CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Tenerife connections

100_0335 Tuesday may have been a dismal day, but when I got to Hythe, they'd put the bunting out for me. Wasn't that nice? :) Hythe is a strange place for a seaside village, because it appears to think itself too posh for anything commercial on the seafront. Waterside there are just quaint cottages a-plenty and the infamous pier carrying the equally famous, World's Oldest Pier Train.

Even the Lord Nelson pub is in the now pedestrianized High Street, which runs inland from the pier head and where shops consist, mainly, of a Waitrose, a plethora of charity shops and a few places selling knick-knacks today.

100_0338The Lord Nelson pub (first listed as such in 1801) sign is unique, claims this history, because it shows Lord Nelson after he'd lost his right arm in the attack on Tenerife (the date was actually, July 25th, 1797) and before he was wounded at the Battle of the Nile on the 1st August, 1798, losing his right eye. In truth, apart from the fact that they get the date of the Battle of Santa Cruz wrong, the sign shows only head and shoulders and neither arm, though, possibly that's to avoid showing one missing.

100_0341Pretty as Hythe is, I'd seen the lot in less than 10 minutes, so after a coffee and a chat with a couple from Hordle who I'd met when I caught the bus in Lymington, I decided to catch the pier railway and the Hythe Ferry.

Both are decidedly cute and the half-hourly service (combined train / boat ticket) to Southampton is a real bargain at just £3.50 (single), considering the added attractions. Well worth it for the experience.

Inside the World's Oldest Pier TrainLook, no doors! Surely, we'll all fall out?

It was also refreshing to ride on something so obviously built long before the health and safety nannies took over the state too. At the end of the pier, I boarded the ferry, the Great Expectations. From Hythe, I could see a large ship off in the distance, but it wasn't until the ferry took us up close and personal that I realized that it was, in fact, the soon to be retired Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2).

The Queen Elizabeth 2 in Southampton docks on September 30th, 2008, the day she was to set sail on the Canary Islands Splendour tour: her last ever call into Tenerife before retiring.

What were the chances of catching a glimpse of her on the very day she was to set sail on the 12-Day "Canary Islands Splendour" tour, that would take the ship to Tenerife for her final visit to the island? That report was written 18 months ago: I'd remembered, vaguely, that she would make her last call this year, but I certainly hadn't remembered the date. Eerie, init?

PS: The bunting, it seems, is a permanent fixture. More photos of Hythe Pier and Railway, Hampshire - The oldest operating pier railway in Britain

More photos from the day trip | More old photos of Hythe

To where the New Forest meets the sea

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On Tuesday, I had to go to Lymington, but what I had to do there took less than 30 seconds, so I decided to take myself off on the day trip I threatened some time ago to Hythe in Hampshire where the New Forest meets the sea and, where one can find the oldest operating pier railway in the world (official).

"The ponies have been called the 'Architects' of the Forest, for it is through their browsing and grazing that the lawns and trees look as they do today. Without their 'work' and that of the cattle and deer the Forest would soon be overgrown with brambles, gorse and other coarse herbage." [Source]

Before we get to Hythe, potential tourists may like to know that the number 112 bus (PDF) from Lymington to Hythe, rattles through the New Forest and various sleepy villages, including Beaulieu on the way. In fact, the bus goes in the "tradesman's" entrance to Beaulieu and right up to the door of the National Motor Museum. Unbelievably, nobody wanted to get off there.

Beaulieu_Palace_House3

We passed through Beaulieu village, saw the rooftops of Palace House and the remains of Beaulieu Abbey.

It was a grey day, but along the way, we saw trees everywhere turning shades of orange and red, expanses of heathland, many ponies and donkeys grazing along the roadsides and one after another of impossibly beautiful thatched cottages (like this one), so quintessentially English you could only imagine them to exist in Miss Marple's village of St. Mary Mead.

A couple of times proper country folk at their gates with their hounds - the type who have Chelsea Tractors because they really need them and wear jodhpurs and riding boots because they actually own horses - nodded as we passed.

