Tag Archives: death

Day 178

It is 9.30 and still light, although thy sky is starting to turn pink. There is a chill in the air and a feeling that another year is already over when, for me, it doesn’t seem to have begun.

I have just checked the MOT date for the car. I always get to the middle of summer and realise that I have forgotten when it is due. Fortunately it is still six weeks away, which gives me plenty of time. It’s quite useful being able to check these things on line and makes me wonder how we ever managed to run things with only a diary, a memory and a few scraps of paper.

This Wednesday I will be having a blood test, next Wednesday I have an X-Ray to check I am fit for my new medication, and the Wednesday after that I will make arrangements to get the car serviced and  for the test. I need to get it done so that I avoid it clashing with jury service. Fortunately you are able to get it done up to a month before the due date.

That is not exactly an impressive social diary is it? Blood test, X-Ray, car service, jury service . . .

Now, I think, I’m beginning to understand why older people don’t fear death. I’ve never been one of those people who worry about death, as it’s going to happen whether I worry or not, but I have wondered, in a theoretical way, whether it would become a matter of concern as I got older. It hasn’t. As every morning comes round I am just glad to find nothing else has gone wrong. By the time I’ve struggled into my increasingly awkward trousers I find my mind has cleared itself of any thoughts of mortality that may have accumulated during the night.

Of course, if you had my social life, you’d probably feel much the same.

 

Day 174

I had it all planned in my head. I was going to come home from work, write the blog post, prepare tea, watch quizzes, make tea and then watch a bit more TV before working on the computer.

So I came home, watched a quiz, fell asleep, ate tea (prepared by Julia), watched TV and started frittering time on the computer. It wasn’t quite how I had planned it. I also missed the cut-off time for making changes to my grocery order.

It is now late and I am writing a blog post whilst feeling tired, and remorseful for my lack of energy.

We had an interesting medal brought in this afternoon, along with some cloth arm badges. The medal is named to the Royal Naval Air Service and one of the cloth badges is from the RNAS too. The other two were worn by the same man but are just general naval badges – the chevron is for 3 years service and the anchor is the badge of a Leading Seaman, or Leading Mechanic in this case.

The RNAS was a short-lived organisation, formed in 1914 as an air arm of the Royal Navy and disbanded when it became part of the RAF in April 1918. It was an interesting organisation and carried out various duties in the war, such as strategic bombing, airship flights, anti-submarine warfare, the development of aircraft carriers and it  even had an armoured car unit. From this you may deduce that nobody was really sure what to do with it.

The recipient of the medal is fairly well documented. Born in London, he joined up in 1916 at the age of 18 and served at RAF Cranwell (which was, at the time, a base of the RNAS, despite being in the middle of Lincolnshire), was demobbed in 1919 with the rank of Corporal Mechanic (paid 5 shillings a day) and by 1939 was an engineer in Loughborough who was also a member of the ARP. He died in Worthing in 1966.

Approximately 100 years after his war service ended, his family sold his war medal and uniform badges to us.

RNAS Mechanic’s Arm Badge

They say we all die twice – once when we stop breathing and once when nobody remembers us. Sometimes, when I find details of a medal recipient, it feels like we are helping him live again.

 

Day 100 (Part 2)

This was the alternative post I was thinking of making today. I was going to post it later but I thought I’f do it then move on.

this morning I lay in be thinking. I often do that on Sunday, then go back to sleep for an hour or two. I have nothing pressing to do and getting up late helps to differentiate Sunday from other days. On other days I may lie in bed and think, but I do it under the pressur of knowing taht I have to get up.

This morning I thought it would be nice to find a Chinese restaurant that serves businessman’s lunches, as they used to be called, and take Julia out on Wednesday. We used to go to one in Matlock when we were out during the week – a no frills two course meal with coffee for very little money. We lost the habit over the years, and it has been a long time since I thought about it.

That led me on to all you can eat buffets and the lesson I learnt that I actually enjoyed them  more if I didn’t fill myself up to the ears. When you are paying a fixed price and presented with a lot of food it is always a temptation. It’s also tempting to fill up on several plates of snacks before attempting to eat several main courses.

The plan I eventually settled on was to eat a good selection of snacks, some pancakes and duck, and then move on to a main course made up of two or three dishes. You still eat plenty that way and get value for money. You don’t however, feel bloated, ill, unable t move or gluttonously greedy. Once I adopted the new method I found myself enjoying the e experience a lot more.

