Thoughts on St Brigid’s Day

Something’s got to give. It might just be me!

Tonight, having reached the end of an ever-fraying rope, my soul and self fell into some kind of liminal space. A shadowy crevice in which I am now caught, trapped by anger and a deep sense of frustration. I, me, myself, the sum of all my parts – body, soul, persona – have been fossilised like amber for nigh on three years.

Three years. Has it really been that long? In many ways it feels like only a few months ago since I noticed my mother was showing signs of confusion and memory loss. In others, it feels like forever. A continuum of the longest day. Groundhog Day at the Madhatter’s tea party.

I can take the big world things in my stride but the small things, innocuous things, they flip me out. Having to juggle a project on deadline with multiple medical appointments whilst organising a holiday and trying to retain a semblance of sanity? No bother. But, walking out into the extension to find puddles of cat puke or diarrhoea, or worse both, lights my fire.

Worse again, walking into the bathroom only to see that one’s bath brush has been used to unblock the toilet, and all the unclogged, shit-stained paper has been dumped in the bath, well, that’s my switch tripped. Current status.

It’s hard caring for a very elderly parent. Full stop. Their increasing dependency, along with growing fragility and vulnerability eats away at any semblance of personal life. Add dementia to the mix and quality of life flies out the door. Throw an errant and highly erratic and stubborn father with mobility and memory difficulties into the pot and well, what can I say? The door of life slammed shut a long time ago.

I no longer look in the mirror except to comb my hair. On the few occasions I apply make up, it takes less time than it does to mop the cat spew up from the concrete floor. These days my choice in clothes is practical and comfortable; gone the snappy outfits and pastel colours. A manicure, what’s that for God’s sake? I barely have time to file my nails and usually only do so when one snags or breaks.

I spend both days and nights ‘on loop’, repeating the same sentences, forming the same words with a mouth that’s growing more lined by the week. My once clear brow is now furrowed, ploughed by the sorrow of life. My shoulders stoop, my gait sags, my once laughing mouth remains closed and pursed. Laughing … I can’t remember the last time I laughed a deep, unbridled, side-aching belly laugh.

I don’t laugh, I don’t sing. I no longer listen to the music that used to bring me so much joy. These days I find solace in the classical delights of BBC Radio 3 and company in the dramas of R4. The radio is my BFF, my forever friend to whom I can turn when the repetitive chatter, and silence of isolation become too much.

I had no objective at the start of writing this piece. I still don’t. I just needed to write. I needed to say what was churning around. To unfurl the feeling.

Tonight I spent two hours on my feet, emptying bins, stripping beds, putting in and out washing, mopping up and slopping out. It’s Saturday night. I’m a relatively young woman but I’ve turned into a scullery maid.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother. But, I also loved my life. The life I no longer have, and will never have again. When these duties are done, I will be a different person, facing into a very different and altogether more solitary future. Maybe these days of continuous isolation will prepare me well for what lies ahead. Who knows?

For now, my life will remain as is. Endless rounds of repetition, talking baby talk to an adult once revered for her acerbic wit and razor-sharp brain. Making soothing noises to assuage, wrapping calming arms around shaking shoulders to ward off nightmares and hallucinations. Waking every other nocturnal hour and listening out to make sure my mother returns to bed after yet another round of the late night walkies.

I am tired. I am lacklustre. I am frustrated. I am isolated. I am alone.

Me, and countless others like me. Alone.

Silently screaming, crying tears of frustration, despondent, beaten, exhausted, confined.

There is no help. There are no magic pills. There is no support for people like me. Only endless rounds of phone calls and home visits that eat into precious time. Lots and lots of promises and platitudes and free toilet seats. But no help. Nothing.

And so it will go on. Each day the same. Buying papers I rarely read and listening to shouts of ‘it’s Christmas in two weeks and I’ve nothing done’ at the end of January. Sweeping floors and shaking out throws strewn with crisp crumbs. Scraping uneaten dinners off plates whilst being berated for serving up the same meals again and again (I don’t). Wiping away tears and cleaning sticky marmalade fingers.

And in the midst of all that, trying to fit in moments of ‘life’ between work commitments, housework, and caring. Trying to grab moments alone only to be continuously interrupted (during the time it has taken to write this, I have been interrupted six times by mum, each with the same inquiry as to when her stripped bed is going to be remade). Even getting five minutes in the loo is an effort.

Life … I once had one of those.

