I've been thinking back to my pre-hysterectomy days (why it isn't called a hersterectomy, I really don't know!), trying to compare myself then to now. I can't think of many pluses of being past the menopause. Then, my hair was thick and glossy. Now it's brittle, dry and much less thick. Oh, and greyer, too. My skin was, like my mother's, always rather dry but now it's as if I've spent a year being parched in the desert. Despite all the moisturiser I can slather on, I awake to a face that feels as if it's going to crack when I smile. As for my hands, I'm thinking of getting henna tattoos to hide the wrinkly old skin and age spots.
Those areas of skin usually hidden by clothes and exposed only in shorts and swimsuits are now so dimpled with cellulite that they look like close-ups of the surface of the moon. As for those areas... well, I shall only say that anyone who had carnal knowledge of my ageing body would end up feeling as if their parts had gone ten rounds with a piece of the coarsest sandpaper.
So - are there any plusses to being a barren old wrinkly? Hmm. Well, my frequent headaches have stopped, especially those migraines that always coincided with the 'time of the month'. The tampon-induced thrush has ceased, too. That's two ticks. But there's a very large cross beside the libido, which has lambada'd into oblivion. You see, once your ovaries have gone, you're not producing the small amounts of hormones that older women with all their bits intact still have. The gingerbread has lost its ginger, like my once flaming hair. The spice has gone from life, the titillation vanished from the titties. Yet I still experience the occasional flicker in the knicker when watching Sean Bean as Sharpe, or Alan Rickman as just about anyone, so there must be a last misty ghost of a breath still lingering in the lingerie area, smelling of mothballs and pressed petals from old Valentine roses.
When I unwrapped the Mr Kipling Manor House cake that Mr Grumpy had left on the worktop (shame, that!), I saw it grinning at me. I just had to take a photo in case anyone thought it resembled anyone and I could sell it for a fortune.
No, delete that last remark. By the time Mr G fancied a slice, that was literally all that was left: a slice!
Mr G and I made pies this morning. Yes, I know it's hot and pies would seem to be last on the list of things people want to eat, but a-pie-making we did go. The one on the left is Mr Grumpy's cheese, bacon and onion pie and the one on the right is my apple pie. I do think his looks a bit more professional. We shall have some of both for dinner.
I was out in the garden photographing bees when I looked down the path and who should be there, stretched out in a cool spot, but Flad's worst enemy, the bully responsible for the lost fang. Doesn't luck much of a bruiser in this photo but believe me, when he stands up he is thickset and walks with a swagger. And is a definite Tom. Me-ow!
I am SO fed up with my stomach. Following my trip to Leicester last Monday and my consumption of tomato and ginger soup, which sounded quite safe for the digestion but turned out to be lethal because the chef had added red peppers to the recipe (not mentioned on the menu, of course), I got agonising indigestion as the ulcers were woken up good and proper. Oh, for a battalion of Gaviscon ad firemen with their soothing hoses.
By Wednesday it was feeling okay-ish. I ate bland food ill Friday, then went mad and drank half a bottle of white wine. Mistake. I was supposed to visit a friend in Aylesbury yesterday but Mr G warned there was bad traffic and it might take two hours to drive there, and I couldn't manage more than 45 mins between visits to the loo. (Irritable bowel, irritable bladder and irritable ulcers; it's terrible trio to suffer from.)
The tum is still dodgy today. I've clocked up four loo visits so far and have the nasty pain in my right side that I always get when the innards feel disturbed. The doc says the pain is referred pain from the ulcers but I'm not so sure. Ulcerwise, I feel fine today; it's the bowels that are grumbling, so I think the pain is connected to them. Whatever it is, I have never found anything that eases it. Not my probiotics, not my Gastrocalm digestive aids, not even peppermint tea.
I bet that there is a herbal cure somewhere in the world, one leaf that would ease my symptoms. In Greece once, I was sold a bag of leaves labelled Dictum that was meant to be a cure-all for stomach problems. I brought it home, didn't know what I was supposed to do with it (Boil it? if so, how much should I use? Have it in a salad? Smoke it?) and ended up throwing the whole lot away. For all I know, it could have been that elusive cure. Anyone know what Dictum is?
