Caring for Others, Caring for Yourself, and Not Caring

Mon 18 – Sun 24 Sept 2023


My previous blog (read it here) was about how I am trying to create normality in my life. The main points in this week’s blog are:

  • Caring for people has become a big part of my everyday life in recent years. But I am also trying to look after myself and not to care so much about what others think of me
  • 2 big trips out with mum and a great night out with my old school friend Pete
  • Good number of gym and swim sessions (plus an unplanned rest day) but the ankle / Achilles still feels weak
  • A review of the excellent book ‘Cuddy’ by Ben Myers

My Caring Responsibilities Grow

I view myself as semi-retired in that I haven’t given up on going back to work because I can’t really afford to do that yet. But I don’t think (or hope) I will be going back full-time. Part of the reason for this is because of my caring responsibilities for my mum. Indeed, caring has become a much more prominent feature of my life over the last few years. Perhaps this is inevitable getting older and having older people around you.

Pre-pandemic, I was working but also caring for both Brian and Bob at a distance in Brighton. Two elderly gentlemen, one in a retirement home and the other in a residential home due to his disabilities. Both died before the arrival of Covid, TBH I don’t think they would have survived that and I wonder how many of their fellow residents managed to?

Now my mum is increasingly needing support. My parents are separated but I am grateful that my dad has his wife to look after him. Dave has his mum to care for (again at a distance). Plus me and Dave are also keeping a close eye on our friend Patrick.

One question I often wonder about is who will be caring for me in the future? Oh well, time will tell and you can’t worry about everything.

WWI painting - blinded soldiers

But Caring Less What Others Think

But as caring for people has become more of a feature in my life, so I have stopped caring about other things. Indeed, I am getting older myself and the clock is ticking. I could be dead in 20 years’ time. And we will inevitably have the problem of either me or my partner Dave ending their days alone after the other has died.

In this context I don’t care about what people think of me nor many things that are going on in the world. I see younger people look at me like an old man – if they even see me. And perhaps some people think I am lazy for not having found the right job to tempt me back to the world of work. But one of the best things about getting old is not caring about what people think.

So I don’t worry now about calling out bullshit like the crap that is peddled against tackling climate change, reducing speed limits, enforcing clean air, supporting trans rights, rejoining the EU, etc. Though, TBH, social media seems to matter less and less in my life; same people shouting at each other for the benefit of tech billionaires.

Are you being served

Family and Friends

Caring for mum: 2 big trips out

There is general caring I do for mum. So things like getting her shopping, taking her to the GP’s, and doing stuff around the flat like washing up and cleaning. But then comes along big events like on Tuesday when I took her to the hospital to get her cataracts assessed and Thursday when we went for a big shop.

Hours in the hospital

The NHS is great but there is always a lot of waiting. The joy of getting through morning rush-hour traffic but we were seen quickly first for an assessment and second for some scans. But then the system slowed dramatically while we waited to see the doctor (suppose I should be grateful that the appointment went ahead with the doctors’ strike). An hour and a quarter wait before more scans and finally seeing the doctor.

Long and short is that mum needs cataracts treated in both eyes. But they are going to start off with just one. Now to wait for a letter with a date for the operation and, obviously, I will be caring for mum once this is done. Quite a tiring day as from the point of leaving the flat to arriving back equalled about 5 intense hours.

Giving mum control over what she eats

Then on Thursday afternoon, I took mum out for a big shop. She can get out on her own but obviously can’t carry lots of shopping nor walk far being reliant on buses. So we went together to Sainsbury’s and Lidl in Hammersmith. Me carrying the basket and she having a chance to peruse. This meant she could select plenty of stuff for her freezer to have choice in what she eats each day.

I then carried the bags to the bus-stop and mum pottered along with her crutch. Annoyingly, the weather had turned whilst we were shopping and it was pissing down when we came out. Mum used my umbrella to keep dry and I got wet LOL. She was very tired again after this trip, these expeditions easily tire her and they need to be spaced out during the week.

‘Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.

A great dinner with Pete

Out on Tuesday evening for a meal with my old school chum Pete. It had been a while since we had seen each other because we had both had to cancel. But we really should meet up more as we have so much in common and get along well together.

Basically we are both moving to late middle age and all the joys that come with that particularly in terms of health. And we are both not caring so much about what people think nor taking the bullshit of modern life. A lovely relaxed meal and then to the pub for more drinks. I ended up travelling back feeling quite merry. And more reassured that time is too short to worry about the opinions of others beyond those I care about.