This is deepest rural England; one of the only bits left. It was, however, noticeable that there were only two small village post offices and stores along the whole route. Not even one in every village, because the majority of those places closed long ago, unable to make ends meet as everyone drove to the big supermarkets. Now everyone has to drive to the big supermarkets.

Getting Britain to take climate issues seriously, yer doing it wrong!

More pics: New Forest 1, New Forest 2, New Forest 3

To be continued ...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Mr Fluffy's Progress

Mr Fluffy the squirrel

Once upon a time, Mr Fluffy (the pussycat, a.k.a Balu), his sister Ms Kitty and myself all set out for a leisurely stroll around the garden. We try to do so most mornings, so there's nothing terribly strange about it. Well, you may think differently of two cats on leads, but it works fine, as long as they both want to go in the same direction.

Alright, just once or twice they have walked along neatly together, like obedient little dogs and thanks to the "magic" of reflective glass doors, I too was able to see how bloody ridiculous we looked collectively! :)

Usually, it's a turmoil of tangled leads and half-escaping cats - because, unlike dogs, you can't pull the lead to make them fall into step - and the simplest way to cope with it, involves picking up and shoving one under my arm. Not taking cats out on leads at all would be better for my "street cred", but if one must do it, let me tell you that taking cats out one at a time is much easier.

Balu always finishes eating his breakfast first every morning. He then goes and waits by the door, so I used to take him out while Kitty was still eating ... Then it began to disturb Kitty so much that she would follow us, yowling through various windows, or sitting by the back door crying loudly.

At first I thought it was because Kitty didn't want to be separated from her dahling brother and was crying for him. She would start licking him as soon as he came back in through the door ... Until a couple of times when I took her out first and Balu afterwards, which did not seem to perturb her at all. As long as Ms Kitty is put first, she's a happy bunny, I mean Kitteh.

So she's just a jealous little self-centred prima donna in a fur coat then.

(Manipulative little minx was supposed to be my mother's cat too! :)

Now Kitty has it sussed and rushes to the door, eager not to be left out as soon as I get Balu's harness, so to keep the peace, I take them both.

But Balu, who is certainly "mummy's boy", I cannot deny, would make Garfield look hyperactive by comparison. Recently, he's gone back to that stage of cat walking, where said animal does a fair, if completely useless, impression of a "legless" floor mop. Previously, he was strutting his stuff all round the neighbourhood, now he often just lies down and doesn't budge.

Not even with a strategically placed foot (gently, but firmly) up his tail end.

The fuzzy yellow bushSo, maybe it was fortunate that I was carrying Balu (who also does a good impression of a sack of potatoes with fur on when you pick him up), that day when we got round the other side of the garden, just in time to watch a grey squirrel dancing around at the back of the yellowy, fuzzy bush.

Kitty spotted the tantalizing display though, as the squirrel exited, stage right, making off quickly in the direction of the garden wall, which it was up and over in a trice ...

... and Kitty forgot she was on a lead, as she tried to take off in pursuit of it.

So much for all the nocturnal squirrel watching from windowsills, because lazy Balu made no move to get out of my arms as we ran after it. I mean, as I ran behind Kitty, comically. Because, had I not done so, the strain on the lead might have been enough for her to escape out of that.

Cats don't forget though. The next times I took Kitty out (sometimes I take her out on her own while Balu is under the covers, snoring), she was straight up the particular bit of the wall where Squirrel Nutkin had gone.

home_sweet_homeBoth kitty cats keep sniffing up the back of that bush. I've looked, but can't find any squirrelly Home-Sweet-Home signs inside.

The bank of holly Yesterday, when I was out with Kitty and she was poking her nose up under the holly bank, there was a sudden noise of scuttling as something inside was disturbed by our presence.

Clearly, the squirrels live very close as they dart back and forth inches from the house, every day. Do they know what danger they could be in?

Nevertheless, the squirrel population is safe for the foreseeable, because the signs of normality (well, we don't really do "normal") and confidence are still not frequent enough to trust either of the cats to go out on their own.

