white haired woman’s white haired mother, Part 2

We arrived in London in 1958. Within a year or so of our arrival, Patty decided that the bags under her eyes were just too bad for a woman in her late thirties so she would have plastic surgery to remove what turned out to be little ‘sausages’ of fat, from around her eyes. She went into the London Clinic for the operation and took with her a neat little case which held her toiletries and other essentials. The case had been given to me as a going away present by a friend and had my initials – CCG – in ‘gold’ on the lid. [My mother had taken her maiden name of Grant when she divorced and, though my last name wasn’t Grant, we had all been using it as our last name to make life easier – three different last names were very confusing!] So, in the London Clinic, Patty was Mrs Grant. She was very surprised to see nurses popping in at all hours with big smiles on their faces for no apparent reason  until, after a couple of days she found out that all the nurses, seeing the initials on the case, assumed that she was Mrs Cary Grant and they were looking in to see if they could get a glimpse of Mr Grant. Needless to say, there were some very disappointed nurses at the clinic!

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The neat little case with initials CCG

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Patty after her ‘bags’ removed from her eyes.

Patty left the Navy in 1962, flailed around looking for work for the next twenty or so years, occasionally finding a settled job but becoming discontented after a few years and moving on to another job and another home.

In the meantime, the well-to-do families she was born into became much less well-to-do so that Patty, who had always thought she would be looked after financially, struggled. She found it impossible to save – if she had money, she spent it quite quickly. She was very generous with belongings – she gave away a whole set of lovely Japanese prints to an artist friend, pieces of furniture, clothes and, in the 1970’s, she gave away my daughter’s rocking horse which was just a plastic rocking horse but well-loved. ‘Veronica’ still hasn’t forgiven or forgotten!

Through good luck, in the early 1970’s, Patty was able to buy a house in the Ravenscourt Park area of London. It was a Victorian house which had been owned  by Hammersmith Council in the past and used as social housing but was past its best by 1971. Patty bought it with a 100% mortgage and was able to bring it back to its former glory. It was big and beautiful with four double bedrooms, a through lounge-diner, a neat little kitchen, a utility room, a box room and a bathroom. The garden left much to be desired but at least there WAS a garden.

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Flowers in the garden

Just when we seemed to have settled down, I was made redundant from my job as a secretary in a business in Acton. I had never forgotten that I wanted to be a teacher and had applied for a five year, part time, evening teacher training course for which I had been accepted and was going to start in that September. Having been made redundant, I looked at the nearby Thomas Huxley Teacher Training College to see if I  could achieve my dream more quickly by doing the three year, full-time course that they  offered. This meant that my (really rather meagre) salary was no longer available to go into the family’s coffers and Patty decided we couldn’t afford to stay in the house any longer. She found a tiny and very old cottage in West Malling, Kent which, upon selling the big house, she could buy and move into. So, my sister and I and my daughter found ‘digs’ in London during term time. (Another story for another time.) After the first year in ‘digs’ we moved to West Malling and commuted to London when necessary.

Before her second marriage Patty had been an antique dealer in a small way, driving around the country lanes of Muskingum county, visiting farm houses and buying their unwanted items. One time she and two friends had been searching for antiques when they were in a terrible car crash. Patty came through unscathed, her two friends were injured but, fortunately, not fatally, but the drunken man who was driving with his mistress on the wrong side of the road, was killed. Apparently, the man was being pursued by his wife in another car and when she arrived on the scene, she blamed my mother for his death, presumably overlooking the fact that he was speeding away from her and had been drinking.

Patty had a great eye for decorative items and her home was filled with gorgeous old country pieces until she discovered modern furniture in the early fifties. I went to school one day, leaving the house full of things like an old wooden cobbler’s bench used as a coffee table, and came home from school to Charles Eames chairs, storage units and tables!  Years later, in West Malling, Patty once again took up antiques and opened the downstairs of the house, which was on the High Street, as a shop for a couple of years. The problem with this was that she no longer drove and I had to become her chauffeur. I had no interest in the business at all, being busy with learning to be a teacher. I remember driving Patty to several antique shops around the area where she picked up a bargain or two then put them into the shop. Occasionally she would be offered some items privately on which she could actually make a slight profit but she was never a business woman and too often sold items at a loss rather than wait a little longer for the right buyer.

