As 2018 comes to a close, let us usher in the New Year by coming together once again to connect and to support each other’s blogs. You all made the last Meet & Greet a great success; let us make this one even more wonderful.
It is five years today since our beautiful Daddy passed away from this World to the next. I originally wrote this piece in 2014 when I set up a charity page in his memory. It was about raising much needed funds for research, the message remains relative and of course to raise awareness. The page is no longer running but the message remains as important today as back then I am posting this article here in his memory and in memory of all those who have suffered from Alzheimer’s/Dementia and of course for all their loved ones…
Hugh Montgomery Howatson 11/04/1923 – 29/12/2013 ‘ A man who inspired…’
Hugh was a truly amazing Man, and a beautiful human being! He was good, he was kind, he was patient, he was intelligent, and he always offered encouragement even when the odds were stacked against you! He epitomised Strength and Gentility! At the beginning of World War II he played his part by becoming an ARP Warden (Air Raid Patrol). Then as soon as he reached 18 he enlisted and joined the RAF, and was attached to 294 Squadron as a WAG (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) in Air Sea Rescue. He was just a boy at the start of the War but had strong values and believed in doing his duty by his country and his family, and fought for the continued freedom of his fellow countrymen and women. Joining the War Effort was just par for the course. While serving King and Country Hugh demonstrated a skill for languages, and during the war years mastered fluent French, German and Arabic. He was a very talented man. He attained a Degree in Chemistry with the University of London as an external student, and later became a Research Chemist by Profession, a job which he stayed in until he retired. He was a devoted family man being a wonderful Husband, brilliant Dad, loving Brother, Uncle, Grandfather, Great Grandfather and friend! He worked hard all his life and always paid his dues. He had always been a healthy man, and always looked much younger than his years. He never ever complained about anything, least of all his health, and just got on with Life. He believed that if a job was worth doing it was worth doing well and to the best of your ability. He had many hobbies and interests. He was a brilliant Photographer, an avid reader, an exceptional craftsman with wood, making his own beautiful items and restoring antiques. He used to enjoy making his own wine. He would always tell us to follow our heart and our dreams! He passed on his love of learning and his many gifts to all of us. We are all better human beings for having had the honour and privilege of being a part of him. Getting mixed dementia was not on the agenda. You always think things like Dementia and Alzheimers happen to other people, and other families! When it comes, it can be a gradual process, and even go unnoticed for a long time. But when it takes a grip it does n’t let go! Each day bit by bit the person you love is taken from you until they no longer know who you are or even who they are. There are drugs that are currently used but in all honesty they fall far short of doing anything that really helps. Resources are limited to say the least! Much more Research is needed to explore this soul destroying illness in its many guises.
This story is Hugh’s story but it could be anybody’s story. Alzheimers/Dementia does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, male or female and not always when elderly. It’s a cruel, unforgiving and soul destroying illness which lays claim to an individual bit by bit chipping away relentlessly until a person is just a shadow of their former and vital self. Families are heartbroken as they watch their loved ones die, and then when physical death occurs they lose their loved one all over again. When Hugh was in hospital he shared his part of the ward with Bertie, Terence and Tony. All had Alzheimers/Dementia in one form or another. This illness is on the increase! A former Global Summit said we need to do something! So let’s do something and raise awareness to find a way forward. No one knows what the future holds until it happens. Let’s make it a future free from Alzheimers/Dementia!
© Liola Lee 2014
Today is the day’ …was a collection of musings I wrote during the Peri menopause years. It’s spoken in the first person, and was based largely on my journal entries written around that time. Journalling is a wonderful way to express this, that and whatever else needs to be said whether aloud or silently…
Today is the day when I shall focus on being glad. This is easier said than done as I am sitting here in my dining room, organising the wage run for our subcontractors, which if I am to be honest does not make me glad. The recent recession has meant that each Friday I have to practice my circus skills as a juggler, and rob Peter to pay Paul so for that reason I am not glad but if I am to practice being glad about other things I am sure I can manage that.