Balu's regression to timidness seems to be because visiting neighbourhood cats (including one from next door), sit on our back step looking in through the glass door and the poor little wimp cries his eyes out and trembles!

His howling isn't particularly funny at 2 a.m. either, but it's been since these visits have become more frequent that Balu has started to become reluctant to go out for walks. Not just his refusal to move his arse once he's outside, but sometimes he quivers or runs away and hides when he sees the harness.

Even when they appear perfectly happy to go out, both cats are still very jumpy and easily spooked by any strange movements or noises and indoors, both still spend most of their days hiding under the bedcovers. Actually, this hardly seems like we've made any progress at all.

Mr Fluffy the squirrel photo by haloocyn

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

More on the mole massacre

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This really has nothing at all to do with blind furry animals, but trust me, you really don't want me to post an accurate photo to go with this post. You expected that the process of mole (the type you have on your skin, not the ones in your lawn) removal was maybe not going to be quite carnage, but was never going to be quite as simple as "advertised", didn't you? Naively, I thought it couldn't be that bad either, but even I hadn't fully taken my ability to suffer side effects and react badly to things into account.

Actually, the whole thing was quite disturbing in a way, because I turned up for my appointment with the nurse, who merely asked me if I'd seen the doctor about the moles. I told her that I had (because I had), explained that he had looked at them with his special tool and declared them harmless, but suggested I make this appointment for their removal, so here I was.

And with that, she just started zapping them with the freeze gun.

This is all very well, since I am honest, but I made the appointment myself, via reception, merely saying that I had discussed this with the doctor and the nurse did the treatment, merely on my say so. Incredible, huh?

Anyway, the nurse did warn me that they would be sore, but it's been well beyond that. For the first couple of days I felt like I had first degree burns and the pain made me hot and sick. I went back to the doctors' surgery and spoke to another nurse in the treatment centre, because the pain wasn't dying down at all, but all she could suggest was that I take paracetamol, which would have been about as useful as a chocolate teapot, given the severity.

The pharmacist suggested I take Ibuprofen at the same time and I've had to, popping pills like Smarties over the last few days and, while this has still had scant effect on the soreness, has rendered me frequently comatose.

Meanwhile, the moles are darker than they used to be, one or two have red rings, but otherwise, for all the nasty burning, don't actually seem to be doing anything yet. They're certainly showing no signs of wanting to drop off as they apparently should and, now I'm wondering how long this is going to take.

The worst of it is because most of them are around my middle, so that until the soreness goes, I can't even wear clothes - slouching around in pyjamas at well below half-mast is one thing at home - certainly not if I have to walk miles with them rubbing and chafing and, it's a 1.1 mile walk each way just to get to the chemist or the doctor, so this is decidedly more than inconvenient.

Photo: wendylee03

Saturday, 20 September 2008

I haz a kid

Inter-species snorgling
I love goats, which tended to be a good thing when I lived in a valley filled with hundreds of them, had friends who kept goats (and made terrific cheese), but long before that I'd joked a goat would come in handy to keep the weeds down in the garden. Those who laughed at the idea, see dis.

Every day in the late afternoon in Tenerife, you come across herds of goats, but it took lots of walks to meet the goats in a local pen before my daft dog would no longer bark at them (she was no better with horses and a lot worse with other dogs, but that's a whole other story.) Whenever I took her to see the goats, an entourage of cats (her adopted kids) would follow us too.

Betty climbed the 3 meter wire fence to get up close and personal with them and wasn't so certain about meeting goats in person once one chased her all around the perimeter of the field.

But my favourite memory is from the first time Cleo (my little shadow and then queen of the feline troop) came with us. She was not exactly sociable with other critters normally, so it was the more surprising and touching to see her standing up on hind legs at the fence, nose to nose with a goat kid.

My good friend Natalia, who kept goats, made cheese and was usually followed around the valley by her own entourage of cats, died, at the far too young age of only 47, at 7 p.m. on May 3rd, 2001.