At one time three of us used to joke that we ought to go for one of these buffets and see what the management did. I can, as you may have gathered, shift a lot of food, and it shows. X, as I will refer to him, who was often mistaken for my brother due to size and ginger beard, was similarly placed and Y, the third of us, was built along the lines traditionally used by coopers in making large barrels.

We never did do it. Y died in his 40s, mainly due to an hereditary heart condition. Y died due to diabetes when he was 50, a sad end to man who served in the Territorial Army for 12 years and used to do a couple of ten mile runs a week.

That just leaves me. Sixty three but with a body at least ten, if not twenty years older. I hadn’t until today, really put it all together. It also dawned on me that two of the people who were at Y’s funeral are also dead now. One at 64 as his body just gave out due to weight and lifestyle (much the same as me) and one from a recurrence of his cancer.

It was a sobering thought, and  one that made me think seriously before eating during the day. The only difference between me and the others is that I eat better quality fresh food. Several of them took more exercise than I do, and two or three were probably thinner.

It feels like today was a cross-roads. Sorry for being a bit too serious, but it’s something I want to note down for posterity.

And now I’ve written it down I can forget about it.

Pope Benedict XVI

Cardinal Newman

 

You can decide for yourself whether the pictures are about me getting religion or about me collecting medallions. 🙂

 

Day 57

Spring is definitely starting to show now – lighter mornings, lighter evenings, a bit of brightness and a few more flowers. It’s difficult not to feel happier.

This was slightly moderated by three conversations in the shop today (really yesterday, as I’m writing in the early hours of Sunday morning). One was with a man who had just suffered a death in the family, one with a man whose parents have just been scammed out of their life savings and one with a man who has lived here for many years but still has friends and family in the Ukraine.

This sort of  conversation makes me realise how lucky I am.

I( am, I admit, having to do some thinking about death, mainly whether it makes sense to take out a pre-payment plan for a funeral or not. Clearly it’s cheaper to sort it out and have it all ready for when the time comes, but  what happens if they go out of business between now and the funeral?

I’ve also been thinking about keeping my money safe in years to come. I don’t want to hand it all over to a fraudster, and I don’t want to spend it all on high-priced TV offers, as many of our customers do.  I’m reasonably confident I can keep it safe now, but worry about what I may do in the future. I mainly rely on a bad memory and being disorganised at the moment, meaning I couldn’t hand money over to scammers even if I wanted to, but as I get older and have to get more organised, this may become a problem. Similarly, as an incurable collector I would hate to find myself reaching for the phone to buy over-priced coins.

The coin marketing companies are probably even less moral than the criminals. The criminals are at least honest about their dishonesty, but the coin marketing companies, whilst targeting the elderly, pretend to be coin dealers.

And finally, of course, I don’t have family in the Ukraine. It’s bad enough having to watch what is happening without having to worry about family.

I am not a political blogger, so will leave it there. I do, however, dabble in poetry and would like to draw this Kipling poem to your attention. It’s about dane-geld.  For those of you who don’t need the links I will quote the last verse.

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

 

Doctors, Death and Diaries

I had my phone call from the doctor today and I will be picking up my replacement prescription tomorrow. We had a wide-ranging discussion, with him insisting that I’d had the prescription and me insisting that I hadn’t, and that his own receptionists had sworn blind to Julia it wasn’t on their system and we had never handed it in. After asking me if it was possible that I’d had the prescription and forgotten it (I said no) he conceded it was possible it had been mislaid around the practice.

He then laid into me for not following up on a year-old blood test which shows me have worryingly high levels of something I didn’t quite catch.

“When I rang for those results,” I said, “I was told it was all good and didn’t need any action.”

“Ah, we seem to have coded it wrong.” he said.

I’m definitely going to start keeping a diary of my dealings with the NHS from now on. It’s quite possible that at this rate I’ll end up with a letter telling me I only have 12 months to live, and a second one apologising for the 13 month delay in sending the other letter.

I’ve still not had satisfactory answers to the questions I asked about my two cancelled operations in 2017. I gave up on one of them and the other one promised to get back to me. I’m sure that having taken 30 months to compose her answer, she will have a really good answer when it arrives.

That, I think, will do for the day. Nothing much happened and my brain is slowing down. I probably need chocolate, but that, according to the doctor, would be the same as ingesting poison.

