Trees, Synapses & Goodbyes – Week 23 : 2020

So, a long time no speak. 

I suppose apart from the mundane there hasn’t been a great deal to write up due to the restrictions of lockdown. (Yes, that hasn’t been a barrier to posting a blog in the past). 

Like most homeowners stuck at home our garden has never looked as good. I was unable to avoid that long and tedious job of repairing the pointing on the paving around the house. That was a restoration job but we also were removing things and had four trees cut down on the property boundary. The initial quote came in at £1,600. After a bit of shoe gazing the tree surgeon said £1,400. We said we’d think about it and promised to ring him. Funnily enough at this point it became £1,200. It’s not a great feeling to ever take down trees but they were forming some form of hazard to the neighbours and always needed expensive maintenance.

A beautiful walk with the present Mrs Ives amongst the rhododendrons

As a Yorkshireman I can find spending money a painful initiative. Nevertheless the coffers have recently been depleted by paying the daughters’ student loans paid off and I bought a new bike. It was my first new bike in eight years. Given my annual cycling mileage of between 4,000 and 6,000 miles this means my other bikes regularly get rebuilt. I’m now quietly thrilled at owning a Cannondale Synapse Disc with Di2. Which brings me onto cycling. After the rude interruption to my trip up Australia I have continued to ride around our beautiful county. One of the changes has been getting used to the new cyclists who clutter the roads around us. 

These are the folks who have discovered two wheels as part of their daily exercise regime. There is good and bad with this. The good is that they don’t realise that as regular cyclists that cheery waves and greetings are completely verboten. A steely forward stare is the approach of most Yorkshire lycra clad cyclists as they fret over losing a few seconds by turning to wave. If that’s the nice bit then the absence of helmets still freaks me out: the first part of the body to hit the tarmac will be their head when they come off. Also I’m appalled at some of the major roads that parents lure their small offspring onto. Children shouldn’t be dealing with trucks and speeding cars.

God rode a bicycle

Pilates still forms part of the weekly schedule. The present Mrs Ives would do it every morning. I can generate enthusiasm for a couple of days. This in turn has led to other core strength demonstration challenges e.g. can you get over the stiles, we encounter on a walk, without needing to hold onto the rails? As Anna doesn’t read my blogs I can admit she’s better at this than me and I’m nursing an injury where I hit the stile so hard with one knee I’m surprised it is still standing.

As regards anything other than leisure I had one morning on Microsoft Teams as a pension trustee. I was shocked at how dressed down all the other attendees were. I maybe didn’t expect suits but the look was casual. It’s probably not surprising that if you let actuaries pick their own wardrobe outside of a suit it is likely to be the kind of stuff Alan Partridge would call ‘smart casual’ circa 1987. I was also hoping they’d be sat in front of an interesting bookcase where you can try and read the spines of the books they have on the shelf behind them – no such luck here.

“Now she’s doing horse, it’s June”

Sadly of late events are focussed around Margaret, my mother-in-law’s passing in May.

She had trouble with a second replacement hip and was scheduled for another operation prior to the hospitals’ prioritising Covid-19. This delay left her surviving on morphine and being unable to sleep in a bed. From the start of the lockdown conversations were held through her care home’s window on the mobile. Assessing how she was coping was difficult during this strange, cold and brief audience. When the local hospital felt they could now entertain some elective surgeries she was top of the list. She was delighted. However, given her advanced years, 89, she had a number of other health challenges that brought a risk with any operation. The surgeon was explicit about this. She knew and accepted this. A successful operation had her up and walking in the hospital but in a matter of 11 days she had a stroke and then pneumonia. These were battles she couldn’t win.

The hateful coronavirus didn’t take her but it did mean that it was March since her three daughters had had proper contact with her. In the end one daughter had an unsatisfactory telephone conversation with her post operation. Then Anna had the opportunity to formally break the lockdown constraints and enter the ward for a last ‘end of life’ visit. Unfortunately Margaret to all intents and purpose had slipped away at this time; she got to hold her hand and talk to her. Heart breaking. No words. 

Of course the funeral had restricted Covid-19 attendance rules. I had known Margaret for 35 years but was left outside avoiding the rain and hailstones. (I accept all Covid-19 restrictions, no complaints).

It seems hard not to acknowledge the turbulent world around us in this blog as I write. The USA appears to be on fire and in London rent-a-mob hooligans are wheeling bicycles into Police horses or defacing monuments of national heroes. I certainly long to be packing up a tent and thinking about a day ahead in a foreign country with nothing to worry about other than finding a coffee as soon as possible and hoping the sun shines.

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