Tag Archives: crutches

Degrees of Separation & Harpers Bazaar

Harpers BazaarYou know that seven degrees of separation thing? The number of connections between people; the number varies but as we know in Wales it tends to be less than seven. Hmm it occurs to me that the development of social media is built on this concept albeit the Spinster frequently raises an eyebrow before raising a finger and rather too enthusiastically pressing delete when receiving random friend requests (whilst silently saying ‘I don’t think so’!). I am sooo not interested in being a Facebook (or Linked In) Queen with oodles of ‘friends’ or ‘connections’; yes there are some advantages to being in those invisible middle years (where women disappear)!

Yesterday the Spinster was, for once, happy to be stuck in traffic; had I not I would have missed the piece on Womens Hour about Harpers Bazaar republishing a short story by Virginia Woolf (originally published in 1939 (I think). The degrees of separation link, and yes for once there is a direct connection between the Spinster’s sentences, relates to the Editor in Chief at Harpers Bazaar; a woman called Justine Picardie. Some years ago I bought Before I say goodbye a book bringing together the articles written by Ruth Picardie in the Observer. Justine had commissioned her sister Ruth to write the column/series of articles about her diagnosis with, and subsequent death from, breast cancer.

The book is candid and moving as she talks about the journey of her disease; she had very young children and was only a young woman herself. When going through my book shelves recently the Spinster came across not only Ruth’s book but also the one Justine had written about the year following her sister’s death. How do you cope with the cruel premature death of a close sibling? Justine also frankly explores her anger, sadness and how she not exactly comes to terms with it but how she lives without Ruth.

white catThe Picardie sisters mother lives in Cardiff and some years ago a close friend of the Spinster lived next door to her. One day I had, for reasons that now escape me, had agreed to take on an ancient white cat from a friend of a friend who had become unwell and was having to rehomed numerous cats. Again for reasons lost in the mists of times I was unable to have the cat where I was living. So the friend, who lived next door to the Picardie sisters mother, agreed that he would look after the sorry looking beast temporarily; the only problem was the white cat got out and disappeared! The houses backed onto Pontcanna Field’s and the manky looking feline suddenly had a burst of energy and legged it. The Spinster wasn’t about to give up and went back to the house for days calling the cat’s name. One day the neighbour heard me calling in the garden and said ’you do know white cats are congenitally deaf?’ Oh did I feel stupid! And no I never found the cat…

So the circle ends with the Spinster on a mission; where could I find a copy of September’s Harpers Bazaar? After a rather unsatisfactory lunch with a friend in Pontcanna it suddenly came to me; Waitrose in Barry of course where else! And I did, along with a copy of Intelligent Life (cultural offshoot of the Economist) with an Inspiring Women feature that intrigued me (who does inspire Meryl Streep the Spinster wondered (haven’t read it yet so I can’t share it with you – top tip if you have an iPhone you can get an Intelligent Life ap free (well worth it)). I don’t know what was wrong with me yesterday as I actually ended up buying not one but two 5p carrier bags; sheer laziness perhaps? No the Spinster is absolutely not guilty of that! I just underestimated quite how fat Harpers Bazaar was going to be; it’s nearly an inch thick (with more than half being adverts for extraordinarily expensive clothes/bags).

The Spinster’s latest Cruella induced challenge necessitates 2 crutches pretty much 24/7 (yes even when popping to the loo in the wee (no pun intended) small hours). Shopping is a logistical nightmare; OK a trolley (single person variety) helps but only one supermarket has one long enough to comfortably accommodate 2 sticks! I only needed a magazine so why would I need a trolley? Well have you ever tried I balance a thick glossy publication under your arm whilst simultaneously walking with crutches? Of course you fit buggers haven’t but believe me it’s a bit of a challenge! It kept slipping down; the Spinster’s forearms simply aren’t strong enough to perform both tasks simultaneously!

So 5p for a carrier bag seemed to be the solution; only of course the magazine went right through the pathetic plastic so the cashier gave me a second one in case the tear got bigger and it actually fell out! Now common sense would say put the torn bag inside a second bag; oh no he just stuffed a spare down the side!

At £4 nearly £5 the Spinster won’t be rushing to buy Harpers Bazaar again anytime soon; having spent several hours wading through it last night I’m pretty sure I don’t fall into the target audience! Physically and financially the majority of ‘stuff’ is way out of this Spinster’s league; I’ve never seen prices listed with ‘about’ before the number! But I confess to having found more to read than just the Virginia Woolf short story…including an article by Margaret Atwood!

