I've neglegted my blog for over a month but certainly not for a lack of things to write.
My parents successfully completed their tandem ride from Land's End to John o' Groats, despite some potentially ride-threatening damage to the rear hub. I suspect one of the reasons I've not been keeping my blog up to date is that I had been doing my dad's (at http://peter.chesspod.com/blog/) and didn't feel like doing even more typing. It's now finalised and includes photos.
While my parents were away, my grandad caused problems for the staff at his old peoples' home. He had been getting steadily weaker for quite a while and this wasn't helped by the fact that he was refusing to offer any assistance when getting out of chairs. Not only did this mean he wasn't using his muscles, causing them to deteriorate further, but it meant that the staff were having increasing difficulty in lifting him until one day one of them injured her back.
As a result of this, the home started using a hoist to get him in and out of bed and he spent all day in a wheelchair. He decided that this was cause to go on hunger strike and after this had been going on a couple of days, Agnes, who is the manager of the home, called me to ask if I could go and talk to him.
I went with Heather and spent a while talking to him. He seemed alright, and we didn't mention food until I took him back to the lounge to find that everyone else was in the dining room. He didn't want to go in, so we left him in the lounge and went home.
Agnes called again on the following Sunday asking for me to go again as apparently our visit earlier in the week had cheered him up. This time, I called Aunty Phyllis and invited her to lunch and she and I went to see him at about 2pm. After talking to Agnes for about 10 minutes, we went to see him in his room, where Sue and Phil were already with him. We spent about an hour there, but grandad was pretty miserable and wanted us to go. He was also quite cross that a doctor had been called - I'm not sure what he was expecting to happen as a result of stopping eating though...
According to the home, he spent the Tuesday shouting and screaming and a psychiatric doctor was called. He admitted him to Southend Hospital on the basis that he needed to be rehydrated before anything else could be done.
Mum and Dad arrived home on the morning of Thursday 26th April - Morphy and I met them at Southend Victoria as they wanted to avoid carrying the tandem up the steps at Prittlewell. In the afternoon, they, Phyllis and I went to see grandad on Stambridge Ward and it was a nasty shock. Grandad had deteriorated a great deal since Sunday. With a lot of effort, he was able to talk to us, but he was screaming in pain and gripping the rail on the side of his bed with both hands. Phyllis was very upset to see him like that and once dad arrived (he had spent about 10 minutes looking for somewhere to park the car), we left pretty quickly.
On the Sunday evening, my uncle Chris phoned to let us know that aunty Kathleen - my grandad's sister - had been taken into hospital in Bath. He had been on the phone to her finalising arrangements to go and see her on the 1st May when she said "Ooh, I'm having a funny turn". Not hearing any more, he called the emergency services and after the police broke the door down, an ambulance crew took her to hospital. She told them not to treat her as she had throat cancer and wanted to die. It turned out that she had a pulmonary thrombosis and she died the following afternoon - the 30th April.
During the following week, my grandad continued to deteriorate. I went to see him with my dad on the Friday, by which time he was heavily sedated on morphine and clearly had no idea we were there. They had stopped treatment by that stage as he has wanted to die for a long time and because he had been dehydrated, had a kidney infection and pneumonia. He died the next day - 5th May.
On the following day, my sister and her husband came to lunch. She was applying for a promotion and wanted my help in preparing some laminated worksheets for a model lesson she had to give. She was going to use the spectacularly ugly Comic Sans font for these as she has to use a "dyslexic-friendly" font. Fortunately, though, a bit of googling revealed some much nicer choices and we settled for a much more elegant but very readable font called "Myriad". Her interview was two days later - on the Tuesday - and that evening, she phoned to tell us that she had got the job.
I had a renal clinic on 9th May, which went very well. I was seen quickly, my creatinine was 149 and they don't want to see me again at clinic until July - all good news. They hadn't got my tacrolimus result back though - it seems the bloods lab had been behind since the bank holiday. They would have called me if there'd been a problem with that though, so it looks like my transplant is finally settling down!
Ted (who died in 1990) and Kathleen
It was Kathleen's funeral on 16th May and we drove up to Bath that morning to attend. We arrived in plenty of time and found a pub - The Forester & Flower - where we had some sandwiches, before going to the crematorium.
Afterwards, we went to The Jubilee for some food and then back to 'Abertawe', Kathleen's house in Tunley - so-called because she had lived in Swansea prior to that. Emptying a dead relative's house of its contents is, as one might expect, a rather strange experience. Having previously done a lot of work on the family tree, I was given the title of "Family Archivist" by Tricia that afternoon and so came away with all of Kathleen's photo albums and diaries.
On Thursday, I started the mammoth task of digitising some of this. The first thing that caught my eye was a photo album and typed account of a holiday to Tremezzo that she took with her husband Ted and sister Phyllis in 1961. I have created a web version of this, trying to make it look as much like the original as possible. I'm pretty pleased with the results.
Since then, I have scanned most of the family photos in her albums, including one of my great great uncles Hector and George. Hector was killed in a mine in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1932 - something my grandad had mentioned occasionally.
This evening, I started work on Kathleen's diaries - modifying the SUCS Blogs system to allow the date to be set on entries rather than taking it as the current time. At some point, I should improve that code and add it to the SUCS version. We could also do with a new calendar-style view for the archive.
Having got changed at Ellens, dad dropped me off at the wedding venue before returning to collect Ellen and the bridesmaids. We met mum and Graham there, then went to my cousin's hotel room to get ready. Graham and I then walked back to the venue and took on our ushering roles and organised the distribution of button holes.