On Monday I took the tube to St Pancras - wonderful, clean, spacious, great coffee and highly expensive boutiquey shops - and the train up to Leicester, a brilliant journey which took just an hour and five minutes. The purpose was to meet up with my old literary agent. I left her because she only handled children's books and I had loads of ideas for books for adults.
Unfortunately, the new agent I went with wasn't hands-on. I'm the sort who needs feedback and encouragement. If I send up some ideas, I want to be told which has the best potential for commercial success, not a vague 'write whichever you like', which is what I got. I also got soundly flayed for having a 'commercial approach to writing' - which, I was told, meant I wasn't a proper writer, only a hack journalist. Proper writers, according to agent no. 2, wrote the literary words that they felt impelled to write, regardless of whether there was a market for them. This was 'real writing', as opposed to my desire not to start until I knew if I was writing the right kind of thing or not. What he didn't seem to take on board was that, with my arthritic hands, a couple of hundred thousand wasted words would bring me even closer to claw-hand crippledom.
So now I am back with agent no. 1 and will hopefully be able to sell some children's books again. Pity my head is still full of ideas for grown-ups. I suppose I will just have to write them and try and sell them myself. Though I am under strict instructions to use a different name so that kiddiwinks won't pull a book full of steamy rumpy-pumpy off the library shelf in mistake for Cows Say Moo!
Flad had a horrible scrap yesterday with the big black bullying tom that has recently moved into the area and thinks it owns our garden. Every day it struts through the hedge and lies down for a kip behind the bushes, and as this has been Flad's territory for the last 12 years, he doesn't take kindly to it.
I dashed up, clapping my hands and shouting at the bundle of screeching fur on the floor, but I was too late to prevent injury to my furry baby. He came in with blood dripping from his mouth and later, when he was shifting around on Mr G's knee trying not to put any pressure on his sore face, I spotted that his largest fang was missing.
Today I was able to get a better look. The tooth wasn't wrenched out of its socket, it has broken off. The trouble now is that infection could get in, but there is no way we can get Flad to a vet. He was a feral that we adopted. He will not be picked up - he fights tooth (ha ha) and nail and Mr G, despite wearing thick leather gloves, still bears the scars on his arms from the one and only time he tried to wrestle him into a carrying basket. I really don't know what to do.
Mr G is all for leaving him alone, but I am worried about infection, abcesses and his ultimate demise. (Flad's, not Mr G's. You can tell where my priorities lie!) What we need is one of those vets who shoots sedative darts at lions. Any offers?
Dreamt last night that ny goddaughter, to whom I'm extremely close, had a baby girl. In the dream I was in the hospital with her, smoothing her brow and watching her go through the labour. Fortunately I told Mr G about my dream when I got up this morning, otherwise no-one would believe me as I've just had a call to say she had a girl at 3am our time (she lives in Vancouver). The only detail from the dream that was wrong is that the very large, bonny baby in my dream (she was well over 8 lbs) had fair hair, whereas her grandma has just told me that the little one was dark. Then I thought, maybe her hair was wet! I'm feeling very soppy and emotional now. I know I shall never be a gran, but I'm a great-godmother!
When I met Mr Grumpy, I told him that few of my relationships had lasted longer than two years. I have since read that this a crucial development period in a relationship and if it can survive two years, it can generally go on for a lot longer.
Mr G obviously took this to heart for two days ago he presented me with a small box, saying, "This is to mark the anniversary of our seventh two-year relationship."
Like a flash, without thinking, I said, "It's only the sixth, we've been together 12 years, not 14, and anyway, we met in April and it's now June so it's not even our anniversary." What a dumkopf I am sometimes, letting reality crash down on the romantic moment.
"Whatever. Open it," he said. Inside was a very pretty pair of earrings, silver and amethyst in a Celtic design.
Once again, I had to ruin the moment by reminding him that the piercing in my right ear had closed up, which is why I hadn't been able to wear earrings for ages. Nevertheless, I jabbed and shoved and managed in the end to repierce my ear, with slightly bloody results. But it enabled me to wear his gift all day.
