Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Something irreverent and pithy.

More like disgusting and stinking.

The time of year has come round again, people in the village are digging out their shite to give to our fundraising jumble sale. I'm not going to say where it is because I don't want to be identified due some of the things I'm going to say, which on the other hand makes no difference because no ones reads this.

If our jumble sale had a motto it would be 'Quantity over Quality', we do get some decent stuff, but we get the most enormous mountain of crap too. We can chart the history of technology by items donated, we haven't had a flat screen telly in but we have had a DVD recorder, it was brand new, the people bought it but couldn't figure out how it worked. If the sale had a set of metaphorical books ends, two items that if not seen would raise eyebrows and cause questions to be asked are; The Teasmade and the Foot Spa.

There are two issues with these items, firstly the second-hand Foot Spa: Fucking yuck! You would be forgiven for thinking, who in their right mind would by a second hand foot spa? It would be like buying a second hand bath tub; why would you. These foot spas always come adorned with what can only be described as 'marks' of an indeterminate origin, presumably from the feet of the previous owners but one's imagination does begin to rove.

The Teasmade; apart from being a completely shit idea to begin with, if we got a complete Teasmade donated it would be something of note, we never do though, there's always something missing, an essential jug or indispensable formica stiring tool. When we are handed these things on doorsteps, (for which we are eternally gratefull of course) and told with regret about the missing parts, the temptation to ask 'why fuck are you giving it to us if it doesn't work' is strong but we just say thanks and carry off the wounded tea maker.

We never sell a broken Teasmade but we do sell Foot Spas. If you want to know how, read on. You have to understand the clientele we attract, its a broad church, we get a fair amount of posh people, well I say posh but I think it might be pure affectation, its a possibility the designer clothes they're wearing came from another jumble sale. The point is they look quite swish, usually female and found rummaging through the clothes and shoes stalls.

Then there are the OAP's, invariably at the front of the queue (we know when people have died by their absence.) When we open the doors, it's like the start of the grand national, only a lot slower and more smelly, although since I haven't smelled a horse recently I have no frame of reference, it may be very similar because a definite tang can be felt in the nasal caveties as they shamble in, like a trampy Tsunami. Now I'm being whimsical. OAP's like the bricabrac, they positively hoover it up, anything from lampshades to cutlery, crockery to old car stereos is picked up, turned round and perused intently. They also like the bakery stall and a cup of tea. OAP's never buy foot spas.

Next up are the kids, waifs and strays, like something out of Oliver except with more man-made fabric. They either try to get in before we open so they can pose as young volunteers on a stall  in order to steal money (yeah? sue me then!) If not then, then its after the rush is over and we stop charging for entry. They head for the toy stall which is usually total chaos manned as it usually is by children. Children occasionally buy foot spas as gifts for parents, the parent on realising where it was procured immediately puts it in a box with out trying to touch it too much so it can be handed in at the next jumble sale, its the circle of life you know.

We then have people in the middle, these are decent folks out for a bargain, I mean, who wants to spend £400 on a flat screen telly when you can get an old TV and a digibox for £20. These people are making ends meet, if they need a new wardrobe or a microwave, they're far more likely to say 'fuck Bright House and wonga.com for a laugh, lets go to a jumble sale'. They're good for banter and their money and patronage is appreciated. I like them, they head for electrical and furnishing (said like its some sort of department store...) Electrical & Furnishing also includes everything else, so old prams, bikes, golf clubs, golf bags, golf balls, lawnmovers, rotovators, pianos, curtain rails, beds, matresses (charmingly prestained for that lived-on feel,) games consoles (playstation one's mostly,) old computer printers, tinned food (usually prunes,) suitcases & general baggage, hat stands and unwanted babies. Ok, I made the last one up but I wouldn't be surprised with this Tory led coalition.

Across all of the above, with the exception of many but not all of the people in the previous paragraph, there is an over-arching underclass (if such a thing can exist.) They can be identified by one thing and one thing alone: the smell. In short, they don't wash often enough, not themselves or their clothes. It's a curious odour, mulchy and damp yet tangy and acidic. If you're in the hall when the jumble sale opens, it precedes the crowd and washes over you like an invisible yet slightly tangible cloud, its initially warm and dare I say, not unpleasant but then the olfactory apparatus catches up and begins to dissect & assay the various components of the bilious fug in which you are now shrouded. At that point it's to late to do anything other than try and keep the bile down.

