Trials and tribulations

When dealing with my beloved I have long followed the principle that if I want anything done properly, I’ll have to do it myself. This is largely because I am a) a control freak; b) I like as much as possible done ahead of time, I dislike leaving anything until the last moment; and, c) long years’ of experience have taught me it’s most unwise to rely on my beloved. He likes to focus on the big things and leaves me to take care of the details.

Tomorrow afternoon we are flying to the UK for my mother’s funeral on Monday. My beloved returns from Italy only a couple of hours before we are due to leave. I did ask him to get everything ready for this trip, just in case his flight is delayed, and we only have time to swap cases. But he hasn’t, so I’ll have to do it for him tomorrow morning, along with mine.

I’ve been regularly checking the various airport sites and the can of worms appears to be Heathrow! The flight which was due to take off at the same time as ours only yesterday is due to arrive today at 12:24. That’s some delay! We’ll be letting the train take the strain thereafter and having checked the train timetables, it doesn’t look too bad.

Generally, I try to dissuade him from booking multiple flights on the same days. I’m not trying to tempt fate, but every time he’s done so I’ve had to meet him in arrivals, swap baggage and hustle him over to departures. Tomorrow’s clash was unavoidable due to airline timetables. My Father, who knows only too well what my beloved is like, was keen to have the whole family together for lunch on Sunday. Given the current state of the weather – plenty of snow and more forecast – he was delighted to hear we would be arriving on Saturday evening. Like me, he never leaves anything until the last moment. Yes, that’s where I get it from. He’s also incredibly well organised and leaves nothing to chance!

I also insisted that my beloved gave me all the flight information beforehand so that I could print out our boarding passes. I did this within 10 minutes of boarding opening yesterday afternoon. As the flights were booked on my beloved’s BA account, he will have received copies of the confirmations from BA showing his and my seat numbers. We’ve both got window seats in the same row. That’s right we’re not sitting next to one another. I’m going to prolong the peace and quiet for another hour or so more.

How do I know he received the confirmation? Well, BA’s system advised me that it would be emailing my beloved. He immediately lobbed said email back to me asking me to book him in! I can’t tell you how many times I have asked him to stop sending me emails that he hasn’t read. To be fair he did at least attach a message asking me to book him in, but if he’d only taken the trouble to read it……………………..

This is one of the many perils of working together. My beloved is fixated on keeping up to date with his email traffic. If he can divert a substantial portion of it to me, so much the better. Job done!

Handed over and out

I popped into the club yesterday evening to complete my three-stage handover to the new Club Secretary and her adjoint. As I entered the pair of them, along with the new M Le President, were gazing uncomprehendingly at the club computer. They told me it didn’t work. I switched it on and “Lo and Behold”, it functioned. Wonders will never cease.  They then asked me how the  large printer next to the computer worked. This is a bit of a shaggy dog story, so bear with me.

Some years ago, having discussed the possibility of acquiring a computer for the clubhouse, M Le President was seduced by an offer in a local supermarket. He bought the computer without authorisation from the rest of the management team. The computer runs on its own slightly compatible Microsoft-like software. M Le President acquired the large professional printer in a similar fashion ie without authorisation, from a bankruptcy sale.

Sadly he failed to acquire the all important lead linking it to the computer which I finally managed to track down some 18 months later. At the same time I learnt we needed a Microsoft operating system in order to use the printer. Microsoft doesn’t and cannot run on this particular computer. Yes, a classic example of non-conjoined thinking! The new secretarial combo looked aghast, clearly they’d anticipated being able to use the club’s facilities to carry out their new role.

They wanted to know what I used. I gently explained that I made use of my own computer and printer for the club. The new M Le President demanded to know what had happened to the technology acquired by our predecessors. I explained that I had absolutely no idea but I could confirm that anything and everything we had acquired was in the clubhouse and available for everyone to use.

