Charlie don’t surf – Glasshopper doesn’t hug trees

Glasshopper and I go back to over 40 years to the days when he and I were pads brats “Klassenkameraden” at Wolfenbüttel, Germany.  He is nowadays a police officer, and spent several years as a riot policeman (Bereitschaftspolizist).  On the nerd/jock spectrum he and I would probably find ourselves at opposite ends.

In fact, here we are in this photo from 1977, HM Queen’s silver jubilee year.  Glasshopper is rear rank, furthest left.  I am next to him, with my finger in mouth.  Cute, eh?

classpic

On the last Wednesday in October 2017 Glasshopper’s wife was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

How is it that I remember that date?  Photographic memory?  No.  Did I just check in my Moleskine diary?  No.  It was the night that I had just come home from an excellent comedy evening down the Altstadt.  In fact, when I got home, I had been laughing so much, it was as if I had been doing sit-ups all night.  (Most unlikely.)

But once I had arrived home and had logged onto Facebook, I wasn’t laughing much any longer.

I saw Glasshopper’s posts on Facebook.  I saw his wife’s posts on Facebook.  I had arrived  home at 02:12.  Glasshopper was still up and on Facebook.  Glasshopper told me the devastating news.

My reply did not consist of Bible passages or words from hymns:

F*ck f*ck f*ck.

And then:

Sh1t, sh1t, sh1t!

Today was Mrs Glasshopper’s last of ten chemotherapy sessions.  This week they have several appointments to review progress (or lack thereof) and options.  Frankly, there are few options left.  When I asked Schatz (who knows a thing or two about medicine) a week after diagnosis, I summarised her answer as:

Also, der Tod ist sicher.

(“So, death is certain.”)

Over the last month I’ve chatted to Glasshopper a lot, forming a rapport with him, trying to work him out.  He seemed cheery, but was that alpha-male, riot policeman, bravado?  No, he is genuinely businesslike (perhaps as his coping strategy) and realistic.  He even uses the D-word: death. No euphemisms.  No:

  • The inevitable
  • When she passes away
  • When she moves on
  • When the end happens
  • Etc

Instead: death and dying.  He’s calling a spade a spade.  (DE: die Ding beim Namen nennen.)

Mrs Glasshopper, on the other hand, is in denial.  She’s not saying her goodbyes, because she denies shes going yet.  She is convinced that she will still be alive – despite doctors’s predictions – for her son’s graduation in two years and probably many more family events.  Death is the last taboo in our western society.  Nobody wants to die, at least, not early.

By analogy, I once joked to a female friend of mine:

Women have PMT.  Men suffer from PMT.

Maybe it’s similar here.  The patient has the terminal cancer.  The family suffer from the cancer.  Am I being too cold?  Too clinical here?  Is Glasshopper?

He even ‘fessed up last week:

Sometimes I just want her to go so she is no longer in pain, and so I don’t have to deal with this any more.  And I feel an absolute a$$hole for saying that.

Since then he has called me “Padre Ginge.”

This is not Hollywood cliché.  No:

  • Miraculous recovery
  • Constant hugs
  • Reiterations of “I love you”
  • Final hours in hospital bed, surrounded by loved ones and devoted medics
  • Final beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep on the electronic monitor

Woody Allen is famous/notorious for his quotation:

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

What can I do?  What can Glasshopper do?  Probably not much.  I told him this morning:

Padre Ginge is here if you need to let off steam, swap silly jokes, send internet memes or links to YouTube videos of cheesy 1970’s hits.

We pads brats don’t hug trees.  We don’t even hug humans.  We don’t do group therapy.  We do, however, look after each other in our own unique way, which “bl00dy civvies” never quite understand.

Please, folks, pray for and think of Glasshopper and his wife next time your train is running late or there is too much milk in your tea.

Have a grateful day, won’t you!