The  short story had been discussed as having a contemporary resonance and I can see what the Womens Hour contributors meant but Mrs Woolf still has a time consuming intricate style the average fashionista might not willing to engage with. It’s right at the end of the several hundred pages and I’m guessing the majority of readers make not get there…




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A housecoat or a tool belt?

usherette There days when life is a bit more of a challenge; irritatingly these days are dominating of late. My manual dexterity is shocking; ditto my co-ordination and general ability to grasp things firmly (no pun intended). My familiarity with the skirting boards, the bottom of furniture and floor surfaces increases daily. Before engaging in close contact – otherwise known as bending over/crouching – I generally attempt to worry things with the end of my crutch. This strategy works well to shut the front gate behind me (as long as both feet as firmly on the ground i.e. not reaching behind me whilst standing on the doorstep which is just a little bit too far away (but I regularly test myself of course – why? Because I can!)

And there’s the weekly Thursday morning green food waste caddy retrieval scenario; empty I can lift it up and manoeuvre it towards me. That is if I concentrate firmly maintaining eye contact with the receptacle – no I haven’t given it a name nor do I quietly mutter ‘come to mummy’ – rather I need to be able to see that the crutch is in contact with the handle as I can’t always judge where I am in relation to it (spacial awareness issues meet sensational weakness i.e. I can’t sense pressure/weight properly).

You may recall my musing on problems with my short term memory; as if to illustrate the point as I write this I remember a friend passed on a ‘grabber’ pincers on a long handle designed to help elderly/disabled persons to pick up ‘things’. Has it been helpful I hear you ask? Honestly I don’t know because it’s still in the car as when I left said friend’s house I went somewhere else and so the pincers are still in the boot. Now I distinctly remember storing it carefully on the shelf that lifts up when the boot is opened and presumably that’s where it is now. Must remember to get it out next time I remember its there!

NOPH1809The other day I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time poking something on the kitchen floor; I try to remove the most obvious ‘bits’ from this area before my Friday fairy comes. It’s a bit like another friend who always has a quick tidy round before her cleaner comes; no-one wants to be considered a complete slut in terms of the state of our houses! Guilt is a terrible burden me thinks unless it’s of the order necessitating a few minutes in the cleansing confessional of course. (Confiding with a girlfriend over a conspiratorial coffee works just as well for me; the ‘ironic’ raising of the eyebrow is sinister enough of a deterrent to not repeat whatever I’m confessing).

Only after a few minutes of crutch poking when I bent down for a closer look (at the kitchen floor) did I realise the bits on the ceramic tiles were pock marks chips where I’d obviously dropped something substantial on it! Why is it that cream/natural tiles are dark grey inside – how superficial is a veneer? Ha ha should have put real slate down but that would no doubt have brought on a Lorraine Pascale baking habit resulting in a liberal dusting of flour which would have been most attractive as there is only so much that can be mopped up with a robust pair of bed socks!

housecoat housecoat for grandma housecoat 2If you add in the challenge of carrying things around the house when on two crutches then a solution is required; a necessary adjustment to ones attire must be seriously considered – (don’t even think about suggesting a housecoat with roomy pockets).  Would you believe there is so much choice?

I confess that pockets are the answer in part as long as they are deep ones; the embellishment style pretend ones empty all of their own accord when bending over or sitting down. This is my preferred mode of transferring breakfast items upstairs after swimming as I’ve usually got my £3 in Peacocks Sale X years ago boys black padded waistcoat on. Plenty of room for a banana, yogurt or similar wrapped items leaving hands free to carry coffee/porridge and one hand to lever one’s body mass by holding the handrail the breakfast items not in pockets have to be lifted up a few steps at a time which is a tad tedious not to say slow!

As breakfast tends to be more of a process than an event it can take several hours to actually consume as these days I am easily distracted. The other day I put on the aforementioned waistcoat to go swimming only to find a yogurt still there from the previous day! Multitasking has been part of my busy life; an approach I guess I must have taken for granted to the extent I did it without thinking – as I think is the case with most women. But gone are the days when I could simultaneously successfully complete these multiple tasks; it slipped discretely and gradually away. I never noticed it happening; never had a chance to say goodbye, nor negotiate the manner of it leaving and yes I do mourn its loss. Damned inconvenient if nothing else!

Here kitty kitty don't run away mummy won't hurt you...