I am glad I have a roof over my head, and I am glad that I am in good health which is always something that one should be glad about. I am trying to think what else I can be glad about today. Well, the sun is shining and I have managed to pay everyone, and so far nobody has annoyed me. Mind you it is still early, and my daughter has yet to arise from her bed, and as on most mornings she is likely to get up on the wrong side of the bed and be grumpy. It is 8.30 on a beautifully sunny morning on the 21st May 2010, and by now you will most likely have come to the conclusion that my daughter is not an early bird who catches the worm, although on the subject of worms, the wriggly ones which can be found in the garden, and not the type that you catch from animals where you need to be wormed, I can recall a time when my daughter was four, and used to subject me to worm patrol on the way to nursery. You may by now be wondering what exactly is worm patrol? Let me explain.
In order for worm patrol to take place, there had to be wet conditions. It had to have been raining overnight so that next morning worms would be out and about, worming along on their daily business which tended to be winding along the pathway through the park. The walk to nursery was always an eventful time as four year olds tend to be curious little things, and for most of the time rather sweet. Back then my daughter was a morning person, still in awe of the world around her and saving worms from hungry birds was the order of the day. At that time I was temping for Lewisham Council as a cashier. I would drop my daughter off at nursery, and then run to catch the number 75 bus. I was late most days, only by minutes but nevertheless late, and the head cashier would let me know it by looking up at the clock as I walked in, and then at his watch. He never said a word but the look on his face said it all. I always just said that the bus was late again. After all how could I explain that I was assisting on worm patrol. The things we do for our children, and the trouble we get in to for them! Back then there was not even the slightest inkling that my darling daughter, saviour of worms would evolve into a tempestuous teenager as most children eventually do. That said, I am glad that we shared such times, so yes today I shall focus on being glad for the times I shared with my daughter when we were on worm patrol and be proud that I too was instrumental in the saving of worms.
What else shall I be glad about today?
© Liola Lee 2010
Through The Snow
‘Straight’ A student once,
A girl with dreams, girl with chance;
Chance of doing something great
Then a puppet with puppet’s fate.
Once in charge, once in control,
A girl with heart, girl with soul.
Sold herself to get a fix,
For something instant, something quick.
Started off with just a puff,
Then she knew she’d had enough.
A little later she met someone,
Made her laugh, have some fun.
He was on the trip before;
Now he had someone to soar
With open arms and dreams ahead,
Joined together, their habits fed.
They took a journey, rode together,
Through the snow for hell and leather;
They skied the slopes, down they went,
Destination not heaven bent.
For many seasons, the snow went on,
They wished so hard it would be gone.
They tried in vein to clear the snow,
Did not work – on with the show.
What started out, just as fun,
Soon took hold, now number one.
The blizzard blew, was blowing strong,
The journey hardened, miles were long.
They both knew, that change must come,
Or forever, they’d be undone.
It was hard, they missed their kicks,
Missed their snowman, missed their fix.
As time went by, they stayed together,
Bonds so strong, unbroken, never.
Against all odds, they stood the test
Of time immortal, deprived of rest –
Until such time as they had learnt
Lessons well, flames unburnt.
Universally sanctioned, arm in arm,
Gods did soften and free from harm.
It did not matter, had to be,
Star crossed lovers destiny;
But unlike Romeo, and Juliet
It was good that these two met.
Grim Reaper met the Cobra Queen,
She knew him, had known he’d been,
Her Karmic Prince for all of time,
Her main player, in her cosmic mime.
Lives interwoven, eternally linked,
Chained in melody, not chains that chinked.
United in a timeless love,
Gods just playing them, from above.
Before the end, the slope got steeper
For Cobra Queen and Grim Reaper,
But now they’re sorted, squeaky clean
Only God knows, what might have been.
© Liola Lee 2007
It has been 29 years since I gave up smoking. Or it will be on New Years Eve. It is many years since I fancied a cigarette. Addiction is addiction! Whether it is sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, spending, cocaine or even the gym. That said, recognising that we are addicted to something, whatever that may be is the first step in stopping!
It’s coming up to 10.30pm on a Thursday night-
The date is 8th August 1991; a date that will be remembered in British history as that on which John McCarthy, a British Journalist, who for the past five years has been held captive in the Lebanon, has at last arrived home having been released by his captors.
Here I am sitting in my sitting room, listening to Trevor MacDonald reading the latest news on the situation at RAF Lynham which is where Mr McCarthy has been taken to for a check up. Here is an important historical event taking place and here I am, too worried to go to the toilet because of some small insect buzzing about on the ceiling, just inside the bathroom door. I feel so pathetic and paranoid, when I think what that man and all those other hostages have had to endure, and still I cannot bring myself to go to the toilet. Well, I’ll have to take some action soon, that or I shall simply wet myself where I am, as I said totally, one hundred per cent pathetic.
