Plague, Pack Rats and Puppies!

We’ve gone down with the plague in the Blake household, well, Miss F has got a nasty cough and cold and hasn’t been to college this week, which is unfortunate as it’s only her third week but couldn’t be helped. Always seems to happen after the long summer break, doesn’t it? The kids go back to school and bam, the ever-popular game of pass the pestilence begins. So, we’ve painted the red cross on the door, and I’ve been desperately hoping I don’t get it – I simply don’t have the time and can’t afford to be ill. But as she’s been coughing over absolutely everything and has been plagued with the most violent and unexpected sneezes that she seemed incapable of catching in a tissue, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d wake up Saturday morning with shaky legs and a throat that feels like it’s lined with razorblades.

Bugger. I hate being ill and I’m the world’s worst patient. I get so frustrated at all the stuff piling up around me that needs to be done. Usually, I’m incredibly robust when it comes to fighting off infection, so I’ve dosed myself up this morning with black tea and honey – my go to remedy for sore throats – increased my daily dose of Vitamin D (look it up, recent research shows it does more to prevent colds than the flu jab) and I’ve got lots of good hearty, healthy food to eat. Stuff a cold! Fingers crossed I mange to head this one off at the pass. Here in the UK most of us don’t get paid for the first three days of being off work sick, and even after that it’s only a miserly £3.50 per hour sick pay, so I really can’t afford the cost of being ill.

I’ve only once in recent years been ill enough to have time off work, and that was three years ago when I had to have some seriously scary abdominal surgery – during which we discovered I am very allergic to morphine – anaphylactic shock – nasty, really don’t recommend it, and necessitated three weeks strict rest lying down as much as possible. Beforehand, Miss F had been confident she could look after me, and for my first few days out of hospital she was puffed up with her role as chief Florence Nightingale. Never have pillows been plumped so much or so many cups of tea been made for one woman.

But she got real bored, real quick with this and by day four it was – “are you STILL not better?” – and it had to be gently explained to her, that no, mum was really, really, unwell. This was a completely foreign concept to her. Mum is never ill. Up until then, if I did ever feel under the weather, I just swallowed down an aspirin and soldiered on. As a consequence, Miss F believed me bulletproof, and the truth that I was just as vulnerable as anybody else shocked and scared her.

For the first time in her life, she learnt the hardship of duty and responsibility, that sometimes there are things you don’t want to do, but you have to, because there’s nobody else to do it. My mum helped out where she could, dad came around and vacuumed the house a couple of times. Having had plenty of warning, I’d blitzed the house from top to bottom and got up to date with all the laundry. I’d also had manic cooking sessions and filled the freezer full of home cooked meals ready to be pulled out and reheated. Everything to make it easier for Miss F had been done, but, the daily care of me was on her – and this shocking revelation hit her on day four.

To her credit, she pouted for a bit, then pulled herself together and accepted that for the next three weeks at least, this was simply the way it had to be. It had been explained to her that I wasn’t to move too much, that moving could rip my stitches inside and cause massive internal bleeding, that I could end up back in hospital, or worse, if I tried to do too much. I am proud to say she took this on the chin, took a deep breath and just did what had to be done.

Now, before you all start reporting me to social services, be aware that all she had to do was heat already cooked meals in the evening, load and unload a dishwasher, generally keep the place tidy, and put laundry into the washing machine and tumble dryer. I wasn’t exactly expecting her to sweep chimneys or re-tile the roof.

Halfway through the second week she had an epiphany moment. Coming into the lounge she perched on the end of the sofa and looked seriously at me.

“Mum?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t you ever get sick of it?”

“Sick of what?”

“Well, you know, everything. The constant having to load and unload the dishwasher, the fact there’s always washing, and that no matter how much you tidy up, there’s always something else to do, and then the whole having to think about what to cook for dinner every single evening! I mean, you do it one night, and that’s fine, but then there’s the next night, and the next, and the next, for like, forever! So, don’t you ever really, really, get sick of it?”

“Oh sweetheart, welcome to the world of being a woman.”

I think it did her good, this realisation of just how much I do everyday that goes unnoticed, unthought of and unappreciated. For the first time she realised there were no such thing as laundry fairies who magically took the dirty clothes from her basket (or the floor, whatever) and washed, dried and ironed them and then magicked them back into her drawers. That dinner always had to be thought of, and that someone had to keep on top of basic necessities like cat food and toilet rolls – ran out of those on evening seventeen, luckily there were boxes of tissues in the house!

A valuable lesson to learn at any age, I think.

So now I’m sipping another cup of tea with honey and hoping that if I pace myself today and eat and drink lots of good things, I will be well enough to return to work tomorrow. Actually, whether I’m well enough to go or not, I will be going. It’s crazy, they tell us all not to go to work when we’re ill because we spread infection to our co-workers, yet because we don’t get paid for being responsible, none of us can afford to be. Something to think about, government?

Anyway, this week has been another busy one. Taking advantage of the fact Miss F has been home, I’ve been able to tick another item off my perennial to-do list and have had a massive de-clutter of the entire house, including her bedroom and den – something I wouldn’t have been able to do without her being present to supervise. Three large bags have gone out to the bin, there’s a massive pile of stuff in the corner of my bedroom to eBay and four bags of stuff not good enough to sell but too good to throw away have been taken to the charity shop.

Now, I’m not particularly a pack rat. Sure, I have stuff, but I’m not one of those people who hoards useless clutter for years, and every now and then I do a major sweep through the house and ditch the unwanted, and, if I can, make a few pennies selling it. But this was the ultimate de-clutter, the real “hardening your heart and if you’ve not even thought about it in over a year, get rid of it” purge.

