In New York

In New York

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Of men and hobbits

I've been lucky. Richmond Carers Centre offered me twelve weeks' free counselling a while back. I had the last session a couple of weeks ago and I really found it helpful. There has to be someone to listen - not family, not friends - someone you don't have to look after, who will focus on you and take what you say and feel - and make sense of it. Eve did that for me. Roch often tells me, joking, 'It's all about me'. Well, of course it is and that's as it should be but how refreshing to be the focus of attention for a good 50 minutes per session, as I was with Eve. It's a powerful experience, and one that is often underestimated - to be heard, and to have your feelings acknowledged and understood.

I thought I was being so time efficient, arranging my final session for midday - fitting it in before a late shift at work. I was feeling fragile. In fact, to quote a very famous Hobbit, I was feeling 'Sort of stretched, like...butter scraped over too much bread.' The weekend had been all go, my days off full and I hadn't arranged any time for myself - by myself.
Anyway, Roch's personal assistant David arrived - Roch was showered, dressed and ready and so I set off. The first inkling I had that something wasn't quite right with me came as I was parking the car. I watched a woman walk down the street with a confident stride, swinging her bag. She looked - how did she look? She looked happy. Happy and in control. Just about the opposite of how I was feeling, in fact. Whether she was or not, is immaterial.  Suddenly I realised that I was feeling very shaky indeed. My eyes filled and in fact I spent a lot of the subsequent session in tears. Together Eve and I worked out why. Well, it's not rocket science, but sometimes it's hard to work out the why by yourself - and it can feel very scary to feel overwhelmed by strong emotion without quite understanding where it's coming from. Eve helped me to see that I consistently successfully push down all the emotion I'm feeling, in order to cope day to day, so it's not surprising that eventually it all comes bubbling up and I can't stop it from overflowing. Sadness, anger, grief. I have to allow myself to feel it to get through it. If I don't take time for myself, to look after myself - this is what happens. It's not the end of the world, but it does mean that I just have to STOP.
Here I had been rushing around doing everything for everybody for days without stopping for myself and without taking time to get in touch with my feelings (to coin a useful Americanism, now don't laugh). The result was a gibbering wreck. Well, perhaps not gibbering, but certainly unable to function normally. For only the second time since Roch's diagnosis, I knew that I just could not face work. (The first time was the day after we received the diagnosis). 
I called my line manager and tearfully explained. She was very understanding. She asked me if there was anywhere I could go, someone I could be with. But I didn't want to be with anyone.  I didn't want to go home and anyway, I wasn't needed there. Happily it was a bright, sunny autumn day so I donned my sunglasses to hide my red and swollen eyes, took a few deep breaths and headed into Richmond. I felt a bit lost and wandered round rather aimlessly before conceiving the notion to go to the cinema. This idea brightened me up considerably and I had lunch al fresco on Richmond Green, bought some clothes and started to enjoy myself! I felt like I was playing hookey. I had never been to a film alone before and found it very liberating. I chose a film I thought wouldn't interest Roch much (so he wouldn't feel he'd missed out) called 'Hope Springs' about a couple undergoing intensive couples counselling. It was billed as a comedy/drama but I was interested to note that of the audience (which consisted of two middle aged straight couples and a duo of young women - and me) - only the men ever laughed.  That tells its own tale. The film was most enjoyable, by the way.
It was only the other day, when Roch and I were deciding which film to go to next,  that I mentioned my lone cinema visit to him. I think my expression may have been rather hangdog, but I think he was glad I told him, and that I'd had some time to myself.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Roch 'n roll

It's been a bit of a mixed bag lately. On the plus side, we've been getting out more. A successful trip to the cinema in Kingston to see 'Looper' means, I think, that we can look forward to many more. Now that I am working fewer shifts, we can schedule our trips for weekday showings, when it's less busy. Roch has been making a big effort to get out. It's not easy, he's lost a lot of confidence. I was touched by a remark I overheard him make to a friend - he said 'Deirdre's courage gets me out.' I was proud to hear him say that - and it does take courage to get out, but it's so much harder for the guy in the wheelchair. He's making a great effort to get himself out to watch Brentford FC play - he's building up to the Emirates!

