A Mother’s Day Story – 2016

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Today is Mother’s Day and I am grateful I have a mum to visit. I will try not to feel sad when I see her, because I know she will not recognise the significance of the day. She will not know when she last saw me or spoke to me, she can not engage in conversation – but for now she sees me and knows my name. I know that ability, like everything else, will disappear. But I am holding on to this recognition, this small sign. Whenever she says my name, it makes me happy. There must still be something of her in here, behind the tired confused eyes and the mouth that struggles to find words. I’m clinging on, trying to understand, trying to appreciate the small things, savoring them before their eventual disappearance into a mysterious swirling abyss.

My mum, Nancy, has dementia. This cruel disease has slowly eroded her personality and I struggle to recognise the person that sits in the chair. Silly things – she is wearing slippers. This means nothing to most people – but she hated slippers, and despite all my attempts, the various ones I would buy her – would never wear them. Claimed she couldn’t walk in them. She always liked to wear smart shoes with a small heel, even around the house. She has bare legs – she would never go anywhere without her tights on, which often meant me going to the shop for emergency supplies – and as for trousers – don’t go there. But not only her appearance, her personality has changed dramatically.

We always had a strange mother/daughter relationship. Sadly plagued with various mental health problems throughout her life, often giving way to bouts of erratic behaviour, we tried to salvage some kind of relationship in between the chaos. She had a strong, forceful personality, we clashed a lot, I’m not sure I did a good enough job of trying to understand her. And the guilt eats at me.

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Mum with her friend Ann, July 1992

And I’m angry because I always felt she needed a break. She is an incredible 88 years old and I consider myself lucky to still have her – but life gave her a hard time with mental health issues and now she has been dealt the dementia card. I always wished she could find some some happiness in life. But if there is such a thing as a silver lining when it comes to dementia – she seems to have reached a peace of mind. I have been told this can happen to people with strong personalities and with mental health issues. I am trying to be grateful for this “side effect”.  But I am grateful because I am often reminded that when other people experience dementia it brings anxiety, frustration and out of character aggression. I am so grateful my mum seems to have dodged this bullet. But it does make me smile when people in the care home say “your mum is lovely and so gentle, is she always like this?” I just smile in acknowledgement but the truthful answer is no – she had a feisty, often argumentative and opinionated nature.

And I am guilty because while my mum seems to be dealing quite well with her dementia, I am not. I am ashamed to admit I’m struggling to cope with all these changes. I am floundering in the dark, eternally confused, trying in vain and failing miserably to understand what is going on in her head. I am trying to make sense of something which is nonsensical. I try to make conversation and fail. I don’t know how to engage with her. I don’t know what to do. I feel a failure. I don’t want the dementia to become all about me and my feelings, it’s not about me, but I have absolutely no idea how my mum feels, and she can’t tell me. It’s all guesswork and I try to understand and make sense of all of this in any way I can.

And I am grieving and missing the person I knew. Yes, even that argumentative person I often clashed with. We drove each other crazy. She was opinionated and stubborn but she could also be kind and display acts of kindness to those she liked – and you always knew if she liked you or not. Often unpredictable, with a quick and fiery temper to match her red hair, she was never shy of giving someone a short shift, often much to my huge embarrassment. I am grateful for the things she taught me – good manners, good grammar, a love for books, newspapers, reading, animals and birds. She had beautiful handwriting and loved to write letters. One of the saddest moments I can recall is when she was trying to write me a Christmas card (this was in March – you just have to go with this) and she couldn’t remember her alphabet or the letters to write. I just glossed over the incident but when I left her, I cried all the way home. She also had a sharp brain when it came to numbers and would mentally add up all the items in her shopping basket, so that when she got to the checkout she knew exactly what the bill would be. Sadly she didn’t pass this mental mathematical agility to me.

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Mum with her friend Ann, June 2004

After a slow start, her dementia has advanced dramatically over the past year. She was admitted under emergency respite care to a nursing home in August 2015, where she will remain. I desperately wanted her to return home to her sheltered housing complex, but her needs were too great. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Is this what she would want? I do not know, and she can not tell me. She seems to have no memory of where she lived before and doesn’t seem to miss it. It is a confusing world and I am confused also.

