ABOUT ME – and Florence

What to expect from this blog

I am 81 years-old and retired from full-time work. Every month, since 2006, I was writing stories as well as editing readers’ submissions for The Searcher, a monthly magazine published in the UK and devoted to the hobby/sport/pastime of metal detecting. In 2012 I was appointed Assistant Editor but, due to ill health, had to finish in 2020.

As well as detecting, and attending numerous rallies, I also served time as an administrator on a couple of metal detecting forums. As far as I know, that was my only esoteric foray into masochism and self-flagellation, but good experience in understanding the ‘politics of the hobby.’

You can learn from my experience and find regular posts about metal detecting matters on here, but perhaps the approach is different to what you might expect. Unfortunately I don’t actively detect now because I’m decrepit and can’t walk, so will occasionally blog on subjects that interest me – and, hopefully – my readers.


What follows is an article I wrote for the spring edition of the Florence Nightingale Hospice Newsletter. Not yet on-line. The original was edited to fit the space and this is the unexpurgated version, plus additional text in red. Not all of the pictures appeared in the original. It also replaces the ABOUT page in my menu.

Dying to be Heard

I am an octogenarian Geordie who taught in Buckinghamshire for 45 years. A young lad from the North East teaching English to Southerners was a unique experience at the time, but I bluffed my way through. I’ve been married to Lynda for 54 years and had two ‘children’, both now middle-aged. 

I had previously worked down a Durham coal-mine and, as a Community Service Volunteer with the Civic Trust; was assistant leader taking teenagers mountain walking in the Pyrenees; organising international work camps … and once had a soul-destroying holiday job helping in a potato crisp factory. 

A few years ago I made my acquaintance with the neurological disorder Ataxia. The symptoms include problems with balance, speech and coordination. Think ‘drunken man’. Over time these symptoms have grown worse and I am now dependent on others. There is currently no cure. I also have cancer, but my oncologist says that it is, “under control.”I take pills and have an implant of women’s hormones every three months-that accounts for my short period of hot flushes, irritably and sore nipples!

A rare and little-known disease

Lynda [aka Mrs John] and I used to work as a teamwhen metal detecting, but now that I am decrepit and she is living with dementia, this is no longer an option.We have to depend on others and have live-in carers. I get a little depressed when thinking about what the future may hold.

Cancer and Finding Florries

After crawling along the bedroom floor in intense pain, I eventually reached the bathroom. I don’t remember much about the time after that, only that there was a ‘hazy’ spate of activity involving nurses, doctors and various specialists.I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Since times immemorial the concept of angels has fascinated people but I was never a firm believer … until now! My guardian angels don’t have wings and most of them work at the Florence Nightingale Hospice in Aylesbury, giving care and support, not just for me and others, but also my family. I love them. 

Florence Nightingale Hospice is based on the campus of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The Hospice is run by Bucks NHS Healthcare Trust

Daughter Jo, ( another angel-different division ) arranged a lot of things on my behalf, many of which I wasn’t aware of. My life was on hold. Everything was a mess. Pain control was uppermost on my mind. 

I’ve been involved with Florence Nightingale Hospice for about three years. What started with frequent home visits, administering medications, helping me to think positively etcetera, has led to being a patient at the Day Hospice. The weekly visit has become the highlight of my week. I’ve also spent a couple of weeks respite at the In-Patient Unit.

At first I wasn’t keen on the idea. I’d heard that the Hospice is where you go to die. Perhaps. I think differently now realising that the real aim is to improve the lives of people who have an incurable illness and help to make the most of the time the patient has left.

Pampered

So, what goes on? You can do what you like (within reason) and the day is not regimented in any way. I like being pampered. Sleep all day if you must; read a newspaper – but don’t tell my daughter my choice is usually the Daily Mail! Pampered includes, “Would you like a pillow? A massage? Ice with that and perhaps a few nibbles? 

Hospice care places a high value on dignity, respect and your wishes. The nurses, as well as looking after your medical, social and practical needs (and others) have time to talk. This is important. Doesn’t happen in a hospital situation. 