Here kitty kitty don’t run away mummy won’t hurt you…

So the question is, having retrieved them from the car, will the grabbers be a helpful addition to my life and should I invest in a toolbelt from which to attach the various items I need to carry?  I have been practising around the house seeing what I can pick up and surprisingly I can pick up bits of shredded paper that escape when emptying into a black bag. Although I can’t pretend it a speedy resolution to tidying up this particular kind of mess! Or should I take to wearing an apron whilst at home? Even the Cath Kidston floral number isn’t quite right with the positioning of the front pocket getting caught under the tie which I tend to wind round securing with a knot at the front – besides its a bugger to accessorise with!

usher 3And suddenly it comes to me in a flash – the answer is obvious – one of those trays that Cinema Ushers used to wear to sell icecream with straps around the neck leaving hands free to hold crutches! You see the fifties were the right age for the disabled Spinster; the Margaret Rutherford style cape has been a godsend – except for the day I got caught in the wind and it was touch and go as the air whipped up the woollen fabric – it was very nearly a Mary Poppins moment!

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A Sartorial Solution

images (2)My sartorial dilemma has been temporarily resolved; I speak of the challenge of dressing with crutches. To be secure enough to avoid taking a tumble the arm bands need to be close fitting – this is a nightmare when wearing anything more chunky that a single garment. Last week I impatiently thrust my arm into the crutch (note I am being restrained in terms of exploiting all the double entrendre that could be mined here) and as I looked down carnage appeared before my very eyes! My butter soft leather jacket sleeve was torn from side to side; the silky maroon lining gaped as if an eye seeing the light for the first time! In simple terms the jacket is ruined – anybody need leather to patch something else up?

I was on my way to a meeting (of course) so pragmatically I thought the best thing to do was to confess; get the sympathy of the audience it works every time! The more irritating thing was it was raining and there was now a great big open window equivalent in the middle of my right arm! Bugger to quote my mother! Next day a friend and I were in Llandeilo for lunch and a light spot of shopping. I had been meaning to visit Mari Thomas new shop and jewellery workshop since receiving the email saying she was relocating from Swansea Marina. Entre nous I was rather hoping to add something to my collection (of her work) but sadly twas not to be (no doubt much to the relief of Santander where I have my business bank account – for another year ones Accountant will be applying to HMRC for a concession to reduce the January tax payment).

My friend had a faulty item to return to Toast; for information a customer cannot return an item bought on line to a shop (although the shop offered to send the item back to the online place). Personally I was not entirely convinced by this in terms of customer service; I reserve judgement until I see the outcome. Toast in Llandeilo has a sale shop next to the ordinary shop which is rather enticing for a casual shopper and this one was utterly seduced! Taking note of my maternal parent’s advice never to buy something in a sale unless you would have bought it full price I was at pains to tell my companion I had considered a cape when I received the catalogue.images

images (1)This is in fact true; the recent sleeve ripping (a Spinsterly equivalent of bodice ripping perhaps) suddenly made the cape the perfect solution. The high neck snugly caresses the vulnerable flesh meaning a scarf is unnecessary although a silk number might add a little something. The merino wool is warm and wind proof; the length covers the seating area hanging mid thigh and the drape from the shoulder (with an inverted pleat at the back) the epitome of divine flattery! images (5)OK perhaps there is a hint of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple as played by Margaret Rutherford (with a slight leg extension) but as a curious (and inquisitive) Spinster one feels entirely at home. Tonight I shall complete the ensemble with a black felt hat when attending Midnight Mass at 1130pm.

The church is across the lane from my parental home and it is where my mother attends the weekly service. It is a small village affair with an equally small congregation; everyone is a known quantity and new comers are welcomed especially if they display signs of becoming a regular. Such establishments are vulnerable to closure and with the last vicar leaving things are once again up in the air. Although not a regular church attender I appreciate the importance of the local church; in days gone by I was to be found assisting the priest as an accolade (girl server) albeit in the Crooked Spire in Chesterfield.

The church has a prayer list and my name has been on it for some time; it is a curious experience to be in the congregation and hear your name read out. Tonight one of the congregation is apparently looking forward to finally meeting me and hence my dilemma. On the one hand I intend to cut a dash in my new cape; with the clip of my crutches heads will turn as I walk down the aisle (if only to hear worse coming)! But then will I look a fraud? Should such a sophisticated lady be on the prayer list? Am I taking up a place someone else might benefit from after all one is gifted with a chronic incurable illness; unless divine intervention well intervenes with a miracle it seems mean?

