ME AND MRS BUGGER F**K-A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FIRST TIME CARER

Me and Mrs bugger f**k-a day in the life of a first time carer

“It is the cause of all perfection of all things throughout the universe.” Love of course.

‘Me and Mrs Bugger fuck’-a name that will offend some and cause hilarity amongst others: It sums up the wonderfully eccentric fun loving lady that I had the pleasure of caring for and her two favourite words. For those who may be offended, Mrs BF would simply say, ‘F**k orf!’





As the first day of work approached, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. The thought of living with a complete stranger can be rather daunting though I’m pretty sure both parties are equally as anxious. I swung from moments of complete peace and certainty that I was suited for the job; to sudden moments of dread, losing my confidence and fear that I would go insane after days being cooped up with an elderly stranger.
 My training was paramount and I could not have contemplated going into the job without even this basic knowledge. I realize now how incredibly important that brief time spent caring for my grandmother with Dementia would also be in preparing me.
My objective was to do the following for my client: Help to maintain dignity and aid the individual in being as independent as possible. I wanted to get to know them as a person, an individual with a whole history behind them; stories to tell, wisdom to impart. Understand what makes them tick, how it must feel to still retain an active and sharp mind trapped in a body that no longer complies with their wishes. What is the greatest problem: Frustration, boredom, loneliness, the basic day to day tasks?
I’m not the best house keeper/cleaner to be honest-in fact I’m quite crap. My forte is more in holistic care and it looks like I’ve been fortunate with my first placement: An 87 year old female living in a quaint historic English village; well educated with a fascinating background, she would capture my imagination immediately. Requirements are companionship, cooking, shopping and massage therapy to aid with circulation problems and light housework. All sounds too good to be true; I sense a Little Britain sketch coming on.

Day one:

My brain was rather fried from busy, crazy days beforehand; not to mention a day’s travelling, bus, plane car rides-family reunions and another two hour car ride before arriving and straight into the job. I was exhausted before I’d even started!
I struggled in with my suitcase to find ‘Marg’ as we’ll call her, sitting in the dining room having her hair and nails done. ‘Oh do come in dear; how nice to meet you! Do be a love and make a phone call, I’m frightfully worried about the smoked salmon!’ I smiled, head spinning already. A baptism of fire indeed but I adjusted pretty quickly: It became immediately obvious that I was in the company of a lady of formidable character with a life story that would keep me hooked for the weeks to come. A dream come true for my wild and creative imagination; something that would make all the difference in the difficult moments when I felt slightly lost and homesick, missing my kids and my personal space.
We managed to get through the first day without any major mishaps. I was afraid my cooking wasn’t up to scratch but she was more than satisfied and I was bloody relieved- It’s not exactly difficult but given I’ve been predominantly vegetarian for years; and my cooking wasn’t what you’d consider typically English, more random to say the least. I’m also happy to report that she is a serial swearer.
 What I deduced from those first hours together was that one of my lady’s biggest problems was sheer boredom, frustration and isolation; the feeling that she’d lost every ounce of independence after her operation. Fear was another big factor: Fear of being alone, fear of another fall. All I could do was reassure and look for ways to ease those fears. Anyone, no matter their age, falls foul to those same fears in moments of weakness; ill health, disability of any kind; few people are immune. Depression however can be the big black hole that consumes the mind, the whole being and prevents progress.

It was however on Day 3 after both having woken up rather crotchety-me pre-menstrual and homesick, her slightly depressed at waking up to yet another day of the same; that I began to realize there are things I could do to help but only if she were willing as she is stubborn to say the least. Thank God for our mutual sense of humour-thank God that she says ‘bollocks’ more than I do; I can’t imagine that I’d cope as well with someone lacking in spirit and wit. It really can turn into ‘groundhog–day’, routine day in day out, enough to drive you to madness; so, how to overcome this? Leaving the house is the obvious one, getting her back out into the big wide world, daunting but necessary: But equally as important, to rediscover hobbies, favourite past times. So as we sit watching ‘Little Women’, both succumbing to emotion each for our own personal reasons, I write a list of what could possibly bring a smile to her face.