How I can still remember so clearly, is because I remember exactly where I was at that very moment: with Holly, rescuing three kittens, two of whom are with me in the UK. Cleo had kidney and liver problems, so I had to end her suffering in 2004. This year, in June, I had to leave Betty (and Mico) behind in Tenerife and had say goodbye to Holly, my beautiful dog and best friend. Too soon and not by choice.

As a result, all of these memories have turned bitter-sweet. I miss so many friends, the other cats, my dog, the goats. I miss the walks, the wild fruit, the nature, the mountains and the fresh air. I miss them all so much it hurts. And in their place is just an emptiness that makes my heart ache beyond anything I can bear.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Summon the Mole Killer

2487228324_d68fce52c9_o

Working down my excessively long list of unresolved medical issues, on my last visit to the doctor, I asked him to look at a number of moles. (Nothing to do with furry blind animals!)

These were reasonably large and lumpy chaps that did worry me a little, because they'd either appeared from nowhere or grown from small flat freckles in only the last few years and, a couple of them often itch too, so they annoy me, as well as that being a potentially bad sign.

The GP has looked at them with a special light / tool and says they are harmless, but he did immediately offer me the chance to get them frozen off, which given the annoyance factor, seems like it could be a good idea.

Went to reception to organize the appointment (for today) and the woman says, "Oh you want the nitro clinic." WTF are they going to blow them off?

The way she said it, mind you, made me think more of the "nit nurse."

But I like to know something about what I'm letting myself in for and discover that this is Cryosurgery of moles, freezing them off with Liquid Nitrogen. I sincerely hope this doesn't turn out to be carnage and that I don't live to regret this decision. What if they get mixed up and preserve me at a very low temperature? Maybe I'd be better booking a Nitro party instead? :)

Photo: by Chris Harley

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Going Potty

scan0008Well, I've had one of the most unpleasant days I've ever had and, that's compared to most days being pretty damn shitty to begin with.

A while back, I dug out a letter I'd kept since 1990, from Joan Jones, the (apparently still) curator of the Minton Museum, with regard to two coffee cans and saucers, made by L A Birks & Co, Vine Pottery, Stoke, between 1896 - 1900. (You can almost see one in the image, right, to the left of the vase.)

Ms. Jones' letter tells me that Birks (Laurence Arthur) was a former pâte-sur-pâte artist at Minton, who left in 1896 to set up on his own. The design on these is a close copy of Minton's Delft pattern, which at the time, wasn't under copyright protection.

Since these could only have been made in that 4 year span, presumably, the copy is rarer than the original, but what I don't know is if that "rarity" has a positive effect on their value.

And there's only one way to find out, I reckon: get an expert opinion.

Anyway, for a long time, mother has been telling me about an auctioneer in Lymington that supposedly someone she knows has recommended. She purports to know everything about it, so I accept and leave it at that.

It's not urgent, but yes, I'm looking to sell these and the vases.

However, I can't just get up and go places. If I want to have a day out, with all the pain it will entail, I have to plan ahead, taking it easy for a couple of days beforehand. I'll still postpone outings if I wake up in too much pain or if I'm tired, because I know that will increase the recovery time - yes, just from a simple shopping trip - from the minimum 3 days to much longer.

Remember, I've spent 13 years pacing myself and balancing this problem.

Anyway, today was a bad day, pain wise and had I any choice in the matter, I would never have gone out at all, but mother decided that it was sunny, she wanted to go and I knew if I'd said no, she'd have one of her tantrums.

The other reason for going to Lymington is because last time I'd been there, I'd found a branch of Millets and, having compared the quality and prices of their clothing with the utter crap in the fashion stores, I thought that they were much better value for warm and weatherproof clothing. Told mother about it and she said we'd go and get "everything I needed."

Of course she doesn't have to, but I have absolutely no warm clothes and, before I came back to the UK, I made it clear that I would have to have clothes for the climate and, that I would not have money to buy them myself. Mother assured me she would buy me an entire new wardrobe, no problem.

And she's a fucking liar.

