Hello from the other side…

Well, I could have thought of so many different song titles, so many lyrics, so many words. But I thought, only this was appropriate.

Watch out on your Twitter feeds, Look out on your Facebook timelines – Karen is finally making a comeback!

I am so pleased to both say this and to experience it as it has been so long. I’m not going to  say too much – Karen can now begin to tell you herself, in her own words…

But for now – please be gentle with her. This is bound to be an emotional and trying time. She is still in care and still needs time to continue healing. She has lost so much and needs to begin all over again.

So – over to you, her faithful readers, followers and friends, either virtual or having met.

Please say, Hello…

Karen (and my Wife, Tracie) at Karen’s birthday lunch this year. Photos by her sister, Tracey.

(I know, its confusing having two Tracey/Tracie Richardson’s, but we cope 😉


31st October 2015 – She ain’t Heavy…

Well – another month goes by; filled with everything and nothing. Seemingly going nowhere and yet, going everywhere.

Finally got sorted out with my application to the Court of Protection for Dad – apparently it’s all but done and dusted now. All that’s needed is for me to provide a security bond, presumably to provide cover in case I make a monstrous hash of looking after his affairs. A good while back I posted about the absolute, totally inviolate need to a) have a will and, b) nominate someone to look after your affairs when you are no longer able to. My view on this has not changed one bit. I know it seems morbid to have to think about it in the full bloom of life – but do read back from the beginning of this life changing blog (if you have the will, time and interest). You or someone you love may have to go through this – be prepared.

My daughter is now seemingly settled in her new home, with her new single-mother-life. She has an inner strength and determined independence that seems to dominate the female psyche of our family – you only have to think of her and Karen and, their determination to overcome to know that “The ‘Force’ is strong” with them both! And, we all have the sheer joy and love for our gorgeous grandson to keep us strong. Just one year old now and a massive part of our family and a massive smile to melt anyone’s heart. He’s a real crowd pleaser! (I’m biased, I know…)

We have very nearly, almost finished, nearly there (and many other similes), sold my mother-in-law’s house, after almost 9 months of intense frustration, disappointments, let down’s and sheer bloody incompetence it has to be said! If anyone wants to know of an estate agent to be avoided in the Norwich area, we have a recommendation you can have! Anyway, contracts are now exchanged and completion date is set for next Friday – fingers crossed!

That’s only one ‘asset’ that needs to be disposed of, of course. We still have to release the tenancy on Karen’s  flat, to which she will sadly, never be able to return. And our Father’s house, which needs now to be sold in order to liquidate funds for both his and her future care.

And there’s a 101 other things that have yet to be thought of, such as blue badges, adapted vehicles-flats-showers, etc. benefits, grants and housing applications. Every single one of them seemingly requiring their own reams of impenetrable forms and guidance. And most if not all of them requiring the person themselves to do it, or their legally authorised Deputy (remember my second paragraph, above…).

Good News!

We may just about to have a move into a care-home for Karen. This is an essential first step back into the big wide world. We have been to visit and it seems very nice indeed and will provide Karen with a private, en-suite room and some very nice common facilities and a much needed boost to her social life and, it has to be said, privacy. We are also now looking with some determination to find her a flat that is more suited to a longer term return to her new normality.

Going back the this post’s title, It’s ‘that’ Hollies song of course. I’m not going to faff about with the words – you can do that; just substitute the ‘male’ form of the word with ‘female’ alternative in the appropriate places, and you’ll have it…

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

10 October 2015 – E lucevan le stelle.

Simple pleasures…

Grey Saturday, threatening but not actually raining. Cool but not actually cold. Typical English weather – can’t quite make its mind what to do. A few ‘little birdies’ let me know that Karen was supposed to be at an Opera tonight. Clearly that was not going to be possible and, Karen must have looked in her diary and been disappointed. But that’s not to say that the opera and her favourite tenor can’t come to her. Not Jonas in person of course – Big Bruvver’s influencing skills are not that legendary – but if the technology was willing, then Big Bruvver could try to sort something out.

So we sat outside in the hospital garden for a couple of relaxing hours with our own open-air operatic interlude. My wife and I, and Karen had the front row to ourselves. We, the audience, settled down to listen. And thankfully the music streaming service for once had a good 4G network connection to my phone and my portable speaker managed to keep up with Jonas’s impressive dynamic range.

The voice of Mr Kauffmann rang out strong and loud as he ran through his latest album from 2015 (Nessun Dorma) which clearly, was totally new to Karen. And I’m happy to report that the stars were indeed shining, in her eyes, as she happily listened to the whole album, enjoying sipping on a glass of red wine, which we had of course smuggled in to complement the music. Along with suitable nibbles, of course. One thing about streaming music services, was that Karen was able to request her favourite operatic tracks, and Mr Kaufmann was happy to oblige. You can’t do that at a night at the opera! Even Placid Domingo was happy to put in an appearance and provide a performance or two. (Marvellous thing, Apple Music.)

