Jonathan: It’s already a fortnight since Denise’s Mum moved to Sacred Heart care home in Daliburgh: my goodness where does the time go! The move came much sooner than we’d expected. The need was already beyond doubt : it was just a matter of time before ‘a room became free’ (a euphemism if ever there was!). Of course we did have last minute doubts: was she really getting beyond our coping? were we just being selfish? For her last evening at home with us Betty was on better form than she’d been for a long time, actually following the TV – it was Countryfile in the Peak District – with interest and a degree of understanding, and we were able to talk with her about the Peak District – with which she has been familiar throughout her life – and the events of her younger days. But out of the blue, in the midst of the Countryfile weather forecast – she pulled her glasses forward and asked us to look at ‘something’ on her nose that was bothering her: Other than the groove in which her glasses have perched for more than sixty years, we could see nothing of note. We were about to say as much when she volunteered further clarification : “It’s a fish, I think … It might even be a Cod”. There followed a silence, as profound as it was brief, in which the nagging voices of doubt and guilt were swallowed up as if into a black hole of sound, re-emeerging the other side in one great burst of belly-deep eye-watering laughter, and even Mum herself couldn’t help but join in! Denise: What on earth do you mean, you daft old woman! Betty (glowing from the laughter): Well … I don’t rightly know! We’ve had plenty of the same over the past couple of years, but never to such good effect!
Denise: Over the next days I’ll be packing bags for an eight week stay, which could turn into a permanent move away. But it’s not me that I’m packing for, nor Jonathan, but my mum, Betty. We now have a date for her moving into residential care (strictly speaking, at this stage, it’s an eight-week trial) – at Sacred Heart, Daliburgh (where she currently goes three times a week for day care). More about this, in a day or two, perhaps.
Jonathan: One day you’re 17 – a juvenile and free of all cares; the next you’re 18 and burdened with all the responsibilities of adulthood. Apparently. Ten years ago right now, heading home from our first visit to the Outer Hebrides (and just two days before that our first visit to the walled garden), Denise and I were camped for the night off a quiet road between Moffat and Lockerbie. It was a still quiet evening, moodily overcast, a moment of stand-still between early summer vigour and the slow decline towards autumn. The following months we tossed and turned, the clamouring hopes and nagging fears held at bay with a mantra of ‘it’s now or never’. But within six months we were here at An Garradh Mor, cast off from almost all the familiar and trusted hold-fasts of life. Ten years on and today’s my 55th birthday, and yesterday’s hopes have become today’s to-do list: The fears? Well, many just melted away; but others persist as worry lines. The ages of man are redefined by each generation to suit itself; but was there ever a generation content to be known as ‘middle aged’ – neither one thing nor another? Yes, Denise and I are growing a bit faded and worn at the edges, but as to being in our middle age, I look around at all the many projects in progress, and the even more numerous daily tasks, and I have to admit we certainly always seem to be in the middle of something! And I expect tomorrow will be just the same.
Denise: Thank heavens for Becky’s annual visit to her Mum and Dad: we get to go on excursions – you know, just for the pleasure of it. This evening we went down to Daliburgh machair and walked down the track to Cladh Thallan prehistoric settlement and then on to be beach – which stretches away into the distance, white sand and pale blue skies, a refreshing release from the heat wave that has unexpectedly settle over the Hebrides.
Denise: A few days ago J started taking U9 and 4/4 over to the croft with him to gradually reintroduce them to the flock. They quickly learnt to jump into the cage at the back of the car – just like Tilly! This evening J’s taken them over to Eriskay to spend their first night back on the croft. He’s got the big white fish box – lined with straw – that they’ve been sleeping in in the wood store, and set it amongst the rosa rugosa, for them to spend the night in. Here’s J taking a few quality moments with the two lambs before setting off.