If you come in to the hall after opening time and there hasn't been time for the miasma to dissipate, as you walk towards the door, creeping tendrils offer a whiff of things to come but its not until you step over the threshold you are properly assailed by it. Imagine a very old seat cushion, square in shape, paisely patterned but loosing its threading (in that weird way velour does.) It's been sat on by the same person for forty years, for the last few years of their life they farted gently in to the cushion and were incontinent enough for it to have absorbed the merest sensation of eau de piss. Sadly though as all life does, they past on in their favourite chair, on their favourite cushion. As occasionally happens, the body isn't found immediately, it isn't until the next Jumble Sale and their absence in the queue is noticed that somebody decides to go and check, they find the gently decomposing corpse resting peacefully, the various fluids and associated substances involved with the decomposition process having soaked into a now slightly damp seat cushion.

Walking in to a newly opened Jumble Sale from the fresh air is a bit like being hit in the face with that cushion.

Ok, I waxed lyrical and it isn't just the people, its the jumble itself, I mean, you can't possibly not have some sort of malodorous presence if people are handing you (and I'm not joking) underwear, some of which is soiled. We chuck it out but we should probably use surgical gloves when sorting it all out. I'm going to be charitable and assume when we get that sort of thing (like a bag of childrens old underwear) its been put in by accident, not even our punters are going to buy that shit, quite literally.

Other problems pop up that you just wouldn't imagine happening, rich people stealing for example. We had ladies stealing clothing, they'd rummage in amongst the clothes moving along the length of the stall front, every now and again they'd drop an item on the ground which they'd kick along as they moved, when they got to the end of the table, they bent down, stuffed all the clothes in a bag and walked off. These were women we knew in the village, it must have been some sort of Anthony Worral Thomson/shoplifting/thrill-seeking thing. We got the smaller kids to scurry round under the tables pulling back dropped items to stick back on top of the tables after that.

OAP's are supposed to be fluffy and loveable, not in the cut throat business of jumble sale haggling they're not. You might have a 12 year old being enthusiastically bullied  by an 80 year old over the price of a decent foot spa, there are still old folk who think 5p is a lot of money. Indeed, up until five years ago, my gran gave her paper boy a 15p tip at christmas. The opposite is also true though, someone had handed in a digital photo frame which had a price tag of £10 or £15, some shmuck of a child sold it for 50p.

We also get queue jumpers, they cause a lot more problems than you'd imagine, we've almost had riots because someone in the queue has spotted someone amongst the furniture asking for things to be put aside, we of course always say no, but they're sneeky, they say they're volunteering. We ask them who they know and what connection the have to the organisation, they begin to stutter and hesitate, they know they've been rumbled but still they carry on rummaging, at that point we have to throw them out. Generally speaking, the volunteers don't rummage, you can't rummage effectively if you're holding your nose, also, the true volunteer will have bought what they want in the nights leading up to the jumble sale, they wouldn't wait till the day of opening.

Nothing though compares to the sight of one old age pensioner frog-marching another out the door for jumble lifting, its only happened once but it was enough to take ones mind of the pong for a minute or two. An older gentleman who's been volunteering for years at our jumble sales noticed and elderly lady helping herself to bricabrac, I've no idea how or why it escalated but it did so he threw her bodily out the door.

To summarise because as usual I've rambled on somewhat. Jumble sales are depressing, smelly laborious affairs but, they also serve a purpose, in terms of recycling it is the very epitome of the activity. The things that come in the door are almost as surprising as the things that go back out on sale day. I still hate them though, I know I'm a bit of a snob but they're a lot of hard work and I know you think I've exxagerated about the smell but I really haven't.

I have no idea why we don't just send the kids up chimneys, I mean to say, as a youth organisation, we have on tap a ready supply of flexible young labourers, I know, I know; who has coal fires these days... They can sweep up and do dishes though can't they? Why for example did they stop bob-a-job week? It wasn't as if we were sending young people into the homes of perfect stranngers to do work of an unspecified nature was it?

Oh hold on...

People Being Stupid.

First of all, I am the first to admit to serious bouts of stupidity, things like opening a door, turning away for a second then turning back only to painfully headbutt the door after forgetting I opened it in the first place. I also opened the fridge once, turned to put a dish in the sink then turned and walked into that door too, (although the rubber seal thingy spared me the searing pain the sitting room door dealt out.)

Other things, I once phoned Telewest to complain about my TV box not working when all I'd done was fail to turn it on. I used to work in an amusement arcade, the number of electric shocks I gave myself was a subject of mirth among those who worked for me, I got a proper belt of the top of an old CRT (that's an old fashioned telly to you youngsters) that lifted me off my feet. It was a static shock, not the pleasant tingling of an AC shock, a proper bolt up the arm and out the top of the head; it really rattled my teeth.