Two hours in the end, passed all too swiftly, but we left behind a ‘happy bunny’ until at least tomorrow when she will rejoin us for a proper Sunday Roast of rib of beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds, etc. I’m sure a glass of ‘something’ will also assist in providing a relaxing, and hopefully homely Sunday afternoon, thus avoiding the relentless monotony of a Sunday in a quiet hospital ward.

We still have a relatively big surgical routine to get through (big for us, trivial I’m sure for her surgical team) but after that, then were are so very close to a discharge. I keep wanting to write that she is out of hospital, but we must still be patient.

And – we must not forget that ‘out of hospital’ does not mean the end of the story. To misquote the great statesman and orator Sir Winston Churchill:

Getting out of hospital won’t be the end. It won’t even be the beginning of the end. But it may be, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

My next big idea? Is quite simply to get Karen to the Opera before 2015 is done. Don’t know which; Don’t know where; Don’t know when; Don’t know how!

But I will make it happen!


12 September 2015 – Everyday Glory

If the future’s looking dark
We’re the ones who have to shine
If there’s no one in control
We’re the ones who draw the line
Though we live in trying times 
We’re the ones who have to try
Though we know that time has wings 
We’re the ones who have to fly.

A great day today. I guess it’s fairly ordinary to go shopping with the family, except when you have not been able to for six months. More so, when perhaps no one thought you would again. Take a taxi to the city centre. Meet other loved ones… We met my wife, daughter and our little grandson when we arrived. Outside our lunch venue; Carluccios Italian Restaurant, for lunch. Spent a great hour or more enjoying chat, pasta, wine and coffee. Before – Off to the Shops!

Wandering around, looking into anywhere that stocked the fashions for autumn. Looking at tops, bottoms etc. I learned a new fashion item – Jeggings! “What the heck are Jeggings?” I asked. Only to receive “one-of-those-looks” from all three ladies present, reminding me that I was a man in a woman’s world! So I invented my own word – I won’t repeat it here.

Anyway, new fashions obtained, hunger satisfied and, perhaps more importantly, one’s sense of place, of ‘being’ even, revived. Karen had a great day away from hospital, but was – as always – welcomed back with smiles and, the kind and gentle caring ‘fuss’ that our marvellous nursing and care team provide her.

We are moving, slowly, perhaps even frustratingly slowly for Karen, towards a discharge date. Not immediately to the big wide world, but to an interim care-home. We still have much to arrange and it worries me that we have so much to organise in, what seems so little time. Then, in probably very short order, to a new flat for Karen and, the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. For Karen – the road back to her independence – eventually.

We still have far to go, but I’m also sure we will get there.

After all – we got here!

Be careful out there…

31st August 2015 – Communication Breakdown

To be. That is the answer. (I’m sure you remember what the question was.)

It was ‘Happy Birthday Karen’ all over again today. Apparently, a person or persons unknown supplied another cake to the ward in Karen’s name. And the staff had forgotten about it. It was kept safely in a fridge so was still absolutely fine, so the nursing staff chose today to present it.

So – much ‘Happy Birthday’ing’ again and much cream cake and coffee was had. Everyone on the ward joined in and so, were rewarded with a slice and, there was no doubt plenty left over for slices for the late shift when they came in. They all deserve it!

It has taken a little while but Karen’s return to the online ‘domain’ could be imminent. We have gotten to the bottom of the problem and without discussing details, it has become apparent that the combination of conditions and certain of Karen’s IT solutions, are more of a hindrance than a help. iPads, Kindles, smart phones have for one reason or another been relegated to the “not quite cutting it” pile and we have gone back to basics. One tool for one job! We have been slowly getting to the bottom of it all and believe we now have a workable solution for most things, that Karen is comfortable with and which provides her with what she needs.

I know all of her online (and “in person”) friends await Karen’s reappearance online, but a little patience is still needed. Karen will return when she is ready. And, she is perhaps now not only ready, but also has the wherewithal.

Assuming of course the ‘Firewall’ on the Guest WiFi in the ward lets her out!!!

Karen and Teddy at the Birthday Lunch.
Karen and Teddy at the Birthday Lunch.

29th August 2015 – Follow Me (my reprise…)

Today. A birthday. A special birthday. Not special because of the number it was. No traditional milestone to be ‘ticked off’ the inevitable slide into older age. Special simply because it was celebrated at all.

