Your coffin

 

Today I chose your coffin

in a stuffy room

with beige curtains

and walls

the colour of peach sorbet

a bunch of paper flowers

on the polished table

and a box of tissues

already open

to avoid awkward fumbling

As he went through the options

I thought of your body

lying somewhere out back

by the car park

in a freezer

and worried you might be cold

then I remembered

the night you died

we dressed you

in your cashmere cardigan

and the socks I bought you

from Scotland

so that made me feel better

on the day

I chose your coffin

 

 

 

 

Tokyo words

 

My puberty has plopped

Slipped and fall down carefully

Grilled sexual harassment

Please wait to be entered

Happy pork!

No killer littering

My fanny toilet roll

The tray I have finished is to a trash can

No climbing and no scribbling

Wet dream!

For restroom go back towards your backside

Dining room closed. Sorry for incontinence

Please piss beautifully

Do not smoke we want fragrance of coffee and bread

Danger in outside of fence

Poo Hotel

Cool cowboy flicks his butt into street

Happies made to keep arseholes off caramel club boys

Unreasonable chickens

It’s good swimming fish

I am not good at vegetables

 

 

 

Care in the community

After six weeks of H being in the care home with  S staying on his own in their flat, we admitted defeat and took her back home. The final straw was when a fellow dementia patient wandered into her bedroom in the nursing home and hit her, causing her to fall over and cut her leg. The first I knew about this was  a call from the Wiltshire adult safeguarding team, which persuaded me that she needed to be somewhere else. While I have no beef with the nursing team at the home, who were kind and friendly, there simply weren’t enough of them to go round, to administer enough one to one care that she needed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you are Mrs sweet mild old demented lady who will happily sit in the common room smiling, you will naturally get more attention than Mrs Spitting and Shouting who swears and shrieks every time you go near her. That’s just how it is and as a result she spent most of the time sitting in her room on her own which was just plain miserable ( not that she really noticed, but we did). It has been  impossible to know what to do these  past couple of months for the best and it feels as if we are constantly veering from one crisis to another, but we move on mostly because we have no choice. None of this is easy and I know S absolutely hates all this fuss and interfering and  certainly makes sure we know how much he hates it at every possible opportunity.

Despite being very clear that he wanted H to come home more than anything , he made everything as difficult as possible to make it happen , as we attempted to move furniture and shift things around so that there was room for a full time carer. and for H’s bed. Unfortunately at ninety three years old this is all beyond him, though we have tried our best to make it as painless as possible.  His default position has always been, and continues to be  (magnified) , to shout if he doesn’t get his own way, which doesn’t help with first impressions, particularly if you are a brand new carer who has just arrived from the station and must hope you have mistakenly come to the wrong flat. His absolute refusal to hand over the key to the garage enabling us to store stuff in it is also   challenging. In the end I resorted to sneaking  in and borrowing  it from his desk drawer when he is in the loo. We have now had a copy cut  that we keep by the front door.

We ordered  a comfortable single bed in order that he could move into his study, leaving the carer to have the double bedroom. This bed was duly delivered by Mr Sands , a sweet local man with a family firm in Gillingham. Poor Mr Sands had no idea what he was getting into when he turned up at the front door to find S shouting at him to “bugger off” while waving his zimmer frame at him in a rage. His grand daughter who had come along for the ride retreated to the van in horror. Eventually the bed was put back in the van and Mr Sands departed. When I asked S what he intended to sleep on he said he would sleep in a chair. In the end I managed to find a smaller fold up bed which he accepted on the basis that it was a camp bed(?) even though I explained it wouldn’t be as comfortable and he might fall out of it. “Shut up” he yelled.

