Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: St Valentine does his stuff…

22 Feb 2024 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

Retired journalist and full-time carer for her husband, Geraldine Durrant, relays another story of twists and turns regarding her life as a carer…You can find the previous installments of Geraldine’s column here.

St Valentine’s Day last week marked our 54th wedding anniversary.

Patrick was in Bahrain with his squadron in the run-up to the big day, so I arranged our wedding by myself, simply sending him the details in one of the thin blue airmail letters which made their way daily between us while he was away.

Wedding booked for 3pm St Valentine’s Day, I wrote.

Be there…

And he was.

But so too was the February snow which came down heavily the day before, convincing my father that none of the 100 invited guests would be able to travel. In the event, like so many of life’s anticipated troubles, his fears were unfounded.

The photographer dug a path in which we could stand and the snow provided a pretty backdrop to our wedding photos in which we glowed with happiness – although our bridesmaids, in thin silk dresses and without love to keep them warm, still look chilled to the bone more than half a century later.

Our wedding reception was held at The Rangers House* in Greenwich Park, just over the road from the convent school where I had spent seven years, and so – as was tradition for brides close enough to visit on their wedding day – I left my bouquet in the Lady chapel, knowing the nuns would pray for us and our future lives together.

And to be fair, the nuns must have done a pretty good job: five happy decades later we were the proud parents of three middle-aged sons, and had six grandchildren we love very much.

But this year has been different.

Patrick is no longer truly Patrick, and unless by some miracle he recalled the day’s significance, I had not intended to remind him, resolving to be grateful that – while it lasted – our innings had been a very good one indeed…

So I was reduced to tears when, thanks to the oversize digital clock by his chair, which announces the time, the day and the date – and maybe even to St Valentine himself – Patrick unexpectedly caught me around the waist and said Happy Anniversary…

* While watching the hit Netflix show Bridgerton I realised their London home looked oddly familiar – and discovered that the mansion, bedecked in artificial wisteria, was indeed The Rangers House.

** While I had fixed on St Valentine’s Day merely for its romantic associations, my choice had an unexpected bonus some 40 years later when a local garden centre offered a £300 prize to the first couple to turn up on the day with a wedding certificate showing they had been married on 14 February.

As few people actually get married in February, and even fewer would have either spotted the offer or been able to arrive on a weekday before work, we were a shoo-in for both the prize – and a free breakfast…

* A week after being awarded state-sponsored nappy pads I concluded – every pun intended – that they were complete pants.

Unlike adult pull-ups these freebies were thin and floppy, like large panty-liners, and were held in place by the sort of thin netting more often seen around wheels of cheese.

Some dexterity was required to keep the pads positioned front and back while the netting knickers were pulled up, but with no sticky strip to hold them in place, they started to slip immediately.

If Patrick had been bed or wheelchair-bound I suppose they might have been okay: but as he walked around the pads bunched and twisted, and could not be relied upon to contain…

… well I will leave it to your imagination what they could not be relied upon to contain, but trust me when I say that anything less than 100% reliability in this area is a fail…

A big, smelly fail…

And as if to emphasise their utter uselessness, Patrick dropped a loose pad down the toilet, which he then flushed, leaving it blocked to overflowing until I had the bright thought that perhaps the pad could be retrieved from the u-bend with a wire coat-hanger.

It was dexterous and unpleasant work but I eventually succeeded in teasing it out…

So we were back to having expensive boxes of adult nappies in their discreetly anonymous brown cartons delivered – and trying to be grateful that we could actually afford them.

Our second setback of the week came in the form of the carers who arrived each morning to get Patrick showered and dressed following his discharge from hospital.

The carers themselves were kind, helpful and commendably attentive of his dignity.

But the arrival of a different woman at an unspecified time each day wreaked havoc with our morning routine.

In the words of Samuel Pepys, I had to be up betimes, in order to be showered and dressed myself, and to give Patrick his breakfast, before their projected earliest arrival.

But having done so we have found ourselves kicking our heels for two hours or more while Patrick fretted endlessly over who might come and when…

And by the time I had laid out Patrick’s clothes, towels and toothbrush, explained his routine to the ever-changing roster of carers, and been repeatedly summoned to reassure him that the carers were indeed doing everything properly, I could have got him up and dressed a dozen times – with a lot less wear to my nerves.

Or his.

So for the moment at least, it was a disappointed “no” from me, which even the prospect of an odd lie-in did little to mitigate..

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