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The tiny, very old house Patty bought in West Malling and which was the antique shop for a couple of years.

I finished teacher’s training college and was fortunate to find a teaching job in a small private school as the kindergarten teacher. I say fortunate because until that year there had been too many jobs for not enough teachers but in 1975 there were far more teachers than there were jobs! My teaching position was weird, to say the least, as I had trained to be a junior school teacher and was saddled with 3 and 4 year olds, some of whom couldn’t even do up their shoes yet. But, again, this is a story for another time.

Back to Patty. She worked as an interior designer for a large shoe company, then designed logos for various high street stores, helped out with the design of a new hospital in London, and then there didn’t seem to be any architect/design jobs for her so she became an ‘administrative assistant’. She commuted to London daily for a year or so but her heart really wasn’t in that kind of job and eventually she left that job and tried to find something a bit closer to home. I remember driving her into Maidstone for an interview at an architect’s office and when she came out she was certain that she would be offered the position – but she never heard from them. It must have been humiliating for her as she was then approaching sixty and was unable to find full-time work. She even went on the ‘dole’, which meant lining up outside the National Insurance office once a week and ‘signing on’ – (to my American readers -‘the dole’ was an unemployment benefit paid to those people who were seeking work but couldn’t find it and ‘signing on’ was to prove that those receiving the benefit weren’t actually working but had the time to stand outside the ‘dole office’ in a line until they could get to the head of the queue and sign a sheet saying they weren’t working). Patty stood in the queue for one week and after that refused to sign on or seek help which was rightfully hers but that she found very demeaning.

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Patty

Patty’s go-to cure for anything that upset her was alcohol. The society she was born into used drink for social occasions and for relaxation – despite Prohibition. Her mother and step-father were both probably alcoholics. Each bought and hid his/her alcohol of choice  from each other. If you wanted some Scotch you would find a bottle behind the curtain in the study where Bill, Ethel’s second husband, hid it or if you wanted Bourbon, it would be found behind the curtain in Ethel’s bedroom. There was also always a big bottle of ‘green medicine’ which turned out to be phenobarbital, a liquid anti-depressant to which my grandmother became addicted. My mother often had a swig of green medicine if she was nervous and she was nervous a lot! Rather luckily, I suppose, once we were in London, she couldn’t get hold of it so alcohol was the next best thing.

There were many weeks that went by that Patty didn’t drink to excess but, if something was going wrong, she would ‘fall off the wagon’ or, if there was a time for celebration, the alcohol would flow. One Christmas – years before we moved to West Malling – Patty and Judy slept on mattresses on the floor in the kitchen. (I think they thought we would be burgled for our Christmas presents. This idea really was beyond silly as we lived in a flat above a shop and the only way into the flat was via a set of fire-escape stairs to a flat roof on the back part of the shop and on to which our only external door opened into the kitchen.)

In order to sleep well on the floor and celebrating Christmas Eve, both Patty and Judy drank rather a lot of something alcoholic. Whatever it was, in the morning neither was feeling too well. I got the Christmas meal going while Judy and Patty went to bed. The turkey was cooking nicely in the oven, the veggies were ready to start and ‘Veronica’, Jennie and I were watching tv in the kitchen when the phone rang. The phone usually was in the kitchen but had been taken upstairs to my bedroom where Patty was sleeping so I ran up the stairs to answer it. When I opened the door I found that Patty’s bedding was on fire! She had fallen asleep with a cigarette which had fallen onto her duvet-covered chest and the smouldering mess had just reached the nighty she was wearing when I appeared. I tore the bed clothes off her, shouting at her to wake up – but she didn’t. She was obviously still under the influence of the alcohol and dead to the world. What luck that Walter, a family friend, had chosen that moment to ring and wish us a merry Christmas! Somehow, this near-miss didn’t stop Patty smoking in bed. It was something she did until she was ninety and went into a care home.

1981 was a year that started an enormous upheaval in all our lives.

