Friday, 18 May 2012

When Pans Come Together

(that was a typo in the title, but rather apt so I'm keeping it)

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

I do have this tendency to commit myself to crazy endeavours that involve a lot of headless-flying and not a lot of sleep, and this last fortnight has been no exception... but it has all paid off.

Basically it is Felix's tenth birthday tomorrow, and he decided weeks / months ago that he would like another Camping Birthday Party, which involves us, our friends, Felix's friends and assorted hangers-on disappearing up into t' hills for a weekend, getting muddy, having Nerf Gun wars and eating cake (and drinking lots of beer after the kids have gone to bed).

It's lots of fun, but when it doesn't coincide with half term it's an organisational marathon.

Normally I try to mitigate this by going down on my own in the morning with a car jam-packed full of stuff and setting the tents up for everyone before they arrive on the train. Advantages: I get some peace, I get to tinker and organise and arrange stuff without having naggy hungry impatient children biting my ankles, and - crucially - I can shove as much stuff into the car as I like without having to worry where the pesky people* will sit.
(*I'm not really a misanthrope**)
BUT this year I can't get the time off and am basically having to drive from Oldham (where I work) to Edale and will be arriving later than the hordes.
SO. I came up with a brilliant plan: Pack the car up on Wednesday evening, take all the camping stuff to work with me on Thursday morning, drive from Oldham to Edale on Thursday night, set the tents up, have the campsite all to myself, get up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning, drive to Oldham, go to work, go back to Edale on Fri night to find everyone happy and arrived (having come on the train with Ally) and everything set up and ready for maximum chillage / enjoyment.
There were, however, some snags:
1a. LOTS of people, all of whom had tents and general baggage which I helpfully agreed to take with me.
1b. LOTS of stuff. Cos this ain't just any old camping trip, this is a birthday party, AND two of the guests are other people's children for whom we will be in loco parentis, and I would like to make things as comfy and nice for them as possible, which means beds, duvets, pillows etc.
... meaning that it takes HOURS to pack everything up and get it into the car, and it only just fits. Our (big) car has never been so full. By the end it was like that vid of Japanese people being forcibly squeezed onto a train by helpful conductors. I had a gap on the passenger seat so I could see my left wing mirror, but apart from that it was like driving a van. TOTALLY FULL. And we had to put the roof box on too. In the middle of the night on Wednesday night. When we realised we wouldn't get away without it.
2. Oscar being ill. Oscar (3yo) has had a temperature all week and generally been unhappy and coughy and ill, which has made everything more difficult, not least the worry that he might not be well enough to come away, and what the hell we would do if that were the case.
3. Genius Day. It is Genius Day at work today, which meant that I wouldn't have been allowed the day off even if I did have enough leave. But also meant that I have spent every spare moment I possibly could for the last month developing my exciting piece of Genius Day software and being ever-so-slightly obsessed and distracted by that.
4. "flexi-start" working hours. I do not have flexitime where I work, but I do have "flexi-start", which means I am allowed to arrive at work any time between 8am and 10am, but after that I have to work 7 hours and I have to take an hour for lunch, so the time I leave is dictated entirely by the time I arrive. Which means that, in order to have time to drive to Edale and put tents up in the light, I had to leave work at 4pm yesterday, so had to arrive at 8am, so had to have the car packed up and ready to go by 7.30am yesterday morning. It also meant I had to leave the campsite at 6.15 this morning so I can leave work at a decent time tonight.
Net result: One VERY tired Clare yesterday, after several nights in a row of very little sleep. And a car FULL of stuff. I had to plug myself into YouTube and listen to LOUD MUSIC on headphones all day just to get myself through (had lots of fun with 70s and 90s nostalgia though).
So, the happy ending? A campsite full of tents and beds and duvets and food and a kitchen and tables and chairs, all set up beautifully. A very-snug Clare in bed by 10.15pm (with 4 mattresses and a onesie and a sleeping bag and two duvets, oh yes, although I will have to relinquish some of that to the hordes tonight). A decent night's sleep. A morning wakening to hills and trees and air and running water in the background. A peaceful early-morning drive through the hills. Genius Day, which is really rather fun, and my software is nearly finished and I like it lots and I am proud of it and who knows, maybe I will win a PRIZE???
Nothing to worry about at all, a fun weekend ahead, and best of all Oscar has no temperature at all and is back in school for the second day running.
** Oh all right then, maybe I am. PS When I arrived at the campsite yesterday, there were four (four!) hares, chasing each other about madly, and coming really-really close to me whilst doing it. They were really beautiful. It was magical. PPS Massive props to my friend's teenage son, who met me there last night and helped me put all the tents up. He was still asleep when I left this morning.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

RIP Dipsy

(sorry, this is a bit of a weepy one I'm afraid)

Our dog Dipsy was 14 years years old. We'd had her since she was a puppy. She'd seen us through a lot of different life stuff, came on holiday with us every year, quietly occupied her corner of the room and hated it when we closed doors. She liked to do her regular rounds to make sure everyone was OK.