Must arrange a catch up with Pete before Christmas.

Be happy and grateful about nice things

Health and Efficiency

It could be that I haven’t taken full advantage of the period since I stopped working. There’s that brilliant question ‘What would you do if you could do anything you want?’ The simple answer might be that most of us don’t know. Perhaps it was limited but I did have goals to lose weight and get more healthier.

Gym: 3 good sessions for upper body and core

Still caring for my Achilles / ankle injury which feels better but also feels like it could be aggravated very easily. So taking public transport more than I would like but also getting in some walks either to or from the gym / pool.

Managed to get to the gym 3 times last week – hooray! Started to do some tentative leg exercises but focusing on ones that work my thighs without engaging my lower legs. My main focus is on upper body but I am also trying to do more exercises for my core. However I know I ain’t gonna get that washboard stomach with the layer of fat and loose skin I have. I think I am too old to lose that with the only option being surgical removal which feels like a bridge too far.

96 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £5.15 per session.

Pushing weights

Swim: Starting to enjoy front-crawl

One nice swim session on Thursday morning; the pool was lovely and quiet. Am definitely getting more comfortable in doing front-crawl. Indeed I am enjoying it more than back-stroke (and breast-stroke aggravates my knees). I am going slower than most others would do but not caring about that. My focus is on style over speed and I have lost the previous panic I had whenever I tried to do this stroke.


Caring for yourself: The need for chill days

I had planned to go for a swim on Sunday morning. But instead I treated myself to a chill day. To be fair, I had drunk and stayed up later than expected on Saturday night. Me and Dave thoroughly enjoyed watching a TV special featuring the music of Stock Aitken Waterman, and Kylie Minogue.

I was also put off by the need to travel there and back to the pool by tube due to foot travel disruption caused by a corporate vanity sports event. And my injury could do with a rest. So I spent Sunday reading and pottering. No need to feel guilty, we all require days where we do nothing but simply recharge the batteries.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery

Weight: Another unexpected small drop

Another small drop in weight of a quarter of a pound. Really reassuring as I don’t feel like I did too much to achieve it last week. Suppose I had some moments when I felt hungry and I didn’t really have too many blow-out food sessions. Though I still don’t totally get why I am losing weight – perhaps it’s because I am taking care of myself.

Weight scales

Books and Reading

‘Cuddy’ by Ben Myers

Finished this book last week and what a lovely one it is. I picked it up at the local library and it has made me very keen to find more of this author’s books to read. I also made a trip to the library on Friday afternoon to return some books. And took the opportunity to pick up about another half dozen books I look forward to reading. Primarily novels but also a biography of the great historian CLR James.

‘Cuddy’ is an alternative perspective on the life and legacy of St Cuthbert. Indeed, it all starts with his death. There are then 5 stories based on the foundation of Durham Cathedral to hold the saint’s body (after decades of wandering with his coffin) and the presence of the saint’s tomb. There’s a strong mystical angle to the book and issues of caring for relics as well as for living people.

It’s a really well written book and not as heavy as it looks. Could have fallen into pretentiousness with its variety of writing styles but the author carries it off with characters we really engage with and care about. Highly recommended.

A William Blake angel

Personal Development

I wrote in my previous blog about how I want language learning to be a big part of my new normality. And there’s often not a lot of new stuff to write about this when I manage to get my German and Spanish Duolingo learning done each day. Bit of an upset last week in that I didn’t get any done on Tuesday. Basically my caring duties took precedence with mum’s hospital trip that was so intense and left us both quite drained afterwards. Oh well, one of those things.

The Week Ahead

  • Taking care of myself target is to get 3 gym sessions and a swim session in minimum
  • Dave goes off to Blackpool with his mum next weekend so Billy home alone for a lot of next week
  • Me and mum have both got Covid jabs this week
  • Looking forward to a catch up with my old colleague Jeantine on Thursday
  • Continue with the two good books I am reading: ‘Old God’s Time’ by Sebastian Barry and ‘Shrines of Gaiety’ by Kate Atkinson, two brilliant writers
  • Target is to get get to the cinema a couple of times
  • QPR got a mere 2 points out of a possible 6 in the week gone but have a very winnable home game against Coventry on Saturday

And Finally…

We are all being played

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