Something’s got to give. It might just be me. But not for now. Not today, St Brigid’s Day, the first day of Spring. Time to look forward. Time to renew, recalibrate, recharge. I’ll try. It’ll be hard, but then, when hasn’t life been?

Bombay Bicycle Club – Pedalling the Same Synth-Pop Delights

Credit: Josh Shinner

London four-piece make convincing return with single ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’.

It’s been five years since Bombay Bicycle Club released the Mercury Prize nominated number 1 album ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, ten since their jangle-rock debut ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’. So when the four Londoners teased their return earlier this year after a long hiatus, the music world sat up and took notice.

Expectations were high, the bar had been set by the glorious synth-extravaganza that was ‘So Long’.

“Our new single, Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You), is now out. We’re so excited to be sharing new music after five years away. Recording it earlier this year reminded us all of the joy of working together on something we love.” 

Produced by John Congleton, ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) is a star spangled joy-ride across buoyant waves of pop and through shallows of pulsating thrum. A compelling piece of indie pop fusion it lures the listener in with its rizzled guitar lines, minimalist sticks, and nuanced vocals, all held in check by some well scored lines of low-lying bass.

Commenting on their impending fifth album the band said “We’re going away next week to finish the rest of our record, so it’ll be out next year” 

Bombay Bicycle Club returned to the live music scene earlier this Summer playing several shows across Europe including one at the Cork Opera House at the beginning of August. The British quartet are set to play a series of sold out dates including London’s renowned Brixton Academy on 8th November. No ticket? Bring a stool.

‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’ is available to stream and download now, and you can watch the official video for the track below,

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

Exposure Won’t Pay The Bills  #dailyinspo365

Come write for our blog; you’ll get great exposure and a myriad fridge magnets!

It’s a mug’s game that writing for blogs malarkey.

Oh, you’ll get all the free mugs in the world, but you’ll never get the price of the coffee to put in them. You will probably get a nice coaster though, and possibly a fridge magnet with a snappy one liner to which you can turn for comfort each time you open your bare fridge to look for milk to put in the coffee you’ve had to pay for with cold hard cash down at the local cheapomarket. Won’t that be nice?

Yes, your name will be added to plenty of guest lists; mainly those for bands whose gigs are free entry anyway. But hey, you’ve been given a guester … get you!

“You’ll get great exposure!”

As for reputation. It’s going to magnify a zillion times through all that exposure!

Ooh, think of that HUGE industry-wEYEd rep you’re gonna have from writing all those reviews n news features about countless next best things. Golly, you must be salivating at the thoughts of Laura Snapes positively tripping over herself to snap you up before the guys over at Best Fit bag you for themselves!

Or Jessica Hopper right? I mean, the blog does get worldwide exposure doesn’t it? There is a chance she just might like you know, check out random articles just for a nose. To see what the competition is doing, yeah? Cor! You can just picture it can’t you? Little ole you flying high around the globe, interviewing Jack White over breakfast in Berlin, or cosying up with Lizzo on the Iberian leg of her album tour! Living the dream right?

Wrong! So, so wrong. In every aspect and respect.

Asking people, especially young ‘uns, to write for free either for a blog or in any other situation, is just plain wrong. Oh, they might tell you that they’ve no money, that it’s a big co-operative thing and everyone does it for the lurve of music. But at the end of the day, the people that get the big interviews, the good guesters, and the masses of free shit, are the self-appointed editorial team, ie the person who started the blog and their commissioning editor sidekick.

When the free trips to EP or Latitude are being handed out, you’ll never be at the top of the queue. Oh, you might bag that away day-trip to the back end of Mayo to capture all the zazz on that up coming New Age Sustainable Folk Festival that no-one is talking about, but only ‘cos Mary of the green geansai is currently laid up with that dose she picked up skinny dipping with hippies in Cape Clear last weekend.

And you’ll get plenty of experience alright, but nothing you can’t pick up yourself, or by doing a one month internship with a reputable publication. Anyone can set up a blog. Anyone with a bit of a savvy, a nose for good music, and a friendly personality and inquiring mind can write reviews, interview artists, and latch onto the latest trends and techniques.

If you want to be a music journalist, do a course in journalism, get yourself some ‘work experience’ and get out there networking and doing the rounds. Go to gigs, talk to up and coming bands, get to know who’s who in your local scene and then take it wider. Start up your own blog focussing on the genres of music that appeal to you. Study how the others do it then replicate the style that best fits your own, until eventually you find your own ‘written voice’.