It’s funny the things we think about at the strangest of times.
One of the most difficult goals I ever set myself was giving up smoking. I had embarked on the tobacco road at the tender age of sixteen, by no means the youngest nor indeed the oldest. It was still respectably young enough to be considered rebellious, although that’s not the reason I took up the nasty smelly habit. I was not immediately hooked. Getting hooked on cigarettes took a lot of practice, a lot of cigarettes and a lot of money. Almost all my school friends smoked at the time, it was the ‘in thing’ at the time. We all wanted to appear very laid back and grown up. The first cigarettes I smoked were Consulate menthol Cigarettes which really were quite disgusting, a bit like smoking a tune as in the cough sweet rather than the melody. You kid yourself that because they are menthol and pretty mild that you’re in control and are unaware of the nicotine addiction taking hold.
I would smoke at every opportunity. It made me feel very glamorous, grown up and superior to my non smoking peers, who I thought were just too afraid to be caught instead of thinking that they actually had a deal more common sense than I did in not taking up a habit that would prove hard to kick, and would be indicative of my addictive personality. I would even smoke in front of the mirror when my parents were out in order to practice the perfect pout on exhaling, which at the time I thought made me look incredibly sexy. How wrong was I? Only totally and undeniably so. And, how sad! That perfect pout I was after, could have so easily turned into a cat’s bum mouth or worse still a pig’s arse if I had n’t stopped when I did.
Both my parents smoked, so I could n’t see why I should n’t. I remember wanting to tell my mum that I smoked but was not brave enough to come straight out and say it. I devised a plan that would let her in on my secret. What I did was to leave my packet of cigarettes on my bed when I went to school. The plan was that when mum came into our bedroom to brush her hair (she always used the mirror in our room), then she would see the cigarettes on my bed and arrive at the obvious conclusion, then she would raise the issue with me and I could confess. Unfortunately, I had not envisaged my younger sister being present, and when my mum commented on the packet which had been planted so carefully so as to be seen, my sister, always loyal, informed her not to worry as they belonged to one of my friends, and that if they had been mine does she really think that I would have left them there to be seen? I did eventually, and not long after that tell my mum that I had started smoking, and she was alright about it saying that she would rather I didn’t smoke but that she would n’t preach as she smoked herself.
Cigarettes became a very important part of my life, a very sad but very true fact! I took them everywhere with me. They became my crutch. When I went for interviews, I would ensure I had enough time beforehand to smoke at least one. Smoking made me feel confident. When I was on the telephone I would need to smoke; when I had a cup of coffee out came the fags or when I went out or saw friends. The cigarette almost became a physical extension to my hand; never was I out without them. As time passed I became more and more dependent upon cigarettes. I was a tobacco baron’s dream catch lured as surely as a trout to a fly. I had a cigarette for every mood. When I left school at the age of eighteen I had been smoking for two years and had now progressed from the low tar variety to the middle tar and stronger brands.
Some months later the strangest thing happened; my cigarettes made me feel sick, not just the taste of them but the smell of them. I was soon to discover that I was pregnant. The chemical changes that were taking place within my body had resulted in a strong aversion to cigarettes. Throughout my pregnancy I did n’t smoke, not because I was being good but because they made me feel so sick. This state of affairs was not to last as after I had my baby, and finding I could n’t breast feed I took up smoking again. Now I was smoking as if it was soon to go out of fashion.
During this time I never once gave any thought to what smoking was doing to my health, and it certainly never occurred to me to try and stop. I was aware of the public health warnings that appeared on packets of cigarettes advising of the risks of lung cancer and heart disease; I could read but it really did n’t bother me. I told myself that I enjoyed smoking, and was convinced that I could give up whenever I wanted to but I did n’t want to at that time.
At aged twenty three I had my second baby. As before being pregnant had turned me off smoking. Yet again I was unable to breast feed for very long due to a severe case of mastitis. My husband had refrained from smoking while I was pregnant for which I was grateful, and we decided that we should both now continue to abstain. This was easier said than done. My husband had by way of tradition smoked cigars after the birth of our second son. He concluded that this was not the same as smoking cigarettes because he maintained that one didn’t inhale the smoke. Not having ever smoked cigars I had no notion of whether one could smoke anything, and call it smoking unless one inhaled the smoke. Anyway he made it all sound so plausible. The problem was that he was soon smoking a packet of cigars each day so his theory was wrong, that was the first thing. The second thing was that I was desperate for a cigarette, and one day while my husband was at work I went to the shops and bought a packet of ten cigarettes. I did n’t buy my usual brand as if by doing that I was somehow not really cheating and smoking again.
