Week 63

28th February, 2010

Sunday papers pretty boring today. Man United won but that was equally flat match. Disappointing!

1st March, 2010

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First day of Spring. Hurrah! Beautiful sunny day. Thought about pressure washing the patio. Thought about it but didn’t do it.

Reading the Greek Blogs and Newspapers still fretting about the Greek economic crisis. The Government is trying to find ways of forcing earners to pay tax on their earnings. As I reported last week, even doctors and dentists declare their annual earnings as €5000 instead of €100,000 in crude but successful attempts to avoid paying tax. If you go to them for treatment, they are supposed to give you a bill with a tax receipt which they file with their accountant and, ultimately, the government. They don’t issue these receipts because they know it is a paper trail of evidence to their earnings.

Of course, honest citizens should report these frauds but don’t because, if they insist on a tax receipt from their doctor, they are charged more instead. Unfortunately, what happens is that the Inland Revenue estimates their earnings and taxes them accordingly. This leads to ever decreasing declarations of earnings. Some earners, however, are easier to check on than others. Taxi drivers are going to have a meter in their cars that will record their journeys and their charges and, therefore, their earnings. They are going to be charged tax on their actual earnings. This is revolutionary in Greece. Consequently, all taxi drivers on going on a two day strike. Unluckily for them, most Athenians are looking forward to the taxi drivers’ strike because the roads will not be clogged up by yellow taxis.

2nd March, 2010

Only the second day of Spring but it is so beautiful today that after a long swim/jacuzzi/steamroom, followed by bacon sandwiches and The Times, Pauline is tidying up the garden in warm sunshine while I clean the patio and steps up to the house with my pressure washer. It takes about 4-6 hours altogether so I have to pace myself. Also, it has to be done twice a year. It won’t get done again until November. Let’s hope I’ve sold it by then.

Got an email from Malcolm Pritchard tonight. It was nice hear from him although I think Ruth was trying to get me in to trouble for using his photo without permission. However, Ruth did send me this picture of Malcolm taking part in the Winter Olympics – which, at his age, is impressive.

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3rd March, 2010

A stressful and emotional day today. Took Pauline’s Mum for the first of her two cataract operations. A lttle nervous because we’ve pushed her into doing it and we know there is a (small) risk. The surgeon started operating at 7.30 am and, although I don’t know how many he was getting through, Pauline’s Mum was last on the list at 4.30 pm. Even so, she had to present at 11.30 in the morning.

 We took her to the Oldham Royal Infirmary with a wheel chair in the back of the car. The parking is impossible so I dropped them off and spent 40 mins looking for parking while Pauline took her up to the ward and made sure she was settled.

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Off to Sainsburys to buy sandwiches for lunch and then in to Pauline’s Mum’s flat to do some essential wiring before she got back. Every time we phone, she takes ten minutes to get out of her chair and another ten to hobble across the room to the phone. She has resisted us moving her phone next to her chair but now is our chance. All went well. Next we had an appointment at Millfield, the Anchor Housing Care Home just up the road from her warden assisted flats.

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Apart from the appointment that Pauline had made for us to visit this place, there was another impetus on my mind. Pauline’s Mum saves all the back copies of the Oldham Chronicle for us. We read them to see the names of all the children we have taught who are mentioned in the Crime reports, got married or died of a drug overdose and the occasional one who has graduated from University. We are always reading them a week after the event. On Monday, we read about Ellen Brierley, the first ever Mayor of Oldham, one time chair of the Education Committee, former Governor of our school. She had left her home where she had lived independently until the age of 95 and moved in to Millfield where she was celebrating her 96th birthday attended by the current Mayor of Oldham and the current Mayoress and Chair of the Education Committee.

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We were invited in through the front door of the Home by the Patient Care Manager. She started to ask about our position with Pauline’s Mum. Pauline told her that her Mum was 95 and increasingly frail. I told her I had seen the story about Ellen Brierley in the paper. Suddenly, a Nurse walked past, did a double take and then walked back again and said, Hello Mr & Mrs Sanders. How are you? I knew her face immediately but couldn’t put a name to her. The Care Manager whispered her name as the Nurse disappeared. Two minutes later, she was back, announcing that she was 40 this year and her son was doing very well, thank you. This sort of thing happens all the time to us. I am (un)fortunate that I instantly remember their face from 40 years ago but can’t remember their name. Pauline usually doesn’t recognise them at all. They always remember us and, for that reason, expect us to remember every instant of their school life. They challenge us to remember. It can be very stressful. Another orderly walked past and I recognised her instantly but couldn’t put a name to her.