I have Power of Attorney, which I am grateful for, and I am responsible for making all decisions on her behalf, but the enormity of this decision weighs heavily on me. You want to do what’s best, I worry, and I still don’t know if I am making the right choices for her.

But she is looked after, she is close to me and I can visit her. I am grateful for this.

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Packing up her home was a heart-wrenching, weird experience, because it’s what you do when someone dies. I did this for my dad – who died in October 2014. It felt the same – but my mum hasn’t died, she is still here, albeit a slightly different version of herself. She was always fiercely private. It felt wrong to be going through her things, like a burglar with no right, and then deciding what to throw out or keep. I remembered the day we bought that stained glass owl picture in a charity shop on a rare weekend visit to Aviemore. Memories which now seem all the more precious, memories which are now lost to her. And although she is still here, she had no say in what stays or goes, or knowledge of what was going on. Needless to say I now have boxes of her things in my house. Random ornaments, terrible plastic flowers and horrendous trinkets I’ll never display, but can’t bring myself to throw out.

So where does all this leave us? I like to think of myself as a positive person, but yet I can’t escape the fact that dementia brings no hope. It’s only release is death. And I already have regrets. There is so much I don’t know about her life and there’s so many unanswered questions that will remain a mystery. But if dementia teaches you anything, it’s to live in the moment and to be grateful for any small things. Which is actually a good philosophy to have in life. My mum and I have a different relationship now, we can’t go back, we can only go forward. And while I’m missing and grieving the old her, I’m grateful she’s still here – and there are parts of this relationship I’m learning to appreciate and love. We are more tactile, she likes me painting her nails, she can sometimes look happy to see me, and she’ll tell me. And she laughs. I love when she laughs, often randomly and at things I can’t comprehend – but I don’t care. I cling to all those moments and take them when I can, and I know this is likely to be short lived. I’ll be grateful and enjoy the all times I have with my own children, my 19-year-old twin boys. And although it’s difficult, I try not to worry too much about the future, and pray we find a cure.

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Mum and me, Lanark High Street

Notes on dementia: The Scottish journalist and broadcaster, Sally Magnusson’s mum had Alzheimer’s disease and she wrote a book about her experiences called Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything. In her book she stated that  “If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy”.

There are around 36.5m people in the world suffering from dementia, 800,000 in the UK. The annual cost of care stands at around £400 billion a year – 1% of global GDP. In the UK that figure is more than £23bn, twice as much as cancer.

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Filed under Alzheimer's, Dementia, Mother's Day

Glasgow Wood Recycling, charity/social enterprise – showroom launch – February 2016

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Peter Lavelle gave up his job as a social worker to found charity and social enterprise, Glasgow Wood Recycling – and he continues to help people – but in a different way.

Founded in 2007, the company not only gives old pieces of wood a new lease of life but people who may be struggling to get back into the job market, can also get a lifeline.

Glasgow Wood Recycling collects wood from all over Glasgow and surrounding areas. The wood is brought back to the workshop in the city’s South Street and lovingly crafted into gorgeous bespoke furniture, befitting of any designer home. They make an array of mirrors, coffee tables, shelves, chairs, benches and more. And there is a huge benefit to the environment as the amount of wood ending up in landfill is reduced.

“Bespoke, hand-crafted furniture. Ethically produced in Scotland”  Glasgow Wood Recycling

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Previously employed as a social worker for many years, Peter continues to help people at Glasgow Wood Recycling through a 10 week programme called Making Wood Work – it’s where people are given a chance to train and to make progress towards employment. They get back into the workplace, learn vital skills and their confidence and self-esteem gets a huge boost. After the course many people go on and find full time employment.

Through word of mouth the company is thriving from their workshop space. They are rightfully proud of their work which deserves to be shown off – but they did not have the facility to do this – until now.

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Now GWR have a showroom, a newly converted portacabin space which allows them to showcase examples of what they do. Buy or order a piece and know that it comes with a story. You’re saving a beautiful piece of reclaimed wood, protecting our environment and helping someone to find work. Plus the furniture is gorgeous, exceptionally well made, sturdy and made to last forever.

Making Wood Work – Making a Difference.