There is time to interact and learn from others, make new friends and generally chill out. Some days you can even have your toenails cut by a qualified chiropodist. As well as providing a social setting for patients to learn new artistic skills through art therapies, you can join in quizzes and do jigsaws, reminisce and share personal worries.

I’m so proud of these silk paintings. Look good, don’t they? 
Don’t be fooled. Even with my shot motor skills they turned out quite well. Easier than ‘painting by numbers’.

And all this including taxi, lunch and drinks are free, funded by Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity. At the time of writing, mainly due to the impact of Covid-19, the Hospice is facing a £1 million shortfall. 

In an effort to reduce this, I implemented part of my Bucket List during the lockdown. Not the tattoo or eating fish and chips on Brighton pier, but to dye my beard and hair a bright red. Unfortunately the colour soon washed out, but I managed to raise about £450 for the charity.

I enjoy getting out of the house every Thursday – and I think my wife also enjoys the day of respite. 

I think we need to talk more about death and dying. Talking about it doesn’t bring death closer, BUT It’s about planning for life, and helping us make the most of the time that we have left.

Now I’ll go and sort out my affairs . . . ( hasn’t happened yet! )

Conclusion

Some people have a vision of hospices as quiet and gloomy places where the very ill go to spend their final days.This couldn’t be further from the truth and not in my experience.

I’ve tried to show that the Hospice is full of life and compassion. Florries people can access all kinds of support and families are always welcome. The Hospice Is not like being in a hospital.


New Boy – New Experience

On my first day at the Hospice, and after being made comfortable in a reclining chair, I spied something that looked incongruous in such a setting: so out of place – and that was a trolley heavily laden with wine, beer and spirits. Strange, I thought. Perhaps I’d missed the Bacchanalian orgy the night before. I wish!

So, I asked a volunteer helper, who queried my preferred drink. When told, she made a bee-line for the trolley, extracted a small bottle of Pinot Grigio and proceeded to take the top off.

“Don’t do it, don’t do it”, I implored, pointing at the clock that said 10’clock. “Get it down ya,” was the retort.”Somewhere in the world, the sun is rising over the yardarm and it’s time for a snifter.”

Every lunchtime after that episode I’ve been given an aperitif. Always Pinot Grigio . . . until recently. Because of my medication I am not allowed to drink.

The Seven Ages of Man

Bill was right when he said that men go through seven stages in their lives.

  1. Infancy  I came into the world a helpless baby, just piddling, puking and throwing up. They fixed me up with a nappy [diaper]
  2. Schoolboy
  3. Teenager
  4. Young man-
  5. Middle aged
  6. Old aged
  7. Dotage & death – back being a baby again – I’ve lost my hair, my hearing, libido, my legs and I’m back wearing nappies. Then I shall lose everything as I sink into the oblivion of death.

BTW, I’m being taught to be up-beat and think positively . . . don’t know if it’s working or not.

10 thoughts on “ABOUT ME – and Florence

  1. Thanks John for such a honest rendition of this getting older situation and failing health, all of your remarks are of a highly positive description and helps people like myself to appreciate what we can only describe as being in a better health situation than your good self. I will enter my octonarian age group this year. I feel certain that the “Lockdown” over the past 2+ years has caused a rapid deterioration in my body strength and mental attitude, but still very thankful that I can get out walking and every now and then getting some metal detecting in when I can get cover for the care of my poorly wife Mary with Parkinsons. I thank God that I am still in one piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting read John. Iam in the home straight of being octogenarian. I have Lymphoma, but get on with life. Last week I had a letterfrom the BRI to say the Radiotherapy is back on the cards. Meanwhile when not nursing my wife after her stroke I try to get in some more Dirt Fishing. As I say to all my friends Keep Taking the tablets tomorrows another day. .Jerry.

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    1. I value your comment, John.
      Others are experiencing more difficulties and challenges. After 45 years we are still in the same home. but life-savings are evaporating fast – 6k per month and more.

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  3. Great article John, appreciate your honesty.
    Sorry to hear about Lynda’s condition as well. I was lucky enough many years ago to have a long chat with her at a Central Searchers dig- lovely lady.
    I’ve been suffering a few health problems myself these last few years but as long as I can still get out detecting life still seems brighter.
    All the Best
    Alan

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