Now though, I am paying the price of love with a sore, swollen ear. Still, better than a dose of the clap!!!
The old bluesmen used to sing, "Well I woke up this morning, And I got the blues so bad..." Cue some bottle-neck guitar notes way up the neck of the instrument and a merciless sun beating down on the dust bowl. Well, there ain't no dust bowl in Hillingdon, only wet streets and car alarms and stupid young men bellowing on their mobiles as they walk past the door, and Mr Boom-boom Car Stereo driver deafening himself and everybody else as he makes the house walls vibrate as he cruises by. Dirty main road with grotty kebab shops, little Asian groceries struggling to survive, brothels masquerading as nail bars; grafitti and litter and dog poo and fat girls in ugly clothes, with ugly tattoos and even uglier babies. I, who love beauty, music, art, the shapes and colours of things, am appalled and out of my element and, trapped here with a man who never cuddles me and comforts me, only tells me that I have no right to be miserable because he's the one who's had the strokes, I have the blues. Bigtime.
Once, I would have blamed it on my hormones, but I no longer have any, due to menopause and hysterctomy. So I can only attribute it to the sheer monotony, boredom and harshness of my environment which offers nothing soft and kind and beautiful to my soul.
And if this phoenix could rise, where would it fly off to? Twelve years ago, it was Turkey. I had gone for the summer, to relax and write and just have fun. But a month into my sabbatical, Mr G arrived and hauled me back, promising me lovely things, none of which materialised and when they didn't, he blamed me, saying he couldn't plan any trips or take me away for any nice weekends because I was 'always busy'. Well, I was a writer, with deadlines. But had he given me any dates, I could have made sure I kept them free.
Since then, I have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the relationship, in the garden, in the house, with the computer, the cooker, the kettle, the TV... if anything goes wrong, I must have made some mistake, been clumsy, broken something, misplaced or mistimed something. Maybe he thinks he is only teasing, but since his only tone of voice since his strokes is a shout, it doesn't sound like it.
No wonder I am no longer the confident, sparkling person he met 12 years ago. Instead, I am ground down like a bluesman's bottle-neck and sliding up and down the frets of my own life.
There was a plotline in Eastenders recently in which Nick, the son of the elderly Dot, tried to convince her and everybody else that she was going mad, by hiding things like her keys and purse, putting sleeping pills in her tea to make her dozy, and inventing phone calls and saying he'd told her things which he hadn't.
The same sort of thing is happening in Grumpy Grange and Mr Grumpy is insisting that it's me who's going barmy. Take yesterday for example. On Tuesday I set the HD recorder to record both Eastenders and The Unsellables, the morning property makeover show. All went fine for two days, then yesterday neither prog got recorded. "Oh," said Mr G with a smirk when I wailed, "it always works perfectly when I set it." "But I did everything right, I know I did!" I moaned. All I got was a pitying look.
Last night I had a bad night due to some allergy that meant I kept waking up coughing, with my nose and eyes streaming. (I had eaten two chocolates during the evening so it could have been that. Choc has done it to me before.) At 7 am the door slammed and I heard Mr G driving off. 'Funny...' I thought. 'He never said he was going anywhere.' I dozed off again and half a hour later he slammed back in, waking me up again.
This time, I got up. "Where were you?" I asked, through a yawn. "Supermarket. I told you I was going there first thing." "No you didn't," I protested. "If you had done, I'd have mentioned a couple of things I wanted." I was treated to a another pitying look. "I told you last night and I read out a shopping list to you," he insised. Well sorry, he didn't. There was no mention, and no list. My memory isn't that bad. But he was adamant that he had, which upset me as now I have to make a separate trip, with no car as I don't drive, to pick up my own stuff, and in addition he's insisting I pay him half for the bill he racked up this morning, which contained nothing at all that I wanted.
It has dawned on me that perhaps he is trying to sabotage me. Maybe he turned off the recorder on both occasions. Maybe he know damn well that he didn't read me a shopping list. For heaven's sake, he didn't even have a list. I searched his pocket, and the shopping bags. Another little thing... who's had two strokes and a brain haemorrhage that has wiped out a goodly portion of his little grey cells? Yes, Mr Grumpy. So maybe it's not me that's going mad, but he who has already gone!