The next hurdle was the table in the sitting room, a  heavy walnut circular table that needed to be moved in order to fit H’s bed and equipment at one end of the room. This table serves no purpose other than to be the place S places his newspapers on with military precision each morning ( think hotel). He insisted that rather being put in the garage it should be re positioned  in front of the fireplace, obscuring the telly  and meaning that you had to climb over it to get to the armchair or to open a window. This arrangement will suit perfectly he said and stomped off to his study, squeezing round the corner of the table to get out of the room. In the end we took  it to bits ( helped by a large bit of it falling off) and carried it through to their garage ( with the stolen key) while he watched the news, oblivious to us lugging it past his door. And when he finally shuffled  back into the sitting room he didn’t even notice it had gone, or mention the newspapers that  had now been  carefully placed on a long foot stool in front of the sofa

So H came home from the nursing home and carer number one took up residence. The fact that we are now on carer five in a month, gives an indication of how well it hasn’t gone, though there is no doubt in my mind that overall this situation is much better for both of them.  S has people around to help when he falls out of his camp bed and to make sure he has food on the table and its reassuring to known that he is not alone. Sometimes they sit together and H smiles at him, but he is increasingly frail and bewildered and his memory is going at an alarming rate and he mostly retreats to  the peace and quiet of his study . H’s dementia continues to be up and down, every now and then she is calm and sweet, mostly not, agitation and paranoia usually overtakes her by lunchtime and the afternoons are fraught. She is convinced that she lives somewhere else and that I have hidden 59 people in the flat. We have a wonderful team of support carers who come and help, patient and calming and we get extra help in overnight when needed as sometimes she wakes up 9 or 10 times in the night . If nothing else, she is in her own flat  and can look out at the blue tits hopping about on the bird table and see the wind in the trees.

As of next week we are going into a new system and are getting rid of the live in carers. It is too disruptive as they never stay long enough to settle and makes it very hard for everyone. So we are introducing a system of shifts so that there is still full time care but nobody actually lives in. This way S will get his bedroom back with his double bed and more space. Though of course when I told him that he said ” I’m not moving”.

Watch this space.

 

 

 

Dream writing

 

They were there. Thick pungent dreads wrapped around their heads, stuffed into huge crocheted hats like hermit crabs, soft whispered rhythmic voices muffled against the steamy windows on the number 12 bus when it’s raining, and water gathers in tiny sparkling droplets on the glass. Did I recognise that hotel with the ice sculpture and the people next door who wore matching shirts and danced the conga into the dining room? Except it wasn’t in the hotel it was the dining room   we used to sit in at school. And then the horses came, jingling and jangling at their bits, the last one, the most beautiful and the hardest to control threw his head up and down as if he was on a carousel, a gaudy painted fairground ride and the crowds shouted and cheered. We went to the sea because the postman said we should, that it was the day when the tide would be very high and that the waves might crash right over the quay into the car park and wouldn’t that be a sight to see. But we never got to see it because we found ourselves in Sainsburys looking for ham, the right sort of ham, smoked and cut into thin slices and an avocado. And I thought I saw him standing by the crisps but then he turned around and it wasn’t him at all, even though he said he knew me and said “Hello”. But I had to rush as I needed to get the washing   in before the weather changed. And Gollum the cat stuck his paw under the gap at the bottom of the front door as I put my key in the lock but that couldn’t have happened because he has been dead for 3 months already. Someone was having a party in the street and Antonio from number 14 taught everyone how to make Caipirinhas in plastic cups and when he took his shirt off, we realised he was covered in tattoos. I must ask him to take it off again when I next bump into him in the corner shop, but I must be careful as he might think I am mad. Because Snowy the parrot seemed to be sitting on his shoulder. It’s always fun to get to the boat, to unload the bags and light the stove, shaking out the bedding, turning the fridge on, the engine roaring into life, belching out diesel fumes into the frosty morning as we put the bacon on and got the coffee going. And apparently my mum is on her way which is strange because I haven’t seen her for thirty years and I’m not sure I can even remember what her voice sounds like. Someone has made spiral patterns out of little white stones all around our patio and sprinkled pink sand in between so it looks like one of those mandalas. It must have taken ages and will be spoilt because it’s bound to rain. And when I asked Michael to pass the tea towel he handed me the dog instead and I was too polite to say anything

 

Interview

 

Hazel

Flabbergasted

80 something.

Am I?

The police took my pillows

I don’t know

We  sleep in the carpark every night, over there by the supermarket

Those aren’t mine

You are a buggery

buggery bastard

Shut up

She smells

You are very pleased with yourself aren’t you

Sheila is here

You are a bloody liar

It’s the Moroccans

You are a bloody liar

Apple pie

Sydney useless weak

That one is a mean bitch.