Peter joined the Making Wood Work programme in 2015. He said:

At Making Wood Work we were making things that customers would purchase, so it’s not like you are involved in pointless tasks. You are in an actual work environment and you are expected to meet certain standards. This was good for me, as being out of work for a while I needed a sense that I was working towards something useful.

The really good thing about this programme is that it doesn’t end after the 10 weeks as they are really motivated to progress their volunteers into work or further advancement through courses and I was really impressed by this. My confidence got the boost it needed and I learned new skills, and ultimately I found paid employment, which I am over the moon about.

Here’s a selection of images from Glasgow Wood Recycling open day and Showroom Launch – 26th February 2016.

Glasgow Wood Recycling, Unit 6, Barclay Curle Complex, 739 South Street, Glasgow G14 0BX

0141 237 8566

info@glasgowwoodrecycling.org.uk

Useful links and follow:

@GlasgowWood

Glasgow Wood Recycling Facebook Page

Glasgow Wood Recycling

Zero Waste Scotland  Inspiring change for Scotland’s resource economy

Glasgow Wood Recycling are members of the Glasgow Social Enterprise Network

Initiatives such as Making Wood Work are helped by Big Lottery Fund Scotland

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Filed under Charities, Charity, Glasgow, Scotland, Social Enterprise

Profile – Dead Sleekit, making a Kickstarter Campaign work

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Scottish fashion designer Iain MacDonald of Dead Sleekit is celebrating. He’s achieved 118% of his  Kickstarter – Dead Sleekit Campaign reaching an incredible £4,786 (his target was £4,000 in four weeks), and with 140 backers, allowing him to start work on his second collection. The campaign ended on 28th February 2016.

Here’s his incredible story so far.

Who are they and what do they do?:

Dead Sleekit is the brainchild of Glasgow-based Iain MacDonald. A former Herald Scotland Graduate of the Year, Iain designs “wearable art”. He draws delicate and intricate prints by hand, which are then put together digitally and printed on a mixture of jersey and mesh. The results are wearable clothes in simple easy to wear shapes but their incredible prints make them stand out from the crowd.

Keeping everything Scottish, Iain uses local printing and his clothes are manufactured in Glasgow’s east end by a trusty band of seamstresses based at BeYonder Textiles, part of BeYonder Ltd, a great social enterprise company who call themselves ‘A Profit for Purpose Organisation‘. And with prices ranging from £30 – £80, it’s making wearable art accessible.

With his first collection under his belt, Iain turned to Kickstarter  to help him fund his second collection.  Kickstarter state “Our Mission is to help bring creative projects to life”.

The dreams of millions of people have become a reality since Kickstarter’s inception. The company that consists of 135 people based in an old pencil factory in New York said:

“Since our launch, on April 28, 2009, 10 million people have backed a project, $2.2 Billion has been pledged, and 101,176 projects have been successfully funded”. Kickstarter

Iain’s success is a good example of a well thought out Kickstarter campaign. It ticked all the boxes. If you are considering Kickstarter, here’s a few things to consider.

  • Everything on Kickstarter must be a project. Have a clear goal.
  • Set a realistic target/challenge/time scale.
  • Ensure your project is attractive, desirable and sought after.
  • Show your project off, market it well, use great images, or video if you have any.
  • Make the price range pledges accessible. Dead Sleekit’s pledges ranged from £1 to £290, with everything in between.
  • Ensure people are suitably rewarded. Dead Sleekit offered a bow tie for £8, exclusive art works for £15, a screen printed t-shirt for £20, posters for £35, designer clutch bags for £75 and a bespoke designed dress for £290.
  • Keep the momentum going. Engage with people. Use your networks, constantly update social media, give progress reports, reminders, use countdowns, get your pals to spread the word.  Word of mouth still works wonders.
  • Give thanks. Dead Sleekit thanked people along the way. See the half-way point personalised ‘Thank You’ image below.
  • At campaign end – post an update, but it doesn’t end there. Keep communicating with your new customers. Dead Sleekit promises his backers a secret Snapchat account with sneak peaks of behind the scenes progress.

To view Dead Sleekit’s Kickstarter campaign, see link Dead Sleekit – Kickstarter Campaign

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I asked Iain to give a quick insight into Dead Sleekit.