All in all, those mistakes didn't harm any one (except perhaps myself.) When you ramp that up to levels where lives are involved, actual living people with families, banging your head or stubbing your toe is nothing. Tony Blair went to war on flawed information, no one can say with a straight face, only with hindsight can you see it as a mistake, people at the time were saying it was a bad thing to do. America voted George Bush into office, a man who was demonstrably a bit of a moron. We have a Cardinal in Scotland who believes homosexuals can be cured and who shouldn't be able to declare their love for each other and call it marriage because they can't procreate. Lots of people making lots of mistakes, except these people are listened to and don't listen to any ideas contrary to their own.

Having as I do ageing parents with a panoply of medical complaints ranging from Parkinson's to Dementia and on to liver failure (not all in the same parent right enough.) We have a doctor telling us my Mum can no longer make decisions about her own welfare, this means I can't now apply for Power of Attorney (which means I could look after her affairs and make decisions about care provision etc.) It means I have to spend thousands of pounds on something called a Guardianship.

The thing is though... My Mum has early onset Dementia, she comes and goes, some days she's really fine some days not so much so but here is the rub. Her doctor is saying she can't decide for herself, she's too confused. There is a background level of confusion, slight forgetfulness and hallucinations but get this, my Mum takes a hellish reaction to strong medication, she hallucinates and becomes forgetful and unresponsive, I've seen this in the past several times, the doctor hasn't because well, he's only known her for two months and only then from what he observes in a 5 minute weekly window and what nursing staff have written down.

He has prescribed a tricyclic anti-depressant called Trazadone and something called Mirtazapine (a tetracyclic anti-depressant apparently, it cheers you up in four ways instead of three.) You've probably guessed I'm no doctor but I know if you feed my mother that cocktail of chemicals, she's off to the moon for the foreseeable future. I've told the staff this, her GP knows about this, every body knows about this, even you know now. This Consultant has basically turned around smacked his head on a door he's just been told is open.

Why has she been given these pills? Because being hospital is an alien environment and she was having trouble sleeping, for your information, if you have an older relative in hospital who is having trouble [insert random verb here] he or she will be given Trazadone. My mum developed a cold, her ability to sleep was further impaired because of a heavily blocked nose, you know how that can be? The medical staff's answer was, wait for it, more antidepressants, not nightnurse or some Vics Vaporub but more Trazadone and Mirtazapine. Why not just get a mallet and knock her out? The effect would be the same.

Its one of those times when you've made certain assumptions, the guy is a consultant, he must be moderately intelligent, how can he not make the connection, I mean, of course she's going to be confused and it'll only get worse but if you have been told in the clearest terms a patient will react badly to medication, if the medication is then prescribed and the bad reaction observed, going on to say that patient can no longer look after their own interests; does this not sound wrong? It makes it seem as if its a case of; 'if you have to explain, they'll never understand'.

Making mistakes is one thing but this is about confidence and trust. No bugger gives a toss if I drink to much boxed wine and bash my coupon on the fridge door, but if you have a vulnerable relative in hospital, how do you know they're getting the proper care? I see OAP's in the ward with my Mum with no one to stick up for them, their visitors stand meekly by as they are brow beaten with educated guesswork masquerading as medical certainty informed by years of experience, even although when they get it wrong they're quick to say 'no two patients are the same'. I would urge you, if you ever find yourself being told that by a medical professional, immediately point out that if no two patients are the same, how they hell can they claim superior knowledge on your vulnerable relative? They have forty or fifty patients who are all unique, you only have the one.

As ever, I bump my gums about this but its not straightforward. My Mum can't walk, she needs 24hr care at the moment so the hospital was the best place. Now though, since being there is having no net benefit, my Mum has complained of suffering from what we can only call performance anxiety, we all think she'd be better off at home where she can do the physiotherapy without being pressured (a lot of which she puts on herself because she's a bit Victorian in some regards.)

I have a meeting with the doctor tomorrow, the questions I have are pointed, they also come on the back of an official complaint. I just can't see how you can justify throwing a vulnerable person to the dogs of social work because you've medicated them to within an inch of their own sanity, it just seems daft.

If you've got this far you'll notice this isn't my usual nonsense fayre, I shall endeavour to provide something suitably pithy and irreverent just soon as something pithy and irreverent happens.