Sunday, 19 June 2022

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'Flip flops' by Anita

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

Flip flops

by Anita


So this story isn’t about me.

It’s a normal March day, not really sunny and with those grey rain clouds. I’m bundled up against potential weather: black jeans, black puffa jacket, the blue scarf my mum knitted.

It’s the first day I’d felt like walking after the lumbar puncture. I don’t usually start with that, I mention the giant Co-op cake I’m carrying.

I’m walking home through the park, my legs are just starting to get tired, but I keep going. A man brushes past me, almost sends the cake flying. He’s wearing black-framed glasses, a faded blue tracksuit with the bottoms cut off, and dirty black plastic flip-flops. He’s just had his dark-brown hair cut, cos he had those red bumps you get if they razor.

Next thing, this other man’s yelling something, and he’s running. He’s blonde, wearing Saturday afternoon clothes. You know, jeans and a crumpled Homer Simpson t-shirt.

The conversation goes like this:

“Stop him!”

“Whaaat?” I clutch the cake tighter.

“That guy, stop him. He tried to break into my car!”

Running-man looks me over, and I know what he sees. A tall, Asian bloke, muscly enough to be handy. What I used to be. He doesn’t see I can’t help him, but enough strangers know my business. Those muscles don’t always work now. Luckily, my mouth does.

“Mate, I’ve got cake.” Gesture with my chin, in case he’s missed it. “But he’s just there, by the swings. You’ll catch him, no problem.”

And he is still there, you know, shuffling, not even half-way through the park. Not much faster than me now. The worst getaway in the history of crime. He edges down the slope to the sand-pit, and running-man is off. I never see either of them again.

It’s a good story, isn’t it? It’s got everything: action, suspense, cake. I tell it a lot. It helps pass the time with blood tests, in waiting-rooms, bored or nervous, listening for “Hello Iqbal, we’ve got your results.”

I don’t usually explain the cake, because if you’re ever going to buy a carrot cake bigger than your head, it’ll be after you’ve seen a neurologist. It’s a normal reaction, whatever that means.

Everyone sides with the running man, his actions don’t need explaining. But I can’t remember his face.

Sometimes I need an ending, and running-man catches up. Traps him between two parked cars and calls the police. Or punches him, right in the gut. Flip-flop man never gets away.

I could draw you a picture of flip-flop man, down to those bumps on his neck. With his ragged unravelling tracksuit and doomed way of responding to a crisis. Would I have chased him, before?

I see him now, slowly, slowly, shuffling away from his fate. Did he have a plan?

Does he think he’s going to win?

I hope the ending wasn't too painful.

 

 

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'Loneliness' by Jaycee

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

Loneliness

by Jaycee

 

They say “no man is an island”, maybe it’s more of a truth to say everyman is his own island. How often it is in the depths of loneliness, that we reach a deeper understanding of what is truly needed in order to nurture ourselves fully? There can be no clearer truth than to look in the mirror and see the reflection standing in front of us. How often are we looking on the outside for our needs to be fulfilled? when the things we seek the most can so easily be sourced from within. Often it is the things we seek most from others that holds a clue to the things we deny most for ourselves.

It’s a sour pill to swallow, feeling on the outskirts, invisible and alone even if surrounded by physically people or in a group. To hear the Soul, scream out to be seen and heard and to belong has been a common thread throughout my life. Yet where I have felt it the most has been in my role as an unpaid carer where I’ve struggled most with the empty void of loneliness. Somehow, it felt easier to cocoon myself in a bubble of self-protection, rather than face the risk of not fitting, being seen and not heard, judged or misunderstood. So, I kept myself to myself and purposely cut myself off.  It was only when I enquired within?  I realised that it was “I” who was casting the finger of judgement towards myself. “Could it be that the situation I was in, was mirroring my internal environment?”

I wanted to be included, yet how much of myself was I including in the world around me? How present, curious, proactive was “I” being? How often I was I picking up the phone and reaching out? Was it that I felt so disconnected to myself that I lacked confidence and felt resistance connecting with others?  If this was so then surely it was “I” who held the key to the solution.  