Tell us a little bit about your background and training?

I studied and specialised in Textiles and Surface Design for fashion at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen. Prior to that I studied Graphic Design and Fine Art. I tend to use my my love for fine art and graphics in my textile designs for my clothing label. During my time at Art School I did a placement at Alexander McQueen.

Tell us about your business – Dead Sleekit, and your first and limited collection which was called Veranico.

Dead Sleekit is a clothing label that loves print and emphasizes print through each collection. Every collection has meaning behind it and is derived for love in Art, stories and music.

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You’re about to start work on your second collection – what we can expect? How will it look?

The collection is inspired by American Horror Story, although this concept is quite dark it will have a pastel colour palette.

You’ve used Kickstarter as a way to fund this collection – how does this work and where does the money go / what does it help to fund?

Kickstarter helps a new business (or an existing business) to start a project which gets people involved. The aim is to raise money towards a project and also give back to people who pledge by offering exclusive rewards. We are offering bespoke scarves and dresses as well as prints and more unique gifts.

For people who donate and participate in the Kickstarter – what’s the benefits?

The benefits are backing an independent brand and watching them grow from the beginning of their development. Also,  getting some exclusive rewards and one of products from the project.

You’ve exceeded your target of £4,000 to fund your collection – well done! What happens next?!

I will be working away frantically and excitedly on everyone’s rewards. It also means the new textile prints I’ve been working on will be digitally printed to fabric so I can start working on my new collection.

Thanks to Iain MacDonald of Dead Sleekit for this little insight into his work and Kickstarter. Good luck on the new collection – can’t wait to see it!

Meanwhile – here’s a little view of his previous collection – see below. 

 

“Backing a project is more than just giving someone money. It’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world”. Kickstarter

Useful links:

Dead Sleekit

BeYonder Ltd

Kickstarter

 

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Filed under Art, Fashion, Glasgow, Kickstarter, Scotland

Tenement TV launch The People’s Film Collective at St Luke’s, Glasgow – 23rd February 2016

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St Luke’s is a music and arts venue based in a converted church in Glasgow’s east end. This beautifully restored Grade B listed building retains the church’s original features and includes stained glass windows and a pipe organ which dates back to the early 1800’s. Also within the venue is The Winged Ox bar & kitchen.

The venue was the perfect place to host the launch of Tenement TV’s – The People’s Film Collective – an event where music and movies come together, in unusual places.

Music came from Barrie-James O’Neill (Nightmare Boy) and The Bar Dogs. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its release (is it really that long?!) we were treated to a screening of Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo & Juliet. And when the film reached its tragic conclusion (no spoiler alert – everyone knows how the story ends! ) with Romeo & Juliet dying on a church altar surrounded by candle light – it was fitting that we found ourselves watching the sad scene unfold in St Luke’s. Here’s a selection of photos from the night.

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For more information on St Luke’s – see St Luke’s Glasgow Website

For more information on Tenement TV – see Tenement TV Website

 

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Filed under Events, Films, Gig Reviews, Glasgow, Live Music Reviews, Music, Photography, Scotland, St Luke's Glasgow

Mhor 84 Motel, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire, Scotland

DSC06331 If you want to sample the best that Scotland has to offer, you’ll find it just off a busy main road – the A84. Hence the name behind this cool establishment that is fast becoming a must-visit Scottish central belt hot spot. Think Route 66 but with glorious glens, mountains, mists and magical forests. And the location is perfect, it also services Cycle Route 7 and Rob Roy Way.

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Stay overnight at the hotel or in one of the nearby cottages. Or simply take a drive out and visit. Driving from Glasgow will take you just over an hour and the nearest town is Callander.

What I loved about Mhor 84 is the relaxed vibe. All are welcome – take your dog, take the kids, even if you’ve been out cycling or hiking the hills, and looking a bit tatty – the doors are open. And there’s plenty walks and trails around this area, which is called Rob Roy Country (the grave of the famous Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor is only around two miles away located beside Balquhidder Kirk). See my other blog post Balquhidder, Rob Roy Country

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Meanwhile at Mhor 84, there’s lots to enjoy – from the all day breakfast, to hearty soup, full blown lunches and dinners to hot chocolate, coffee and yummy cakes, then swill it all down with some fine wine, spirits, drams and beers. There’s no restrictions or stuffiness – choose whatever you fancy. You’ll easily sit, while away the day, and enjoy the beautiful views outside. There’s also a games room to keep kids and adults amused, which includes a pool table, TV, wi-fi, toys and board games.