There are some days when, to be honest, a glass of hemlock seems very attractive.

The pictures are from a set of silver Britannia coins we have in stock – they were specially made in 2006 by the Royal Mint and have had an additional coating of matt-finish silver and highlighting in gold. They are handsome coins.

Resisting the Temptation to Rant

I’ve accidentally been thinking about death this morning. It’s a lovely day, blue skies, green trees, a great view and a Bank Holiday.

After rising slightly before seven I decided I may as well stay up and started catching up with some writing. I even avoided the depressing fight with my trousers this morning. As I sit and type I’m not wearing any. If I ever learn how to use Skype I may have to reconsider my dress code but for now it makes for a more relaxing morning.

We’re off for Afternoon Tea later today so I’ll have to wear a new pair of trousers so, quite honestly, I didn’t see the point of doing it twice in one day. Why, I hear the gentlemen readers ask, do you need a new pair of trousers? Because Julia says so. We are going to a hotel and she is demanding that my normal everyday costume of creased clothes with food stains is replaced by a clean and pressed ensemble.

I asked if she was going to be the one doing the ironing but she snorted and said: “You know where the iron is.”

I do. I also know where she stores the lettuce, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to be making a salad any day soon.

Fortunately there are a pair of trousers and a reasonable shirt (ie with all buttons and a check pattern) in the bottom of the clean laundry bag. They should be flat enough.

I suppose somebody will ask if I don’t explain it – people with fuller figures have to avoid shirts with lines as they tend to exaggerate the rotundity.

Anyway, I digress.

Death.

I was having a break from writing and thought I’d check up on a few symptoms I’ve noticed recently. With everything that I currently have it’s difficult finding room for new symptoms but I seem to have managed. I thought I’d better check just to see if they are important and see if I could spare the time to have them looked at.

I’m still waiting for news on the last chest X-Ray and the nonsense with Rheumatology (who have gone very quiet). In a couple of weeks I also have a routine blood test, so I think the NHS has plenty of my time as it is.

So, I logged on to the appropriate condition and looked at symptoms. I have most of them. Most of us do. Like all these sites they throw everything at it, alter the order and load it onto a website.

Not only that, but after whittering on about care plans and drugs they start talking of palliative care, a section which has plainly been written by a trainee with a text book. But I will not be tenpted into a rant.

So that is why I am accidentally thinking about death

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great War Memorial Plaque

(I just had a look at my old posts on arranging my own funeral and notice I never did get on with discussing the sandwiches for the funeral tea. I may get back to that in the next few days.)

Stop All The Clocks (Part 3)

Sorry, it’s been a while since Part 1 and Part 2, which covered making my own funeral arrangements. I had meant to keep them closer together but, as you know, I’ve not been very industrious lately.

The funeral is going to be non-religious, cheap and hot, with a cardboard coffin and informal dispersal of the remains. Let “economic dignity” be the theme.

That leaves the catering and the music.

The music is a problem, as I’m very limited in my musical taste, and a lot of it has been done before. On top of that is the problem that the music isn’t really for my amusement and going through the curtains to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown may not meet with Julia’s approval. In fact I know it doesn’t as we’ve discussed it before.

Being serious for a moment, my funeral isn’t really about me. Yes, I’ve no doubt that they will talk about me, share a few memories and, if honest, agree that I did have a few imperfections. Really, though, it’s for the people who are left behind, and planning all the details seems a bit presumptuous. After all, I’m not the one who is going to have to sit through it all.

There’s a site with some favourite songs but most of them are either a bit over-used or too sad for funerals or, let’s be honest, rubbish. I’m not going to set myself up as a music critic, but I will be leaving a list of songs not to play at my funeral.

I quite like Banks of Green Willow, though I also like the theme from The Outlaw Josie Wales. Not saying anyone should play them, but there are worse songs to go out to. When the Angels Sing sounds like it should be suitable, but despite my love of the track it doesn’t really fit with my dull suburban life.

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do is write some better funeral poetry as most of it is fairly dreary. We read one of my father-in-law’s poems at his funeral – a short light verse about senior moments and that was good. One of my cousins had one of his own poems at his funeral, which was a bit more serious, but still better than anything you find by Googling funeral poems, apart from Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Anything that talks about meeting later or, even worse, being in another room, is definitely out. So is anything claiming I am like wind beneath your wings, or anything else. The word wind, when linked to me, does not, I confess, lead to thoughts on a higher plane. It’s meant to be a dignified occasion and I don’t want any sniggering during the eulogy.