She pretends to be nice, but she isn’t,

You have hidden my things

I have no money

Don’t make me laugh

Very scheming and clever

but I see through you

Ann says she is sorting things

Last week we got the train to Waterloo

Pointless

They promised we could go to the party

Where is the British consulate?

I gave it away because I didn’t like it

I said I didn’t like it

This is all your fault get me out of here

Get Patrick

to give me a pill

Thankyou my darling

Sheila has made a picnic

I don’t know

I hate tea and I hate you

They threw the food

You are a bloody liar

He hid the cat under the bed

I know they have sold my coats to make room for Sheila

she lives in that cupboard

How should I know?

Nobody

I don’t care

The pudding was nice

With cream in a blue jug

How dare you

I’m sorry you have to do all this

My name is Hazel

Thank you for looking after dad

She is the nice one

If you like, I don’t care

I have two sisters

You are not one of us

Fuck off

He is useless and does nothing

That’s not mine

I don’t know them

Go now

I love you

Sheila and Harry are helping me look for the papers

I don’t know where my home is

why are you trying to trick me?

So, you can go there and steal from me?

You are a bloody liar

In the British Embassy

Get me out of here, get me out of here, get me out of here

Have you paid the milk bill?

I don’t have the time to talk to you

Useless, useless, weak and pathetic

Where is Amanda?

Take it away

Because I like pressing it

Just go now

That bloody doctor

Why have you left me here?

Hazel

Oh God

I hate you

I don’t want to watch it

I broke it

because I wanted to

Thank you for looking after dad

Did you do the Ocado order

Completely weak and useless

I need safety pins

Harry died penniless,

he killed himself

She’s very stuck up

Shut up shut up

Put the bed up, up I said

Can’t you do anything

They do very good poached eggs

You are a bloody liar

Do you think I’m stupid?

Call the police

Just fuck off

 

My 89 year old stepmother Hazel is in a secure dementia unit in Wiltshire. I visit her regularly and have written down her responses to the various questions we ask when we sit with her. She is convinced her sister Sheila lives in the cupboard (Shelia died years ago). We have no idea who Harry is. She is particularly horrible to my dad who sits at her bedside holding her hand as she hurls abuse at him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bee Man

 

The bee man sits by his stove drinking sweet coffee

from a mug with ‘Stud” written on the front

He brought the stove from Talia

near the village in Turkey where he grew up

where he has olive groves

and drove it back to Camberwell

in the boot of his Toyota

stuffed in alongside bottles of olive oil

so green they look like Absinthe

that foul smelling drink

they used to serve in the French

before it closed down

on the exact day when the manager tripped

and threw soup over a large

and very drunk food critic

who turned and punched him in the face

 

The bee man sits by his stove on the allotment

and plays backgammon on Tuesdays

with the Kurdish man

who lives in the new flats on the corner

The Kurdish man complains he can hear his neighbour

tapping her teaspoon against her teacup in the mornings

One afternoon the bees swarmed

into the pear tree

a fevered frenzy of buzzing

The bee man shouted for the Kurdish man to get into the shed

as aftershave makes bees angry

And an angry bee down your shirt is the last thing you need

on a Tuesday afternoon

 

The bee man says you must talk to your bees

you must whisper them your secrets and sing to them

This makes the honey sweet and makes your wife love you

The bee man’s wife laughs and says she loves him anyway

even though he has never washed up

and can’t cook

The bee man says if someone dies

You must tell the bees

If you don’t  their souls will get stuck

somewhere between here and there

 

The bee man says he once saw a ghost

Standing by the runner beans

On a shadowy summers evening

When the light was thick and gold

He asked the bees to get it to come back

So I could see it too

But it never did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caring and sharing

H’s stay in hospital was not a happy one, but when I look back now it was merely a warm up for her subsequent admission into a nursing home a fortnight or so ago, which has been five times worse.

Hospital wards are traumatic at the best of times, but when you are almost 90, with a broken hip and suffering from dementia, they are absolutely the last place you want to be for more than about 10 minutes, (and that’s pushing it). Everyone was very kind, as they always are, but she just couldn’t deal with the noise, the constant banging and clattering, and the food which she took upon herself one evening to throw across the room shouting ” Get me the French consulate” as she spattered her bedside with a rather unnaturally  coloured orange stew.

