Food & drink

Midsummer madness: I cook my way out of the slough of despond

21 Mar 2024 | Written by Marina O'Shea

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.

PATRICK’S long-awaited diagnosis of Lewy Body dementia prompted a visit from the hospital’s Occupational Therapy team to carry out a home inspection.

For an hour they wandered disapprovingly around the house putting Patrick through his paces and tutting at our all-glass shower cabinet and our plasterboard hall walls, neither of which respectively, they declared, would support the weight of a flip-down shower seat or an additional hand rail.

But if these humble adjustments were not viable it became rapidly apparent that expense – my expense – was no object when it came to suggesting fantasy projects.

Have you thought about a new armchair? asked one, waving airily at Patrick who was sitting perfectly comfortably in his favourite not-at-all-old armchair.

Readers, I had not…

Had I considered where we might put a downstairs wet room, they wondered?

Or where Patrick would sleep when the stairs become too much for him?

For around only £30,000 I could knock down the dining room wall and convert the garage for his use…

And was I really sure he needed his sleeping pills?

The first two questions I had not yet given a great deal of thought to, but of the third I was absolutely certain: Patrick needed sleeping pills because otherwise he would be murdered one night by his sleep-deprived wife.

And I realised I had tactlessly said this out loud when a note was scribbled hastily on the clipboard questionnaire and I was given the sort of look which indicates, without the need for words, that I had Turned Out Disappointing…


One weekend I woke up feeling unaccountably tearful.

There was no specific reason for this – the sun was shining, Patrick’s catheter (fingers crossed, touch wood, don’t tempt fate) was working, and my garden – of which I am inordinately proud – looked lovely.

Nevertheless I had woken up feeling sorry for myself and I hadn’t been able to get over it.

The feeling was sparked by Patrick asking hopefully, as he did every morning as soon as he opened his eyes, “we don’t have anything on today do we…?”

And I had realised with a stab to the heart that, medical appointments apart, we had nothing on for the rest of our lives…

Patrick adamantly refused to leave the house, so lunch out somewhere had become a very rare treat.

And even just coaxing him into the garden for a glass of wine was a major undertaking which would see him gulp it down and head gratefully back indoors.

So when I heard friends talk casually about a theatre trip, a day out or a planned holiday I couldn’t deny the ache in my heart knowing that we would be going absolutely nowhere.


I did of course pop out occasionally but always alone and under the constraint of knowing Patrick would be fretting in my absence: and where others might have to hurry home to “walk the dog” my return would be prompted by having to see to Patrick’s catheter.

So it was sadness rather than any meanness of spirit which made me envious of facebook photos of palm trees, lovely ancient churches and restaurant meals in faraway holiday spots…

One Saturday morning Patrick would not even come for a coffee at the local garden centre, so I went alone – again – a widow with a husband at home.

But by Sunday I was fed-up feeling miserable and on the understanding that God helps those who help themselves I decided that if we could not get to a restaurant, the restaurant would have to come to us.

I am a good cook and I deserved a lovely meal, so I hit the kitchen for a bit of therapeutic cooking.

First up was a cake – I hadn’t baked for ages but sometimes only cake will do…and it filled the house with comforting aromas as it baked.

Then I surveyed the contents of the fridge and freezer and decided we would have confit duck, asparagus, dauphinoise potatoes and a purée of cannelloni beans with butter and garlic for dinner, followed by a Grand Marnier soufflé.

Patrick tucked in with flattering enthusiasm and appreciative grunts, and I felt better, calories be damned, for having made the effort.

And really if the microwave hadn’t blown up while I was preparing it, and I hadn’t had broken glass and pottery all over the kitchen floor from Patrick’s doomed efforts to help me clear up afterwards, the weekend would have ended on a rather higher note than it had begun…

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