I wanted to be acknowledged. Yet how much was “I” acknowledging my strengths, qualities, successes? I wanted to be heard? Yet was “I” really listening to myself? my needs, my desires, my boundaries. I wanted to be seen, yet what was the self-image “I” was creating? I want to be loved? Yet in what ways was “I” creating a loving relationship with myself?

The formula was simple - change the way I think, change the way I feel. And do it with a full heart. When the heart is full it gives and receives unconditionally, without expectations or the need for validation from external sources. And so, the answer came “think love, give love, be love” Love is nourishing, kind and forgiving, where love exists there can be no fear. The homework now, was to put it in practice. 

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'Summer 1981' by George

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

Summer 1981

by George


Summer in Riakia, a small village outside Katerini in Northern Greece (near Thessaloniki) in 1981 was both blissful and idyllic. The days were long and sunny, but tempered by the gentle breeze rolling and strolling from the multitude of mountains surrounding the peaceful and sedate village. My uncle was a sheep farmer, and I helped him with his flock on a daily basis. We also harvested the hazelnut trees, an event made more memorable by my mother's frantic, frenetic, frenzied dance (due to being stung several times inside her blouse).

The other reasons for these memories being firmly entrenched in my mind were the cafe society of men drinking strong Greek coffee, playing both backgammon and with their komoboli; and, the cold bitter nights made comfortable by heaps of hand-woven blankets being plied high on my bed.

However, the most enduring memory was the food- simple, rustic, nutritious. For 2 whole months, I literally lived off 4 staple foods: hot, fresh, crusty, delicious, home-made bread; scrumptious, juicy, mouth-watering watermelon sold for 10 drachmas a piece; shop-bought strawberry thick-set natural Greek yoghurt — a pure taste of Heaven. So much so that I would lick the inside of both the lid and the pot. However, the piece de resistance was number four, home-made (by my aunt) Greek feta. It was tangy, salty, zesty. You could almost taste the sheep and the goat. It was to die for literally.

Speaking of which, it was the Summer of no meat. I had become a voluntary or involuntarily vegetarian depending on your viewpoint. The only time that I ate meat was to celebrate the huge country-wide festival of 15th August (the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) when copious amounts of pork and pitta bread did pass my lips. 

Oh, how I long for those unforgettable days and nights of Summer 1981. The memories will have to suffice.

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'When The Light Fades' by Veronica

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

When the Light Fades

by Veronica


In Bed Six lies the Sleeping Princess,
At her side, in Bed Five, is the Duchess with loyal Duke.
Each night when the ward lights dim
And sounds are dampened, apart from
The constant beep of the drips
A transformation begins.
While sleep escapes me
And weariness drives over me,
Holy pictures appear,
Visions from a childhood prayer book,
Icons from a richly embroidered tapestry.

The Princess, with her head gently tilted to one side,
Propped up with pillow clouds,
Dozes in a morphine mist whilst
The biting pain is briefly swept away
Her frail hand hovering over the Mercy Button.
The Duchess tightly clutches Duke,
His stuffing peeping through the seams,
Careworn, wear worn, comforting.
She rests, motionless on her back
With her mouth wide open
Ready to call
“Will somebody help me please”
So softly that nobody hears....

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'Who Cares about Unpaid Carers' by Charlie

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

Who Cares about Unpaid Carers
by Charlie


My mum raised me in a very loving joyful and kind way.
Now she is 89 and has dementia, it's my turn to care her for which I feel honoured privileged and blessed to be able to repay.

To keep mum safe I have left my job as a paid care support worker so now I am an unpaid care worker. My hours have doubled and duties increased. The government does not contribute to my pension and no paid holidays.

What I'm learning about this caring role is the work is invisible to and unrecognised by the government.
This is reflected in the carers allowance of 69.90 a week which if worked out as 35 hours a week is 2 pounds an hour. The reality is I do much longer hours so it works out even less is spent.

I get 2 pounds an hour for being an advocate, defender, protector and care provider, looking after my mum's health and welfare with empathy, compassion and candour.

As this cost-of-living crisis hits I am being forced to use my savings.
Having to cut back on food, holidays and other things.

I don’t understand why when the chancellor announced a cost-of-living support package, Carers Allowance was excluded from the benefits listed as qualifying for the £650 payments. This lack of humanity, and dignity fills me with rage.

