My Dad’s a Goldfish – In the garden centre cafe

I know it has been a very long time since I posted on this blog. I haven’t completely abandoned it but life – various writing projects, a temporary job over the summer, a new book out – has got in the way. I am now, finally, working on pulling the Goldfish blog posts together to form a coherent (I hope) memoir.

I have also been writing more poems – I call them my dad poems. I’ve posted one or two here in the past and this is a fairly new one although I wrote a blog post about the event a while ago. I’m experimenting and really would appreciate comments on whether it works or not. Has the story been pared down too much? Does it work as a poem or does the story only work as prose?

In the garden centre cafe
You only manage one bite of banoffee pie
before you need to ‘spend a penny’.
I push the wheelchair to the toilets
but you want to go in alone
totter off, stick in hand while
I wait.

And wait.

Should I bang on the door?
Find someone to break it open?

Finally, you emerge, sadness
in the eyes which meet mine.
You hand me
with quiet dignity your underpants
I place them with equal care
in my handbag.

You settle in the chair. In the loo
I use up all the hand towels
to dry the floor.

When I come out you have forgotten. Sometimes
I’m glad for the dementia. We return
to the banoffee pie; your favourite.


My Dad’s a Goldfish – trouble with feet


We suspected for quite some time the day was coming when the Goldfish would no longer be deemed eligible for NHS podiatry services.

We’d heard rumours about the service being stopped. It had already been drastically cut and the Goldfish was only allowed to have his toenails cut once every twelve weeks.  Imagine three months without having your nails cut!  We found a private podiatrist who could come in between NHS appointments – but only once as she was already rushed off her feet (sorry, pun wasn’t intended).

The NHS podiatrist assured me the Goldfish would continue to receive regular (12-weekly) appointments.  When I told her we’d heard support workers were going to be trained to cut clients’ toenails both in residential homes and for people still living in their own homes. “No,” she said, “it can’t happen. It’s a skilled job. All kinds of things can go wrong if it’s not done properly – infections, in-growing toenails.  Podiatrists train for three to four years before they can be registered. You can’t just let anyone do it.”

Turns out they can. In due course a letter arrived saying the Goldfish had been assessed (by whom? When? How?) and was no longer eligible.  Every care agency would, apparently be sending staff on two-day training courses to learn how to cut toenails.  The private podiatrist was appalled.  “Two days?” she repeated when I told her. I trained for four years and I still spend several weeks each year on training courses to keep up to date. Two days!”

None of the Goldfish’s carers were at all keen and either said they hadn’t yet been trained or they did not have time. I can’t say I blamed them. I wouldn’t like to have to do it. Wiping the Goldfish’s behind was one thing – trying to cut his toenails was quite another.

One morning one the Goldfish’s toes was bleeding. The nail had come out of its bed. I phoned the number on the letter and asked how to access the podiatry service. She asked for the Goldfish’s name, address and date of birth and after a short time came back on the line to say he was not eligible. “We don’t run a nail-cutting service, you know.”

I said I understood that and explained about the bloody toe and was told to take the Goldfish to his doctor who would refer him to the podiatrist.  As the Goldfish had an excellent GP he was referred and given an appointment the same day.

We were back in the system.

My Dad’s A Goldfish – Health check

cropped-goldfish-87-1254566814ncva1.jpgIt was a glorious late spring morning with blue skies and sunshine. Once the support worker arrived I was free until the next day. Wee-sis was going to take over when the carer left and sleep over so I was in holiday mode and looking forward to a day tidying up in the my own garden, maybe reading in the sun (if I could manage to ignore the weeds jeering at me from the flower beds and paths).

First, I was off to avail myself of the free health check provided by a charity which gives support to carers. I’d had to fill in a list of questions before the health check and a community nurse took me through my answers before the physical check was done by the trainee nurse. I think the questions were to help identify anyone who might be at risk of depression. I wasn’t, at least not before we started the examination.

Height and weight were different from what I expected – I seemed to have lost an inch in height. I did wonder if I should ask her to do it again after I’d corrected my posture but let it go, especially as by then I’d discovered I was about six pounds heavier than I thought I was. Still, the nursesphygmomanometer-915652_640 assured me my weight was fine.

The only time I’ve had raised blood pressure was when I was pregnant in Pakistan and the DH had been kidnapped in Afghanistan so I wasn’t too concerned about it, at least not until the trainee nurse was checking it for the third time and looking worried. The nurse checked again, the figures were recorded and we moved on to the cholesterol test. No worries there as I do have a pretty healthy diet. Wrong, the reading was too high. Further tests were required and blood was taken.

Questions about lifestyle and diet followed. I admitted that in recent months I had not been taking as much exercise as I did in the past, mainly because it was difficult to find the time to go for a walk. I received a tick for being a non-smoker but when it came to alcohol consumption it was another black mark.

“Do you drink alcohol?”
“Yes, I do. I like a glass of red wine before bed.”
“Is it a small glass?”
“No, it’s a large glass, accompanied by a wee dish of stuffed green olives.”
“How many evenings would you say you have a drink?”
DSCF0743s“Every evening.” I should have lied.
“You know you should give your liver two alcohol-free days every week?”
“Look, I have two evenings a week when I am at home in my own house, going to sleep in my own bed knowing someone else is looking after the Goldfish. I enjoy sitting back with my glass of wine. On the other five nights when I am with the Goldfish, I NEED my glass of wine.”

The nurse pressed on me a neat little thing which tells you how many calories are in wine, beer, spirits and a measure to make sure tipples at home are no larger than in a pub. She said when she received the cholesterol test results she’d be in touch and would come to re-check my blood pressure at home. If it was still as high then she’d want to do a 24-hour monitor.

The sun was still in the sky when I made my way home, but the shine had gone from my day.

PS: The cholesterol test came back perfectly normal. It may have been a fault in the equipment the nurse used. When she came to check my blood pressure, two of three readings were fine – the third, slightly higher one, was, I’m sure a natural consequence of having my BP checked three times. We did not discuss my alcohol consumption.