I didn’t say that, by the way. Karen herself did – as her own birthday address to her family.

A birthday – I’ll be frank – I never thought I would celebrate again. Five and a half months of such emotion, such despair. Many sleepless nights, many hundreds of miles with bleary eyes. Not just me – It’s not about me, it never was. It’s about all of us. All of us who know… all of us who were there and, all of us who still are.

A precious few more hours of the return to some sort of normality. Karen is doing so well and we are all so proud of her and the progress she is making. There is much she cannot do – but there is so much more that she can. And of course her fierce independence, that which her family and close friends know her for, ensures that her recovery is – likely as not – far from over yet.

Karen had a great birthday lunch today. A glass or two of fizz, three course lunch, a mahoosive chocolate cake baked by her sister, Tracey (and very nice it was – see the photo.) Pressies and fun and an opportunity to let everyone know that, she was back and that, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Karen has plans. Many plans! She told everyone that she has already planned how her new flat will look! furniture, colour scheme, even the coffee machine! Now of course, we have to make it happen. And rest assured we will!

And – or course – a return to an activity she loves most. A night at the opera! Sounds like a name I could use for a post title, and almost certainly will at some point in the future. This will of course be an opportunity for her readers and online friends to celebrate. Her online presence will have to wait a little longer, but not too long I sense. She is nearly ready to return to that part of her life, but a little more patience is needed.

As you may recall from way back when – I use song titles as post titles almost invariably. Songs from artists I like. They may not be to everyones taste, but – hey – we can’t all be the same now can we?

Way back near the beginning – I used the title of this post “Follow Me”, because I just happened to be listening to it a few days after Karen was affected. I knew the words from other hearings and had always thought nothing of it, they had no special relevance. But like so many of us, sometimes a song’s lyrics can take on a whole new relevance when something happens in our lives. When I heard the words back then – I was suddenly more upset than I had been for a long time. But I also knew what my role in this play of life was to be.

The song of course, has nothing to do with our situation, it’s completely unrelated of course. And it’s only an affectation of mine, that I choose to link this – or any other song for that matter – to our situation. But we all need to find strength from somewhere and, in some small way, it helps me, Karen’s “Big Bruvver” find a way to support her.

As do my family of course: Our Sister, Tracey, who shares our burden, her husband who has to drive her to visiting times. Our remote family in the north, who support us from afar. Our Father – who is now too ill to understand that one of his children was so nearly lost, to ill even to recall with any real clarity who I am. My own children who, even though they are adults, are learning the hard way both how fragile and how tenacious life can be. My grandson, Edward (Teddy), who recharges my batteries every time he smiles.

And to my wife. My darling wife without whom, I surely would not have coped.

my reprise…
Follow me.

When darkness falls and surrounds you
When you fall down
When you’re scared and you’re lost
Be brave
I’m coming to hold you now

Happy Birthday Karen
Happy Birthday Karen

13th August 2015 – When I Get Home

So much to do, so little time…

Things are beginning to move. In the NHS’s own ‘mysterious ways’ naturally, but beginning to move nevertheless. In short, it may be that Karen may well be on the way to getting back to some form of ‘normality’. She is coming home for a Sunday lunch again this weekend Obviously the hospital trust me after last time! Well – I got her back in one piece anyway.

Karen’s really looking forward to it of course. She’s now at the stage of getting more than a little fed up with hospital life. Not that there is anything wrong with the people or the processes – it’s just the natural frustration of beginning to feel that there has to be an end to this all, somewhere! There has to be an end date.

Getting something, most – if possible – of Karen’s life back, has always been something of a quest for us all, but now it seems that we may be somewhat closer. Most of all, Karen herself is now at the point where she feels she must be allowed to ‘learn to fly’ again.

Privacy. The ability to decide what to do, when to get up, when to have a glass of wine, what to watch on TV, to listen to your favourite music. All of these things Karen is really looking forward to having the final say in. Closing her own front door, with everyone else on the other side of it. Just being, well, “Normal” again!

Of course she, and we know, some things will never be exactly as they were again. So we will just have to work at what is going to become the new normal. It’s an exciting time! I was discussing this with her today. It’s time to stop looking about what has been lost, but concentrate on what remains and making the absolute most of it. I remarked about getting her to the Opera again and she looked at me slightly disbelieving I think. But I reminded her that wheelchair accessible seating tends to be in the most advantageous viewing locations and that got her smiling again.

We are now thinking medium term, tentatively for some things at least, even short term. A new flat is likely to have to be found – we don’t know where yet. New ways of getting about – we don’t know how yet. And, a going home date – we don’t know when yet. The longer term – well, let’s wait and see… but – the future’s bright.

Best of all, Karen is now talking about, “When I get home…”