There were four old ladies in the ward, thin and wiry in bed coats with unopened copies of Woman’s weekly,  packets of wine gums and Ribena on their tables. The woman opposite spent most of her time asleep but was interrupted every hour or so by H shouting at her to say she was sorry for all the shouting. Next to Mrs Trying to sleep  was a tiny little bird of a woman who had broken her arm and spent all day in tears, wondering where her bed was. And next door to H was a very old woman who barely moved but was coaxed to eat and drink by her sons who held her hands and combed her hair and told her about the weather and how the garden was looking. Goodness knows what they made of us.

H was very confused,  convinced that she had been taken somewhere,  though she wasn’t sure where. Their old house? The secret room she thinks is somewhere upstairs from their flat where she swears I live? ( when I’m not rifling through all her paperwork and hiding her things),  or to Egypt?. Our visits were awkward and uncomfortable as we tried to steer the conversations to every day things, rather than the inevitable unfiltered and unmistakable comments about the nurses as they came and went ( “she’s useless, it must be awful being so ugly,” that sort of thing) all the time hoping they didn’t notice as they cheerfully checked her blood pressure etc and tried to persuade her to take her medicine.  “Step away from me you Jezebel” she shrieked at them,  while her cackling laughter sounded as if she was auditioning for a re- make of the Exorcist.

Progress towards mobility was halted when one of the physios left her sitting in a chair and went away, so inevitably she toppled out on to the hard shiny floor. Her broken hip was not damaged but she had a nasty bruise and we had to drive back to the hospital to talk to the nurses where we found her wild eyed and screaming as they tried to settle her down.

Eventually after 10 days, the doctors deemed her fit enough to travel and she was driven to take  up residence in the dementia unit of a very nice nursing home about 10 minutes away from where she used to live. She is on what is known as the ‘escapee floor’ as many of her fellow residents have been moved  there from other nearby homes, homes who  couldn’t manage them or who had in fact just absconded . My favourite is Charlie who climbed over a wall in his last place and went to the pub. I hope someone bought him a pint.

H was, by all accounts, quite calm when on the morning when she arrived, and asked to use the phone to ring my dad. Not realising that she has absolutely no memory of anything like phone numbers they kindly plugged in a phone for her. She promptly rang 999 and told the operator that she had been kidnapped. This obviously happens quite often as the office then rang the nursing home to double check that nobody had actually been abducted. and the phone was duly removed.

Things started to deteriorate that afternoon and poor H has now lost her voice because she spends most of her time shouting or weeping with dry teared rasping convulsions. Sometimes she calms down and sits listening  to music or watches the news, but then it starts again. The nurses wheel her into the sitting room which has a view of the rose garden with big French windows,  but she scrunches up her eyes and says how sorry she is for the poor souls who have to live there,  and asks the lovely black nurse when she is going back to her own country. Visits are pretty tense and you can usually hear the yelling as you walk down the corridor, a knot of dread in your stomach as you brace yourself.  My dad sits holding her hand,  telling her how much he loves her and she tells him how useless he is because he has never been to visit ( he goes every day). Sometimes she tries to hit us or spits at the nurses when they brings her tea. And then suddenly she will smile and ask me how the children are.

As I drive up the A303 after these weekly visits,  I ponder what to do. What to do when you are very old, and actually you have had enough and your options are limited to put it mildly. And what I would want to do if I were them.

Not be so isolated for a start. Live somewhere that isn’t 3 miles from the nearest shops. Get together with your chums and live together. Make your children buy a bigger house so you can go and live with them. Join a choir/book club/ Pilates/keep fit/paint/walk/garden/ knit/learn how to use a computer.

All easier said than done I know, but anything would be better than one of them being alone in an empty flat,  and  the other having to live somewhere that really isn’t her own home and never will be.

And at the end of the day,  the hard reality is the fact that they will never get to live together again.

 

 

 

 

Hospital corners

So after 6 months or so of trying to manage H and her downhill slide into Vascular Dementia and Alzheimers,  it seemed that finally we had our feet on the finishing line and she was due to go into a very nice nursing  home this very afternoon. Before you sigh with relief and put the kettle on, let me rewind.