So, we get the local bus to New Milton, and then wait half an hour for the bus to Lymington - I know this sounds like no big deal, but it causes me a lot of pain, so I don't undertake the journey lightly. (I also have to find a loo at least once in that amount of time.)

We get off in Lymington at the bus stop she says is near the place she claims to know all about. And we walk miles and around back streets and then she says she THINKS it's around here somewhere, but isn't sure where. She doesn't have the address and she can't remember the name and she hasn't thought to write it down and bring it with her!

She randomly selects a building at the end of any street and swears that's where it "used to be". It's a removals firm and has "Removals" painted in gold lettering on the glass above the door in a style that makes it obvious that it has been a removals firm since somewhere around the 1930's.

To say that she's making up a total load of bullshit as we go along is the biggest understatement of the millennium and I'm not a happy bunny.

By chance, we do find an auctioneer in a back street. We don't know them, we have no idea if they're trustworthy. She says they aren't the name she was given, but I'm supposed to go in there and be content with their opinion.

The man there gave the items a cursory glance and declared each of them worth a condescending £10-12, including the Chinese vase that a (well known, professional and respected) auctioneer friend of mine in Birmingham had valued at £300, almost 20 years ago.

That vase, one of a pair, came from a well-to-do old lady who had a house stuffed with £15,000 + cabinets. The vases won't be £10 junk and my mother absolutely knows they won't be junk, because the old lady (now deceased) who gave them to me had been my mother's next door neighbour. She gave the vases to my mother to give to me and, at that time, my mother was fully aware they had some value, because she herself had told me they did.

Now she claims she "can't remember" that this is where I got the vases. She can, strangely enough, remember every other tiny detail about the woman.

But that was that. That was what "the expert" said and mother was virtually laughing and gloating because I had been "proved wrong": that these were almost worthless junk. Whereas, I'm more inclined to believe that the bloke didn't really know what he was looking at.

We then stop for a coffee in a really nice coffee shop, which was completely wasted on my mother, because she wouldn't be able to tell the difference between good coffee and dishwater.

She announces while we're in there that she refuses to have coffee out because she "just can't afford it." It was hellishly expensive, but oddly enough, I can still enjoy that (occasionally and rather than having to put up with dishwater), provided the voice of doom and gloom isn't whining in my ear and rushing me to drink up and leave.

The truth of the matter is that everything in this country is hellishly expensive, but I just couldn't cope with any outing without regular breaks to sit down, plenty to drink and yet more frequent visits to the bog.

We then walk into a charity shop and find a £3.79 top, which mother says is absolutely perfect for her upcoming Christmas do. She's clattering on about what it will go with, when she changes her mind mid-breath - coincidentally when I happen to say "yes, I like that" - and decides that it will be too big, will hang dreadfully off the shoulders, will look awful ... I measure it up against her cardigan and it is exactly the same width. She refuses to accept the "hard evidence", but snaps that I can have it if I want it. I didn't say that and I didn't want it. It was not my style at all.

Then we walk to Millets where she ums and ahs and questions and pulls faces about the cost of the waterproof jacket - that I'd told her two weeks ago was £25. It was £24.99. That's definitely not expensive. It's also not insulated, is not winter weight, but at least it will be weatherproof, as nothing else I have is.

Apart from that, I got one lightweight, microfiber top (£17.99), with free sighs and grimaces. That's it? That's my "entire winter wardrobe" is it?

And, if that's the reaction to the cheapest jacket in the shop (hardly more than a plastic mac really), what's the chance of getting a winter weight garment?

Or, more to the point, what fucking chance do I have of surviving a British winter after 16 years in the sub-tropics and with a severe sensitivity to cold - a known symptom of fibromyalgia - without proper winter weight garments?

The other "interesting" thing was that, while we were in Millets and one other shop where I found something worth looking at, she had to sit down (head bent, sighing) and was rushing me to pay up and go. Then we'd get outside and she'd announce that she "just has to go to ...", as though it was planned or a commitment she'd made to someone and, off she went browsing round clothes shops for her, where she had no problems at all, strangely.

