Monday 26 February 2007


Mum's friend P and I have been on the phone a lot today with me as a go-between after P became concerned that Mum was incapacitated some way. Mum's lost the knack of using her answer machine recently, but today she seemed to forget how to use the phone at all. I had to call Careline, who operate Mum's emergency/entry-phone system, just to make sure she was okay. We eventually managed to talk her through using the telephone again, but I've gone and bought a old-style corded phone online for her which will arrive on Wednesday. I'm hoping that the Warden will help her set it up.

Friday 23 February 2007


I decide to leave a message on Mum's answer machine for a change.

This is something I would not normally do, since she is liable to call me up time after time for days, thinking that the message is new. In the past, I've had to ask the Warden to visit her and wipe the message from her machine.

This time, I'm hoping it'll work to my advantage. My message is that I want her to start the letter to my Sister that I've been asking her to write for the past 5 years or so, to explain why she's written her out of her Will. I say something like: "As you haven't got much on at the moment, I wonder if maybe you could get around to... etc".

After an hour or so, my phone rings once and then cuts out. I look and it was Mum calling - she doesn't seem to be able to use the phone without doing this at least once. A minute later, I get the call proper and I answer.

"You rang?"
"Oh, it's YOU!" she says, in some surprise.
"Mum, you rang ME"
"Well, the light was blinking"
"That's because there was a message for you. Did you listen to it?"
"So why did you ring me?"
"I dialled 1471 to get my message but all it gave was your number"
"Mum, do you know how to hear your messages?"
"Yes, I dial 1471!"
"No, Mum. That isn't anything to do with your machine, that's a BT service to tell you the number that last phoned you."
"If you want to play your message, you have to press the play button on your machine. It looks like a triangle pointing to the right.... do you see it?"
"Yes, should I press it now?"
"No, it won't work while I'm talking to you on the phone. Wait until you've ended the call and try then"

I explain what the message was. She starts getting breathless, the sign these days that she's overloaded. I try and calm her down. She tells me that she doesn't want to write the letter. At first she says it's because she has "too much on these days". I probe this and find it's stuff like "shopping" and "doing the dishes". Next, she tells me that she tries not to write at all these days because she doesn't like her handwriting. I point out to her that she wrote over a hundred Christmas cards a two months ago (and it seemed like she told me a hundred times). She tries to wriggle further off the hook, saying that she has already told my Sister - no - my Brother-in-law - her reasons. I point out that she agreed to write this years ago and has twice promised her Solicitor, that she would do so. I tell her she doesn't need to finish it today, that she can make a start and add to it over the next few days. I offer to listen to the various drafts. I know she won't do it. I don't even think she knows why she doesn't want to do it. I suspect that she just dreads it because she knows that she's done a bad thing and doesn't want to face it. Nowadays she operates on gut reactions and then invents useful rationalisations to explain her decisions. I decide to leave it for now.. again. We end the call.

Five minutes later, my phone rings once and then rings again. I answer.

"Oh, it's YOU!" she exclaims.


I think I need to stencil a message in foot-high letters all around Mum's flat which says, "Ring G BEFORE ringing any company". Every single time I only get to hear about these things afterwards:

3 guesses.... you got it! Yes, it's the car. Unused since last September it wouldn't start, so she called "Norwich Union" (who she always thinks is her insurer, despite having documents from "more than/Sun Alliance") and asked them to come out. They of course simply contacted the Volkswagen dealership, who took the car and replaced the battery (yes... again!). Coup de grace, Mum asked them to do "a service" on the car, which they were obviously delighted to do, having done one about 6 months ago and 4 months before that. I think the word "Service" is a scrap in her head she retains from when Dad was alive. If only she'd attach the word "annual" to it. Actually, that wouldn't help, what with her concept of time being so skewed.

I pointed out to her that we could have rung the dealership ourselves and not used the insurers. I reminded her that after she'd done this five times last year they actually told her that they wouldn't come out a sixth as she'd used up her quota. She made the usual noises which indicate that she has no memory of this and is tolerating me rather than challenging me on it.

I've spoken to the Warden. Turns out that he urged her to call me about it this morning, otherwise I would not have heard at all.

What is the point of me staying in this country if she doesn't use me and I just get the fallout rather than being able to help?