A Spinster’s Interpretation

 

2013-03-05 18.20.08You’ll have to excuse me as I’m typing a little encumbered both by a rash of plasters and fatigue. Plasters as I’ve just been releasing supermarket fruit from its packaging although the real culprit was the frankly aggressively sweeteners with a cute cardboard sharp pointed plastic which drew blood! But so amused am I by what has happened of late when view through the prism of the 12 activities I simply had to share the anecdotes with you. A casual reader would think one of two things: either I make these things up or I should not be left alone for too long! I can reassure you life is genuinely like this.

Not long after the Spinster was relabelled, oops I meant to say diagnosed of course, I bumped into an ex-colleague; she was leaving the building where I worked as I was going in. She was not known for her ability to empathise but on this occasion she excelled herself. Unlike the guy she was with who I was vaguely acquainted with she didn’t look shifty/uncomfortable (a response I became rather familiar in the post diagnosis days). Oh no this wiry antipodean dancer stared straight into my eyes and said ‘Sorry to hear about…(mumbling muffled words).. but you know Fran you can’t blame everything on your MS!’ At this point her companion looked up completely stunned; my expression mirrored his as I struggled to work out what she was referring to. Life had become a bit of a blur at the time and frankly it was possible that I had committed some unforgiveable crime; but nothing more sinister than sending a small innocent spider to meet its maker came to mind.

Every now and then I recall this quaint exchange particularly when something happens that could be MS related or simply clumsiness; these days it’s not possible to distinguish between the two. Rather like the doctor who used to skim through the side effects of drugs before writing the prescription saying ‘these are all the symptoms of MS so you’ll never notice’! After finishing the activities essay I duly went to Morrisons for a few bits (including the deforestation tools as noted); I impressed myself by sticking to the items on my list so when I got to the checkout the single persons trolley was more than half empty. After a near miss in fresh produce section where I practically goosed someone with my crutches, they do have a tendency to stick out over the trolley; I was a tad paranoid about bumping into someone or something.

As I unpacked the trolley a small bottle of white balsamic vinegar slipped through the wire cracks and smashed on the floor; I was utterly mortified. I wear leather gloves all the time in an attempt to ward off callouses on my hands from the crutch handles (it doesn’t work), so I am very careful about picking things up as the feeling in my fingers isn’t great. The cashier looked over at the mess before reaching behind her to put her light on. Bless her she finished serving the person in front of me before coming round with a bucket of sand or it may have been sawdust.

It was one of those classic examples of being too helpful (her not me; I concentrated on apologising to the people around me whilst silently thanking some higher power that the vinegar was white not the more typical dark brown). After scattering the contents of the bucket she retrieved a dust pan and brush proceeding to clear it up. When the ‘manager’ responded to the flashing light the slip of a lad cashier on the next till said ‘it’s alright she’s cleaning up herself’. I bent over and asked her if she still wanted someone as the manager had been sent away; well she wasn’t best pleased I can tell you! Amazing the way you bond with another woman in these situations; the sense of camaraderie was palpable, there was no other word for it; ladies it was war!

When another female member of staff came over asking the cashier – (still on her hands and knees despite the now overpowering smell of vinegar; we could smell it standing so heaven knows what it was like with your face practically in the pungent liquid) – if she’d seen [insert name of male colleague] I asked if she meant the Manager. ‘The acting Supervisor actually but yes’ and I pointed towards the aisle the young (mid 20s) Acting Supervisor had disappeared down. Watching the way the Acting Supervisor spoke to the Cashiers who were, in the main, women between 30-50 you could see why they neither liked nor respected him. He had the physique of a regular beer drinker – the belly is seldom flattered by cheap white uniform issue shirts – and the manner of someone who believes management is about hierarchy i.e. speaking down and abruptedly to subordinates.

Having cleared the glass/vinegar mix the Cashier got up and apologised asking if I wanted a replacement item; apologising in return I declined the offer. Referring to Activity 1Food Preparation and taking nutrition I’ll have to substitute something in the place of white balsamic vinegar; this presupposes I had a plan in the first place. Of course I didn’t these items are what I believe are referred to by real cooks as ‘store cupboard’; you know the ones that friends with families or relatives who follow receipes ask you for when visiting!

The reason for my overwhelming fatigue – other than inhabiting a substandard body with faulty wiring – is I have had to put clean sheets on the bed as Friday Fairy has put her back out. On the plus side I have an extra week to test my hypothesis about cobwebs; will cobwebs eventually fall down under their own weight when they get to a certain length. It’s quite amazing so far as there are two competing ones in the bathroom; one has developed a kind of ball at the end of it which must surely change the dynamics (quite literally).