Day 4 
Christmas day- So the day went surprisingly well due to a visit from Marg’s family. I’m glad as to be honest waking up in a stranger’s house away from family and friends on Christmas day can be a little off putting to say the least and I could feel my mood dipping slightly. The family brought the Turkey and trimmings and some rather nice Champagne and it was good to see ‘Marg’ in high spirits, though on leaving she did comment that she thought they’d never bloody go haha! No pleasing some people. However it was later on that another really very sad reality hit me as we spoke: I could sense she was down and she confessed how much she missed her dead husband who had left her widowed young; she also missed her parents, other relatives and friends, all long dead. How does it feel not only to grieve but to be missing people of your generation, collective memories, something that the rest of us can’t possibly understand? I try to imagine all my friends dead-our humour, shared experiences, films, TV- programs that we grew up with, best bands; all gone and only alive in my memories and pictures: let’s face it, it’s a grim thought. So that is the reality of old age-that which awaits us all. God that sounds dark.

Day 5 Boxing day-
After not leaving the house yesterday I succumbed to cabin fever-fortunately Margaret had visitors so I took the opportunity to go exploring around the village and have a long walk by the river. I felt slightly mad from being inside so much: I’m not used to this unpleasant British climate anymore or spending so much time indoors; having some exercise and fresh air was pretty important for my sanity. My objective is to get ‘Marg’ out the house and I swear I shall achieve it before I leave. Admittedly both her family and cleaning lady raised their eyebrows and wished me good luck when I expressed my ideas-I think I’m in for a challenge! I was hoping to get her out today but the weather was too cold for her. I’m disappointed to be honest as she’d grudgingly agreed.
 I kind of see myself as this fresh faced (ok less of the fresh faced) slightly eager and naïve new carer who thinks she can make big changes to people’s lives but with time may get slightly more cynical and worn down…
Oh NO: I’d rather give up before that happens-when you lose the illusion it’s time to quit. I’m on a mission to learn and genuinely would like to think I’ve made someone’s day. The money is also good and with two kids to feed it’s obviously also a helpful incentive but I honestly could not take on a job with this level of intimacy if I didn’t feel as I do. A funny example of this is was me earlier, sat cross legged on the floor massaging her feet to help with the circulation problems: Now, those who know me well know that me and other people’s feet are a ‘no no’ but miraculously here I am chatting away and beaming at the smile on her face as I bring relief from her discomfort.
I have to admit the ‘toilet duties’ are still something I need to work on, but one step at a time: As I heard her shouting ‘F**king hell’ from the loo I breathed a sigh of relief when she shouted she could cope alone. I’ve enjoyed a full array of expletives today-she turned the air blue with ‘bugger’ ‘bollocks’, and the ‘f’ word on more than one occasion-we were obviously made for one another. I never thought I’d get a client who swears more than me or one who tells me about the love of her life ;)  