Luckily we had a licence renewal so I was able to show them once more the steps and paperwork to record the transaction. I had left the new Secretary a couple of envelopes but explained they would need to acquire some stationery as again the old management team had used their own supplies for the benefit of the club.

I then advised that there were cheques to be paid including the insurance on the club’s cars. The new M Le President didn’t seem to think it mattered that the invoice hadn’t been settled, he had after all a copy of the renewal. Good luck with that if anything happens to the car. I know exactly how much you’re going to receive from the insurers. It’s a big fat zero. But he wouldn’t be told.

My conscious is now clear. I have handed over all the documents, notes, checklists and idiot’s guides but, as they say over here “on ne peut faire boire un âne qui n’a pas soif”.

The last word

Not to my mother's teaste!
Not to my mother’s taste!

At the beginning of last year, I was shocked at how much my mother had deteriorated. She no longer walked and now spent her days either in her hospital provided bed or in a wheelchair. Alzheimer’s doesn’t kill you but over time the body shuts down and your immune system becomes severely compromised. To be honest none of us thought she’d see the year out. In May she was very weak and dehydrated and we all feared the worse. But she rallied.

My father had long since used the services of a private nursing agency to help get my mother up and ready in the morning and put her to bed in the evening. She’d become so frail and her skin was like paper so that she bruised easily and was prone to bed sores. Nonetheless, it took two people to deal with her and she had a devoted team of six looking after her on a regular basis.

Her condition was monitored regularly by the local health authority, who finally agreed to contribute to the sizeable cost of caring for my mother at home and afford my Dad a bit of respite. This was cheaper for them and assured my mother of round-the-clock care she was unlikely to receive in any institution. In any event, my Dad’s old school, he promised “in sickness and in health” and he’s a man who keeps his promises. He has always been endlessly patient with her, even before the illness took hold.

From time to time, there was the odd glimmer of the woman she once was. But most of the time it was just her fiercely bright blue bewildered eyes gazing out at you from a prematurely aged and shrunken face. I last saw her in early October and she seemed in surprisingly good spirits, a condition which persisted in the run up to Xmas. She was irritable over Xmas and we thought it might be as a result of slight changes in her routine and having more visitors in the house than usual.

After Xmas she stopped eating and drinking, something she’s done before but never for an extended period. She also seemed to be suffering from a heavy cold. A childhood bout of pneumonia had left her with a heart murmur and a shadow on one of her lungs so she’d always easily succumbed to coughs and colds, particularly in the winter. She was listless and rather than leave her in her wheelchair, the nursing staff decided to let her stay propped up in bed where she seemed to drift in and out of consciousness. My father rarely left her side, nor did my middle sister and brother-in-law who live nearby. As her condition deteriorated, the doctor was summoned.

He advised that she had pneumonia and it was only a matter of days before she simply breathed her last. He assured everyone that she was in no pain and she was made as comfortable as possible. My younger sister and her husband arrived to lend moral and physical support. Everyone took turns keeping my mother company. My father held her hand and I said I was sure she knew he was there.

My mother was finally at peace in the early hours of Monday morning. Mid-morning I got a text message to ring home. I knew even before I rang what they were going to tell me. Yes, it’s sad. But it’s sad that her last years on this earth were spent in some sort of living hell and frankly I can’t be sad that she’s been released from her torment.

When someone dies there’s a huge amount of administrative stuff to be dealt with. A bit of a blessing as it keeps the mind active and prevents it from dwelling too closely on exactly what’s just happened. My brother-in-law, who’s experienced at dealing with such matters, has taken charge and my two sisters are ensuring that my Dad isn’t on his own. For almost sixty years, his life has revolved around caring for my mother in one form or other. It’s no exaggeration to say that he’ll be lost without her.

Arrangements for the funeral are already well in hand. Funerals are by their very nature sad occasions but, when you’ve reached a ripe old age, they should be a celebration of the good times and happy memories. My mother had plenty of both. My middle sister, the Pam Ayres of the family, is penning a poem to be read out at her funeral. I’ve offered to read it because neither of my two sisters feel able to do so. Of course, if I feel myself welling up, my beloved will have to take over, though I’m hoping it won’t come to that and I’ll be able to do justice to my sister’s opus.