As many of you are sadly familiar, dementia is a horribly cruel disease, awful for the sufferer and impossibly difficult for the families and carers, as they try to negotiate the confusion, abusive behaviour and agitation that in H’s case, go hand in hand with this miserable and cruel condition. Someone who was kind and compassionate has had her soft edges snapped off and she has become mean and quite simply, nasty.

At the beginning, H was still very much her old warm self, just a bit forgetful and confused, but these days by lunchtime we are in a war zone of wild eyed mania and fury at the world, at my dad, at the carers, at me, at anyone who happens to be passing, even the BT engineer who was startled to encounter a half dressed H wobbling towards him shouting and waving her stick.

Trying to maintain a level head in all this is really hard, because there is absolutely no logic to her ranting and I need to breathe very deeply and try to remember it’s not her, its the illness saying such hurtful things. And much of what she says is almost credible.  After all did I really manage to break in at night and steal all the carpets in the flat? Of course not, but if you didn’t know, you might almost believe her because she is so convincing. And there is absolutely no point trying to persuade her that what she is saying isn’t true, because she will argue until the cows come home that actually she has been forced to live in somebody else’s flat and that in fact there is a secret room upstairs that I hide in ( which frankly would possibly have been quite useful at moments). And it was a relief when she moved on from her obsession with planning my dads funeral (at the top of her voice at lunch as he sat there in silence, and the other residents shifted uncomfortably in their seats). At one point it looked as if we were going to be looking at Salisbury cathedral given the extravagant arrangements as I wasn’t sure we could fit a whole orchestra into the local church but luckily this seems to have been forgotten.

Her study is like a crime scene with papers ( so tidily filed and put away on a weekly basis) thrown all over the floor in a constant search for something. “What are you searching for?” I asked her. ” My father” she said.

Trying to get a formal diagnosis has been extremely difficult, mostly because every time she visited the Memory clinic team they would always asks the same questions, and as she could remember the answers, she sailed through with flying colours. The fact that she then went home,  put all her clothes on back to front and filled each kitchen drawer with basmati rice seemed of little consequence. Again, the GP would pop in early on a Thursday morning and find her making porridge and complaining about Brexit. Again, all must be well in the home. WRONG.

It seems that most of the problem is that nobody the NHS has time to talk to each other  and to join up the dots between the numerous departments so that things take much longer than they should, appointments are  constantly cancelled or re arranged which is impossible for anyone elderly, let alone someone like H to attempt to get her head around,  and it must waste so much time for all concerned. Everyone is perfectly nice once you manage to get hold of them, but if it wasn’t for the fact that I have spent most of the last month on the phone badgering everyone I dread to think where we would be now.

Things really started to unravel about 3 months ago, and it seemed we weren’t getting anywhere. Despite endless falls and scrapes and being in and out of hospital,  it seemed that nobody was in a rush to get to the bottom of it . We lived each day at a time and every time the phone rang I dreaded what it might bring.

The third  assessment  ( after she had fallen and been in  hospital)  finally confirmed that she has Vascular Dementia and Alzheimers, though also put on paper that H said nobody should share her medical records with me and this was typed up in the second paragraph is if it was fact.  It doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things but I find it extraordinary that a medical professional  took this verbatim  from someone who was extremely distressed and confused by all their questions,  when with a little digging they would have found this to be complete nonsense.  After this meeting  we were told we  needed to get her put on a dementia drug that will ease her agitation and calm her.   However we were also told that no GP can prescribe this drug and that she would have to see the prescribing doctor at the mental health team who could not give her an appointment  until mid October. I could not imagine how she ( or my dad) were meant to  survive until then.

Their flat is too small to accommodate a live in carer ( and my dad absolutely refused point blank to have anyone living with them anyway, and to be honest it was hard to imagine a less hellish job). We upped the care package so that someone was with her  pretty much all day.  The wardens who man the office at the end of the corridor would cough politely and whisper ” could we have a word?” whenever they saw me come through the door and would then go on to catalogue H’s latest antics, shouting at other residents, trying to get out of the front door in her underwear, that sort of thing.