As we walked on, the Care Manager pointed out Ellen Brierley sitting at a table talking to another resident. Her face lighted on me in instant recognition (I’m not easy to forget.) and I went over to greet her. She looked immaculate as if she was just about to chair the next Education Committee and she began to speak in the way I had heard her speak so many times over the past 40 years. I told her which school Pauline and I had taught at since 1972 and she responded in a controlled and cultured speech to praise all the work we had done. She knew us to have been of the highest order of teachers or that’s what I thought she was saying until I suddenly realised she was using all the right words (education speak) but none of them were in the right order. They made absolutely no sense at all. I had cut out the story about her from the paper and when I told her, she said, I wondered where it was. I’ve been searching my mind …. We never quite got to what she was searching her mind for as a nurse came and took her away. This was my first ever contact with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

4th March, 2010

Athens is in chaos. A blog I follow published this photo of all the striking taxis. Not content with striking, they have parked right across Syntagma (Constitution) Square preventing all private motorists and buses from going about their business. Anyone who knows Athens, knows that Syntagma Square is an essential thoroughfare for the city. Closing it paralyses everything.

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With stupid talk of Germany demanding Greece sell all its islands and the Acropolis before it gets a bail-out, the Greeks are getting more and more angry. Another general strike is called for tomorrow.

5th March, 2010

Our worst fears are realised this morning after a phone call to tell us that Pauline’s Mum cannot see out of the operated-on eye and is distressed. Pauline phones the hospital who tell us to take her in immediately. Another 30 mile trip. We get to the hospital at 12.30 pm. I drop them off with the wheel chair and then drive round the car park looking for a parking space. Although I find one quickly this time, the 12.45 pm appointment becomes 3.00 pm. It is quite scandalous how a 95 year old woman can be treated in that way. The news is good and bad. The operation looks as if it has been a success and the lens is clear. The eye socket, however, is severely infected, swollen and urgently needs treatment.

The treatment is even worse for an old lady. She has to use three different sorts of drops/gells to be squeezed in to her eye every two hours with fifteen minute intervals between them. I produce a chart to pin on her kitchen door. The logistics would challenge a Maths Graduate never mind an old lady with one eye and poor legs. She gets up at 5.00 am each day (Don’t ask why.) The chart begins:

5.30 am – Red Tube
5.45 am – Blue Tube
6.00 am – Tube from Fridge
7.30 am – Red Tube
7.45 am – Blue Tube

Not only does she have to read this chart with one, very old eye but she has to be able to open the tubes with terribly arthritic hands and squeeze it into her own eye something like twenty times before her bedtime at 8.00 pm. I’m beginning to really see why growing old is no fun.

6th March, 2010

Lovely experience today. I was preparing Pauline’s new laptop for taking to Greece. She has a desktop in the Study but, while she worked on that, I used the wireless connection on the laptop to set up radio and television services for access in Greece. Most British television isn’t accessible over the web when one is outside UK. The IP address from a foreign internet provider is blocked which means so is the content. One can get Sky News (BBC News I can get in Greece anyway.) and some ITV programming but the big thing is, we can get BBC Radio. I have wireless speakers to put round the house there so, through the internet, we can download Radio 4 (DREAM ON!) and listen to the Today programme in bed. If the Greek Sports Channels don’t cover the Test Matches and it was rather hit and miss last year, I will be able to listen to Test Match Special.

While I was on-line, a message popped up about Ruth trying Skype out. I clicked on Video Call and Ruth popped up. We had a lovely fifteen minute chat. Because it was Skype to Skype, it was absolutely free. We have agreed to meet for coffee in one of the next few Tuesdays before we leave. We will then make arrangements for when we will be on line to phone each other. What a lovely (old) girl she is.

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