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The Rob Roy Bar

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The relaxed dining room

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Mhor 84 excels in its food. With a full menu offering lots of options and delivering some fine Scottish produce. It’s worth visiting for the food alone.

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A healthy breakfast option

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Hearty Scotch Broth with tomato and ginger topping

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A healthy salad packed with flavours

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Is that a doughnut or a meringue? No joke – these meringues are seriously good!

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Kings of the Empire … biscuit …

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Be sure to check out the fish suppers at Mhor Fish in nearby Callander

Also part of the Mhor brand is Mhor Fish – located in nearby Callander – around a 15-20 minute drive from Mhor 84. This is a top notch fish and chip shop restaurant with tasteful, contemporary decor. Serving up great quality fish encased in batter that is so light and crispy, it melts in your mouth. Delicious. And while you’re here – also check out Mhor Bread – a bakery/coffee shop, full of cakes, shortbread, varieties of bread and award-winning pies.

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It’s also worth hanging around Mhor 84 on a Thursday night for “Thank Folk It’s Thursday”. The hotel becomes host to an array of musicians who pile through the doors with an assemble of instruments. Watching this scene unfold is like being part of a Marx Brothers movie. It becomes a jamming session for folk musicians – and extremely talented ones at that, featuring Ewan MacPherson of Shooglenifty. What adds to the charm is that there appears to be no set list/script or order. It’s wonderfully organic, free flowing, in the moment, and harmonious. And just when you think things can’t get any more surreal – in walks an elderly gentleman with a fascinatingly wizened face, dressed head to toe in swathes of plaid, drums on his back – and looking like he’s wandered off the set of Braveheart. When he’s not joining in on the music, he’s reciting old poetry and verse, retelling magical tales of Scottish folklore to an captivated audience. While all this is taking place, a lady sleeps in a chair, but still taps her feet to the music. A shaggy sheepdog settles for a snooze beside her, it’s not her dog, but he sees a good spot. Meanwhile all the staff, who incidentally are all charming and very friendly, never bat an eyelid. I don’t know if every Thursday night is like this, but the whole Mhor 84 package is bewitching. I can’t wait to go back.

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No bones about it – dogs are welcome at Mhor 84

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The Mhor the merrier … lots of quality from the Mhor brand to enjoy

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For more information see Mhor 84 Motel Website

For more information on the surrounding area see Rob Roy Country Website

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Filed under Food Reviews, Hidden Gems, Hotel Reviews, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Balquhidder, Rob Roy Country, Central Scotland

Balquhidder located Perthshire/Stirlinghire, Scotland is deep in the heart of Rob Roy country. He was a local outlaw, who was often called the Scottish Robin Hood. Baptised on 7th March 1671, he died in his house at Inverlochlarig Beg, Balquhidder on 28th December 1734. You can see his grave beside the ruins of Balquhidder Church.

It’s also said that St Angus visited Balquhidder Glen in the 8th or 9th century and identified it as a “thin place” where the boundary between Earth and Heaven was close.

Around this area you’ll find lots of walks and options to suit the adventurous to the easy ramblers but whatever path you take, you’ll feast your eyes on stunning scenery, lush green glades, towering trees, magical waterfalls and often snow topped mountains. Breathe in the fresh air, relax the mind in the quiet solitude and you can often experience all seasons in one day, as the sunshine gives way to showers and snow.

While you’re here you can also visit and stay at the excellent  Mhor 84 Motel – and see my other blog post. Review of Mhor 84 Motel It’s a Scottish gem with a cool laid back vibe and a perfect pit stop.

For more information see Rob Roy Country Website

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February 23, 2016 · 1:34 pm

Photo Gallery – Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, Scotland

Linlithgow Palace is the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. She was born here in 1542.

James I (1406 – 1437) started work on Linlithgow Palace in 1425. The building was finally completed nearly a century later by his great grandson James IV (1488-1513).

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February 12, 2016 · 11:13 am