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Next time I’ll write about Patty’s life from 1981 to 2014

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Sciatica! OMG!

Ouch!


Eight or nine years ago I had this ache in my left buttock which was not particularly bad but a bit bothersome and sometimes when I was walking it caused me a bit of pain. I had osteopathy, I had acupuncture and finally I had a bit of physiotherapy but I still had the pain so the doctor sent me for an MRI to see what was causing it. Somewhere in the lower part of my spine they found a narrowing which was pinching on a nerve. I was given amitriptyline which I took every evening and lo! the pain disappeared.

I took amitriptyline for the next five or six years but, when I found out that one of its side-effects is tinnitus, I gave it up. That was about eighteen months ago when I had had pneumonia and hadn’t taken the tablets for a while.

Last week the pain in my buttock came back but this time it was not just bothersome, it was/is excruciating. It starts just to the left of my spine, goes through my left ‘cheek’, across to my hip and down the outside of my leg and turns right at the shin, goes across to the inside of my leg and, sometimes, feels like it’s shooting sparks out through the muscle there but otherwise just shoots a very achy pain across. I spent several days doing exercises from the internet along with using a nifty little doohickey called “Paingone” which shoots little electric sparks into various points along the sciatic nerve. Although the pain went occasionally, it always came back with a vengeance so I made myself get up early and rang the doctor (if you want an appointment you MUST start ringing at eight in the morning.) 

I saw the doc, got a new prescription for amitriptyline and for two days in a row there was very little pain – but the nights were something else. 

It is now twenty-five past six on the morning following the second day. I went to bed about midnight, having had a nap earlier to try to catch up with some sleep. I may have slept for half an hour or so but I have been awake the rest of the night and the pain is getting worse. About half an hour ago I took two paracetamol and came downstairs for a coffee, thinking maybe if I moved about the pain would lessen – it hasn’t🙁. 

Someone described it as “toothache in your leg”; it’s that and so much more!😩 May you never have sciatica!

(Sorry for being self-indulgent in publishing this. I thought it might help me although it hasn’t yet. I’ll get back to my mother as soon as I can concentrate😣.)

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Oh, how annoying it is sometimes!

Earlier today I posted a blog about my mother but there was a big glitch with the photos so I removed it, reworked it and re-published it about two hours later. The new one is on the website  ( http://www.whitehairedwoman.com ) but, if you get it via email, you have some of the original which isn’t whole, in the right order etc etc. Please go to the website to see the finished version.

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Patty – The White Haired Woman’s White Haired Mother – Part One

As I believe I said in an earlier post, Patty was born into a well-to-do family in the early twenties of the twentieth century. How it became a well-to-do family is, at least partly, as a result of the American Dream.

My great-grandfather had the Dickensian name of Sam Weller. His father was a tollgate-keeper and Sam was one of several children.  Oral history has it that Sam and his half-blind donkey started by making clay flower pots. In reality, he opened a small pottery, making clay flower pots but whether there was really a half-blind donkey isn’t mentioned in the official files. After several years, he and his young bride, Minnie, moved to the ‘big city’ or, actually Zanesville, which was a nearby town of a reasonable size. Minnie, along with her sisters – all fine seamstresses – set up as dressmakers while Sam grew his pottery business. After just a few years, the Weller Pottery was big enough that Minnie no longer had to work. The pottery grew and prospered, branching out into decorative items as well as flower pots. Sam and Minnie’s family also grew. In 1896, Louise was born and two years later, Ethel – Patty’s mother – came along. The family lived in a wonderful house on Market Street which I remember with great fondness. In 1900 Sam was the first man in Zanesville to own and drive a car in the town.

