Letting the Grass Grow Under My Feet

By Jo Collinge

I hate to admit it, it has been quite some time since I last blogged…. in fact I had originally started this blog two weeks ago, but after what has not been such a good day in the Collinge household I decided to sit down and make an effort to finish and publish before I go to bed.

I have been so busy I haven’t had a moment to draw breath, let alone sit down at my pc and write anything – including sending an email to my oldest and dearest school friend to wish her a happy birthday a few weeks ago. Well – that is a lie about the blogs – I have sat down and started a few over the last month, but have never actually succeeded in finishing any.

This blog was originally started at the end of a very frustrating week for me – I had been experiencing weird things going on with my left foot, where it keeps rolling unnaturally on to its outer edge, with my toes going in to spasm and the pain of muscle cramp frankly worse than childbirth. It seems to happen just before my meds are due, especially if I am running late or particularly busy. I had had a particularly bad night the previous week, and ended up at three in the morning in the bathroom, having my third hot bath of the night to try to ease the pain, having already taken two paracetamol and the last sleeping tablet originally prescribed by my GP when I ran my car off the road last September. I was not in a good place, and eventually Elise, having heard me, woke up my husband to come help me out of the bath, as I was totally and utterly stuck. It was sheer exhaustion which resulted in my eventually falling asleep when I got back in to bed, a sleep which had to be cut short as I was due to go to London in the morning for a Policy Panel meeting at Parkinson’s UK HQ in Vauxhall Bridge Road. Needless to say, Tim ran me to the station and I caught a later train which meant that I showed up half an hour late. I was so exhausted that I then fell asleep during the afternoon session – not good and I was extremely pleased to see my bed when I finally got home!

Whilst waiting for my train after the meeting I rang one of my favourite Parky People – Tom Isaacs of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. I needed to talk to someone about this foot business, and I knew from reading Shake Well Before Use that Tom has in the past and/or does experience similar things happening. On describing to him what had been happening, he immediately said that he thought it sounded like distonia, and asked me if I had been eating sweets, to which I answered with an absolutely whopping lie that I hadn’t. I didn’t like to admit to him that I had put in a very long day the day before at the farm, where I am currently working, and on my way home had done a detour to the local supermarket to buy some sweets. I needed a sugar fix, and I needed it fast. By the time I got home I had eaten almost a full packet of Liquorish All Sorts, closely followed by almost a complete packet of Jelly Babies. I reluctantly shared a few with Tim, Elise and Antonia, but it was very grudging. Since then I have felt so bad about lying to Tom, that I emailed him a few days later and came clean. His response, typically, was that he thought that I sounded guilty just by the way that I said No. He then admitted that he had a bag of Jelly Babies the day before and hadn’t shared them with anyone – way to go Tom!

As I mentioned earlier, I have been working for the last six weeks or so at a farm. It has been a long held “dream” of mine to grow vegetables just like we did when I was a child, not just a few in the back yard, but enough to maybe see us Collinges through the summer, and enough to lay away in the freezer for at least the start of the winter months. The only problem is that the soil in our garden, as well as the layout (ie north facing, heavy clay soil imported when the house was built, etc. etc) is not conducive to growing vegetables successfully, and our village has absolutely no allotments to speak of. Having met one of the local farmers recently, who goes by the name of “Mutley”, we came to the agreement that I maintain his family vegetable patch, in exchange for my share of the spoils, free eggs, and hopefully the occasional joint of meat.

So, here I am, six weeks in, working for nothing, for Mutley and his wife Caroline, trying to maintain a vegetable plot that is more like an acre, the weeds are growing like fury rather than the veggies, the place is one massive mud slide as it keep raining but I am having the time of my life. The weather has been absolutely diabolical since the children went back to school after the Easter holidays, and not one single day has passed without a full on rain storm, normally complete with hail, thunder and lightning. On top of all that the wildlife have helped themselves to the seeds carefully sown in various pots and trays in the greenhouse. And the Met Office are insisting this part of England is still officially in dought. Drought my foot – pull the other one – it has bells on t!

OK – so I’m literally back to square one with the vegetable acre. I have resorted to bringing home all the pots and trays and seeds and starting again. My kitchen table has been turned over to a small nursery of various seedlings being coaxed in to some form of life so that I can go and plant them out at the vegetable acre – if it ever stops raining long enough that is. Mutley, meanwhile, has rotivated the beds by driving his tracter on to the site and making short work of it within about an hour. Well, why use a nut cracker to crack a nut when a sledge hammer will do? In addition to that, he has managed to sow most of the potatoes, whilst I seem to prat around sowing seeds in pots for the wildlife to eat and fussing over the edges of the paths.

Caroline, meanwhile, is busy with her project of rearing lambs – presumably for the farm freezer. I believe it is her first year of doing this, and so far so good. Two of the ewes had twins, and the third had a singleton – all boys. Unfortunately one of the twins was weak when born, and having been rejected by his Mum, he has adopted Caroline, primarily as she is a dab hand with the bottle and he is a typical boy. He is fast becoming a bit of a family pet, has been christened “Kevin” and is now destined to become the “stud” ram at the farm (with the exception of his birth mother of course). I think Kevin has realised that he is in a very privileged position to be keeping his “crown jewels” whilst his brothers are loosing theirs, and looks very pleased with himself when trotting along at Caroline’s heel, looking very smart in his yellow flourescent collar against his black woolly coat.

Having started Tae Kwon Do with Antonia a few months ago, I have got totally and utterly hooked and have been getting to grips really well with the set moves, with my sights firmly set on my first grading coming up in June. Until a couple of weeks ago that is, when during the warm up I managed to bang my right knee whilst doing some enthusiastic press ups, which then came up in a huge lump. It wasn’t painful in any way, just unsightly and I was advised by the Sports Centre first aider to go home, raise my leg up and apply an ice pack, with the advice not to drive for a few hours and if it got painful to see a doctor. So, no pain since then at all, but on the swelling going down, I have been left with an extremely nasty bruise in its place. So, having not done any Tae Kwon Do for a while, we managed to get there on time for a change last Friday, for me to then realise that I hadn’t taken my drugs….. So, back home, take drugs, go back and try to join in after the warm up with my left foot starting to misbehave – again – and just not being able to get to grips with any of the set moves. Talk about one step forward and several shuffles back…..

Today, more than ever, Tim and I were sadly reminded of the fragility of life and just how important it is to live each and every day to the full rather than letting the grass grow under our feet. We had received news that Tim’s nephew, Christopher, is terminally ill with gastric cancer and not expected to last more than a few days at best. Tim and Chris had gone their seperate ways about 5 years ago, and Chris had made it very clear to his family that he wanted to see his Uncle before he died. This wasn’t an easy call for Tim to answer as he hasn’t been in contact with any of his relatives in those intervening years. Add to that the problem that Tim just “doesn’t do” critical illness/dying/death in any way, shape or form. However, having discussed it, we went to the hospice together, and I left Tim at the door so that he could go in alone, and spend time with his nephew to whom he was once so very close. A decision I believe he will never regret and I am so relieved he didn’t let the grass grow under his feet today.