Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Blessing the livestock in Tenerife

Parranda of folklore singers at the romería (pilgrimage) in Buenavista del Norte

The fiestas of San Antonio Abad (Saint Anthony the Abbot), where livestock are blessed, usually provide a welcome respite from the [OK relative in Tenerife] cold of January and some fun to enliven the days between Christmas and Easter. Here are photos from the livestock fair and romería in Buenavista del Norte. Can't tell you which year, but it's pre-digital and certainly before 2004.

Nobody told him that 'drunk in charge' applies to all road users.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Keep warm keep well

The UK Government advice to “Keep warm keep well” [1] is that you: 
  1.  “... set your thermostat at around 21ºC (70ºF) and heat all the rooms you use in the day.”
  2.  “... try to keep a temperature of above 18°C (65°F) in your bedroom overnight.”
These are the temperatures recommended by the World Health Organisation

Those are the minimums suggested and, immediately, we can see that for living rooms and other rooms used during the day, 18°C (65°F) is not considered warm enough by the experts. 18°C was described on one site as “unusually cold.” 

Whilst government and media do say you can save money / be green by turning heating down by 1 degree, they're talking to the majority of people who have their heating set much higher than this. We're told [2] that “... research by the Energy Saving Trust [3] found that almost half of households in the UK have their thermostats set above this, and one in five turn theirs up to over 25°C.” 

Thus, if your heating is already as low as - or waaaaay lower than - the recommended setting of 21ºC for living rooms and it's only on in the day, then they're NOT talking to you and you should NOT turn your heating down. 

Many other Government Departments and councils echo the advice: 

The Met Office says [4] you should protect yourself in cold weather by “maintaining the right temperature in your home (optimum temperature is 18-21°C)” (Meaning, night / day.) 

St. Helens Council say [5], “you should be able to heat your home to an adequate level, 21 oC in the living room, and 18 oC in other rooms, and therefore live in a healthier environment.” 

Fife Council say [6] that room thermostats “... should be set at between 18-21°C (64.4-69.8°F), slightly higher if you are elderly, disabled or have young children.“

The Department of Health, state clearly [7] that, “Older people and those with chronic diseases or physical disabilities are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather.” 

It is well documented that one of the symptoms of fibromyalgia is cold intolerance and temperature sensitivity has been proven. “A study [8] published in the journal Pain shows sensitivity to both heat and cold in women with fibromyalgia, and demonstrates an inability to adapt to changes in temperature.” The report goes on to explain that, “the fibromyalgia group grew more sensitive to repeated cold stimulus.”, i.e. the more often they got cold, the worse (more painful) it got. 

Plumbing Pages website [9] says, “Set room thermostat at 18 C - 21 C (65 - 70 F). For severely disabled people or babies a room temperature of 23 C (73 F) may be more appropriate.”  

Wakefield Council point out [10] that “Many households contain one or more individuals who, because of age, long term health conditions or disability require higher temperatures for health and comfort, compounded by spending more longer periods in the home than more active occupants.”

Plymouth City Council provide the following [11] “Tip: set your room thermostat to 18-21 degrees Celsius - these temperatures are adequate for most healthy people. It is common to have temperatures of up to 21 degrees in the living room and 18-19 degrees in other rooms. People with certain medical conditions might need higher temperatures up to 24 degrees Celsius. “

Fife also say that, “Turning your thermostat down by 1ºC could save you around £40 per year.” Even three degrees – from 18oC to 21oC would only add up to £120 per year, or £10 per month. 

Yet, even presented with the evidence, my mother would not turn the thermostat up beyond 17oC in the living room. The HIGHEST temperature reached, during the daytime, in my room was 15oC. This is torturous.




Thursday, 20 November 2008

Irony at its most comical

My mother never believes a word I say, which is a whole other saga, but I'm now 100% certain that this is not because of something I've done or not done (and I wasted decades trying to work out what it was), but is because she expects "fantasy", merely because everything she ever says is made up to suit her own childish fantasy. Why should she expect better from anyone else?