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Great Grandmother Weller reading with daughters Louise and Ethel

My other great-grandparents were also well-to-do. Alexander Grant owned a large store in Zanesville. His second son, Frederic, went west to Puget Sound to seek his fortune in 1883. He must have visited Zanesville at least once after that because, in 1887 he married Bessie Hoge, daughter of one of the first telegraph operators in Zanesville and she returned to Seattle with him. At that time he worked as a journalist and was the editor of The Post Intelligencer in Seattle as well as becoming the president of the Seattle Street Railway Company and also going into politics, becoming the first US senator from the new state of Washington. Some time after leaving the Senate, he was made the minister to Bolivia (something like an ambassador, I assume) and lived in Bolivia with his wife for about a year but poor health meant he had to resign his post and the two went back to Seattle. There, he resumed his political life as well as the editorship of the newspaper. In 1894, Bessie stayed home because she was pregnant while Frederic went on a voyage on a sailing vessel, The Ivanhoe, hoping to build up his health. The Ivanhoe sank and Frederic II’s dad was lost at sea at the age of only thirty-two. Bessie and her baby son moved back to live near her family in Zanesville  after some time.

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Great grandmother Grant

My grandmother Ethel was a beautiful and intelligent young woman in the days when beauty in a woman was seen as something very desirable while intelligence, if not definitely frowned upon, was discouraged. She was educated at home, probably taught sewing, drawing, a little French, a smaller amount of latin, basic numbers and reading. She became partially deaf – perhaps through a childhood illness or, as was handed down via oral tradition, through standing too close to the booming sound of a ship’s horn when on a transatlantic voyage.

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Grandmother Ethel Weller

My grandfather, Frederic II, was a good-looking and intelligent young man. He went to Yale, became a Captain in the Balloon Corps during WWI and married Ethel in June, 1921.

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Grandpa Grant (Fred II) in Balloon Corps uniform

In November, 1922, Patricia Belle Grant was born.

Finally, I hear you sigh!

Patty was good-looking and intelligent, like her mother. She grew up surrounded by fine objects, beautiful clothes, and a governess. The governess, Miss Keller, according to Patty, was horrible. If Patty couldn’t eat because she felt sick, Miss Keller would force the food into her mouth and hold her lips closed until she swallowed. I’m not sure how long Miss Keller lived with Patty but she definitely caused some of Patty’s later anxieties.

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Patty as quite a young child

Patty went to the local elementary school, played and had adventures with the local children. One story I can remember occurred during prohibition when Patty and her friend, also named Patty, I think, went around looking through people’s windows for signs of ‘hooch’ making. In one cellar they spotted lots of empty glass bottles which they decided must have been collected to be filled with illicit alcohol. I think they rushed to tell their parents who did what parents normally do when their children come to them with outlandish stories – nothing.

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Patty as a teen-ager. I’m not sure whether she is in Ohio or California in this photo.

Fred and Ethel divorced sometime in the early thirties, after their son, Frederic III, was born. Patty stayed with her mother in Zanesville while she was at primary school but seems to have gone to live with her dad in Los Angeles and went to the Douglas girls’ boarding school where she studied and also learned to ride and play polo and learned to shoot a rifle. When she left the Douglas school she went to Smith College in Massachusetts but was only there for a year before she got married.

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Patty with my father on the left, my uncle and me as a baby.

My mother was very bright and should never have had children! She should have stayed at Smith, gone on to an academic life, started painting, perhaps, or writing. She never really knew what she should do with her life and, after two divorces and three daughters, decided she would come to England and work as an architect for the US Navy.

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Patty around 1956

( I wish I had bothered to sit and listen to my mother’s stories when I was younger but I had ‘stuff to do’ – as most young people have – and, by the time I would have appreciated and taken in the history of my mother, it was too late. From my thirties onward I began to feel a great antipathy towards her (with good reason!) which really lasted until she died when I was just entering my seventies, at which point it was too late anyway, as her memory was full of holes.)

Part two soon!

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Just a quickie! Before and After

(Before I was seventeen and after I was seventy)

I thought I’d add these two photos to your consciousness. The first is a painting by my sister, Jennie, who is an artist – as you can tell. The second is the white haired woman just before I went to the hairdressers and had most of the white hair chopped off.😃

Ready for the prom, painting by Jennie, my sister.

The white haired woman’s hair which will be on the floor of the hairdressers shortly!

Don’t forget to give me a like or two, have a look at earlier photos and blog posts if you haven’t seen/read them before and sign up if you want to know about this American in the UK. Thanks!

Next post soon will be about my mother, Patty.

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