PRs love bloggers because let’s face it, we provide free advertising for the artists on their roster. With the basics covered, they only have to focus on skinning the bigger, more elusive cats like radio producers and TV researchers. Once you get on their mailing lists, you’ll have access to pretty much most of the releases and news from their stable. Forget trying to bag that elusive Radiohead interview. Thom’s days of cosying up over an herbal tea in the student canteen are long gone. Big names play with big players. The likes of Foo Fighters and Radiohead are great aspirations for your blogging bucket list. Most likely they’ll remain unticked!

That’s not to dampen your spirits. You can reach for the middle ground. If you spot an artist that you know is going to make it – and gut will tell you more than any amount of hearsay (worked like magic for me with Sam Fender) – go to their gigs, hang back, get talking to them, ask for a quick interview with the offer of a free pint, and get it out there on your blog. If they crack the scene, you’ll be on their radar and more likely to bag another interview or guester now they’re swimming mainstream.

Plus, it’ll be a wow reference when you go for any paid writing gigs in the future.

The Don’ts

First and foremost, don’t write if you can’t write. If you don’t have a natural talent for wordsmithing, forget it. Writing isn’t something you can learn like basic secretarial or how to mow a lawn. It’s like music, you either have it or you don’t. Simple.

Don’t write about music you don’t like – your enthusiasm won’t shine through but the stiltedness of your words will. If it’s a labour, move on. Same with any other subject. If your thing is GAA don’t write about Soccer. The text won’t sparkle.

Do write about music you love – whether or not its popular. Your love and passion will draw readers to your site. No-one wants to read mechanical fodder – and trust me, there’s already plenty of it out there. Don’t write positive reviews for the sake of keeping in with either artist or PR. If you genuinely don’t like something you’ve two choices – you can say it – politely – or say nothing at all. The choice is yours.

And never, ever let yourself be leaned on by anyone from a PR agency. It’s their job to get the info out there and stir up some fizz about their artists. It is not their job to hound people into reluctantly writing good reviews when they have neither the time nor inclination.

Whatever you do, be true to you and the rest as they say, will be history, of some ilk or other.

Ditto, don’t sell yourself cheap or your words for free. Builders don’t lay bricks for free, carpenters don’t saw wood for free, and PRs don’t rep their roster for free, so why should you provide free copy/content for A.N.Other, especially any site making money or turning over a rake of freebies/promos/festival passes that will never see the light of anyone’s day other than the editorial team.

Trust me. Been there, done that, wrote the reviews, and never got offered even as much as a beer mat.

You want to write for free? Write for yourself. Anything else is a waste of time, and will certainly do nothing for your global reputation.

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

Managing my Monkey Mind #dailyinspo365

With a head more full of chatter than a chimps’ compound, I need to find a way to silence the monkey mind.

There’s so much going on in my universe right now that my personal space feels cramped. With each passing day it’s becoming more difficult to silence the mental chatter. High time to muzzle my monkey mind.

If you’re new to the blog you won’t know the detail so to quickly summarise – I’m a stressball with a mind more active that a beehive full of bumbles.

I’ve been seeing a kinesiologist once a month for over a year now. We deal with things, tackle issues. Finally, we’ve arrived at that point where get to address the chattering classes of my cerebral cortex.

How?

By both practicing controlling the mental chat and being mindful during my waking hours – what I do in my sleep is my business!!

Being mindful at all times simply means being fully conscious throughout the day. Being cognisant of not just my thoughts, but of my actions, emotions, opinions, perceptions, vocal expression – everything. So, if I find my mind going for a wander while I’m working, I need to practice bringing it back – kicking and screaming – to the task in hand.

Or, if my ‘monkey mind’ decides to have a natter with its alter ego, I need to rein it in forthwith. No more sitting in judgement; the time has come to park all prejudices and wipe my critical slate clean. Like dust that clogs corners, all negative thoughts must be swept away.

If I do find myself sitting on the throne of judgement, favourite cushion and hot drink on standby, I must immediately acknowledge what I am doing and in atomic fashion, turn my electrons into protons. By turning negative into positive, I’ll be openly accepting the fact that what I’m thinking / feeling / doing is neither helpful, nor loving, nor constructive.

In so doing, I’ll be setting the intention to learn from my mistakes, do better next time, and move forward in a new way.

Speaking of intentions.

At the start of each day, I must practice setting my intentions, road maps for where I wish to go in life and how I’d like my life to be.

Without intentions there is no road map, so I’ll continue on the road to nowhere.