Day 6-
Well, yesterday ended on a high note; Marg became mildly hysterical as we spoke about pets. I showed her photos of my parent’s mad dog Lola, and she talked of her much missed Spaniel. She almost hyperventilated with laughter as she told me she’d like two dogs, one called ‘fuck’, the other called ‘bugger’ ‘Imagine’, she chortled ‘taking them for walks, fuck come here this instance’! We both sniggered, though looking at the average person around here I could imagine their horrified expressions. Honestly, I don’t know at times if she’s trying to shock me or just happy being herself; knowing she has found a partner in crime who enjoys her profanities as much as she does. Has age lowered her social filter to almost non- existent levels or has she always been like this? Only her family can enlighten me on that one. I never imagined someone of her age, or better put, of her generation, to use that kind of language and actively enjoy it: telling me the F word is her best word ever! Maybe I was naïve? I have to admit I’ve picked up ‘divine’ and ‘ghastly’, no doubt I’ll annoy everyone when I get back, using both those adjectives to describe everything just as Marg does or rather Mrs Bugger f++k as I´m going to call her from now on.
We were talking men yesterday and today; she wouldn’t mind a toy boy though I had to burst out laughing when she told me she wouldn’t be able to go to bed with him as her under-workings weren’t quite up to scratch. Again, a natural part of aging; not giving a toss what people think -Mrs bugger f**K and is disarmingly open. According to her I’d be too scary to live with for any man (I’m sure some would agree) though apparently a lot of fun! Ha!
I did my rounds of the village and my brisk river walk, my shopping for Marg and lunch. I have to admit as I did the clearing up I felt my heart sink at yet another day of the same-it can really be a mind killer and for a free spirit like me; I’m well and truly being put to the test as to how well I can cope with the confines of caring. When I feel even the slightest hint of frustration or misery I tell myself how fortunate I am to have a job like this: How it’s not a job that everyone can do and it is much appreciated by the client-a lifeline indeed. In fact just as I was missing my kids yesterday, Mrs BF thanked me and told me how much she appreciates my help and tolerance; putting up with her temper tantrums and depression. She does have ‘wobbly’ moments and she can be bossy and short tempered-but she readily admits it and apologizes almost immediately after being unpleasant, a very positive trait indeed.
 I guess some people would take umbrage at being called a silly girl-as she did to me earlier, but a mere raising of the eyebrows is usually enough before she apologizes. Let’s face it-co-habiting is difficult full stop-no matter who with-we have been thrown together through circumstances in life: I’ve chosen to train and do this as a job, I need her to employ me. She can no longer live alone and in order to retain as much independence as possible she needs me and the many others who will follow after. I can walk away but this is her life. I still feel frustrated, knowing there are things that would probably improve her wellbeing and happiness but she stubbornly refuses to comply-this is one of the hardest lessons but I’m equally stubborn and won’t give up…
Day 7-Sunday: This morning when I checked on Mrs BF I momentarily froze when she seemed to not be breathing-my heart sank and panic set in but almost immediately she moved and began snoring, the relief was tremendous. It is however a reality of the job but something I’m not yet ready to face so soon after watching my gran pass- it really would be very unfortunate on the first job.
Freezing cold day, my eyeballs almost frosted over on my brisk walk. I was surprised to see the supermarket open especially in such a small town; I’m not yet used to 24/7 Britain. I realized today who Mrs BF reminds me of, Uncle Monty from ‘Withnail and I’, one of my favourite films! ‘Dear boy’, or ‘Darling boy’, indeed she is at times the epitome of a female Uncle Monty J
Lunch was a success, I’m glad to report-salmon cakes and chips and peas slathered in ketchup. She has a good appetite and a penchant for Pringles, toffees and Tonic water! One of the only people I’ve met who likes drinking tonic water alone as I do.  I’m conscious today of not forgetting to put her glass by her bed at bedtime-apparently I did forget last night and she was; ’fucking furious darling’ her words not mine as she punched the air in exasperation! Routine is paramount-morning, afternoon and evening.
Throughout the day I administer her medication, prepare her meals and massage her legs and feet to help with her very poor circulation. Light housework is also required which in general is fine, except for moments when I can see certain things need doing in her ‘boudoir’ and she refuses to allow anyone to move her ‘things’ around. I found myself almost crawling along the floor out of eyeshot to rush in and scrub a few things that were desperately in need of scrubbing, taking advantage of the deafeningly loud TV to mask my noise.
I see something else that is definitely in need of scrubbing and am having to devise ways of getting on with it-strange games one has to play in order to do something important without offending or annoying Mrs BF. Speaking of offending; I asked her a simple question and she responded, ‘how am I supposed to fucking know?’-I retorted that’s she’s lucky I’m so fond of the F-word myself or she is in danger of being offensive, and who knows how the next carer will respond?!Blimey-sweet little old lady she ain’t!
We’ve been watching what feels like an endless stream of World War2 films-luckily I’m interested and happy to learn more; she is rather theatrical, pumping her fist in the air with either joy or anger depending on the outcome, which I find quite amusing. I find myself to be annoyingly emotional at present and can only put this down to my nan’s recent death and being apart from my kids. It’s been a difficult year and I’m glad it’s nearly at an end; despite the nasty moments there have been some good and positive ones-the publication of my first novel being one of those. I shall write my resolutions over the next few days; as always a mix of achievable goals and slightly more out of reach dreams.
When I spent ten days caring for my Nan I never thought just over a year later I’d be training and working as a carer-but the seed was indeed sown. Living in is an incredibly intense experience, reminding me a little of my brief time au-pairing in Germany; sharing a family home and caring for their young isn’t that much different-the elderly sometimes seem much like more experienced and somewhat wiser children; this is not meant as condescending-quite the opposite. A lot of the great qualities that are lost after childhood, namely natural openness and lack of inhibition, seem to return in later years. It’s easy to blame this on certain illnesses or conditions, Dementia for example-especially when related to sexual obsession, but when these are not present, well what then? Is it a natural part of aging? It must be incredibly liberating and I’m wondering if I could possibly get away with doing the same haha! Probably not, especially with my 12 yr old who is my ‘keeper’- actually, I think she and Mrs BF would get on very well, especially when both are being simultaneously as precocious as each other. What she would not approve of at all is Mrs BF (can’t call her Marg anymore-Mrs BF is so much more appropriate) getting so openly naked, especially in front of the window with the light on! When I pointed out that it might be best for me to close the curtains to protect her privacy, she retorted that the curtains don’t close easily and in any case she ‘doesn’t fucking care, what is there to see? They’re all so bloody old themselves!’
 God! Without doubt the neighbours can see everything but it’s not my place to say anything; and if they did object, well I’m sure something would have been said by now and her response would be, ‘Oh do fuck orf!’
  I’m getting fond of her and would like to return if possible: Who wouldn’t want to come back to a lady who expects me ‘to get pissed’ with her later?! I won’t of course, awfully unprofessional, and all she means is one small glass of champagne but it’s a funny thought.