For the last two years or more, she's been in various flavours of decrepitude. We'd had so many false alarms, it began to seem she would last forever.

One of her hips was kaput and she had trouble getting around because she had arthritis (as well as a dodgy heart and menhirs disease and a dodgy stomach, and partial blindness and partial deafness and possible senility). For the last few months we'd stopped taking her to the park cos she just fell over. She still enjoyed sniffing around the garden, but had to be carried up the steps back into the house, as well as across the kitchen floor, as she couldn't get any purchase on the tiled surface and her legs would just go from under her.

We still got tail wags when we came home, and she still enjoyed her food.

But in the last week or so, we had increasing episodes of Dipsy waking us all up at night, clearly in distress and unable to settle. Last night was the most extreme episode of this kind, and in the end she could only be calmed by giving her one of the valium the doctor had given me for back pain.

We decided yesterday that we needed to think about taking her to the vet and asking him to end her life. This was horrible, because I had always assumed she would just keel over in the night or we would take her to be fixed, only to be advised by the vet that her time was up. I struggled with the idea that we would pre-empt the process. How could we know if we were making the right decision? How do you define quality of life? But it was clear her enjoyment of life was only going to go downhill from this point, and that even if she had some pleasure at some times, she also suffered a significant amount of distress. So we prepared Flash (our 9-year-old) for the possibility that she may be taken to the vet at some point this week.

That was a horrible conversation. We decided to wait until after Oscar (who is 3, and really too young to benefit from / properly understand any kind of forewarning) was in bed. But then Felix was all full of chatter and excitement about his birthday in 2 weeks' time, and the release of Minecraft for the xbox. And then he was putting his pyjamas on, and...

In the end I waited until I'd read him his bedtime story and he was all ready for bed. Of course, he cried. We were already snuggled up, so cuddles were easy. This morning he asked whether Dipsy would still be there when he got home from school, and I had to say no. He said goodbye and gave Dipsy one last Bonio, and we sent him off to school with an explanatory note for his teacher.

We decided during the night, when nothing but valium would calm her, that today would be the day. Ally had a meeting so I decided to use up a day's leave. I wouldn't have been able to concentrate on writing Javascript today anyway. My bosses were nice about it.

I took her to the park first, as she hadn't been for ages and always used to like it so much. She sniffed about a bit, but didn't stray more than a metre from my side, and after a few minutes came and stood next to me expectantly. This is what she does when she's ready to be carried back inside, after being in the garden.

I'd tried to arrive early at the surgery and beat the queues, but I somehow managed to miss it altogether and drive straight past it, and by the time I'd done a fraught U-turn (and nearly crashed into a bus), the doors had been opened and a queue of people and their dogs had been let in.

It's a tiny waiting room which Dipsy never likes, particularly if there are other dogs, which stress her out. She wouldn't lie down and didn't want to be on my knee. She was panting. The other dog-owners were all chatting animatedly amongst theirselves, and I couldn't stem the tears. I just prayed desperately that nobody would ask me what was up - I knew I wouldn't be able to speak.

Eventually it was our turn. The vet was brisk and businesslike, and agreed it was the best thing. He did his best to reassure me. She wouldn't lie down on the table. His assistant cuddled her and supported her. I sort of felt that should have been my job, but I might not have done it right. I stroked her flank ineffectively, and choked back the sobs. I couldn't think of anything to say to her. It was so quick. She just sort of crumpled. You could see that her whole body went into instant relaxation. Her eyes stayed open. I thought she was still breathing, but she wasn't.

I sobbed and sobbed. They were very understanding.

When she was a puppy she had a brightly-coloured giant rattle, designed for a baby. She used to bark at it madly. In the end we had to hide it. Every Christmas she would get a squeaky toy which she would attack with gusto, squeaking it madly until finally the squeak was killed, which was always a relief. If she didn't kill the squeak, I would eventually crack and hide it somewhere out of her reach, only for it to be unearthed a few months later by either her or one of our kids, and the squeaking would resume (sigh).

I've washed her bedding.

I confess I've looked forward to no longer having a garden full of dog poo, or having furniture and whole rooms that stink of old ill dog, or little presents on the hall carpet in the mornings. I won't miss those things. She'd reached a point where she couldn't really be a part of the family any more.

I slept on the sofa next to her the night before last. I gave her lots of cuddles in the last two days.

We might scatter her ashes in Edale or maybe the Lakes. Felix/Flash wants some kind of memorial in the garden. A plaque, maybe?

I'm glad I took the day off. I have nothing to do today but grieve. That's fine.

Goodbye Dipsy.