I called nursing homes and looked through brochures. Some were awful, some wouldn’t take anyone with dementia. I went to see two homes nearby and they had places but both  said they could not accept her unless she was on this drug. Two of the carers handed in their notice. I emailed and rang the mental health clinic, the memory team, the GP countless times. I explained that unless something was done H would end up being sectioned and that she was  a danger to herself, to my dad and that we could no longer manage her. Finally  someone arranged  to get an appointment for last Thursday for the prescribing doctor to come out to see her. This doctor arrived with incomplete notes,  assuming she was just there to do an assessment with little idea of our situation and would have merrily scarpered without a prescription if we had not pointed out that they had already done an assessment  months previously and that we were fast running out of care options, and would lose the place at the nursing home if she wasn’t given it, so she relented and very reluctantly wrote out a prescription. At last!

The manager of the nursing home we chose came to meet us and to asses H’s needs.  H seemed calm and understood that she was going to go somewhere. My dad agreed if it was only for two weeks. H sometimes thinks my dad is going too. I don’t say anything. I imagine it will be a little like going to boarding school and after a while you just get used to it. We arranged for her to return after work on Monday and that we would take H there this morning. I printed out forms and thought about what we should pack for her to take.

And then yesterday morning the phone rang. H fell getting out of bed, has badly broken her hip, bruised her leg and was taken off to Salisbury in an ambulance. I went to visit her, in the next ward to the one where my dad was 2 months ago when he broke his hip and down the corridor from where they both were when my dad crashed the car. When I got out of the lift I bumped into one the porters  who had helped wheel my dad to the X ray department. “So you’re back again” he said cheerily.

I have no idea what will happen next. Hopefully the nursing home will still take her.We can live in hope because actually hope is what keeps us going.

 

 

Plaxtock is indeed very pleasing

PLAXTOCK

The very word conjures a feeling of summer warmth and love, and in my case a foolish hope that maybe one year, I will not go out all guns blazing in a mist of tequila slammers and dancing on Saturday night, thus rendering myself incapable for the rest of the weekend, a mere shadow of life as I crawl about the kitchen in my apron, my hair looking like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, attempting to make intelligent  conversation, pretending  that making chick pea curry for the masses is exactly what I need to be doing on a Sunday, and then lo and behold S has made vodka jellies for breakfast, and here we go again and suddenly everything is alright with the world,  and once again we are invincible.

It  would be useful to remember that  I’m almost 60 , and one would have thought that pacing would be my second name in the greater scheme of things.

Then again at Plaxtock nothing is what it seems,  and it appears that lessons are never learned amongst the cherries.

And frankly I blame the company,  who seem to misunderstand the term moderation.

The orchard. So much has happened in that lovely  field over the years.

The tent that could tell a thousand stories, whose patchwork canvas holds the imprints of songs and words, of laughter and tears, love,  voices and music, soaring brass, the patter of rain and the smell of damp as the sun comes out. The funeral march and gathering of the clan.

And the mice complain and move out for the weekend as we shake their droppings out of the tablecloths

Twenty five years. A life time.

Small children driven into a frenzy by the lead up to the boy and girl band ( think Gladiator). ” It’s not a competition” , yeah right.

Of whispering Tim and Radio Plaxtock,

A gaggle of sun kissed feral kids straight from the tipi in Devon,  rampaging on the dance floor  until they fell asleep on  hay bales, squeezing the last vestige of the summer out of August before school and hairbrushes took over.

When Clem got bitten by one of the pigs and said ” I think he thought my finger was a biscuit”.

The Plaxtock Olympics with Jon doing dressage which was so funny we cried

The water slide

Chainska

Love Grocer and The Petter All skas

The Tin Pots

Cake competition

Honey tequila and Plaxtock pleasers

Snail racing

The stuffed pepper

Frisbee in the sun

Lotte Reineger in the cinema tent that set Tashi off on her PHD

The group photo that sometimes we get round to, sometimes not, but it doesn’t  matter because there is always next year

Table tennis competition

Getting my head shoved down between a hay bale ( you know who you are)

Power cuts and drum solos

The tent pegs

Cheesy disco, the best disco all year

Lying on our backs looking at the stars

Hanging lanterns in the trees so we can find our way back in the dark

Braden’s tiny rave

Toxic Robot

Tim

Hugo

Andrea

Out of sight but in the orchard with us for always

Our Plaxtock family

We love you

See you at the weekend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm in a teacup

As I looked out of the rain smeared window on the bus  back from Covent Garden this morning,  I thought about the rain in Devon. Proper skin drenching rain, with an earthy dampness that softens your skin and mingles with the  smell of woodsmoke and damp socks, the perfume of summer camping.