Day 8

I did of course partake in a small glass of bubbly-would have been rude not to and she is already irritable at my constant insistence of ‘sticking to the rules’. We have agreed that if she is still in need of help in a month’s time I will indeed return. We have okayed it with the agency and sadly they confirmed what I was thinking-it is more than likely that she will need help indefinitely. These are the things that you cannot voice even though it is probable that deep down she also knows it to be true; the admission that total independence is over forever. I felt sad for her but was good to hear her minutes later giggling away at the TV-I love hearing her laugh-it’s such a contagious naughty laugh.
I watched her as she shouted at the TV, waving her fist in the air at yet another War film. When the last of her generation finally die out it will be a grim day indeed.
 I admire her openness about her life-the natural way she talks about love, sex, adultery, booze: It’s confusing really as I imagined that generation to be the prude generation hence the sexual revolution with the post war babies-namely my parent’s lot, yet she is more open than many younger people I know and was far more adventurous!
She tells me she is having her hair done tomorrow and will look like a lezzer! When she saw the slightly confused look on my face she bellowed, ‘you know one of those who do it with ladies-lesbians!’ Here we go again, I thought. ‘I always look like a lesbian when I get my hair cut! Bloody hell, couldn’t sleep with a lady, could you?’ I shook my head in response wondering what the hell was coming next. She began to talk about ‘French letters’ and ‘something velvet that lezzers do or did’ it was all a bit early for this kind of conversation. She is hilarious and I wonder how well she would do outside in the world of political correctness. She is not against anyone or anything, probably far less judgemental than most young people in fact.
Tomorrow we may finally leave the house together to go shopping at ‘Marks and Spencer’-God knows what awaits us; I have a sneaking suspicion it may be similar to excursions out with my gran-another sketch out of ‘Little Britain.’

Day 9

I was so disappointed yesterday, as I failed once again to convince Mrs BF to leave the house: She had seemed really quite excited at the thought of going shopping but once again the fear of catching cold managed to override any excitement she may have been feeling. I at least enjoyed the trip!
I hate to admit it but I’m running out of days and my great objectives on how to change Mrs BF’s life for the better are slowly fading. I can be good company: laugh with her, listen to her amusing anecdotes of life abroad in the colonies; and also listen to her in the sad moments when she wishes death would come sooner rather than later. I’ve tried to encourage her to get out and see friends; offering to take her over in the wheelchair to see them or even wheel them to her: To no avail. Bugger and F**k, it’s frustrating!