Intentions need to be things I believe in, things that matter to me: I intend to listen without prejudice; I intend to work for an NGO; I intend to promote sustainability; I intend to laugh every day; I intend to take responsibility for my actions. They also need to be positive. Two key objectives for me – and intentions which will help support my current situation – are positivity and self-belief. Going forward, one of my mantras will be,

Today is a great day. I have the consciousness required to surpass any challenges that lie ahead of me 

Tomorrow is monkey mind management and intention setting work day 1. I should start to see positive results within a matter of weeks. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to silence the internal naysayers, quieten the mental chatterers, and calm emotional storms. Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

What to Do? #dailyinspo365

I’ve had no sleep. Nothing at all. Not a jot.

It’s 5.30am and I’m sitting in the living room drinking Pai Mu Tea and feeling a little worse for wear. Weary before the bustling grind has even blinked an eye or scratched an itch.

In three hours, I’ll board a plane to London, forecast to be a hot and heavy 29 degrees, the type of weather that drains. Whatever gas is left in the tank will be well and truly gone by the time I step on the return flight twelve hours later.

I’m currently listening to Radio 4 which is reporting that 750,000 families in Britain have had to fund the care for relatives living with dementia. That despite repeated promises, the British government has failed to provide the additional funding required to support these families. The irony is that if those same relatives developed heart failure or cancer, they’d be looked after by the NHS, but because they’ve developed dementia or Alzheimers, they’re refused any assistance. How wrong is that?

However bad the situation is in the UK, it is ten times worse in Ireland. There is nothing here but lip service for those with elderly parents or dementia sufferers needing care, respite, and/or assistance.

But enough of that for today.

If I sound a little negative, it’s partly because I’m tired, and also a little hungry. In the main, it’s because at 2.35am this morning I received yet another phone call from the Gardai (Irish police) advising me that my elderly father had fallen in his apartment and asking if I either had keys to let them in or knew the combo to the outside gate. Same phone call, same questions, different month.

This is the sixth time in as many months that my dad has fallen in his home. Always in the middle of the night, always with the same results.

The question is, what to do about it?

Who am I to interfere with another adult’s life and yet, I feel the burden of responsibility to a man now well past the prime of life. Becoming increasingly fragile, he is almost a danger to himself. His confidence has been knocked by a recent theft, his legs are seizing up, and apart from a few neighbours in his gated community and the odd ‘auld lad’ in the pub, he’s pretty much alone.

Don’t get me wrong. Where he lives is safe and secure. Everything is provided from orthopaedic beds and chairs to extended hours of home help and public nurse visits. But it’s the nights that are proving the problem. He is tripping over himself with tiredness or sleepiness, and there is no-one there to help him up. Powerless, he resorts to sounding his personal alarm, which in turn alerts the Gardai, setting in motion a train of events that inevitably result in his being hospitalised.

So here I am. Sitting on the sofa wondering what to do. I’m practically a full time carer to my dementia-sufferer mother. I don’t have the ability to bi-locate. There are only so many hours. There is no-one to ask. No-one to help.

Again I ask, what to do?

There has to be an answer, somewhere, because this situation cannot go on indefinitely.

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

Flat As a Pancake #dailyinspo365

It’s only Day 1 and already the battery has gone dead. Instead of feeling all light and airy, I’m as flat as a pancake. 

Half way through day one and a dead head/sluggish bod combo are nailing me to the floor. My legs feel leaden, my bones are aching. One minute my head is as light as a feather, the next it’s a ton weight on my neck. If this is how I feel and I haven’t yet reached the end of the first day, how the hell am I going to last one full month?

I’m constantly trying to foist cups of caffeine on my mother so that I can do some deep inhaling of the fragrant scent of fresh ground, or china leaves. Without the usual toxic levels of caffeine and sugar my energy has slumped to an all time low, my concentration levels have flatlined, and I’ve a headache on the brew that I know is gonna be a killer.

Restless and lacking any kind of focus, I’ve turned into the human incarnation of the fidget spinner. I’m not down when I’m back up again, moving things from there to here, and schlepping around looking for inane things to do to pass the time because work simply isn’t happening right now.

In an apparent act of self-kindness, I’ve made myself some gently perfumed Bee Kind tea from Neal’s Yard. On any other day this would be a welcome treat, but today, as my body slowly expunges all known traces of toxicity, it’s redolent of drinking slightly lukewarm perfume, albeit one that’s floral and organic.

Be that as it may, I find myself squeezing the last honeyed drops from my little white teapot. Anything to create the illusion of drinking ‘real tea’.  However much it gnaws away inside, I know this feeling is only transient. In a few days it’ll be gone, along with the bloating, the cravings for stodge, and the quiet screams for sugar. It will, won’t it?

