What a difference a day makes.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 21 November 2011

Well she's in.

In Room 12 - 'The same number as my birthday?' she said, yes the same as your birthday, we said.

12th May 1922, born on a doorstep in The East End and been working ever since.

My 89 year old mother has a room next to the Synagogue. She has a bed, spare wall space for pictures. Room 12 looks out onto the garden with its fountain and raised beds.

Room 12 is hers until....

'Until when?' She asked.

And thats when it got tricky.

Jim and I drove down on Friday. All the paperwork had been done. We arrived in time to grab a coffee and piece of rich chocolate cake from a coffee shop in Kemp Town. My brother arrived in his jeep which was loaded up with all her clothes, two boxes of photographs and bathroom paraphernalia.

Zoe, the middle daughter, turned up with a bunch of flowers and more understanding of the situation than all of us put together.

Cordelia, a resident nurse, wheeled my mother in at 12.30.

My mother had slept for 2 hours in the ambulance, could remember nothing of the journey.

I was so happy to see her, she recognised me but looked less than happy. A man came in and offered her a choice of lunch. She chose egg and chips with sweet corn, soup and a pudding. she ate well.

'The Jews and food' she said. They get breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper, either in the dining room or at their bedsides.

Zoe, the 'oosbind and I, unloaded her clothes. A lot of stuff, a lot of inapproprate things but we hung them and folded them, drawed them and bagged the rubbish.

She didn't like the room, the garden, the man, the place. She wanted to go home.

We walked her into the sea-view room, she settled a bit. Loving the sea and said it felt like an hotel.

Drove home, I felt shreaded.

We had been done for parking. 60 for 7 minutes overstay. Walked in the door, and there on the kitchen mat was a letter from Wandsworth Council who are sending the bailiffs in for non-payment of council tax.

I rung the council and waited fifteen minutes until a young man picked up. He accused me of lying about my status, I shouted at him for his rudeness, he stood his ground, I lost mine even though I knew I was being recorded. The young kid got all my bile, vile anger.

I clattered up into the shower and stood for 30 minutes as my tears mingled with the hot water.

Gods Gift tried to placate me but when I am that dark the only thing that helps is being left utterly alone to stew.

Friday night telly should have helped but it was 'Children in Need' which is enough to depress anybody let alone a woman of 62 who has just put her mother in a home.

Thank God for Saturday's 'Strictly Come Nonsense'. I had to abandon the X Factor as it now irritates me beyond measure, but 'Strictly' helped after our visit to Brighton on Saturday. We breakfasted in BILLS at 11.00 then walked down to Kemp Town. B looked into BIMM, her old stomping ground, her music college where she studied bass guitar and boozing. She got all nostalgic.

'I missed out on so many things.' she choked.

That along with my mother made her realise that life really is about the grabbing of opportunites whatever age you are.

My mother had packed up her pictures and what she thought were her clothes, having missed the full wardrobe, and asked when was she going home. I said she wasn't and realised that I had to change my tactic. Talked to Cordelia, friends with similar experiences and when she asked again I replied;

"When you're legs are better.'

'When you are well enough to go home.'

'When you are feeling stronger.'

We talked over her as she snoozed, in the sea-view room, but she was listening with a cocked ear and heard everything we were saying. Her stay there is the only option we have now that she is unwell. How ever guilty I feel, we all feel, the home is the best place for her to get better/iller in.

Went to bed early, tried to sleep but I woke every two hours seeing my mothers face and misery. Finally after two hours kip I left the cottage at 6.30, Sunday morning, thank heavens for Aled Jones whose Sunday morning programme on Radio 2 is a great listen and really good company. I tried to sing along with the hymns, but lack of sleep made me sound like a wide mouthed frog.

Then a rabbi came on talking about visiting homes in London for Mitzvah day. Songs and cakes, chatting and fun. I was gripped with terror that I had made the wrong choice putting my ma into a Brighton home and not a London one.

Easy drive even though there was a low hanging, murky, damp, grey fog. Pretty much how I felt. The show was fine, concluding with Seah Hughes, who if I hadn't realised what a great bloke he was before, certainly knew that he was after. LUCY BERESFORD did my papers, exquisitely, MIKE SANI and his young mouthpiece came in to talk about BITE THE BALLOT, a terrific initiative for young folk to get involved in politics. JOHN WILSON talked about his orchestra and MARIA ELIA brought in her new cookery book.