The wedding ceremony then proceeded with Ellen having to be handed tissues at frequent intervals by the woman conducting the ceremony.
Afterwards, we went outside for photos, then back into the village hall to wait for the meal to be ready. It was worth waiting for - parsnip and corriander soup, followed by spectacularly good sausages, with mash and veg and then a choice of apple pie or "chocolate squidgy cake" for dessert. Having a high potassium level, I opted for the apple pie on the basis that it was going to be a bit lower in potassium than the chocolate.
Then, of course, were the speeches and the cutting of the cake, then we made our way back through to the village hall for the evening entertainment - a DJ and Graham's band, 4ft Pimp.
My cousins Tom and Nick had booked a taxi for 10pm to take them to Maidstone East station and as I had to get back to the Royal London, I went with them. Unfortunately, this meant missing most of 4ft Pimp's set because I had to go back to the hotel to get changed.
The whole thing went amazingly smoothly though and I got back to the hospital at around 11:30pm.
My involvement in preparations for my sister's wedding has been minimal. I designed the invitations in early October and as described in my saga, had bought my suit in September. On Friday, I bought a tie which apparently matches the colour of the senior bridesmaids' dresses, so I now have my complete outfit for the occasion. Due to the steriods I'm on, I've put on some weight since I bought the suit so I tried it on on Saturday and fortunately it does still fit!
I had been anticipating that by now we would all be busy with wedding preparations, but being the other side of the Thames in Kent, Ellen and Ben have done the vast majority of the work themselves with assistance from Ben's mum. Last Saturday, they held the dress rehearsal. Heather is going to be a bridesmaid, and Graham will be playing the piano during the service and then keys with his band in the evening. Francis (Ben's sister) and I will be ushers, so I wasn't needed for the rehearsal and stayed behind to look after Morphy.
Ellen gave me the list of names this evening and I have now printed name cards for the place settings, so I have nothing to do now until the big day, which is Saturday.
Went down to my sister's new house in Maidstone with my dad and brother to help her and her boyfriend continue decorating.
Since I last went, they've finished decorating the master bedroom and sanded and varnished three floors - their bedroom, the dining room and the lounge.
Graham spent the day wrestling more wallpaper off the dining room walls and I played at being a cable engineer. Rather than send an engineer out, Telewest are now running a scheme whereby they send you a set-top box and a cablemodem via Parcelfarce and leave you to set them up. It wasn't hard - it was just slightly annoying that I had to phone them up and read them a great long list of serial numbers off the hardware to get it all activated.
Once I had TV and Internet access working, I moved to the hall and attacked the mass of extraneous cables running wild across the floor. Careful detective work revealed which of these were phone extensions, all of which were surplus to requirements and so I removed them. I was then able to send the remaining cabling under the floorboards leaving the hallway cable-free and the skirting boards around the house rather lighter on pointless phone sockets.
There's still a bit more work to be done on the Internet front because I've discovered that the wireless signal doesn't make it from the lounge (where the Telewest cable point is) to the office (where the computer is). I suspect I will need to wall-mount the wireless router somewhere high up and run the Telewest-supplied gargantuan CAT5 cable through ducting to it.
Yesterday, Graham, Heather and I went back down to Maidstone to help Ellen and Ben with more work on their house.
On Sunday, they had stripped the wallpaper in the dining room and we continued with wallpaper stripping in the living room. The highest priority though was getting the carpets up so that when the woodworm treatment people came today they could get straight on with it.
In most rooms, there were at least three layers to be removed - carpet, underlay and lino. I had the job of removing gripper rods from the edges of the rooms, which I then put into the drawers of various bits of tatty old MDF furniture which were being disposed of anyway. These we dubbed the "drawers of death" what with all the nasty pointy nails on sticks they contained. During the course of the day, Ben and I made numerous trips to the tip with assorted carpets and smashed-up furniture - we had to smash it up to fit it in the car. Sticking long bits of MDF over the kerb and jumping on them to break them into smaller bits is fun. :-)
Later in the afternoon, Ellen decided to investigate the fireplaces in the bedrooms and discovered a couple of original cast iron fireplaces which she was very pleased with.
We were about to leave when we realised that we hadn't dealt with the floor in the kitchen which we had originally thought was concrete and so wouldn't need woodworm treatment. However, after jumping up and down on it a few times, we established that it was sufficiently springy to definitely have floorboards. So the synthetic lino-type stuff came up. Under that, we found sheet hardboard that had been rather over-enthusiastically stapled down. We got some of that up to reveal a 1950s tiled floor, which had been glued to lino apparently using tar. The lino had then been glued to the floorboards. Rather a lot of work with a hefty screwdriver and a large hammer finally got that up and we left Maidstone about an hour and a half later than anticipated.
My older sister, Ellen, has just bought a house in Maidstone with her soon-to-be-husband, Ben. They completed yesterday and so today, Graham and I drove down there to help strip wallpaper, rip up carpets and demolish nasty old MDF furniture for Ben to take to the tip. Our dad, who Graham has started referring to as a "mentalist" on the basis of his bike ride last night had come up from Brighton to Maidstone on the train and gave some help in between naps on the dining room floor.
They're having woodworm and damp treatment done on Tuesday, so all the carpets have to be up by then.
We had the usual new-house fun of not having any cutlery or crockery, but bravely struggled on, buttering bread with the tiny knife from Ellen's Swisscard and boiling the kettle then dropping the teabags into it to make the tea.
At about 5pm, we strapped the bike rack to the car, attached dad's bike to it and headed back through the Dartford Tunnel to home, just in time to have a quick vegetarian curry from the Madhur Jaffrey recipe book before I took Graham to a band practice at Nightfly.