When we returned to England from New Zealand last March, I noticed a significant change in my dad. His memory was poor, and his capacity for engaging with others was nowhere as near as it had been when we’d previously seen him 12 months before. His eyesight wasn’t too good either, but he insisted on continuing to drive.

After Barry and I experienced a hair-raising car journey from their home in Ombersley to Droitwich, I swore I’d never go in a car with him again – my dad that is, not Barry! My fear was that he would not only kill himself and my mum, but take out a few others along the way. A few months later and I’d persuaded him of the merits of discontinuing, though only once his doctor had advised against it too.

He loved the independence of driving, and it was very challenging for him to give that up.

He had a number of other challenges, which you’d expect at 93 years old. However, he’d always been fit and active, playing squash and tennis avidly for most of his life. In recent years however, after being asked to leave the local tennis club in 2007 because he was purportedly ‘slowing them down’, he’d lost interest in exercise. Walking was something he enjoyed when he could hike in the Lake District, or Scotland, but not just local walks in the countryside.

He’s hardly ever been unwell, and has never taken medication long-term. I reckon his heart is as ‘strong as an ox’ as they saying goes.

I wasn’t sure what services were available to help dad, and mum, to enable them to continue to live together safely.

Long story shortened …

Twenty months later and it’s taken an incredible amount of perseverance and fortitude to discover what they’re entitled to – and to finally get a diagnosis of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

After things came to a head in May this year, we finally received some real support at home through Social Services – who were amazing. Through them, the Older Person’s Mental Health Team eventually became involved, and four months later, after a scan to discount any sinister goings-on in dad’s brain, a Consultant Psychiatrist visited last week and confirmed why his personality has changed so much.

I didn’t take any notes while she was chatting, imagining there’d be a follow up letter to dad and us. Asking about this she said that wouldn’t be possible, Worcester NHS Trust have a strict confidentiality policy whereby they can only write to the person’s GP with client information. How ridiculous is that? I despair. The PALS there may be getting a letter from me in the not too distant future … It’s Trust dependant I’m informed, as to whether they reveal all to the individual concerned. Hmm, interesting.

We’re now waiting for a community psychiatric nurse to visit and consider which medication to give dad, which may help to stop any further progress.

How sad is it, that should this happen, if we’d been speedier getting to this stage some of the damage already done could have been reversed? I guess if we’d foreseen this, we could’ve considered a private consultation. That’s the benefit of hindsight …

What else could I have done or be doing differently are questions I frequently ask. I’m a qualified nurse, and have had to be quite proactive to get anywhere – how do people cope with little or no medical knowledge I wonder?

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Visiting Barry in Kidderminster on Sunday

I’ve spent the last two long weekends with dad, and will be back there for a couple of days next week.

When I returned to Areandare last week, I realised how much Barry was getting used to me not being on board, when he entertained me with a medley of Pink Floyd and The Who!

Feeling hot, hot, hot …

I expect you’re imagining this is going to be yet another post about our fabulous new fire aren’t you?

Sorry to disappoint – we’ve bought coal, and the fire is fabulous.

Having been away from Barry since Friday, we decided we’d treat ourselves to a night out yesterday, rather than sit in front of our respective laptops all evening. We’d discovered Stourbridge is a rather lovely little town, so went out for dinner.

I’d suggested ‘pub grub’. Nothing fancy, just something cheap and cheerful that would save me from cooking and give us a chance to reconnect. It’s getting a bit strange so much coming and going. And it’s not going to change any time soon …

We thought ‘The Talbot‘ could be ideal. It looked like such a pleasant British pub from the outside.

The furnishings were fine. Rather pleasant in fact. However, the atmosphere was eerily quiet, and rather frosty.  Not a whisper of acknowledgment of our presence. No “hello”, “good evening”, “we’ll be with you in a minute”. Not even a nod of the head. And worst of all they didn’t have any ale on.

So we walked out. No-one batted an eyelid. Not that there were many lids present to bat!

Walking further up the High Street in the drizzle, we weren’t sure what we’d find. Then some coloured lights caught our attention. Just a doorway, nothing to predict what was in wait.

A couple around our age then walked in the door and said it was a really good restaurant. Barry loves a spicy Indian curry, and they had this amazing deal that looked far too good to be true. So we took the plunge and entered ‘Tropical Spice‘.

It turned out to be one of the finest Indian meals we’ve ever had. Not a posh place, wallpaper obviously fitted by people who have no idea about ‘pattern matching’, but fabulous service, and the most delicious four-course meal for £6.95 each!

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An extensive menu for the special

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Nothing stingy about the popadoms and sauces

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Beef samosa, chicken pakora and an onion bhaji – a tropical spice mixed starter – delicious

We’d suspected the portion sizes would be small considering the price, but that was definitely not the case.

Barry and his brothers have this ‘thing’ about hot curries. Whenever we went out for one in NZ, they’d ask for theirs to be HOT, very hot, seriously hot. Rarely did the dish come as hot as they liked.

Barry chose the lamb Vindaloo last night, after asking the waiter how hot it was. “Very hot”, was his response. Barry was doubtful.

He was right – the waiter that is!

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A lamb Vindaloo and a chicken tikka dupiaza – and a hand made completely irresistible garlic naan, along with colourful pilau rice

So Peter and Ray, here’s the challenge. Come to England and try a REALLY HOT curry in Stourbridge.

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This is hot. This is REALLY hot …

Oh, and the fire’s been on most of the day today – it’s such a delightfully warm boat. Not too hot, not too cold. Just perfect ;-)

Barry’s been ‘boat alone’ now since Friday morning, he left Merry Hill yesterday en route to Stourbridge where I plan to find him (!) some time tomorrow. I’ve forgotten how many locks he’s doing on his own, somewhere between 20 and 30 I think (forgive me, the nuances of the routes don’t stick in my geographically challenged female brain as much as they do for Barry).

I spoke with him yesterday and he’d not found any more coal – it’s looking challenging for him to have found any before I return. Oh dear! I have heard there’s another warm snap coming …

We’ve not done this section previously, so it’s unknown territory. I’m a little sad to miss it, as we may not do it again. But I’m here at mum and dad’s for a slightly extended period as he has a consultant psychiatrist coming to visit tomorrow, something I’ve been waiting a good while for, and I want to be here for the discussions.

Weekends away

Too-ing and fro-ing a little this week as I’m then returning here on Friday so mum can have a break and go to my elder sisters house for the weekend. Dad and I will have a jolly weekend together.

The following weekend we’ll be with my grandson celebrating his fifth birthday – woohoo!

Last weekend of November I’ll be heading down to Devon for my younger sister’s hen weekend, we’re staying somewhere with a spa which sounds a real treat.

The first weekend of December we’ll be heading down to Brighton to see my younger daughter – and another celebration, Barry’s 59th (yikes!) birthday.

Mid December and I’ve organised for the Walsh family to have a christmas meal together. We’re a close but miles apart whanau, extending from Malpas in Cheshire, down to Exeter, Southampton and of course Brighton, throwing in Lichfield and Worcester on the way down. We’re going to a local eatery to mum and dad with lots of room for 27 of us, The Honey Bee.

Latest publication/s

This morning I got the url for our latest article, published in the Gisborne Herald ‘Weekender’ on 4th October. If you’re interested in reading it click the link – ‘Experiencing the Seven Wonders’.

I believe we’re featuring in a magazine later this month too, called ‘Great British Food’, about food traders on canal boats. Barry was interviewed a few months ago now, so it’ll be interesting to see what eventuates from this.

Good luck with the locks Barry ;-)

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