We only went out at just before 11 a.m. and were back on the 2 p.m. bus, at home before 3 p.m., but I felt like I'd done 11 rounds with Muhammad Ali. By the time we got back to New Milton, I was in excruciating pain and could hardly put one foot in front of the other. At 84, she was racing on ahead of me.

She's starting, finally, to accept that I must have something wrong, but now she's convinced herself that the doctor will just give me a pill and it will be cured.

Sympathy and compassion are still conspicuous by their absence.

We got indoors and she goes off to the kitchen mumbling away in a stage whisper, still moaning about something - me, obviously - just because I'd said I didn't want a cup of tea. She does this every time she encounters reality and doesn't like it, which is pretty damn often, as you can probably tell.

How can anyone be this selfish and venomously negative, so constantly? Is it simple senility or calculated cruelty? Does it even matter really? All I know is I'll soon end up in the loony bin if I have to put up with much more of it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

How would you cope?

Once again it's raining in the UK and my entire body is screaming out in pain because of the humidity, which according to the BBC is 95% today. That's not to say things are perfect on days when it isn't raining, but when it does, it's so much worse and, it happens more often here.

My muscles burn as if I have a fever, I have all manner of other flu-like symptoms, my neck, back and shoulders ache, my legs ache, my knees are incredibly painful too, in fact everywhere hurts.

My head aches, my eyes are permanently sore. Immediately I stand up it feels like multiple-gravity is weighing me down and I feel overwhelming fatigue and an incredible urge to sit down. Walking to the opposite side of the room is exhausting enough to make me breathless.

If I sit in a chair, with my feet down to the floor, my feet begin to go numb and I get pain in my shins and ankles within seconds, while the latter swell like balloons. The toothache-like pain I still have in my hip after a fall 7 years ago makes sitting incredibly painful anyway, so the only comfortable position is lying down with my feet up.

Now, because I don't have a comfortable position at the computer, I quickly get aching arms and a terrible pain in my hands and wrists that I've not had before.

There's a time on most days when I am crying in pain. Even the constant dull aches are bad enough to make me nauseous and, on many occasions, the pain becomes sharp and sudden enough to take my breath away.

My sleep is disturbed too, mostly because of the pain: either I can't get to sleep until the early hours or I wake up early in the morning, which leaves me exhausted and incapable of concentrating on anything of consequence.

Additionally, I no longer have my double bed with superior latex mattress and heat pad that was the only way I could manage this pain, even in Tenerife's climate. Here, I find the bed so uncomfortable and it makes matters worse. On more than one occasion, I've woken up and, you know when you're still in that half-asleep, half-awake stupor, midway between dream and reality ... I've ached so much that I've thought, I'll be OK, as soon as I can lie down.

A split second more awake and, I realise that I'm already lying down.

Nine days out of 10 in Tenerife, I could manage ordinary, day-to-day things.

Nine days out of 10 in the UK I simply can't.

The constant pain is close to unbearable and I truly don't know how much more I can take.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Stomping off 'cos I don't like reality, reason #99

Library photo ivy on a wall Today's happy morning greeting - after being asked if I'd had "a nice sleepies", as if I was a 2 year old (and yet she ignored my reply, which was NO) - was an announcement that my mother needs to have a word with the neighbour about the ivy creeping over the adjoining garden wall.

The photo isn't it, but so far, just half a dozen wayward new shoots have made it over the top in only 2 places. They probably aren't about to threaten humanity and take over the world.

Besides, from my observations in the 3 months I've been here, it is obvious that the neighbour is generally on top of garden tasks (though he appears to have a life between doing them), so I'm absolutely positive that if we say nothing, he'll knock on the door one day and ask if it's OK to come and trim it this side of the wall. Like he did when he pruned his hedge alongside our driveway just a few weeks ago and I know he's done on countless previous occasions.

The answer: the win-win situation, in terms of saving work, money, arguments and a whole lot more, seems perfectly clear to me. Simply do nothing.

No, mother has to speak to him because, she says, haughtily and as if it were of dire importance, "I don't want it getting tangled up in all my plants."