I’m not hungry as such. It’s the lack of ‘chewing’ that’s posing something of a challenge.

Is it all in my head? I really don’t know. Truth be told it’s currently all in my mouth as I crave something to get my teeth into. Activated nuts are allowed in small doses so when my chomping on the bit got so bad that I was in danger of it becoming a permanent thing, I smugly reached for my little pouch of Himalayan Salted Almonds. Six months out of date almonds! What’s six months to a woman desperate for something to bite down on, or for a morsel to chew.

A small handful kept the toothy wolves from the cupboard door so to speak.

As for the juices themselves?

Thus far, I’ve imbibed five, consuming a total of 450 cals. This excludes the 100 odd cals I consumed by way of the almonds. Tummy rumbling much?

The morning kicked off as usual with a Synergy Pro-Argi drink. This was followed by step one of the cleanse in the form of Water + activated Charcoal. It has a little lemony kick with a floral aftertaste courtesy of the addition of lavender. This was quickly followed by a bottle of the Cacao Nut Milk, which while it looks more chocolatey than it tastes, is pleasantly satisfying nonetheless. The Easy Green and Clean Carrot drinks are juicery par for the course; the former is a not unpleasant green juice while the latter is a standard ginger zinger albeit of bitesize proportions.

Fifth in line is an odious concoction called Lean Green. It’s made predominantly from vegetables, meaning it has that sharp, almost ‘green’ taste otherwise known in my book as pondweed. Made from ginger, lemon, romaine, cucumber, kale, spinach and celery – it’s the celery that’s the bugger – it lacks the light sweetness of Easy Green, and is an altogether more difficult drink. The proof of the pudding is in the fact that there is still about one fifth of it left in the bottle. If you do ever indulge in a PRESS VC, hold your nose for this baby.

With five hours to go before I throw myself into bed, I’ve the Clean Beet, Vanilla Nut milk and Water + Blue Spirulina drinks to go. Be still my beating heart! In desperation, I’m currently chewing the knob of a carrot, tongue firmly in cheek.

I know the worst is yet to come. Cooking and serving my mother’s dinner, not to mention the post-dinner clear up, which is foodie dynamite for the Queen of Pickers. It’s going to take all my inner stubborn mare not to bow to the Devil’s call – the fresh vegetables, dauphinoise potatoes (it’s the sauce, not the spuds that’s on my radar), and leftover flakes of honey roast salmon. Oh God, I’m already salivating. Be still my hungry heart!

Derv

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

Driving me to Distraction #dailyinspo365

A post in which I reflect upon being told that contrary to popular opinion, you are indeed too old to learn!

“You’re never too old” or so the saying goes. Well, not according to my now ex-driving instructor. It would seem that I am of an age when it is nigh on impossible for this old dog to learn new tricks.

Iho there is an age when we must accept that we are too old to learn, and I’ve reached it. This sagacious pronouncement came after a particularly traumatic second driving lesson in which I was shouted at, ridiculed, and had my hand slapped. Distressed much? Just a jot! Confidence battered to within an inch of its life? Pretty much.

To explain.

I don’t particularly want to learn how to drive, I need to. While the youthful enthusiasm I had for driving has long since dissipated, I’m not exactly apathetic. It doesn’t bother me one way or another. My approach is practical rather than exuberant, that ship has long since sailed.

To bring you up to speed, I had driving lessons many moons ago. I wasn’t bad, had smooth clutch control, could easily handle a three point turn, and didn’t break a sweat negotiating hill starts. However, when my second licence expired meaning I had to apply for the test, I jacked it in, mainly because I felt that not having a car to practice in, I was at a serious disadvantage.

Fast forward seventeen years.

My parents are now quite elderly and need to be ferried here, there and so on. The taxi thing is becoming a pain – not just in terms of the financial implications, but also because one is reliant both on their availability and punctuality.

Ipso facto, it’s time to take the bull by the wheel and steer my way into a less costly state of self-reliance. The theory behind taking some initial lessons in West Cork was that it would be calmer and quieter hopefully leading to a relaxed me and thus a positive driving experience. I’ve been the front seat passenger in two bad collisions – one head on – so my nerves being a little bit shot, it was thought best to ease me gently back into driving in an area noted for its super-slow pace and relaxed attitude.

Cue drivezilla.