A second go at digging around on the internet brought me to Lynda's Horsewear eBay shop. Lynda makes pink and purple bridles and straps for horses and horse blankets and she is custom making me a purple shoulder strap for only £5.25 inc p&p. Result!!!!! I am whinnying in triumph.
My friend Jacula knows my penchant for purple. Indeed, she did the most wonderful portrait of me in red hat and purple jacket, skirt, bag and shoes. I have all of these, bar the bag. In fact, I have been searching for the perfect purple bag for a long time.
Yesterday I met up with friends in Oxford Street. After lunch, I scoured the likes of Accessorize and John Lewis, but to no avail. There was purple with red and green, purple but too small, purple with the wrong kind of handle, purple costing £550 - yes, really, in John Lewis! Hot and tired, I gave up went home empty-handed, though my friends had bought various things such as comfy Ecco trainers.
Almost on my last legs but with the shopping spirit still flickering, I got off the Tube after the long journey to Uxbridge (I got a seat - yay!) and stumbled to M&S for a bottle of Rose, had a look round their bags (no purple), then remembered TK Maxx, where I'd bought two swimsuits last week in the hope of splashing into the Med again one day. There, just inside the door, was a large purple bag with three big zipped pockets. So far, so good. I like to wear bags with long shoulder straps so I can sling them across me (less chance of getting them snatched) and still leave two hands free for carrying shopping, or rifling through items on rails in charity shops. This bag's strap was bundled up in white tissue paper but, by the bulk, it looked like the right length, so I bought it (£19.99) and brought it home with a sense of triumph.
But when I snipped off the packaging, my spirits fell. The handles were short, just enough to let you hand it on your shoulder and clamp it under one arm. No good for me. But... those big rings. Surely I could find a long strap to clip on to them? I was on the internet last night till I almost fell asleep over the keyboard, but nothing could I find other than ugly webbing ones for camera or laptop cases. Plenty of suitcase staps, but with click-locks. Nothing attractive with clips at both ends. If I could find a long strip of leather, I could tie it on, but... It's gotta be purple. (Sigh.) Any bright ideas out there?
Came back from the shops to find a mega stink hanging over the house like a fuzzy brown blanket and a hot, cursing and smelly Mr G trying to unblock the drains. Since he told me off for throwing hairs from my hairbrush, and dental floss down the loo - they now go in the bin - I have been very careful to preserve the flow of said drains, so, feeling virtuous, I asked what was blocking them this time.
"Nappies," he replied.
"Well, you can't blame that on me!" I responded.
It turns out we are last in line and the same main drain serves several houses. Two large families have moved in further down. The finger of blame would seem to point to one, if not both, of them. What is really unfair is that if Mr G had to call in Dyno-Rod to clear it, rather than having his own drain-clearing kit (he has a chimney sweeping kit as well, being a real jack of all trades), he would have had to pay hundreds of pounds for something that was not his fault. It really is most unfair.
To get to the bus stop and mini supermarket, I cut down a neighbouring street, but today it was full of police and forensic officers in full overalls doing their CSI bit inside the scene of crime tape. Not having the nerve to ask, I was sauntering past having a good gander when a youth marched up to one of the wpc's on duty and asked her cheerily, "Was it a fatality?"
"No, but it was a very serious incident and that's all I'm allowed to say," she replied, adding, "Hope you're enjoying this lovely weather," a remark which had an undertone to it, perhaps implying that the poor sod who got stabbed or whatever, certainly wasn't.
A few yards down the street I passed a couple of gawping women just getting out of their car, and relayed the info to them. "Oh yes, we saw police bringing bundles of stuff out of one of the flats above the shops early this morning," said one of them. We all agreed that doubtless we'd read about it in the local paper. And that's when I came back to find poor Mr G was in the shit!
RED ROSE UPDATE There is now a total of 20 blooms and buds, many of which won't reach maturity because they are crawling with greenfly which are sucking the life out of them. I can't help feeling that there is a metaphor taking place. (Don't tell me to wash 'em off with soapy water. I keep doing that but it's like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, to use my mother's time-worn expression.)