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A first time for everything

This week I visited K in hospice.  It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a hospice, although at my age (late 40’s) I have visited dying people at home.  I’ve known K (a Scots British Army veteran) since 2001, when he was a case worker for an armed forces charity, when my dad was being a “problem child.”  K was a godsend to me, as he listened to me rant and rave about chaos that my Dad had been creating for me.  Now it was my turn to return the kindness to him.

A, a mutual friend, had briefed me last week that K was due to move from palliative care into hospice this week.  K knew what this meant.  He was moving into the departures lounge.  He’d been through check-in, security, and now it was time to sit in the departures lounge and just wait for the final call.  A had briefed me that K had 2 to 6 weeks left.

The night before I had Kopfkino playing non-stop.  Would K want to talk about death and dying?  Would he use euphemisms, or would he actually use the word, “death”?  Would he prefer to talk about anything but death?  (Was he Celtic or Rangers?)

I turned up on a beautiful sunny day, too nice, frankly for a hospice visit.  I didn’t ask him, “How are you?”  That would be crass.  He’s dying of cancer!

K, great to see you.

Ginge in Germany, you too!

A firm handshake from K.  Bated breath.  Will he cry?  No.  Almost, though.

A sigh from K, sitting in his wheelchair.

I arrived here yesterday from palliative care.  I know what it means.  I really have not got much time left here.  Oh aye!  I got a letter last week demanding €14000 compensation off me for a car crash I caused five years ago.  I had great pleasure in replying that I’m going to die in a few weeks, and they won’t be able to get a single cent out of me, ha ha ha.

Then silence.  K starts to blink, swallows hard, and squeezes his wife’s hand.  Five seconds later the dark British squaddie humour returns.

And the amount of money the undertakers charge for a f***ing funeral!  At my mother’s cremation, just before they slid my mother’s box into the oven, the cheeky bastard undertaker asked if anyone had a match!

Right, he’s back “in the zone.”  If a soldier is not complaining or cracking bad-taste jokes, then there is something to worry about.

The rest of the ‘guests’ here are terrible.  I joined them for dinner yesterday evening, and all they did was rattle on about their illness, asking me, “What are you dying from?  How many weeks have you got left?  I’ve got…”  It’s so f***ing depressing, the morbid buggers!

K offers me a beer.  I decline.  I drink mineral water instead.  Beer at 11am would make me too drowsy.  K tells me his son is about to turn up tomorrow with G, his latest grand-daughter, only two days old.  He’s looking forward to that, he says with fatherly and grandfatherly pride, a smile showing under his grey moustache.  (When I first knew K, his hair was black as Whitby jet.  What a difference 17 years (and metastasised prostate cancer) make.

K and I spend the rest of the visit, another hour, swapping stories and cracking jokes about death and funeral, standard ex-HM Forces chat, really.  He tells me his bagpipes are arriving this afternoon.  He tells me he intends to play the bagpipes tonight to the fellow guests – “to drown out all their f***ing incessant talk about death and coffins.”

Yes, the body may be going downhill rapidly.  But the soldier with his effing and blinding, and his macabre sense of humour is still alive and kicking.

I conclude my 90 minutes visit with thanks and a firm handshake.  No hug.  We’re both British.  We don’t do huggy-huggy, kissy-kissy.  K sees me off with the following words:

“Lunch today looks good.  Fresh strawberries, too.  The condemned man ate a hearty meal, eh!”

I actually leave the hospice with a spring in my step.  Iron sharpens iron.

Have a sharpened day, won’t you!

tartan

 

 

 

Feeling quite chuffed actually

There you go.  The title is a British is you can get.  Actually.

Three quarters of the way through the year 2017, and I’ve written a daily entry in my Moleskine A5 size diary for every day bar about five or six days.  (That was the old-fashioned way of blogging.)  My best year (so far – three months to go) ever.

I guess it’s a case of self-discipline and just getting into the habit.

Still more Adrian Mole than Samuel Pepys, however. 🙂

Have an entry a day, won’t you!

