Accept the Inevitable…

Chez nous is in a state of flux at the moment. A period in which both Husband and I were bogged down with health annoyances has prompted a rethink of our housing situation. Up until the present, when one of us has succumbed to a complaint the other, being the more fit, has taken on the nursing. Husband undertook a memorable mercy dash home from South West France when I was felled by a bout of septicaemia [although we were ignorant as to my condition at the time]. The return took nine hours of driving sans navigator or co-driver [me], as I slumped in a near comatose state in the passenger seat.

Another time, on a particular, milestone birthday, Husband became welded to the bed due to a debilitating burst of labyrinthitis- an unpleasant condition causing nausea, vomiting and drunken-like staggering and which takes weeks to overcome using religious observance of an exercise regime. This has recurred, at a time when I am crippled by my [previously explained] foot problem.

The result is that we have begun to consider our property, our house and garden somewhat larger than it was before. The garden [my responsibility] seems to be growing in size as it also burgeons forth with spring growth. The house stretches into seeming endless rooms filled with cobwebs, dust and worse-scuffed paint and dingy carpets.

This is an age old dilemma. No one wants to leave the home they have nurtured and loved for so many years. Once you have lavished care, thought, elbow grease and vast amounts of money on a house it becomes part of the fabric of your life, your history and your family. You think of all the life events it has supported, both the crises and the celebrations. You think of all the meals prepared and consumed, the comfortable nights of sleep, the books read curled up on a snug sofa, the work undertaken, the visitors entertained, the barbecues enjoyed, winter evenings by the wood burner. You wonder how on earth it will be possible to re-create such a congenial environment anywhere else at all.

But above all it makes you face the stark nature of ageing and allows you an unnerving view of the future. In his nineties my father fought with every frail bone in his body to maintain his independence and stay in his own home, despite his failing health, but nothing could prevent his having to go to a care home, the very place he feared and hated.

As yet we are far from this state. But the strange phenomenon of time accelerating as you grow older makes me realise it could be better to make changes sooner rather than later. What a dilemma!

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Puff!

                I imagine it is quite possible that one day smoking tobacco will become extinct as an occupation throughout the world; but for now it remains. Despite the dogged determination of most governments, at least in the Western world, those who continue to smoke take either a bold, confrontational stance of bravado about it or skulk in apologetic huddles professing their desire to quit whilst smoke issues from their orifices.

                I am, myself an ex-smoker. I recall my first cigarette, smoked as a young child when, in the company of a friend I found a discarded packet of ten in a disused railway carriage that had once been used as an abode but then abandoned. ‘We will have to smoke them’ the friend declared, for no reason that I could discern, although I did my best to oblige, possibly in order to cement the friendship or through some ill-conceived desire not to cross her. In any event I did not wish to seem lacking and besides, my own mother was a smoker. How could it be wrong? Of course, as I discovered after the one or two puffs that surrendered me green with nausea, it was very wrong indeed.

                About to become a student, and in thrall to the era of hippydom I experimented with pipe smoking. I smoked a small briar filled with Clan tobacco. It was beautiful, stylish and startling, and I considered, then that I cut an edgy and unusual figure with it dangling from my lips. All manner of colourful and unorthodox student characters drew me into their thrilling circles. No matter that it burnt my tongue and caused shooting pains across the roof of my mouth. My mother, horrified that I should produce such an uncouth item at the dinner table plied me with cigarettes in order to prevent embarrassment. Bingo. I became a cigarette smoker.

                During the ensuing years, whilst I pursued the usual route into career, marriage, children and divorce my relationship with smoking waxed and waned as by turns I gave up, then took up the vice. Once I gave it up for a whole ten years, beginning with selfless denial for the sake of my unborn babies and ending with the stresses and strains of marriage fall-out. I turned from lowly cigarettes to the more debonair joys of small cigars, sharing the pleasure with Husband [who’d made his appearance by this time].

                We jetted off for a few days in Barcelona, arriving to the hotel too late to buy cigars and with no prospect of obtaining any. We would have to do without. Next morning we determined not to succumb to cravings, resulting in some skirmishes as we went about our sightseeing-once, I believe in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. By the time we returned the worst was over and we were no longer nicotine addicts.

                Here in the south of France, as in many outposts of Europe and the Americas where it is banned in public places, cigarette smoking is rife. They cluster around the doorways of bars or puff away brazenly, flouting the law.

                I sometimes wonder if I shall take up electronic cigarettes as a consolation in old age-when all else is lost, perhaps, although I may well get to be as sick as my ten year old self in the old railway carriage…