OK I say this slightly with my tongue in my cheek because this is about hope and comfort; about reassurance and the love that comes from being part of an established belief system. It is both about me and not about me; about me as I am the subject and whether I believe or not isn’t really relevant. What I have become more acutely aware of is the impact of my condition on those who love and care for/about me; this responsibility weighs heavily especially at times like this. I am the second generation to have MS in our family; we have all seen the impact and although each person is different this frankly doesn’t make it any easier. Somehow the preview performance coupled with uncertainty being the only certain thing makes the situation more difficult for all of us. So accepting well meaning/kindly invitations to engage in compulsory fun is the right thing to do even if having the ‘condition’ is a guaranteed get out of jail free card; it is a number of decades since recalcitrant obstreperous behaviour was acceptable!

Enjoy the festivities however and with whomever you are celebrating with. Smile and faun when you are the recipient of gifts that frankly seem to have been mislabelled as you can’t imagine why the giver would think you’d like the (in your opinion) ghastly item! Indulge others, indulge yourself and let others indulge you; spread the love ladies you know it the sophisticated thing to do!

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An Embarrassment of Crutches

As you know I employ a pair of German designed arm crutches (black ones left hand side above) to complete my daily ensemble; a perfect example of where form i.e. design meets function. Not cheap but extraordinarily valuable to someone who aspires to be the embodiment (relative) sophistication! I simply consider them an essential accessory as part of the belt, bag and shoes ensemble. With aging comes the occasional need for physical assistance; the walking pole an acceptable accessory for those drawn to the great outdoors but quite impractical for day-to-day domestic use. The pathetic little cord that slips around the wrist – what is that all about? I’m sure avid hill walkers who regularly assume to stance of a mountain goat can assure me of the advantage of the accessory; pray refrain from conveying the details on this occasion.

But fear not the dream of Mr Bevan is thankfully still alive in the NHS and the older amongst us will be supplied with robust elephant grey walking aids (right hand side top above). It seems that this particular corner of the (internal) market has been cornered by certain provider (see above); the same found across the UK. Whilst this may make economic sense it is rather confusing when more than one user finds themselves sharing the same dwelling. Add into the mix the informal market i.e. where people swap aids when said items are no longer required and I confess to being rather well provided for on account of a close friend’s husband having had two hip replacements in the last 18 months!

This visit home has found my father and I fighting for the same crutches – partly my fault for suggesting he might find said aid easier to use than the stick he had been given when discharged from hospital (after his hip replacement). It seems to me that the stick is too short resulting in his carry it rather than using it for support. The problem is you can’t lengthen it (his stick) hence suggesting he might use a crutch which is the right length! Well this might seem a simple task; oh how wrong you would be!

OK dad is 84 years old but he’s not a child nor should he be treated as one even if he does bow to my superior knowledge on crutch matters! The problem is the interpretation of ‘standing up straight’; to me this means adopting an erect poise (assume there is a cord being pulled out of the top of your head – a physio told me – otherwise known as ‘model walking’). To my darling dad the interpretation seems to depend on whether he’s concentrating or not; if he is then he is still (almost) 6 foot tall i.e. not stooping as if about to pick up something off the floor. If he’s tired or thinking about something else – most frequently in the morning if he has the correct change for the newspaper he is on his way to collect – then he finds the walking aid difficult to manage (it gets in the way) because he’s not standing up straight! This tends to be a circular conversation; fortunately for me a) I don’t have to have it several times a day and b) he does tend to listen to me!

Here I pay homage to my dear mother’s patience and forbearance (most of the time – she’s not a saint for heaven sake)! As a former infant teacher she is practiced in giving simple instructions to small people – more it seems than the nursery teachers whose voices I hear every morning floating over the garden wall. The family house backs onto a primary school – the one both my brother and I attended several decades ago. When doing something in the garden this weekend my brother found lego bricks under the fence that borders the nursery area. My parents had previously found similar items and had assumed the children had thrown them over the (8ft) fence!

Pondering the feasibility of this – small people 2-3ft tall thrown things over an 8ft fence – I was temporarily persuaded when watching the javelin at the Paralympics. But no no no said athlete although short in stature was highly trained and enviably muscle-bound; plus he had a good run at it before thrusting, ops I mean launching, the javelin skyward! It took an experienced Chemical Engineer (my brother) to peer through the gap under the fence to see it was virtually level with the tarmac of the playground!

Finally on matters of the unlikely I would like to reassure those sceptical friends of mine that yellow raspberries do indeed exist (see photographic evidence above). Indeed I have been performing an amazing feat of the balancing kind to pick them for my breakfast – after eying them up over cigarettes and coffee from the patio! Here the missive becomes comfortingly circular; an arm crutch is perfect for hooking the raspberry canes to a position where the berries can be picked I recommend one considers this innovation should one be planning illicit blackberry picking amongst the hedgerows!

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