To give her some food for thought, my sister has asked me to jot down everything I can remember about my mother because 1) as the eldest I’ve been around a bit longer 2) I had a good relationship with my mother and spent plenty of time with her prior to her illness and 3) I have the memory of an elephant. When I started to compile the list, I realised just how far back I could remember and just how much. Plenty of fodder there, much of it very amusing!

At the cycle club Galette des Rois last night, one or two members who also have relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s  – some of whom had met my mother – kindly asked after her. When I replied that she’d died the previous day, they looked mortified. I said they shouldn’t apologise as they weren’t to know and my mother was finally at peace.

I had been surprised that she’d managed to see out the year but I like to think she did so in order prove us wrong and have the last word. She so loved having the last word!


As the New Year gets underway you can’t help but wonder what it’ll have in store for you. I have in theory given up my responsibilities at the cycle club. A new management team has been elected and I have everything ready and in place to hand over to the new team but none of them seem to be showing much interest in getting the handover underway. I’m wondering if they are labouring under the misapprehension that their new roles commenced with the start of the new year?

I have no real worries on the Treasury front. The club’s honorary auditor and I are swapping hats. He’s an accountant, so there’s no need to teach Grandma to suck eggs. The incoming President, a recent retiree who lives locally and one who’s been president of another club is slowly getting to grips with the club’s affairs and is learning that I’m pretty much the go to person for pretty much everything. So the sooner I can pass on the baton, the better.

He recently complained that he didn’t have the email addresses of some of those on the new management team. I politely explained that was because a) they didn’t have email and b) nor did they possess computers. He seemed a bit taken aback, as well he might be. No doubt he was wondering where exactly these members were going to “lend a hand” not with the papaerwork, that’s for sure. He’s not been overly forthcoming himself. There’s been no circulation of the minutes of the first management team meeting nor an organisation chart explaining who’s now doing what. I understand via the grapevine that the first club event of the year, the famous Galette des Rois, has been scheduled for next Tuesday evening and today – two days before the event – received an invitation.

I have seen the new M le President out riding with the club and maybe he’s taken that opportunity to advise verbally of forthcoming events. But not all members ride regularly with the club. Here we may be coming to the crux of the issue. The Club was a member of three federations, two of which were solely for the benefit of our racers mostly, but not all, long since departed. The remaining association is the one which our president presides over. Yes, he’s once, twice a President and therefore keen to only promote membership of the one of which he’s president.  If that’s truly the case, membership will dwindle even further and the average age will rocket to around 65.

A sizeable number of disaffected members have already started another Sunday ride which leaves not from the club meeting point but from our local bike shop. Discussions are afoot to start another small club of like-minded and similarly skilled riders whose interests will no longer be catered for by our current club. I’m not sure the new president fully appreciates the ramifications. Shorn of racers, the club shirt will no longer feature prominently in the local press and our commercial sponsor, Skoda, may well withdraw its support. In addition, the subsidy we receive from the local authority is membership based. With the local sport’s federation strapped for funds, money will – and quite rightly so – be diverted from the old to the young. In addition, those members who currently sponsor the club are part of the disaffected block likely to move to pastures new, thereby further exacerbating the situation. Without those funds to bolster the coffers putting on events such as La Kivilev gets called into question. Already the decision has been made to return it to a cyclo-tourist ride, thereby eliminating the competitive  – and most attractive – element.

In truth I cannot complain as I was unwilling to either stand as the new president or remain a part of the management team and continue to carry my rather unwieldy work load. A professional to my finger tips I am handing over things in a very different fashion as to how I received them. Everything is documented and in apple-pie order and I have offered to help ease in those acquiring new responsibilities. But that’s where it ends. So you can understand why, when I recently received an email entitled “Interested in Volunteering?” I deleted it immediately.