On reaching home I took that first longed for cigarette and hurriedly smoked it as quickly as I could for fear I might somehow be deprived if I did n’t smoke it immediately. When I’d finished, I had another and then another. I giggled to myself finding it hilariously funny that me, a grown woman should be sitting and smoking in secret. When I was ready, I opened all the windows and sprayed the room with air freshener in an attempt to conceal the smell of tobacco which has a tendency to hang in the air. When my husband arrived home I behaved naturally or so I believed but the guilt was already eating away at me. I did n’t say anything because I did n’t want him to think that I had weakened.
We sat chatting at the table as was our evening ritual; my husband filling me in on the events of his day. I noticed he was looking at the table, a little too closely for my liking.
“What’s that?” he said.
“What?” I replied trying to look bewildered and hoping I looked innocent.
“That there”. He pointed. “It looks like cigarette ash”
Still acting innocent, I replied rather foolishly now I think back on it, “It can’t be” knowing full well that it could be, and that of course it was. I could contain myself no longer and started to laugh. The truth came out. I justified myself by informing him that it was no worse than him smoking cigars. He reluctantly agreed. He too returned to cigarettes not long after that, in fact immediately as they were cheaper than cigars.
We smoked more and more. By now I had developed a cough in the mornings. As time went by the cough became more severe and I started to wheeze and found difficulty in breathing. It was at its worse last thing at night and first thing in the morning. One morning it was so bad and worried my husband so much that he called the Doctor out. The doctor arrived and listened to my chest and lungs. His diagnosis was not long in coming. I had developed asthma, and was informed that it was directly related to my smoking. He advised that I should stop and said that eventually the asthma would subside. I stopped smoking immediately, and managed to go without for three weeks, mainly because I was unable to breathe properly when I tried. After three weeks the cough disappeared and I felt much better, and started smoking again. As always that one cigarette led to another and another and before long I was back on a packet a day.
Sometimes we take a long time to learn the lesson.
Sometime later but not that much later, I changed my job. In my new job I was on the phone pretty much all day, and developed a chain smoking habit; me and everyone else on my desk. At that time employees could still smoke in the work place while they were working. Over a period of three months my daily intake had increased to almost fourty a day. Steve too had increased his consumption. Again I developed a cough and it was during this time that I seriously began to consider the implications that smoking really was damaging my health. Initially, I stopped for a day here and a day there but I was unable to keep the momentum going for much longer than this. I tried alternatives such as sweets and chewing gum. Temporarily, they had the desired effect. I managed to stop for a month but then found myself arguing with myself about why I should or should n’t smoke. This pattern continued for three years. I even put myself through the torture of getting people to sponsor me for stopping for a month in order that it may help me quit. That month was possibly one of the worst of my life. I was desperate for a smoke but was under a promise not to. I succeeded in not smoking for the entire month and raised £100 for St Christopher’s Hospice. I received a lovely letter from the Hospice thanking me and congratulating me on my success. Again I did n’t stay virtuous for long. As soon as the sponsored ‘no smoking’ came to an end I went and bought some cigarettes. That same year, our youngest son was diagnosed as asthmatic. I was now desperate to give up but every attempt to stop ended in failure.
We never smoked when the children were about but knew that it was in the atmosphere. The guilt was unbearable. New Year was coming and as in previous years we resolved to quit smoking once again and hopefully for good this time. From the moment the New Year came in, I stopped smoking altogether and although Steve no longer smoked cigarettes, he smoked cigars for a further two weeks. After that, he too gave up. At first it was terrible. We were short tempered and the temptation to smoke just for the sake of peace was ever present, but somehow we got through. It was n’t easy but somehow we managed to persevere and to this day we are still not smoking That was almost eighteen years ago now. Over the years there has been the odd occasion when I have fancied that I fancy a cigarette but the moment passes and I don’t smoke knowing that I will always be one cigarette away from being a smoker. I still get asthma if I am near smoke but as of 1st July 2007 that will be less of a thing to worry about since Parliament passed that there is to be no smoking in public places, “HOORAY!!!”