Of the three local driving instructors that were recommended to me, only the third was available during my stay. I booked an initial lesson for the Tuesday, and while there were some signs that I was potentially putting myself into the hands of not the most patient person on the planet, nonetheless as it went quite well, I thought “ok, let’s go for seconds”.

In hindsight, all the early signs of drivezilla were there during that first lesson, but,while the lack of a calm, professional approach ie the shouting, the leg grabbing and the sighing, did dent my already weak as water confidence, I put it down to mea culpa and promised myself it’d be better the next time.

While I am “of a certain age” (her words, not mine), I like to think that my memory is still pretty sharp and from what I can recall of my original lessons, I do remember the order in which I was taught certain things.

Things like checking the mirror and that the gears were in neutral, going though the various hand positions for changing gears, applying clutch/brake to stop, and going up and down between first and second gears were all gone through in detail. Only then was I encouraged to take my first tentative steps towards driving on a quiet road, never exceeding 30 m.p.h. as it was a built up area.

Follow your instinct.

You know don’t you, when something doesn’t gel. When you don’t click with someone. It’s not right at ‘my ripe age’ to feel afraid of someone, or to be stressed going into any kind of a lesson. So when my heart began beating rapidly at 11.55pm today I should have made up some excuse, given the instructor half the agreed fee and beat a hasty retreat to the terrace of the hotel to indulge in some sun and serenity.

I should have followed my instincts. Instead I went forward, where even the fearless fear to tread and ladies and gentlemen, it was an unmitigated disaster. I won’t bore you with the details but riddle me this! When you’re asked to clutch/brake when in third gear, and thereafter you’re told to find the bite and continue without any mention being made of changing back into first, all hell will break loose, yes?

Well, that was the tipping point. Was it too much to expect to be guided through every stage of the drive with patience and encouragement? Instead I was expected to drive in third and fourth gears on both major and narrow, winding roads having gone up and down through the gears not more than twice during the first lesson. Is it me? Am I a bit dim?

With the tension rising up through my arms and a headache pounding on the door, I pulled the car over, and said “that’s it, no more, you take over”. There is only so much abuse – physical and verbal, ridicule and rubbishing I’m prepared to put up with from anyone. Angry screaming is not conducive to calm driving. Neither is expecting the learner to fill in the blanks.

To drive or not to drive that is the question.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, except when it comes to an abusive teacher. Her final words to me were, “If you DO decide to continue, you’ll come to realise after a time that it’d probably be best if you go for an automatic car”.

So, the decision that now lies before me is whether or not to continue.

After what I’d previously been through, it took every ounce of my strength to once again sit behind a wheel. Now what? Is this a ‘forever fear’ or was I just unlucky? Only time and another attempt will tell. But when that’ll be, well, that’ll require a bit more inner strength than I’ve got in the tank just now.

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

The Menopause Manual p1 #dailyinspo365

The menopause journey. With no clear start or end point, odd diversions, and an estimated time of arrival that can span years, menopause is certainly a trip, and then some, that requires some turn-by-turn directions.

Nobody tells you what the menopause is like, or how bad it is.

My mum never discussed it. The reasons for that were probably twofold. One, she is of a generation that invariably struggled with ‘taboo subjects’, often finding broaching them embarrassing, impolite even. Two, she never went through the menopause, having had to undergo an hysterectomy in her late 40s. Today, mum’s a lot more relaxed about discussing certain topics, gynaecological and sexual included. However, as she’s clueless in the menopausal department, there’s little point in broaching the subject with her, as it’s an experience about which she remains oblivious. Lucky her!

Experience – did I just call the menopause ‘an experience’? Well, what do you call it? A condition, a situation, a phase, a bloody pain in the arse? It’s not an illness, although many women suffer excruciatingly from its symptoms and side-effects.

menopause
noun
the ceasing of menstruation.
  • the period (haha, lexicographer’s comic irony) – in a woman’s life (typically between the ages of 45 and 50) when menstruation ceases.

Anyway, getting back to the point, rarely are women told in graphic widescreen, dolby surround sound detail about the menopause. A high level overview, as they say, being the best we can hope for. Why? Probably because we women are still too embarrassed to a) admit that we’ve arrived at the ‘biological downturn’ commonly referred to as ‘change of life’, and b) discuss the finer details of hot and cold running sweat fountains and the resultant boggy bra and very public perspiration patches, middle-aged acne, and morphing into Fatzilla, queen of the middle-aged spread.

