Wednesday, 15 December 2010
It's a good job I don't get embarrassed easily! I certainly need to drive considerately and carefully in this because I won't be anonymous especially in this small community. It's a good job I usually do, because when I'm driving I forget how conspicuous it is.
The owner, my employer calls it the Fairy Car. They have two other vehicles so it's rare that they need it.
I usually just use it on my day off to visit my mother, but sometimes I go into Wells on an errand.
Monday, 22 November 2010
Let me list them:
I have the use of a car. A small economical-to-run one. Mostly mine. May be used occasionally by S, she says, but they have another car and a van. This car deserves a short blog post of it's own - with a picture.
I love the countryside and this bungalow is surrounded by it.
Even in November it's very green around about. I love the green of the grass and the bushes and the tress and narrow lanes and there are still a few flowers out on bushes and plants. The large kitchen and lounge windows frame a view of hills, trees and cottages.
A Proper Fire
In the lounge there is a working fireplace where a living fire burns each evening. As an adult I've never lived in a place with a working fireplace so this is a real treat. Rural areas of Britain are not restricted to burning smokeless fuel so we have real coal. They also burn logs but I haven't seen that yet. I even laid a fire yesterday. It's quite easy.
There are two cats. They are new to the household so are not allowed outside yet to guard against them wandering off before they feel that this is their home. There is a fat older cat called Sally and a 10 month old cat called Milo. Sally loves attention but Milo is not used to being handled so I can only stroke him when he's sleeping. He likes that. They were only introduced to each other in this home but get on quite well. Milo licks Sally and they both curl up together on a pouffe looking out of the floor-length window in the lounge.
I've been invited to give all my ironing to the cleaner that comes once a week! So I did. She's good too, and fast. And jolly. And her name is Sally, which is a little confusing because she's not sure if it's her that's being talked to or the cat.
They have a Wii Fit and encourage me to use it. In fact part of my job is to exercise with L each day. She is building up stamina. She did a total of 30 minutes yesterday in three blocks. Whilst she was resting I had my turn. I did one hour altogether. I like the sound off but L has difficulty keeping time on the stepping without the 'music'. I'll not talk about the 'music' because this is a positive post. :-) S also likes L to go outside for a walk each day. So far L is only comfortable walking around the garden but it's large and on a slope so it's quite strenuous for her at the moment. She's been sitting in front of a TV in a care home for 4 years so it will take time for her to be comfortable with the outside world and the exercise.
I have the best bedroom in the house. It's a double room with fitted triple wardrobes, lots of space surrounding the comfortable double bed. It's warm and dry unlike the master bedroom. I don't know if the sun comes in yet because I've not been in it when the sun is out.
L doesn't like reading but she enjoys watching the television. M&S don't watch much TV. In fact they got one especially for L when she came. They found after the first few days that the noise of the TV disturbed their concentration on their work. L wanted the TV loud but insists she's not deaf. M solved the problem by getting some wireless headphones for her. So she's happy in her world of soaps and quizzes in the evening watching a silent screen. Am I'm delirious because my mum's loud TV really bothered me.
There is a large filter jug in the kitchen and one on each bathroom. The shower has a filter on it because apparently the mixture of fluoride and chlorine create a vapour that's detrimental to health. And the shower has a great flow of lovely hot water and it's in the bath so there's plenty of room. The water in the South West of England is lime-scale free so I'm happy with that too.
Fresh Olive Oil
Did you know that olive oil is a fruit juice? This means that it's not oily until it's 6 months old. This couple sell fresh olive oil, in fact M is a connoisseur of it. It's really lovely! and very expensive. £30 a bottle. If they still have oil six months after the harvest they have it made into soap. They also deal in Balsamic vinegar. The real stuff. Not the stuff you get in supermarkets that have been made with chemicals. They sell 10 year, 30 year and even 100 year old balsamic vinegar. The older it is the sweeter it is. Quite opposite to olive oil.
I'm writing this on my day off and at this minute they are in the kitchen making the evening meal of steak (especially hung and very expensive), salad and chips cooked in the oven with olive oil.
One Hour From Mum
My mother really needs a housekeeper. Each time I get back from being away the kitchen is piled with many days of washing up. She has difficulty climbing the stairs, let alone bringing heavy shopping up to her first floor flat. She won't acknowledge the need for help but is very happy when I do all the stuff for her. I think she thinks she should be doing it all herself.
Anyway, I'm just one hour's drive away from her and at the moment have two days off each week so I'll be able to use one of those to go visit, clean her kitchen and do her heavy shopping. Good job I have use of a car because it wouldn't be an easy journey on public transport.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Friday, 5 November 2010
I think the air is a little polluted as I've not seen a proper clear sky since I've been here. When I first arrived each day started out hazy, but cleared a little as the sun struggled through the haze to shine on all.
The last few days however, it's been hazy the whole day and today it looks like we're living in a rain cloud.
Some people go around the streets wearing breathing masks. This could be because they don't want to breathe the fumes - certainly the road workers and the toll booth operators - but it's possible that the mask wearing person has a head cold.
I think the people here are obsessed with germs. There was a page in the hotel book about them. It told me to use the hand cleaners dotted about the hotel and to put on a mask if I have a cough or cold so as to not spread the germs. Also to always carry a tissue and cough or sneeze into it, throw it away and wash hands. All the taxis have a box of tissues in the front.
There are sterilised plastic sheets over elevator buttons with a notice to say they are cleaned every X hours. Around the malls there are hand cleaning stations with those awful toxic gels. I've not seen anyone use them though.
At the entrance to the boy's school there is a hand cleaning station. Unfortunately lots of little ones slather their hands with it.
No child or adult is allowed into the building without having his/her body temperature taken. A person zaps each forehead as we go past. Every parent is supposed to take and record the temperature of the child in a little book each day.
Tao Tao has been entered for a speaking competition and each entrant has to have their body temperature taken and recorded on a form. There will be spot checks to see if they are correct. Without this signed form the child cannot perform!
There are loads of red and white taxis. None of the drivers speak English so when I went somewhere by myself I had to have my destination written on a sticky note to show the driver. No way could I pronounce and remember the words. It was helpful because the Chinese maid must have an accent that's difficult for them to understand because she asked me to show my paper. I have difficulty understanding her when she's trying to speak Engrish.
The drivers have a mechanism that opens and closes the back doors. It was quite disconcerting the first time I came across it.
Everyone must take off their shoes before entering the homes. Even though they all have easy clean hard floors. The family I'm with are very kind and offer flip flops for their visitors. But maybe they are scared of catching something. The temperature is a little too cold to be comfortable in bare feet on cold floors at the moment anyway.
Even though the people here are very bothered by germs they don't seem to be bothered about eating out. (Although when we were at a restaurant the maid filled the bowls with water, dipped the chopsticks and spoons in and swished them out into another bowl.)
There are more restaurants here than in any place in the USA I've been. They have the pizzas, McDonalds (though not many), and KFC (quite a few of those) and of course all the different Asian types of cooking. Occasionally you can find a place that says it adds no MSG, but most dishes have some sugar in them.
I started to feel quite ill after being in this house for 3 days. So I've arranged with the maid that I cook my own meals. I didn't want to do this because I didn't want to offend her and she cooks very tasty meals. However, even with her refraining form adding MSG I'm sure it's in the sauces she uses and she definitely sues sugar because I can taste it.
They go out to eat such a lot in the evenings that I've been taking my own food in a plastic box. A restaurant may cater especially for someone who doesn't want MSG but in a food court it's take it or leave it.
The first meal out with the family was in a hotel restaurant with the father the first day (I've not seen him since). The set menu all had MSG so they cooked dishes especially for me. He has remarked on my size several times and tells me I need to keep off the carbs (which is very true, but a bit disconcerting to have him mention it so often) so he ordered me several fish dishes. One was squid but he didn't tell me until I asked. It was lovely. And then a whole large fish (Tao Tao ate the eyes). It was delicious. He told me he was glad of that because it cost more than the whole of the rest of the meal put together!
I'm glad I already knew how to use chopsticks. I felt they were all surreptitiously watching me to see how I managed. I think I shocked them. I'm also getting better at it now too.
I realise that some of my readers may be wondering what the problem with MSG is. Well, first off, I'm sensitive to it. I feel like I have flu the next day - toxic heavy and achy limbs.
Secondly it's an excito-toxin. This means it excites the cells in the brain, which vibrate so fast that some die. I need all the brain cells I can retain.
I'm also sensitive to sugar. It feeds the candida in my gut which then grows in other areas of my body and makes me feel ill. It suppresses the immune system too. So I generally steer clear of that substance.
He is a business man who wants his son to speak English perfectly, with an English accent, yesterday.
He is bothered that his son doesn't speak proper grammatical sentences. He keeps telling me how I should teach the boy. Correct him when he says it wrong and get him to repeat it correctly. He's told me this several times when he's phoned to see how I'm getting on. Actually it's more like tell me what to do. He wants to see results and will throw loads of money my way when he sees them. He told me, three days into the job, to hurry up and get results. He wants me to do three hours concentrated work with him at the table each day.
Meanwhile the last time his son saw him was when I did last Monday. And he's stayed at home two nights during the week, so his wife doesn't see him much either.
He wanted me to write an educational plan, which I've done but he hasn't seen it yet because he doesn't read emails and there is no printer here. I read some of it to him on the phone but I could tell he wasn't interested.
His English is good and he expresses himself like any other 5 year old English speaking boy - which doesn't always include grammatical sentences, especially when he's speaking fast talking about something exciting to him. His father is concerned that he is reluctant to speak English but I've not found that. Maybe he is reluctant to speak to his father because he doesn't know him very well, or that he knows his father speaks Mandarin, so why speak English to him?
He doesn't like to practice the piano. He's supposed to do it for an hour each day. This is the time when there is a lot of shouting from the mother and, when she's not there, the maid. Yesterday the maid wanted to extend the time by 20 minutes because he had been messing about away from the piano. I strongly suggested that he should finish at the agreed time of 8 pm. He did, well nearly. She went over to him at 8 and asked him to play two more pieces.
She told me she thinks he's not doing so well because he used to practice for two hours when they lived in China(!) I said no wonder he doesn't want to practice. He's only 5 years old! Two lots of half hour practices is plenty in my opinion. (Actually if he doesn't want to do it then I advocate him not doing it at all but that's far too radical even to utter.)
When he wakes up he is straight to his desk to practice Chinese writing, with mum hovering over him. His time is scheduled from then on until bedtime at 10 pm. Not surprisingly he is a very angry boy. So I give him as much choice as I can, whilst understanding that he doesn't want to do anything. It seems he has about 30 mins of free play before he goes to school. Fortunately school is run on a learning by play program but it's still directed. He goes to a private school and each class has an English and a Cantonese teacher who team teach. His class also has a Mandarin teacher 3 days a week.
No wonder the Chinese are still under communism. Free thought and action have been squashed out of them from childhood.
The Other English Teacher
The boy goes to another English teacher for one hour each week. This man is from Hong Kong but went to Oxford University. The father respects him because he has been to a few of his lectures. He works at the university here. They often have an evening meal together.
When the boy went for his lesson this week he didn't get one. Instead the teacher spent the whole time talking with me. The first thing he said to me was that our job was to shield the boy from the pressure his father wants to put upon him to succeed. to make things fun for him. To not sit for three hours at a time doing concentrated work.
I showed him the educational plan and talked about the boy's need for more sleep and water and less sugar. He agreed to talk with the father about it all including that less is more, and that he would learn perfectly well by doing games etc in short bursts.
It was lovely to talk to a sane Chinese person. He also obviously doesn't want his hour cut because he told me he was a balance to my teaching because he has the Chinese background and can talk to the mother. He in fact did talk to her about the sleep, water and sugar, but she said she has no sway at home. No wonder she shouts at the boy when she's feeling so invalidated herself.
Monday, 1 November 2010
Sunday, 31 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Friday, 2 July 2010
In fact today it got down to a temperature where it took me a little getting used to before I immersed myself this morning! It's still not as cold as the heated indoor pools in Britain though. The water and air temperature is so cold in those places that it puts many adults off going swimming, which is very short sighted of the management in my opinion.
This morning it was difficult to get the insects and other debris out of the pool because it was distributed within the water, and not just on the surface or on the bottom. I don't do anything with the bottom stuff, but don't care to ingest insects or get them stuck in my hair. I thought this was due to the wind creating little waves, but no. It'd been cleaned! A guy who came to empty the rubbish bin (sorry - trash can) told me. I hadn't noticed, because there was still dark stuff on the bottom at the corners, but looking closely I saw the amount was less. That would explain the amount of stuff floating in the body of the water.
Yesterday we had a power cut (sorry - outage) just after 6pm. I went swimming at about 7pm and met a swearing, beer drinking, smoking guy, who decided to sit on the pool side while his dachshund ran around the edge. His intruder alarm was making a continuous din and he couldn't find the instructions to cut it off. His dog was going crazy and he was too hot.
I'm shy about showing my body in public and am so grateful that so far I've not met a soul at the pool all the time I've been going (apart from the ground maintenance guys flitting about doing their work.) So I was a little perturbed when he sat down with his cooler of beers and started talking to another guy who stopped by. I just kept swimming (like Dory). I lost count of my laps but it was probably over 40 and I got tired and had to get out. Fortunately he was on the phone at the time so he took no notice of me.
Well, today I thought I could probably do 50 laps and I did! Now, I told you that the length of this lap pool was probably longer than a normal width, but I've changed my mind. I now think it's more like a width.
Instead of counting my laps I've started dedicating each lap to a person. So now I just count up the number of people I prayed for and this is better than losing count. I wasn't sure I would remember all 50 people when I was in the pool so I made a list and kept it at one end to refer to. It worked very well. I do a violet fire mantra for each person. You can learn more about the violet fire here.
I gave myself a goal of doing 60 laps by 9th July, (which is when we're moving to another apartment) but I had my doubts that I would achieve it. Now I think I might exceed it. I have plenty more people I can add to the list, so that won't be a problem.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Thursday, 24 June 2010
During my first week at Thurloxton Manor the weather was quite hot and the owners invited me to swim in the outdoor pool they have at the bottom of the garden. The thought was infinitely more lovely than the deed, due to temperature of the water. It took me a very long time to immerse myself, and I couldn't swim for long because my feet went numb. I'm told the water gets hot by August if there's been a warm summer.
By contrast I went swimming yesterday in Louisiana. The pool water was as warm as a pleasant bath. I'm planning on going every day. However It's raining today, and I learned from living in North Carolina, that it's dangerous to swim outdoors in the rain in case a lightning bolt hit the water and electrocutes you. I swam in the rain in an outside pool in Britain when I was a child. It was fun. British rain is rarely accompanied by thunder and lightning - only if it's been particularly hot weather.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
[I've changed the title of this post from "Being Let Go" to "Redundancy", because I'm told the former phrase means being fired. As far as I recall, I've never been made redundant before, and hadn't matched the word in my head to the event.]