That’s enough for now, we’ll have to cover catering in another installment as I get nervous when a post gets close to 500 words. I’m a blogger, not a novelist.

 

 

 

Stop All the Clocks

I’m coming up to sixty, I’ve been talking to a man who officiates at funeral services and, on the way home last night, I listened to a radio programme about funeral singers. This would tend to indicate that it’s time to think of funerals.

Apologies to anyone who finds the subject in bad taste, but there are certain things that need arranging beforehand. I’m a bit on the large side, for instance, and the average coffin always looks a bit on the small side. Wicker, apart from its green credentials, has a bit more give if you’re having to pack a fat man in it. Cardboard is probably even greener, and you could probably make your own if you had enough warning. That might be a step too far, though totally in character for my parsimonious nature

I’ve had a quick look and made my first decision. I’m going for cardboard, as they do one of decent size at a reasonable price. You can buy them here on eBay, with free delivery. In contrast, most wicker coffins are only about six foot long and p&p on eBay is £50. You can buy a lot of sandwiches for £50.

I may well shrink with age (if I live long enough) but I’m still currently too tall for a wicker coffin. I don’t think we need to worry about the width just now.

I’d also like to be buried in a natural burial ground, but I’ve just looked it up and find a burial plot costs £600. You can bury one person in it or scatter four sets of cremation remains. The ashes seem more economical but you have to get cremated first and I can’t find a cost for this to do a proper costing. Even Cremdirect want to sell you a complete funeral. The don’t cover the Nottingham area, but if they did I’m not sure if they’d want me, as they say – “Additional costs my apply to oversize coffins in excess of 6 foot 4″ and over 24″ wide”. You could probably fit me into  6′ 4″ as it leaves an inch at each end and you’d be able to bend my knees a bit, but I’d have to check the 24″.

Their cost, as long as you’re small enough, is £2,150. Alternatively, you can have a Nottingham Funeral for £1,799.99. It’s the Council’s modern equivalent to a pauper’s funeral, and there may be extras, including an extra charge for having a Friday funeral. No, I don’t know why.

Nor do I know why you’d trust your funeral to people who have trouble organising basic bin collections.

Part 2 to follow…

A Misty Morning and Thoughts of Mortality

It was, as the title suggestd, misty this morning. Due to Julia’s start time it was also dark, so there was no photo-opportunity. I may try again later.

Mist, which can be a nuisance on a long trip, is always welcome at this time of year because it tells me that Spring is coming. There’s a fine line between yearning for Spring and wishing your life away. and this year is probably the first time I’ve felt this quite so sharply. The last twelve months has made me focus on health, age and mortality in a way I’ve never done before.

It’s also the first year where I’ve been so aware that there’s more to winter than crisp mornings and a nip in the air. This year I’ve had to worry about falling and  the fact that I need to keep warm. O;d people die in winter, and I’ve been feeling old. In fact I’ve been feeling Very Old for the last few weeks as all my joints seems to have turned up the pain setting. If I was youmger I’d insert a Spinal Tap reference here about the pain levels being turned up to eleven. But I’m old. So I won’t.

They used to say that one of the signs of old age was that the policemen were looking younger. That happened ages ago, and didn’t really bother me. My personal milestone, is that Life Peers seem to be getting younger. I’ve added a link for readers who aren’t familiar with the UK’s constitution arrangements but, frankly, it doesn’t help.

All you need to know is that in the old days (basically from the dawn of time until 1958) if you worked hard, did your best and tried to be a useful member of society you would be allowed to wear yourself out and die.

If you added a layer of corruption, politics, back-stabbing, lick-spittling and (often) cash to that , you could become a Peer. In fact, let’s face it, if you did enough of this, you could get by without the hard work, doing your best and being a useful member of society. If you look at the current crop of Peers it’s hard to see many that will be of any use until we have Soylent Green on the menu.  Having lied, cheated and bribed your way to the top you could then pass on your title to future generations of inbred offspring.

All this changed in 1958. After 1958 you were generally no longer allowed to pass it on, and there was more politics involved. Because if you want to improve something, adding more input from politicians really is the way to go, isn’t it?

Getting back to the point, Life Peers are looking younger. To add insult to injury, they also remind me of my lack of success as  they all look sleeker, richer and socially superior to me.

 

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies