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Before we married, WB [husband] lived at home with his widowed mother, the most delightful mother in law one could wish for, superbly old fashioned, and a slave to routines.

You know the scene, Monday is laundry, Tuesday scrub the floors and beat the rugs,

Wednesday for black leading the grate, polishing the brass door knocker, scrubbing the doorstep (I think something called Mansion polish featured somewhere in this) and making the windows sparkle, Thursday for I forget what, probably darning socks and sewing on buttons and stuff, Friday for baking and getting the obligatory fish from the fish monger, Saturday for shopping, Sunday for early mass, the roast,and heating the water for the weekly bath and change of underwear (HONESTLY).

The evening meal, 'tea', was on the table at 6pm, not a minute later, and Sunday lunch was on the table at 1pm, again, not a minute before, not a minute after. High tea on Christmas Day was exactly the same as it was the year before, and the year before that, even down to how many triangles of bread and butter were on the plate. I sometimes wondered if mum in law even counted the glacé cherries on the sherry trifle.

Having been brought up in a much more relaxed household of 10, parents and 8 offspring, and later living in my own house, I just could not cope with this concept of rigid routine, and our prenuptial agreement, drawnup by me but happily accepted by my lovely fiancé, reflected this.

The rules we agreed on were roughly that we ate when we were hungry, or when I felt like cooking, laundry was done when we were running out of clean clothes, the windows were cleaned whenthe view got cloudy, the shopping done when cupboards and pantry shelves needed restocking, the cleaning was done when we were expecting visitors, or had a gap in our social calendar,the bedding was changed when we thought about it, and darning socks was not part of my job description.

This continued, successfully, throughout our happy and harmonious marriage, and we actually never starved, smelt, or lived in squalor.

Then when you become a carer, you have a jolt. You quickly realise that the job cannot be done efficiently and safely without the dreaded routines.

As an example, meal times chez nous, even on Christmas day, follow a pattern, particularly the evening meal. I plate up my plate and WB's bowl, I eat mine in the kitchen, and by the time I have finished, his is cool enough, and I feed it to him in the bedroom. I then give him his last drugs of the day, and carry out some of the settling down procedures. I stack the pans into the sink to be dealt with in the morning, fill the dishwasher, lock the doors, and then we settle down with a glass of wine, and watch some TV until one or both of us falls asleep.

From time to time, kind and well meaning friends ring to say they are coming over after work, and will bring fish and chips. As much as we enjoy their company, the eating/feeding together in the bedroom does not really work. J&C eat from a tray perched precariously on their knees, I eat standing up, or else bobbing up and down like a jack in the box, popping a forkful into my mouth and then a spoonful into his. As I can eat twice as quickly as Wriggly Bum, the rhythm gets out of sync, and I frequently get his spoonful and he gets my forkful. More seriously, the multi tasking and chatting at the same time take my concentration off checking his swallowing, and I am ashamed to say that choking occurs.

J& C help me to clear up. I am tired, and would rather leave it until morning (I am a lark, not an owl) but they insist that they cannot leave it to me. We have another drink, We chat. They leave. By this time WB is already asleep, and I am not far behind, once I have seen to doors, curtains and lights. I then wake up in a panic, in the early hours of the morning, remembering that I did not do his night time meds!

All because I did not follow our routine!

I could quote so many other examples of errors and omissions which have occurred when, and because, the routine has been disrupted (usually, it has to be said, by others).

You had better get used to it. Routine is the boss, you are the slave.

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I normally eat my lunch standing up, as I prepare Wriggly Bum's. Time for a treat today, my excuse being that my hernias are playing up, So, I am going to sit at the table, with my soup spoon in my right hand, and the Parish Magazine in the other.


Time out can be difficult to arrange, and costly, because unless  you are lucky enough to be surrounded by a network of voluntary sitters, you pay for one.

Lucy Perry-Young

The poor quality of home care services is never far from the headlines these days.