It was a full, deliciously wholesome show.

I lunched with the dawter on pizza, she left for a week in town and I drove home. By the time I got to the A21 I was nodding off, seriously to the point that when I opened my eyes I had just about managed to keep myself on the inside lane on the A21 - the Saturday night Sunday morning routine will have to change over the next few weeks if I want to stay alive.

Arrived home at 2.45, then jumped into the car to take my dear friend and healer to visit my mother. We arrived at four. My mother was dressed, sitting next to Stella, ex- library owner from Hammersmith, who had put herself in the home for the rest of her natural born so her daughter could have her flat. My mother was sitting smiling and singing along to songs for their Mitzvah Day, kids and Rabbis, guitar players and young folk were entertaining the residents. Mitzvah day, a kind of jewish bob-a-job, was happening all around her as well as in London. I had made the right decision to get her to the seaside where she had always wanted to be. Tea and cakes and noise, she was dressed and smiling, she asked me when she was going home and I said, patting her huge legs, 'When these heal up.'

I know they wont, but I also know she will get used to her new home by the sea. I didn't stay long, but what a difference a day makes.

I know she will wander back and forth in her head but she is now truly safe. Has two new friends and has Hanukkah to look forward to.

I will end up knowing all the Jewish festivals, I will also end up relaxing and handing the worry over.

When I arrived home Jim had bought some vodka, the only drink I can have that doesn't make me feel dreadful. I drunk for Kiev and fell alseep on the floor as Russell Grant and Flavia left 'Strictly' for good, the X Factor didn't factor at all. I'm not even bothering with The Jungle japes who wants to see unknowns eating extinct animals for a small fortune.

Jim had spent all day writing appeals for parking fines, did I mention the speeding fine I got as well? And filling out forms to Wandsworth Council to prove I am who I say I am, although as I am my mothers daughter I could be anybody at this point, I'm not sure who I would choose. Whose middle aged, lives in SW11 and has a media profile? Vivienne Westwood springs to mind, I think I'll stick to being me.....

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At November 21, 2011 6:12 PM June wrote:

Oh Jeni

Reading "What a difference a day makes", I could hardly breathe.
It struck me it was just like when the children start school, full circle really.
I can only begin to imagine how stressful the weekend was for you, but thank goodness all is well. Mum is safe at last, I'm sure she will have good days and bad days, don't we all, but keep telling yourself "she is safe" and that was your intention when you made the decision for her to be rehoused.
Now repeat after me "She is safe".

Best love

2. At November 21, 2011 11:11 PM LV wrote:

JENi - i think/feel your moma is going to be just fine!
IT could be worse.....you could be in the jungle, munching on the nuts of a deceased kangaroo (poor joey) in a camp full of cabin fever.
Don't you feel better now?

TERRY - xxLove and hugs coming right back to you too!xx
xLove Light LVx

3. At November 22, 2011 6:32 PM 'L' wrote:

First of all, brilliant show on Sunday as usual.
I think it's wonderful for your Mum (and u!) to be in a Jewish home and I'm sure she'll settle in and enjoy herself. This is definitely the right thing to do although the adjustment may be hard for all. A person that age and condition needs 24 hour care, something that is not possible to do single handedly. The company she will constantly have, the festivals and entertainment will surely maximise the quality of her life for many years to come.
Keep your chin up Jeni!
Lots of love,

4. At November 22, 2011 9:47 PM Marmite wrote:

Darling Jeni
There isn't anything I can say other than I am sending you much love and many big hugs over hyper-space. Look after you too.
Love always
Marmite xx

5. At November 25, 2011 4:11 PM maureen wrote:

Hi Jeni:

Glad to hear your mum is out of hospital. Sometimes it's better to get out of there - my elderly mum was admitted to a South London Hospital after a fall. She lived in warden sheltered housing and of course no wardens on the weekend so she was likely on the floor a few days. She hated the hospital and was medically cleared to leave after a few weeks but they went back and forth on sending her home with carers or to a residential care home.
I found a care home and then they were told they couldn't assess her as funding wasn't approved so more delays for my mum - she referred to the hospital as a prison camp and she was there almost a month but eventually died in there.

6. At November 27, 2011 7:53 PM carolyn wrote:

Late reading this - you touched my heart - getting older is absolute pants not just for us older kids but definitely our wonderful mums and dads - god how precious is life xx

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