While many arrive unexpectedly at the menopause – “Surprise, surprise. Hello, it’s me, Men O’ Pause. I’m here to change your life completely, let’s get this party started!”it’s also fair to say that most of us will reach that point with little or no clue of what’s about to happen to us.

Now don’t get me wrong, we women know the basics, no need to be ‘splaining us thank you. The problem is that no-one talks openly about the menopause, so pre-Perimeno (and when did that become a thing?) most of us truly don’t know how bad it is, or rather will be.

So, how bad is it then?

For some, lack of sleep is the worst. Annoyingly, it doesn’t necessarily come with the onset of menopause. Instead, sleep disruption, like a spot on the face of hopeful innocence, can pop up at a time of its own malevolent choosing. Poor sleep mixed with night-sweats is a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Not that I know first hand per se, but I do suffer from random bouts of insomnia and have borne the brunt of hot flushes, and they ladies, and gentlemen – if there are any of you actually reading this – are no bloody picnic!

Hot Flushes: Menopausal Woman’s Bane – Sounds like, giddy middle-aged embarrassment; Feels like, being slathered in molten lava from the décolletage up to the crown of one’s head.

Seriously, no words can describe the combination of shock, confusion, and heat that hit you the first time you have a hot flush. It’s like being ducked into and held down in boiling water for a minute plus, and then left dripping in rivers of rapidly cooling hot sweat, cue the shivers, while your armpits are like two perspiration filled paddling pools cosseted within the sleeves of your now seriously soggy jumper/blouse/tee-shirt.

Anyone who has experienced a heatwave, sat at length on a packed bus/tram/train on a hot Summer’s evening, run for more than 30 minutes, or been cooked in an oven at 180 degrees, will know only too well that the afterglow soon turns to ice cold sog.

Rank isn’t it, burning up until you think you are internally combusting and then having to sit or stand around in clothes wet with cold sweat? Now, times that x five and instead of a running track or bus, place yourself sitting in the middle of a business meeting, surrounded by a few colleagues, mainly men.

It’s your turn to offer up some suggestions on an upcoming project but … oh dear. You’re overcome by a wave of heat of equatorial proportions, beads of sweat have broken out on your brow (oh Jesus, can they see them?) and the floodgates have opened up under your clothes. Your train of thought has run out the door and in a two-fingered salute to your now drenched upper torso and reputation, your tongue is as dry as a camel’s hoof.

That’s a hot flush for you.

The big problem with flushes is they can happen any time, any place, and in any situation, and they recur with irregular frequency. Five in a row can be followed by an hour’s downtime before being followed by a series of anything up to ten in quick succession. I sat crying on the sofa one night as I experienced flush after flush after flush, again and again until I could take no more, ran upstairs and jumped into the shower.

Having broken all possible records by having eleven in forty minutes, I spent most of the following day on Google search seeking remedies (HRT had already been ruled out – that’s for another post). Finally, I found the saviour of my menopausal world – Sage – bought a bottle of Menosan in the chemist, and never looked back. For the next six months, the Sage drops eradicated all traces of hot flushes, after which they started come and go intermittently, a shadow of their former selves. Certainly nothing of the epic proportion I’d previously experienced.

True story – I actually have the ability to bring on a hot flush. If I focus really hard, I can make myself so hot that I can draw on a flush. Another tip – embarrassment is a magnet for hot flushes, so if you think you’re going to feel a bit bothered in a public situation, try to calm yourself (Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a great calmer). Hopefully you’ll fend off the flush.

When I started writing this post, I didn’t envisage going through the granular ins and outs of the menopause but as the late Magnus Magnusson used to say, “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. But not today

To recap. Hot flushes are like flashes of feeling incinerated from the boobs upwards. They last about one minute during which you’ll be drenched in sweat and your concentration temporarily wiped out. They can occur once, twice, thrice, multiple times per hour. Every hour. 24×7. They can’t be stopped by iron will or fresh air.

They can be stopped by HRT if you can tolerate it, or more holistically by taking Sage tablets or drops. You’ll pick up sage in its various forms in pharmacies and health shops. Sage won’t eradicate flushes completely but it will minimise the impact. If there are other remedies, I’m unaware of them.

You’ll still suffer from over-heating particularly during exercise including walking. You’ll need to prep for sweat in places it never was before. Keeping a supply of tissues in your pockets helps. Always keep travel deodorant in your bag. And, if travelling, bring a spare top.

You’ve probably got the gist of hot flushes by now but don’t run away, there’s plenty more crapola where that came from.

We’ll see you back here for the Menopause Manual p2. You never know, if some feminist movie producer happens upon my blog we could end up with Menopause Da Movie! Now, unlike the meno, wouldn’t that be fun!!

Derv

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

Nowhere to Turn #dailyinspo365

Where do you turn when you’ve nowhere to turn? When the person or persons you always turned to in times of strife, trouble, or woe, are for whatever reason, no longer there.

Very few of us have multiple people to whom we can turn in times of woe. Yes, some are lucky enough to have large families, others a large cohort of friends. But in the main, each of us has an average of four close friends, with that number dwindling after the age of 40.

What happens though when life, marriage, divorce, job opportunities, fallings out, illness and even death wipe out that small tight-knit group? Where do we go for comfort, to whom can we turn for solace?

If like me, circumstances (and there’s been a lot of them ‘lil critters) have bowled out those few remaining post-young adult period friendships, your options are limited.

Faced with the choice of getting out there – solo – and seeking out new friends, or bedding down and forging even closer ties with female relatives, it’s a rock and hard place no matter how you twist it.

Me? Well, I stuck my neck out and went for rock.

I did the salsa class (and got put into the line with the guys), the book clubs (I was the youngest member to join all three), the interior design class (I was the only person not in a pair), the concerts (people think you’re weird if you strike up random conversations with them), and a myriad exercise classes (note to self – people don’t go to exercise classes to make friends). Several false starts, partial lift-offs and damp squibs later, led me to abandon option A and settle down for my own private mumsnet, tea and biscuits optional.

See, I’m doing it again. Trying to make light of a grave situation.

For years now I’ve had two close allies in my life. Both women – strong, independent, intelligent, feisty, knowledgeable, worldly, stubborn, go-ahead, supportive, loyal; you get the gist. But today, I found myself alone. Alone with my bad news and emotional melodrama.

Nowhere to turn. No-one to turn to. Bit like Eleanor Rigby, staring out the window, outdoor face put safely into a jar for public and special occasions.

Today I needed to talk to someone, to offload, but there was no-one. Absolutely no-one, in a world full of people. How strange is that?

Where do you turn when you’ve nowhere to turn, and no-one to turn to?

Derv

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!

A Dream within a Dream : Words On a Grey Morning

Our world has become a dream within a dream but we will face this, our incubus, together.

Tuesday 21st March, 2017

Outside a cold, unfeeling grey light has settled itself around the landscape. It will rest there, for the next few hours, in a non-committal way, showing no signs of the day to come. Like an heartless anaemia, it drains all colour and life to create a world of half-shadows, settles a stillness on the chittering giving it a spectral air.

Inside too is grey despite the wan disinterested glow from the high wattage bulb. It’s almost as if the pre-dawn’s grizzled aspect has by some form of underhand osmosis, crept its murky way into my world. Blurring, confusing, bleaching, bewildering.

Grey /grei/adjective – of a colour indeterminate between black and white , as of ashes or lead – silver, pearly, smoky; silver, hoary; ashen, wan, sickly, bloodless, drawn, deathly, ghostly – without interest or character, dull and nondescript: noun – grey colour or pigment, “dirty indeterminate tones of grey”: verb – become grey with age

I have tried for too long now to fictionalise this more than factual storyline. Pushed it around like a piece of gristle on a cold plate. Uncanny then that reality bites during this cold and hoary hour which belongs neither to night nor day. I awoke into its uncaring coldness to the harsh reality that, as they say, the hour had cometh. For my world, is indeed fading to grey and at a speed that appears to be accelerating by the week. I am living in a landscape fast losing its colour, in a storyline that has rendered me impotent.  

I am losing her, I am losing her, I am losing her. Right in front of my very eyes, like a rudderless boat drifting out onto a vast lake, its course getting more uncertain, its speed quickening with time. I am within reach, touching distance of a hair’s breadth and yet here I am, grasping at nothing, chasing shadows that cannot be caught. She is here and yet she is not here, or rather like a will o’the wisp, she is here and then she is gone.  

The time has come for me to walk into this fast encompassing twilight and to stand with her, side by side, to take her hand and squeeze it. To let her know, during our more lucent hours, that I am there, I will be there, always, through both seeming and reality. Our world has become a dream within a dream but we will face this, our incubus, together.

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”Edgar Allan Poe

Derv

*If a little of what you fancy appeals, and you’d like to have my #dailyinspo365 posts appearing in your inbox, I’d love to have you along for the joy, the bumps, and more importantly, the company. You can follow along by clicking the ‘Follow DervSwerve’ link on the right!