Jeanne Ellin: Fun with grandsons, workmen and my first wheelchair ride

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My flat is 10ft by 20ft excepting a very small kitchen and bathroom. Snug for one, challenging for containing two 2 year old boys, plus their mother and I.

Grandmother and grandson reading They are very ingenious at finding ways to amuse themselves and us. My kitchen blind is an old favourite, as are the light switches; searching for and attempting to befriend the cat was another ongoing interest. A small cache of toys is occasionally refreshed.

A little Sylvania house – an eBay find – is filled with furniture and animals, the random arrangement of which gives me many smiles and them many intent minutes. I notice that all the little creatures and Lego people are firmly assigned male gender, any dresses are promptly removed.

Today’s play involved a toilet and a Lego girl – “No! Boy, Grandma” – who wanted to use the toilet, carefully checking the toilet roll before standing up inside the toilet.

Usually I block off access to my bed.

Today I decided to try something different. I encouraged them to explore behind the bookcases that screen my bed. “See if you can find Grandma’s bedroom.”

They looked for some ‘up stairs’, then found my bed and asked to jump on it. I said “Yes, with shoes off”. The cat’s old bed B boy felt belonged on mine. He has a very tidy mind. Sadly he could not fit inside the cat bed. Q boy went on a quest to find and match shoes and bags. Green Grandma shoes, black Grandma shoes, orange sandals all matched with bags. But he was defeated by the snakeskin trainers.

I pointed out the Chinese dragon over the kitchen door to B boy: he was very interested and showed it to his brother. I have a plan, now they have noticed it I will move it before their next visit, moving it somewhere new each time. The story will be that the dragon is looking for someone. I have a second identical dragon who can be found. The dragon’s lost twin brother!

I think this could give us material of several visits and some drawing and story-telling.

I am thinking how to rearrange things to make a tunnel to explore… Second childhood is so much fun!

At last the prospect of a warmer winter 2017!

We will be a building site for the next 4-6 months; our heating works may be completed by spring. So back to getting out the woolly hats, fingerless gloves and insulated socks for indoors.

It gets really cold with our elderly storage heaters. These will be replaced with newer ones in the spring after our doors and windows are replaced; some draughty days ahead.

We will also have some external insulation which will involve scaffolding round my flat for 4-8 weeks and noise and drilling between 8am and darkness,but not weekends.

The whole complex will be a building site and dangerous to negotiate. We are advised to keep pets in and windows closed during this time. So winter 2017 should be warmer. The delay is down to the collection of loose ends who comprise our housing association management team. Their gifts include profound inertia and an addiction to games of ‘Pass the parcel (blame)’. When the music stops the only ones without seats are the residents.

My toilet stopped flushing and I rang our dedicated repairs call centre. Was asked if this was my only toilet which puzzled me – even the couples flats only have one

Plumber came promptly to the delight of my visiting grandsons, though it did complicate the visit. They love tools and toilets and he wore a headlamp light on his forehead. He was unhappy with the small size of the bathroom and wondered how I managed. The answer? I manage because I must.

The toilet is antique but he did his best saying I must use force in flushing. After he left I could not flush the loo nor could my daughter, a fit young woman, manage it. So back to the call centre and a very tense and stressed woman accused me of using a speaker phone and demanded that I ring back, as there was an echo on her side of the line.

I said that I have no such facility and after holding on for 15 minutes before getting through was unwilling to do so. She also asked if I had another toilet. We persisted and the plumber returned. He asked if I could use the communal toilet? No, it is upstairs and I have mobility issues. Temporary fix but new would have to be approved by his boss. The next day 9-10am, stayed by phone all morning. No call but temporary fix working so if it breaks down will go through the same hoops again.

First of the new sessions with the student doctors

Ten earnest bright young people. Just a 20-minute ‘getting-to-know-you’ session.

First use of a wheelchair for me to conserve energy for getting home without stumbling. The other elder, waiting with me in the foyer where the wheelchair had been parked till it and I were collected, asked if I could transfer between the chairs.

He also told me about 90 year olds he knew who were clients of his in a disabled sailing project. I did not feel inclined to educate, explain or justify myself to him. He shook my hand hard enough to hurt and spent our waiting time telling me about his various projects.

I assume he thought I had none. At any rate he did not enquire.

Jeanne Ellin

About Jeanne Ellin

I am a poet working at living a creative life in a one room flat, companioned by a menagerie of chronic health problems. I began this series of posts after being inspired by two women younger than myself, who, fearful of their imagined old age spent in ill health and poverty, committed suicide. I explore every year as a bonus of adventures, with moments of discomfort or fear, but with unexpected treasure to be found - helped by a sense of the ridiculous, a world perspective and creativity.