She is entirely unreasonable and behaves like a child, as many old people do, but this absolute refusal or inability to communicate sensibly, over even the simplest of things, is way beyond that. As well as the fantasy (making up stories, wheedling, barefaced lies), she throws tantrums worse than a toddler.

Then she tells me how the woman next door's mother's stroke sent her a bit round the bend and made her unreasonable and demanding of illogical things.

If I bite my tongue any harder, I'll chew straight through it.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


As you might imagine, since she has nothing else to do, my mother has become obsessive over a large number of small, petty things (like the plots of Emmerdale, Corronation Street ...), switching off every minor appliance at the plug the moment you stop using it (which makes sense for old TVs overnight, but not every single time you use the kettle during the day); about the 1001 different types of trash that have to be discarded and that are lurking about in different bags all around the house; about double-locking doors and windows - at 6 p.m. 

Prisoners get more freedom!  

Also unsurprisingly (contrary to what she says), she doesn't really do anything all day: she might go out or do odd chores in the mornings, but by lunch time, she's looking for things to do; reading, knitting, watching TV, but mostly sleeping.

That's absolutely fine, unless I do it: then she calls it "lazy".

Oh and, she suddenly decided to tell me that 11.30 a.m. is her lunch time and that it ALWAYS has been. No, I don't need to tell you that I know when she usually ate and that I can read a clock at my age. Clearly, she thinks that I can't. The reality was that she just made this up as she was bored-style hungry.

One of the major reasons she's always given for not leaving this prison of her own making was that she would not have anything to do elsewhere. On the contrary, I think it would be really hard to find anywhere left in the world - certainly not in Spain which was what she mostly applied the objection to - where English books, knitting wool and (if necessary), Satellite TV couldn't be had and, where there would indeed be plenty more to do, places to see, weather to enjoy ... 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The great unwashed

During half-term, I had a wonderful time among (relatively) normal people (and, joy of joys, had hot showers), but the onslaught of illogical stupidity was waiting for me and started droning, as soon as I got back and the front door was closed. For once I didn't give her a chance and instead made her view all the photos I'd taken, related what a good time I'd had and unpacked all the things I'd been given by nice people in front of her. And though - strangely - she said very little, it clearly disturbed her. She wanted to know why they had given me things and the question sounded quite hurt and indignant. I told her it was because they know I don't have much money and they care. I'm certain she did "get" it -  and yes I did it deliberately to show her I'd been living well. 

And I could see she didn't like it, because it represents a threat to her control over me if I have a strong network of allies.

On the Monday, she was back to her usual crap. When I took my jeans out of the washing machine (I'd dared to touch it while she was out), she took them and exclaimed "they're wet", almost as if I'd given her a slimy creature. Things that have been washed tend to be wet! To attempt to translate this to "mothereze" thinking, what she meant was that they were wetter than what she considers acceptable. I think she thinks a tsunami occurs if things are not properly spun.

Unfortunately, to get her washing machine to properly spin for her taste, requires setting it to wash at 90 degrees. If my clothes were washed at 90 degrees they'd be totally ruined and only fit for throwing away. Those were stretch jeans. That's why I washed them when she wasn't there, rather than allow her to wash them at 90 degrees and ruin them. Besides, I'd lived on my own for around 25 years: I have owned and used washing machines before. She considers me incapable.

She'd rather use more heating energy than is needed to run the national grid to totally ruin clothes and throw them away, so she can avoid 'wetness'. Maybe this equates to saving water. It's also because she does not know how to change the settings on her washing machine and won't even attempt to do so.

She has no qualms about condensation forming damp and now black mold caused by worn out window seals, lack of ventilation and inadequate heating.

Ergo, we is not talking about someone capable of reason here.

