Sunday, 8 April 2012

On Granny Wrangling

What follows is mainly for the benefit of Sara Westrop, a comic book writer I follow on the twitters (not surprisingly @sarawestrop) and will be of limited interest to anybody else.  Sara recently took up the ancient and noble art of granny wrangling.  It's something I've been doing for almost six months now.  Hearing about her situation made me realise that there are two or three things that I wish someone had said to me when I started.

First off, keep a Granny Diary.  Doesn't have to be a diary, a list will do.  But make sure you keep a record of the good moments, the times when you have a laugh together or she tells you how much she appreciates what you're doing for her.  I don't know the details of Sara's Gran, but mine has some kind of  dementia, which means she is usually unable to remember anything.  She'll have forgotten something I've told her before I've finished speaking.  And she forgets her words, often using another random one instead.  But then now and again she'll be utterly lucid and I'm never sure which is worse.  When she's lucid you can see her frustration at what's happening to her.  There has been tears and tantrums, anger and frustration, on both sides. A Granny Diary helps you through the bad days and reminds you there are good ones.

Second, get over any squeemishness you might have.  When I started doing this, I felt extremely uncomfortable with the idea of washing and dressing her, and taking her to the toilet.  Especially washing her, if I'm being honest.  It took me a little while to realise that was my hang up, not hers.  She just wants to feel clean, get dressed, go to the toilet and she needs my help to do it.

Finally, whatever you have to do, do it with love.  If you've taken on  the role of main carer, you've done it because you love that person.  No matter what their physical or mental state, they'll feel the love you show them and that in itself is comforting to them.  My Gran gets so angry and frustrated at some of the things she does and she doesn't know why she's done them and that makes her even more frustrated and all I can do is sit and hold her hand and tell her everything is okay.

So, that's what I wish someone had told me.  There's probably more but I've almost finished my coffee and I should go and check that Gran is comfortable and doesn't need anything.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The River Tees

This is a picture of the River Tees, not far from the village of Winston.  It's one of my favourite places right now, far enough from anything that all you can hear is the babbling of the river, the wind singing in the trees and the birds arguing with each other.  I come to places like this to clear my head and put current circumstances into perspective.  When I lived in Lancaster, I used to drive to Heysham or Morecambe to sit by the sea and do the same thing.  Its the one thing I miss about living in Lancaster (apart from a couple of friends).  Not being near the sea.
This one's the same place, looking up river.  Until today, I had thought that I was coming to the river because I can't easily get to the sea, not under the current day release conditions anyway.  Today a new thought occurred to me.  Today I realised that I used to go to Heysham or Morecambe because I couldn't come and sit by the Tees.  Today, while the maniac charged about killing rabbits and chasing pheasants, I realised that this river is in my blood.
This is another of my favourite places, a little further east along the river, in the woods near Piercebridge.  The perfect place for a quick smoke and to just (and this might sound daft) let the beauty of it fill you with the strength to do what you have to do.

If I were to drive a little further upriver, to Barnard Castle or Middleton, to sit down with the old fellas and tell them who I was, they wouldn't give a rat's arse.  But if I told them my grandfather was Maurice Collinson, or my great-uncle Jack Hind, the reception would be entirely different.  Collinsons and Hinds have been part of Teesdale for centuries, working the land, building the community.  Sadly, Jack was the last Hind to live in Teesdale, but the Collinsons soldier on.
In coming to terms with what's happening to Gran I have to come to terms with my own heritage.  And part of that heritage is this river and the valley it meanders through.  There's something about it that's important to me, something vital that I've only just discovered.

And for the record, the maniac really did kill a rabbit.
One final, unconnected piece of news: the freak has a new suitor.  He's called Khan, he's very handsome.  But he would be, wouldn't he?  All her suitors are good looking fellas.

I Need More Coffee

To get more coffee I have to go downstairs and put the kettle on.

When I go downstairs, I have to confront the reality of Gran's situation. Of my situation.  I have to face the reality of who she is now: old, frail, helpless.  I have to try to help her while trying to maintain the illusion of her independence.  I'm naturally softly spoken (people call me a mumbler) but I'll have to shout to communicate with her.  I'll have to lift her onto the toilet, and lift her off when she's done, and try to make it feel like she did it on her own.

When I go downstairs, I have to accept for another day that this amazing woman, my Gran, has all but left the building and what's left is just the shell.  I love her, and I'll do anything I have to for her, but christ, I could do with another cup of coffee before then.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

I Don't Usually Do Hallmark Days...

I certainly don't do mother's day.  In the past I've always felt that if you need to be told by a greetings card company that you should tell your mother what she means to you then there's something seriously wrong with you.   Yes, I know that Mothering Sunday is traditionally a Christian festival dating back to the Roman Empire, but that's not what it is now, is it?  These days it's just another way to part fools from their money and I'm more than capable of parting with my money on my own, thank you very much.  So, as I say, I don't usually do mother's day.

But this year I did.  With everything that's going on with Gran, especially after Friday (we both thought she wouldn't be waking up on Saturday), I want her to know how much she means to me.  I want to write it across the sky in thousand foot neon letters for the whole world to see.  Given our history, everything that's gone on between us, I want her to be in no doubt how I feel about her.

Of course I cant do thousand foot letters in the sky, so I settled for a daft little present and cooking Sunday lunch for the three of us.  But it turns out daft little presents and roasted meats doesn't quite do enough (for me) to be sure she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt.  So I'm doing a bit of bloggery to make a public statement.

I love you Mum.  Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Beyond the meta-

This time last year, one of the projects I was working on (alongside the insanely talented Lou Armer and the astonishing Jim Moon) was a musical web-comic.  The working title for it was Evil Terry's Cookery School For Bad Guys.  Although it was essentially a web-comic with some nice tunes, we were looking to use social networking and new media as part of the narrative process, make it more interactive than a website you visit once a week.

So back matter got developed, scripts got written, sketches got drawn, music got composed, various characters got blog* sites or signed up to various networks.  It was all coming together quite nicely when real life did what real life does: be real and live.  The project drifted into development hell, other things came up, people got busy and Terry made his way towards the might have been shelf.

In all honesty, I hadn't thought about him for quite some time until this morning when I opened the twitters and saw this

Now I know this is the kind of thing that clever post-modernist writers use to explore the blah blah blah, but although I did set up a twitter account for Terry, I don't think I ever told anyone it was there.  So that was a surreal moment to go with the morning coffee.

So what am I going to do now?  I'm going to follow the bastard and see what he has to say.

(*Just as an aside, I find it amusing that blogger is telling me the word 'blog' is a spelling mistake.)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cynical Opportunism or Appropriate Timing?

Today would have been Douglas Adams 60th Birthday, so it seems appropriate to me to release a little comic script I wrote into the wild and ask for a favour.  The script itself is a kind of tribute to Mr Adams, playing in his sandpit if you like.  I wrote it to try and learn the mechanics of writing a comic script: what to put in, what to leave to the artist, etc, etc.

I'd really like to know what comic book artists think of it.  Not so much the story, though all comments are welcome.  But what I really want is feedback on the script itself.  So if you're a comis book artist or writer please do me a favour and give it a quick look.  Comments can be left at the bottom here or emailed to me at gavinwhite2010[at]

You can download the script by clicking HERE