My mum worked for many years in a south London hospital as a psychiatric nurse caring for the most vulnerable in our community.

In return the government pays me 2 pounds an hour as the amount they have calculated to give back and show they don’t value or recognise her contribution when she worked on those difficult wards with such kindness and generosity.

I am grateful to all the unpaid carers you are a special group making life more pleasant and joyful for our older generation.

It's an honour to give back and to every unpaid carer I see you, I value you and you give me hope in your courage to follow a selfless path of care, love and dedication.
 

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'It's a Myth' by Laura

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

It's a Myth

by Laura



It’s a myth, but a beautiful myth.

Walt Disney himself would be proud to portray,
The jokes that we shared, the smiles and the play
The fun and the laughter on old tattered rugs
In the flat that we shared, the kisses and hugs
Awake to a mug of both coffee and tea
Cucumbers bob in a salad cream sea
Coppery curls and a serious frown
The softest of foreheads all covered with down
Our holiday chalet, the stroll to the sand
The sun shining down as you held my hand
Naively, I played with my two little daughters
To the sounds of a bridge over troubled waters
Then had I known what the future would hold
That the warmth of the sun would turn so cold
That the fire you lit when you entered my life
Formed the blade of the steel of the very same knife
Used to stab and to wound and to blame and to shun
With the aim and the hate of a loaded gun
With sadness I dream of times that were shared
At times I wonder if you ever cared
Does a path still exist to a place we can meet -
Will this forever be a one-way street?
The pain of missing you is so very real
The liquid black eyes of a baby seal
Curly dark lashes and the trusting stare
I‘ll never forget you,  though you no longer care
The hands of mothers I’ve held at their last
The futile questions they continue to ask
The white lies I’ve fed them, they’ll turn up one day
Sometimes I hardly know what to say
As my own heart aches to know that others
Share the precious bond of daughters and mothers
The ups and downs of fast modern living
Annoyance, conflict, as well as forgiving
Shedding of selfish introspection
Merging into mature affection
Seeing us mothers for who we are
The same frightened girls who’ve made it so far
Since that’s all we are.
I hope one day your heart will grow
And maybe too, your mind will know
That the faults I have are truly real
But they’ll never match the love I feel
For my daughters who I’ll never leave
However much they make me grieve
For now, reality has to be
That a caring future cannot be
The dream of years ahead of me
With my grown up daughters, regretfully
Is a myth, it’s a myth, it’s a myth,
It’s beautiful, but a myth.

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'Can you hear me?' by Megan

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.

 

Can you hear me?
by Megan

Author's note: This story is just a reminder how easy it is to forget the person we are looking after has a tale to tell and how we can lose the fact that they are trying to tell us in some way, a reminder to stop talking and just listen.


"Sal, he had his breakfast did not eat it all, he is like that sometimes. He should eat his lunch, he’ll be hungry by then."
 

"Kim, You know when they get old they don't eat much."
 

"That's true, poor thing."


Can you hear me? you are rushing me. I am trying to tell you to feed me more slowly, can't chew fast, you did not put my teeth in, they’re still smiling at me in the glass.


"Come on we have lots to do today, Bob is taking me and the kids to that new place."

"What new place?"

"You know, it was the old factory at the corner of Newmarket street, have to put on my best frock, kids don't like dressing up but they’ll have to, it says smart dress."

I remember the old factory from my first job at fifteen. I could tell you a tale or two. I remember one time...

"Come on let's get him out of bed. Come on Larry, move your feet."
 

"I think he does this on purpose, Sal."

Can you hear me? Please look at me. I am trying but my body will not follow instructions from my mind. Please, can you hear me?

I too have a tale to tell, I recall the wet cold mud, we were packed like sardines in the trenches, would have been glad for sardines then. instead we had the dead and the living all packed head to toe in the trenches, wish I could tell you but like everything else it’s now silent. But it will go with me.

Can You Hear Me?


"Come on Larry, get a move on. Try to shuffle to the end of the bed."

"Sal did I tell you about that stuck up cow from next door? Her girl’s in the family way.”

"Didn't know she was married." 

"Come on Sal, these days it's always the cart before the horse."

 

Wandsworth Carers Series 2022: 'Flip flops' by Anita

This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read m...