She went to put some potatoes - that had come straight from the supermarket and been stored on the open worktop - the only place they don't go moldy - right by the window where the cat sits - into the microwave to cook in their jackets. As she didn't, I pointedly asked her if she was going to wash them first. At first she didn't reply, but launched into accusing me of being mad, then claimed nobody ever eats the skin. My information suggests differently. No point saying that I do: I'm just a freak. Actually, she does too! :)

She then exclaimed you would "NEVER wash them and put them in there" [the microwave]. Well, I always have. You can dry them first, I suppose, but I've never found the tiny bit of dampness to cause any harm at all.

Once more, she accused me of being mad and began to cackle, madly.

I've no idea why I bothered to make and freeze meals for her (and, you can be sure I shan't bother another time), because most of them were left uneaten.

Being able to have showers with water at a normal pressure were a particular delight while I was away. Ours is still like showering in lukewarm drizzle.

She still won't hear that there's anything wrong with the pressure, but then as one of these definitions of the great unwashed suggests, "The great unwashed must be distinguished from homeless people ... the [former] have homes and often have money, they're just dirty." She says "other people's" pressure has been boosted. I check. It hasn't. I tell her that I can tell that the pressure is markedly lower than in the 3 homes I've owned, the 3 others of hers I've lived in and countless others I've rented, many of which have also been single story, so no that isn't the "excuse" either. She brushes it all aside as though I'm incapable of knowing.

She won't see the problem, of course, because she doesn't use the shower.

This is not the old "bath once a week, whether you need it or not" culture that pervaded Britain in the dark ages (everything up to the 1960's), because my mother has not used the shower more than once or twice (max) in the 5 months I've been here. She claims she has done "much more often than you think." I know she's lying, but just shoot her a look. Then, she changes her story and says she doesn't need to shower, in a voice that suggests she's superior to it. She "strip washes" a few parts. That simply does not do for me, because that is so much colder and slower than showering. The main requirement for me is hot water to help alleviate pain, i.e. it's for health reasons, not some frivolous like or dislike. Of course, I think I'd have a perfect right to have simple likes and dislikes, but she obviously disregards those as invalid if she does genuine needs.

Most of all this is gross meanness, part of it is a misguided, ignorant and near obsessional preoccupation with "saving water" (she's the same with heating, lighting, etc.), but I simply cannot seem to convince her that "the authorities" have not mandated that people stop showering, sit in the cold and dark.

Next she had a problem with the phone: it was flashing. Actually, just the answering machine bit was flashing to show that she had a message. She claimed that she couldn't remember how to listen to it. Then she said she had listened to it and it was still showing a number (which it should) and she seemed not to grasp the idea that it would do so, until she erased it. All the time she was in flapping around the house like a headless chicken, in panic mode, as though it was a real problem that would end the world.

Twice in the last week she's had messages from "nobody"; silent ones where the caller had not left a message. It happens, people phone and decide not to leave a message, presumably. I figure if it was important enough, they would, or they'd be in touch again. These too caused her sky to fall.

These are not new things or technology she's incapable of learning, as she's been managing with all this perfectly well for quite some time, so either this was an act, simply to get my attention, or she's forgotten. Either behaviour, I pointed out to her, is of someone who can no longer cope as a grown up and, if she can no longer manage, then "I'll have to do something about it, won't I?"

Then finally, the friend who was supposedly going to drop everything and advise her about the gas boiler phoned back after a whole two weeks, not, strangely, the two days she said he would call in person within. So, maybe she did phone him after all, though I'm now inclined to think that she spoke to a machine, even though she claimed to be and behaved like she was talking to him personally. Once more, either she was lying and acting for some devious or insane reason, or she's become too senile to tell the difference.

Either way, this is not the behaviour of a sane, capable being, is it?

And - forgetting once again that I can hear every word she says - what does she say to him? That he "better leave it now", i.e. she didn't need help. It didn't matter whether she intended to renew the boiler or not (I know she didn't), but sweeping the problem under the carpet won't make it go away. We still needed questions answering. Once again, she is failing to do what's needed to maintain the house and may as well throw money in the streets for what the obvious general decline is doing to the value of the property.

Please let me wake up from this nightmare!