On the other hand it means I have to do some things myself like change the bed; a form of performance art is the best way to describe the Spinster involved thus. Step one loose balance whilst leaning towards the bed and end up face down on the bedspread; hey I need to move those cushions on the other side anyway so take advantage of this added momentum. Of course you do need to get back up inorder to be able to reach so grab the fabric as rising and draw the whole damn lot towards you in one big pile. Step two fall backwards as the weight of the duvet, pillows, bedspread and cushions is great than expected. Quite takes yer breath away! Time for a fag and a pause before round 2 the fitted bottom sheet. Having armed meself with the cigarette might as well take the pillow cases off; seems a waste not too. And then there’s the duvet cover; who invented these marvellous fabric envelopes I wonder, presumably someone who had never tried to singlehandedly put a kingsize feather two part (winter/summer) one inside it!

All I can say is respect Friday Fairy for managing this domestic task and I am buying bigger fitted bottom sheets as the ones I’ve got are a nightmare – you never think about the depth of the blinking mattress when purchasing the right size. After I’ve put the sheets back on the bed – never leave this for later because sods law you always remember as you’re planning to get into it! Seriously changing the bed takes a full day’s energy for me but which activity does this task fit into?

I did the bed changing before popping to take something to the Dry Cleaners; often before the sapped energy registers I feel fine (relatively). Pleased to find a parking space across the road I take advantage of a prolonged gap in the traffic both ways; at least until I get midway when a lorry approaches at what feel like speed to me. On two crutches carrying a bag of dry cleaning there’s not a lot of room for manoeuvre so I focus forward in the belief that no one looks kindly on killing cripples (not fair sport at all). As I reach the bank of cars parked at right angles to the pavement I realise the gap in front of me is too narrow to get through so I’m forced to walk left.

On the face of it not a problem except the shop in front of me, the one whose door I pushed, isn’t the Dry Cleaners. Oh no its a Tattoo Parlour! Only when I’m pushing the door and see a notice saying Patrons must be over 18 do I look up and notice a buzzing noise! When I went into the Dry Cleaners I’m still laughing and explain to the woman what had happened to which she said ‘there’s brave’. Do you think this is covered by Activity 11 Planning and Following Journeys or Activity 12 Moving Around?

And finally two examples of Activity 5 Dressing and Undressing and I promise you these things did actually happen. Curiously they all concern underwear and are probably not worth sharing in a Personal Independence Plan assessment interview (other than for sheer devilment).

Some years ago during my time with the Arts Council of Wales I was asked to talk to a group of local authority arts officers at a seminar in Mid Wales. As I was being introduced an officer from West Wales arrived late and sat on the front row. Not worried about being late the officer proceeded to dig in her spacious handbag for a notebook and pen; it took some finding involving placing an intriguing array of ‘stuff’ on the empty chair next to her. Finally she settled as I stood up to begin. After a few minutes I was aware of her leaning down to her shoes and then the bottom of her jeans, from which she quietly pulled a pair of knickers! Obviously she’d taken the jeans and knickers off the night before in one go – and then dressed that morning in a hurry!

When returning from holiday recently I couldn’t find my tights on the morning I was driving back to Barry but as luck would have it I had another pair. In cold weather I wear tights under jeans/cords. When I was taking a break in the service station car park a shadow caught my eye on my right calf and I leant down to investigate. Yes you worked it out I had found my lost tights; on balance I decided, having briefly mulled over the pros and cons, to leave them until I got home!

The rather more embarrassing confession concerns upstairs underwear; embarrassing because on both occasions I was involved. The first time was in the early 1990s when I was an Area Manager at the Tai Cymru Housing for Wales. Whilst chairing a meeting with a client housing association I was looking down reading papers and something jabbed me in the chin. Oops a pen I thought and carried on. Then a few minutes later my hand caught on something metal and it suddenly dawned on me what it was; the bone had come out of my bra and worked its way between the buttons of my blouse. And yes in those days it was most definitely a blouse!

Yesterday when out with a friend I became aware that every time I moved I felt something sharp in my chest especially when I turned or did anything that meant my undergarments moved. Now of later I can feel things once they’ve been removed especially shoes and socks; I reach down when getting undressed (Activity 5 part 2) to take my shoes off to find stocking feet. Most disconcerting initially, then you get used to it. Apropos this ghost feeling I ignored the sharpness until I got home when I realised what had happened. Yes the bone had come out of my ‘no longer memory foam’ bra; for real, not a pretend feeling hurrah I’ve been stabbed by a piece of sharp metal; practically in public!

Just goes to demonstrate there are many more ways to skin a cat or in my recent experience a zebra!

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