Day 10-New Year’s Eve

So, here we are sat watching yet another period drama, so stuffed after dinner I can barely move, sipping Champagne; I watch Mrs BF as she gently snores in her armchair. I feel a strange mix of tenderness and compassion. We made a toast to ourselves and our loved ones, hoping the coming year will be a slightly easier one with regards to health issues and personal loss; She would like to speak to all those who have passed on but short of employing a medium I’m not quite sure how I can help with that one.
My writing was rudely interrupted by an urgent dash to the toilet- I think the champagne and rich food is taking its toll; the diet will be starting sooner rather than later: That will show me and my gluttony! She has just awoken with a start-we are watching a hunting scene or better put shooting scene-she asks if ‘my lot’ shoot! I retort the only things I would like to shoot are annoying corrupt Spanish politicians and a few other unpleasant human beings but not wild life!
Strange how last New Year’s I said I wanted to spend the next New Year doing something completely different: working and living with a stranger was not what I had in mind but it’s one of the curious twists and turns of life-directions previously not thought of. Can’t see me making it through to midnight at this rate: Ah well, tomorrow is another day and another year-let’s see what surprises 2015 brings.

Day 11 New Year’s day

Well, we both made it to midnight and enjoyed the fireworks over London.
And no I didn’t get her out the ‘fucking’ house again- Her relative has just told me over the phone that I have my work cut out for me and don’t I know it. I learnt a new profanity today, ‘Buggeration’ her creativity never ceases to amaze me, ‘oh buggeration I’ve just been buggered’ over losing a bet on the horses. I was also told I ought to do something about my hair as I look like a wild woman, though it’s fitting as apparently I am one! Fortunately I’m not insulted as I’d have to agree with her.

Saturday-rainy day
Am happy to report that I did it…
Got her out the bloody house- Incredible! Albeit only five minutes round the block but it was a momentous occasion. In all fairness to her it was very cold and would have been foolish to stay out much longer so slowly slowly but I’m very happy that at least some progress has been made. Only two whole days left and I have mixed feelings-I want to get back to my kids and life back home and yet I try to savour every moment here; enjoy, learn and I know I will miss the old girl. I’ve spoken to the new carer on the phone who expressed all the same concerns that I had expressed only weeks before; I have to admit it felt nice to be able to reassure her and advise her. I’m still learning myself but I’m at least now in a position to be able to give advice on my own client-it’s a nice feeling. You have to adjust to a different place: In this case a small village with few of the basic modern facilities that some of us are used to, so a few teething problems may be experienced at first; not a problem once you know the opening hours, where you can find WIFI, where to top up the mobile phone etc They may not seem like the most important thing but when you’re far from home and incommunicado or need to book a flight; well they are things that can cause you to get very irate, believe me! But I’m sorted now and prepared for the next part of my carer experience.


Epilogue
Sleepless night last night for various reasons, resulting in my feeling somewhat out of sorts-looks like its two of us. As I tried to get some rest this afternoon during my break I could hear Mrs BF slamming around in the kitchen: Bugger! There goes my sleep. I went down to the kitchen to find her extremely grumpy and frustrated and finally crying over the kitchen sink. I stroked her back and asked gently if she was upset that I was leaving tomorrow-yes was the answer; she’s tired of living like this, having strangers in her home and not being able to fend for herself. I felt enormous empathy for her: This job requires that more than anything; empathy, compassion, patience, a bloody good sense of humour and above all, love in your heart towards others.
I’m slightly dreading saying goodbye now to my Mrs Bugger Fuck L
***

 The goodbyes came and went: I met with the new carer and spent an hour imparting my new found knowledge and wisdom and showed her round. It brought it home just how much i'd learnt in a short space of time and how much I still had to learn. The new lady seems very nice and am just hoping Mrs BF doesn't scare her off! We had our little hug and Kiss and she stood in the doorway waving me off as we drove away. 
 I sit here now, my first night of freedom and breathe a sigh of relief: Relief mixed with genuine sadness and fondness towards the lady who only weeks before was a stranger and has taught me so much-not just about herself but about myself too. 
Farewell Mrs BF-until we meet again.




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