We used to go to a lot of fancy-dress parties and even the odd cosplay event, so as a consequence had drawerfuls of accessories and wigs and dress up stuff. But we haven’t done anything like that in years and, to be honest, a lot of the stuff simply wouldn’t fit us now anyway. So, out it all came and was sorted into three piles – bin, sell, donate – and I then spent almost a whole day putting it all on eBay, figuring now was the perfect time to try and sell it what with Halloween coming up.

I was a big Doctor Who fan back in the day and had a cupboard full of retro Dr Who VHS tapes I’d bought when at the height of my craze. I don’t even have a video player anymore, so why was I keeping them? Looking on eBay, I see they’re going for respectable amounts, so they’re all going as well.

Then there’s hundreds of DVDs, some still wrapped, and I’m actually shocked at the sheer waste of money, all those £10’s here and there spent on films I probably only watched once, if that. Adding it all up I can’t help but think if I’d kept my money in my bank account, I’d be a lot better off now. But what’s done is done, and all I can do is see how much I can get for them. Probably not much. In these days of Netflix, Sky and Amazon Prime, most films and TV series are available at the click of a button. No need to buy a physical copy to take up space when it’s all in cyber space.

Do we all do this? Be pack rats and acquire stuff for the first half of our lives, only to spend the second half trying to get rid of it all? But I do feel better for having had a bit of a life laundry, the house feels bigger and all the drawer and cupboard space we’ve freed up is useful, what with having a growing teenage girl in the house who needs more clothes for her ever developing life.

Speaking of Miss F and her ever developing life, remember how a couple of weeks ago I told you we were trying to find her 150 hours of unpaid work in an animal environment to run alongside her college course? Well, I was beginning to despair we’d ever find anywhere, but then a new friend she’s made at college told her she’d recommended her to the owners of the farm she’s doing her own 150 hours on. The outcome of this recommendation was that Miss F began yesterday at a farm about thirty minutes outside of town. She’ll be doing 9am to 2pm every Friday, so that means I spend two hours in the car ferrying her there and back, but hey ho, the things we do for our kids, right?

I’m beyond relieved she’s found something, and she seemed to really enjoy herself yesterday. Despite being full of cold, she was determined to go – not wanting to let them down on her first day – which I quite agreed with. Sometimes, a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do. They are primarily a stable, so lots of equine experience, and they also breed border collie puppies, which is lovely, but at the same time a bit of a nuisance.

You see, Miss F loves dogs, so the chance to look after dozens of squirming adorable puppies is wonderful for her. But Miss F also badly wants a dog of her own, she has always wanted a dog, and every now and then carries out a renewed campaign of pressure to persuade me to let her have a dog. So being surrounded by squirming adorable puppies has reignited her desire to have one of her own.

Now, we live in a tiny house with a tiny courtyard garden in the middle of town. I’m quite poor (see above about selling all my goods and chattels) and I’m out at work a lot. None of these factors are conducive to having a dog. Also, there’s the fact I do not wish to pick up dog poo, ever, I just have no wish to do that. And I think that’s quite an important consideration, this burning desire not to have to scoop up dog poo and carry it in one of those disgusting squishy bags before depositing it in a stinking bin, in the decision whether to get a dog or not. Because, and let’s sensible about this, although the dog may technically belong to Miss F, it would be me who’d have to pay for its food, insurance and medication. It would be me cleaning up the house after it, and it would mostly be me having to take it for walks – and that brings us right back to my statement – I do not want to pick up dog poo.

Miss F knows this, and for the most part understands. There’s also now the fact that in less than two years-time she’ll be off to university and then onto her life, leaving me – and the dog – behind. So, I’d definitely have to pick up its poo then, and I don’t want to. Yet still, we occasionally have conversations that go something like this.

“Mum.”

“What?”

“Can I have a dog?”

“No.”

“Oh please, I really, really want a dog.”

“What sort of dog?”

“I want an Australian shepherd dog with beautiful blue eyes, and I’d call it Blue, or something like that, and I’d love it so much.”

“Blue is a stupid name for a dog, and Australian shepherd dogs are enormous and need an incredible amount of space and exercise. Be sensible, at least.”

“What would be sensible?”

“Well, if I was going to have a dog with the kind of lifestyle we live at the moment, I’d have a little chihuahua and I’d call it Betty.”

“Why Betty?”

“I like the name Betty. Betty is an awesome name for a dog.”

“So, if I said I wanted a little chihuahua and that I’d call it Betty, could I have a dog?”

“No.”

You get the drift? Driving her home after her first session there yesterday, the whole “Please may I have a dog” conversation restarted. To which the answer is still no, because, I really, really do not want to pick up dog poo.

And now it’s Saturday afternoon again, and I’ve just sneezed – twice – so it’s not looking good, but at least my blog is written and once again I’ve gone from not knowing what to say to actually talking quite a lot.

Hope you are all well, and that the coming week is a good one for you. As ever, I really do appreciate any comments you’d like to make either on here or on social media, and I look forward to our chat next week.

Best Regards

Julia Blake

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2 thoughts on “Plague, Pack Rats and Puppies!

  1. Oh dear Julia, I do hope the plague fizzles out very quickly. I’ve been thinking about doing a whole house defrag for a couple of weeks now as we seem to have so much stuff and all the wardrobes and drawers seem bursting to the point of exploding. It’s just finding the time 🤣😘

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