This years camp got off to a promising start, with blue skies and sun and my birthday  swim at high tide,  a pint of Tribute and a picnic of squidgy cheese and pickles balanced on the rocks. That’s the thing about the weather down there,  it throws a bit of sunshine at you and you get carried away. You forget to pack waterproofs and boots when you go out, because you simply can’t imagine  that within the space of an hour the wind will pick up,  the clouds start to  bleed into each other like a Turner painting and the soft pitter patter of rain on canvas  worsk  itself into a drumming frenzy of Samba band proportions as the sky closes in on itself.

As I have said before in numerous posts,  we are well prepared. This is not because we are particularly clever, more that 28 years or so of coming here has made it abundantly clear that this is not the sort of holiday for a pop up tent and a quiet night in, with a tin of ready made gin and tonic as you huddle in your ( tiny) porch waiting for it to stop raining. No, it needs to be a holiday of military canvas and a proper drinks cabinet. And a well equipped kitchen complete with saffron and mushroom stock cubes. We probably eat better there than any of us do at home, and its all the more fun because its outdoors and pretty much anything tastes delicious when you have been in the fresh air all day, even the odd slug that may accidentally have found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the introduction of quiz night added to the fun, though certain people should perhaps have a little chat with themselves about the rights and wrongs of cheating before we do it again next year. Personally the local round was most informative and I was astonished to find that the actual cost of a ( plastic) basket of cheesy chips at the quay  is £4.25p. I must thank the quiz masters for that snippet and budget accordingly in the future.

After five days of hot sun, the storm rumours started. Not any old storm, a storm of Biblical proportions, one that would bring down caravans and camper vans , trailing sodden tents  in its wake. The locals even considered cancelling the carnival, an event that had carried on despite everything for the past 100 years. It was hard to imagine the upset this very thought must have caused the gaggle of farmers, who viewed this one day in the whole year as their opportunity to borrow their wives frocks and mascara and frolic down the high street in  fishnets.

Friday morning loomed blustery and wild. The church spire at the end of the field had been swallowed up in a sea mist, and if you looked out across towards Lundy you could see the waves frothing and crashing around the headland like angry wasps. People were packing up , shoving damp tarpaulins and bags into their boots, chivvying children and disobedient dogs to hurry up and get into the car. Gradually the campsite was emptying as people headed out, relieved to be returning to four walls and double gazing.

Obviously we didn’t all go with them. We reckoned that our corner would survive if we moved everything down into the hedge , so we shifted the army shelter and dragged  all the cookers and crates underneath. My van wouldn’t blow down ( hopefully) and the bell tents  should withstand strong winds. So we drank wine and waited.

At about 2am the wind really started to howl, to the point that I had to lie in bed holding on to the main pole of my bell tent. At about 2.30am G came in to say hers had collapsed and that she was moving into the Ford Capri. At about 5 am the wind direction changed and the full force slammed against the front porch , collapsing the poles that hold it together. At the same time the wind whipped around the guy ropes so that the entire front was flattened and the whole tent  was doing some kind of crazy blancmange dance . At this point I went into the van and woke L who claimed to be asleep. After some prodding he got up. ” Fucking hell” he said as we managed to get it upright and pegged backed in.

The next morning the sky was clear, though the wind continued all day through to the evening, rattling and whining through the shelters, which remarkably were undamaged.

Just in case we hadn’t had our fill of wind, we went to the lighthouse, and then down to the quay where huge waves crashed over the quay as we ordered cheesy chips ( £4.25) and pints.

And they got away with the carnival that night though to be honest we were all so exhausted we were all in bed by 10pm.

Roll on next year.