My job started out part time. My main shifts were Saturday and Sunday 8am - 4pm, then 6pm -8pm. But I also did 3:15 - 4pm and 6pm - 8pm on Mondayd and Fridays. the first 12 hours of each week was unpaid because it was to cover my board and lodging. This did not work out to be enough money for me, so the owner, Charis, gave me all the ironing for the holiday cottages. She had hoped I would be able to do this ironing within the hours i was already working, but her mother Grace, was taking up an increasing amount of time so this was just not possible. i was then given the responsibility for helping Grace to bed each evening so the person who did the supper shift could concentrate on that. This ended up with me working 7 days a week but on some days it was just for one hour. Then Charis wanted me to do the extra ironing from 4-6pm so there was someone on hand to help Grace with the toilet if she needed it.
The person who had the job before me had only ever lived in an orphanage and then other people's homes whilst looking after them. So when her friend got her her own house, from the Housing Association, she was very anxious about having the responsibility for everything including the bills. At the age of 62 it was all too much change for her. So she came back to visit and told Charis all this. Charis felt an obligation to help her and decided to have a reorganisation of the staffing. She had been losing money on this part of her business and her mother needed more care so she decided the person doing the live-in job was to just work 4 hours on Monday and Friday, and 2 hours each of the other days, whilst her mother was still alive. She knew I would not want to do that as I needed to earn more money than that. Especially as the first 12 hours worked were to pay for the board and lodging. So, there i was out of a job again. Charis was very keen to give me a good reference so that was OK. I was surprised, but understood her reasoning.
So it was packing up, back to my mother's and looking for another job.
Then my daughter Helen, on hearing I was free gain so soon, invited me over to the USA to live with her for a while to look after my granddaughter.
The owner's mother, Grace is dying, although I'm not sure she knows it. I was there one month and I noticed a great deterioration in her ability to care for herself. When I first arrived she managed to get herself to her toilet with only a little difficulty. Then she started needing help getting there, then she needed help with her hygiene, then she could only use the commode if it was near her, then she couldn't get onto to the commode by herself, and then I left, so I wasn't involved in the next step.
It became my job to help her get ready for bed each night. This was a pleasure because she was such a gracious lady. She went to a private school as a girl and had participated in many sports. She had married a clergyman who was a Greek scholar and had lectured at a theology college. Even though she was now living in her daughter's house, she had brought some of her furniture with her. They were all beautiful and unusual pieces, probably antiques. Her clothes were equally elegant and of good quality. She wore mainly pink and purple shades but her daughter said she did not like pink. She told me she called the colur she wore, mauve.
She didn't like losing her mobility and was often in much pain. She often said, "Getting old is no joke."She was bleeding within her digestive tract and so in the morning there was often a lot to clear up. She would apologise for creating so much work, but I really did not mind doing it and i would tell her so. But I remembered that people like their feelings acknowledged, so I told her that I understood she felt uncomfortable.
I wrote a blog post on the first day of my new job in May but for some reason i didn't post it. so here it is now.
My first morning in my new place - I bring the curtain rail down as I open the curtains. My room is a little dark because there is a clump of trees outside my window. It's lovely to see the green. The old, rambling manor house is surrounded by green. The house has been extended throughout the years and so has a higgledy piggledy arrangement of rooms.
The owners live in the main wing, with high ceilings and majestic stairs. The other residents, three old ladies and myself live in the other wing, the one with all the extended bits, quaint narrow stairs and a sloping landing floor. There is a step up to my room and a step down to my en suite bathroom which has a sloping low ceiling and therefore no shower, only a bath. One old lady lives upstairs and she uses the stair lift.
(I found out later that the part I was living in was in fact the original building and as the owner or owners became more wealthy, they built the imposing manor house part. And then someone added quaint bits onto the original old part. I the vestibule of my part of the building there is a bread oven built into the wall. This was no doubt the main living room when originally built.)
I appreciate when the lady on my floor, and the one under my room are watching the same TV program. I also appreciate that they go to bed at around 8 pm so I can have a quite evening,
There is a beautiful dog here called Hugo. He has a very gent;e personality which belies the fact that he will kill and present birds and small mammals. He has a person come in each week groom him, which is more than the ladies get. their hairdresser comes once a fortnight.