Ironically, just as Roch steels himself to face his fears and get out more, something changes. For a while now, it's been difficult for him to stand up from the toilet without someone helping - just one person helping has been fine and I have always been able to assist. But the weekend before last, we had a problem. I couldn't do it alone. It was okay over that weekend, because Tom was at home, so between the two of us, we managed, but what were we to do on Monday? Roch's solution was not to eat anything all morning - well, that clearly wasn't going to work on a long term basis, so we called Shelley, our OT from Richmond on Monday morning and she came out to see us on Monday afternoon. Imagine our relief when she listened to our sorry tale and then simply told us "What you need is a standing hoist." I never thought I'd be happy to hear those words. She had it all organised within two days and we now have another piece of equipment - but what a piece of kit. It has become my new best friend. Me and the Hoist. BFF. Introducing - the Oxford Journey....

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Speaking of journeys, we actually made it to a gig on a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago, at the Six Bells in Brentford - despite horrendous service from Com cabs we got there at last (Brentford County Massive waited for us to arrive - thanks guys x) and the return journey wasn't much better. Roch, sitting outside the pub at midnight calling them on his mobile - 'Where the hell is our cab? You said they were five minutes away..!' You get the picture. We got home eventually, but it was a dismal service. However, it didn't spoil our night.

Brentford County Massive groupies Carolyn and Devorah with me in the middle!

 Rob rocks it up

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hammersmith bids farewell

Waiting for his guests to arrive - what's that? Mineral water? Shurely shome mishtake!

The back room of the Egerton pub in Hammersmith was packed last Friday night, crowded with LBHF staff, past and present, Roch's ex-colleagues and friends, Union comrades and some representatives from other organisations - old adversaries included. They had come to pay tribute and to make their farewells. But it wasn't a sad occasion. In fact, it was the best kind of party. Tables groaning with platters of delicious food prepared by a group of his (female) colleagues (a separate table for desserts!), plenty of booze available, and a room brimming with friendship and goodwill. It was, in fact, a typical Roch party. Around us I saw people greeting old friends with delighted hugs - catching up, exchanging news - a buzz of conversation, laughter and memories surrounded us. Roch makes friends like nobody else I know - and never hesitates to bring them together. All are welcome - especially down the pub!

There were speeches from Zahra, Roch's long suffering (and charming) line  manager, Glendine, bravely representing Senior Management, Jonathan Hextall, former Union stalwart - the 'Elder Lemon', who recruited Roch to the Union twenty two years ago and of course, a speech from Roch himself.  There were plenty of jokes about Arsenal, beer and how argumentative Roch can be (what? our Roch? Never!), but the room was silent as Jonathan described Roch as
a Man of Integrity, and went on to say that it was Roch's sense of social justice and his determination to remain impartial, to give everyone a fair hearing, that will be remembered - that and the fact that where Housing Law is concerned, everyone agrees that Roch is an absolute fount of knowledge. No-one to come to now with their questions, I'm afraid. They are gonna miss that.

He is overwhelmed by the generosity of the gifts he received from his LBHF colleagues - a huge sum in vouchers for IT equipment, a most excellent bottle of Prosecco - and a handsome pewter mug, which sports the following engraved message:

Dear Roch
from all your friends
who have loved and
worked with you over
the years at

This is not including the individual gifts so many people brought along with them.
I can do no better than share with you some of the photographs from the evening - I hope they convey something of the atmosphere. Roch and I will certainly never forget it.

Special mention goes to Catherine, who managed to elude capture in any photograph (!) and Terry, friend and Union comrade. Catherine, for her quiet behind the scenes management, the production of her legendary Victoria sponge (amongst other culinary delights) and her hard work with the rest of the 'food committee' on the night. Terry - for so many things, but mainly for always being there.


With our dear friend Dympna, who did a fantastic job as photographer on the night.

Union Comrades! From left, Jonathan, Terry, Julia and Krissy
Barbara and June

Barbara, June, Catherine, Farah, Shelley, Carolyn, Sheron - thanks for all the delicious food and hard work on the night!

Top picture: From left, Florence, behind Roch - John and April. At the back, Dave and Clive.
Bottom picture: Shauna, Angela, June and Farah.

Posing with gifts