Meeting a Fellow Blogger

Today I was in the library.  I got chatting to a young lady who I’d seen last week.  She was writing copious notes on an A4 writing pad.

Is that study notes for your university course starting next week?

No.  Notes for my blog, which I’ve recently started.

Wow, a fellow blogger!  Do bloggers do secret handshakes and codewords?  No.  We just swap stories and tips, many of which I had picked up from Blogging for Dummies and Blogging for Creatives, as well as from my lovely Schatz, who introduced me to blogging all those years ago.

Blogging is good.

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Have a creative day, won’t you!

Blood sugar diet: day 22 of 56

What have I learnt so far?

  1. Don’t panic if you have a blip.  Stay focussed.  Start afresh.  One week’s weight gain or loss is, in any event, but a small step when you remember it took years to put the weight on.
  2. The 72-hour rule of thumb.  If I have had a blip, it takes about me about 3 days for the “blip weight” to pass out of my body.  (I won’t get too scatalogical here…)
  3. If you do have a blip one week, don’t starve yourself.  Just go back to what you were doing that was helping you to lose weight.  Last week I had a few too many Haribos and Balisto snacks, probably about 3000 calories worth, equalling about 0.5kg, which is what I put on last week.  This week so far I have had literally three, maybe four, Haribo pieces.
  4. If you are tempted to have sweet things, have an ice cream, rather than sweets.  A Magnum ice cream bar has “only” 259 calories and is more filling than a pack of wine gums.  The ice cream is also quite a nice dessert after a salad lunch.
  5. Do some exercise in the evening.  The last two evenings Düsseldorf has enjoyed glorious sunshine.  I have made the most of it.  I’ve already caught the sun after only 20 minutes at lunchtime today.  (Well, what do you expect from a redhead?)  Two 50-minute cycle rides to explore and recce new routes.  I’ve also found a new “salmonellaburger van”, where I can stop off for a coffee.  Another advantage of cycling is this: you can’t comfort-eat while you are cycling – especially if you don’t bring any money with you.  (“Lead us not into temptation.”)  The Union Flag cycling top still turns heads.

Finally, here is a pic of me in my favourite cycling top, back in 1998 in God’s Country, the Yorkshire Dales.  Dennis the Menace from The Beano comic.

Dennis

Have an un-menacing day, won’t you!

Blood sugar diet: day 15 of 56

So, the past weekend.  I allowed the shackles to come off a bit.  Over the weekend, I ate white bread rolls, and I also had curry twice.  Oh, and a couple of bottles of beer.  I probably blipped up a bit on weight, but on Monday I was back in the groove today.  I tend to think of it as being analogous to a prisoner going on weekend leave and returning to HMP Wherever.  (Vocab note: HMP – Her Majesty’s Prison.)

Since the weekend I have been as good as gold, albeit with about ten Haribo sweets altogether.  I had been tempted to eat a Halbeshänchen (half a rotisserie chicken) on the way to a meeting yesterday evening, but instead chose to enjoy a nice home-made omelette (mushroom, ham and sliced gouda cheese – most pleasing to the palate).

Yesterday I cycled to a church meeting in glorious sunshine.  I cycled back in the dark.  I wore my Union Jack Flag cycling top and Union Flag helmet.  The rationale was not patriotism, but somewhat more prosaic.  One month ago, I could not get that top on.  Well, maybe I could have, but I would have done a very good impression of Doctor David Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk, with the slow rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-rip sound of shirt material slowly tearing.

Yesterday evening the top fitted me, albeit slightly tightly, but it certainly came down below my belly button.  I shall keep wearing the top every time I go cycling to measure progress in terms of looser clothes, as well as scales being friendlier.

Here I am in Union Flab Flag clothing.  It turned a few heads as joggers and cyclists headed past me along the banks of the River Rhine…

UnionFlagPic

Have a patriotic day, won’t you!