There is, in fact, as I reminded her, just ONE PLANT on this side of the wall - the area is otherwise boring brick, paving slab and stones and, quite frankly, would benefit greatly from some relief of green. What's more, it would be years before his plant grows far enough to get tangled up in anything. So I told her that she really shouldn't worry about it.

Well, alright I told her it was utterly ridiculous to consider it an issue.

That's reality, of course and we don't like reality do we, so she stormed off in a huff again.

This was followed by slamming of doors, windows and cupboards and then twice, she went outside to look at this "problem" plant.

Quite what staring at it was going to do, I have no idea!

Oh, I'm aware that most old people make small problems into big ones, but I think there's more to it than that and hers has entirely different motivations.

What I want to do is remind her of the numerous real problems that she should worry about, but refuses to face, but I dare not do so, because that would only result in another of her abusive outbursts and threat to throw me out on the street.

I think what she dislikes most is that I make sense. 

Is her focus on such inconsequential matters unaware or involuntary, or a deliberate smoke screen avoidance of reality? Not that my judgement counts for anything, but my observations over most of the last half century are that she has always gone out of her way to avoid reality and is manipulative in her means of doing so. You don't have to believe me, but whichever way you look at it, my mother has either lost the plot because she's senile (I don't believe this is the case), or because she has always had these tendencies.

Hopefully, learning to recognize exactly what she's doing will afford me some protection against becoming a similarly "nasty piece of work" and writing about it will help stop it festering up inside me and imploding with disastrous consequences, but it's mentally exhausting deal with her and hard work to avoid being dragged down into the negativity. The more so now, because it's constant and, at the same time it has become so much harder to deal with anything, because the climate has increased my pain ten-fold and so, my own capacities for thought and resistance are diminished by a similar factor. 

You can't choose your relatives, or make them change, obviously, however, I do think it's genuinely important that I concern myself with the effects this is having on my own health, because stress is certainly not desirable.

When would you justify murder?

It hasn't yet been confirmed that the third body found at Osbaston House, Shropshire is that of Kirstie Foster, 15, although, I agree, that would appear to be the natural assumption. Neither do we know, even if it is her, how she died or at the hands of whom. Nothing at all is certain, but the information we do have, does seem to point to someone shooting the dogs, horses and Mrs Foster, barricading the house from the inside and setting the fires in several places and, all of that does suggest Christopher Foster as the culprit. It's by no means proven. I'll leave that to the police.

However ...

My mother (the woman who takes unreal to alarming new depths) has rushed to assume that all of the above is fact, merely because that is what the media is feeding her, of course. She is, however, clearly incapable of thinking the whole thing through, as she thinks that the father shooting the daughter is perfectly OK, because "at least he did not leave her to be maimed for life."

Hello, excuse me! By her own assumptive reckonings, it follows - though she can't / refuses see it - that the daughter would have been in no danger of death or maiming whatsoever until the father did all those things and set light to the house that he'd barricaded her inside.

Up until that point, the worst "threat" the poor girl appeared to be facing (apart from having an arsehole with no conscience for a parent, maybe) was that the family might become homeless and destitute.

Well, many of us have survived worse, hell as it may be.

What we know about Kirstie is that she was on the internet at 1 a.m., seemingly going about the normal life of a 15 year old. She was a healthy teenager who rode horses and, as far as I can tell, was not "maimed", sick or disabled - not that those are valid reasons for killing someone.

And just because her dad was in debt, was certainly no reason to kill his own daughter.

If he wanted to commit suicide, then that's his own decision, but there is no way anyone sane would call the killing of his daughter in these circumstances, "justifiable homicide." Surely?

You can make up your own excuses for my mother. I've tried hard to make allowances for her age, or her lack of education, etc., but none of it washes: I do not think that anyone can hold such an opinion unless they are grossly and willfully ignorant, combined with some sick, nasty, cruel and sadistic tendencies ("enhanced" by old age, maybe, but that were there all along.) And I just cannot put into words the deep repulsion I feel for someone who can think like this. 

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