You know when things are going right, perhaps for the first time in ages and you can hardly believe your luck? Well sometimes you are right not to believe it.
I had every intention of writing a lovely blog this week, updating our situation and leaving readers (or reader?) with a happy ending to a spate of bad luck. However it appears that I spoke too soon, or that I didn’t touch a piece of wood when I was hugging myself with delight about how things had turned out.
Let’s start with that old adage that bad luck comes in threes and blow it out of the water.
Easter in Orkney
We go back then to Easter and we had booked to stay with my dad in the Orkney Islands. I hadn’t visited since he moved there from Inverness around 3 years ago so we were looking forward to seeing him. We were staying with the in-laws about 200 miles up from us for 2 nights before driving the further 550 miles to the Orkneys. On our first evening I was helping root out some old bottles that Aid had dug out many years ago before going in for tea. On walking back into the house I noticed something was wrong, his mother looked worried and told me that his dad was ill. I went in to see him and the old man was stood looking confused. He couldn’t explain what had happened, he tried but he just couldn’t get the words out. Then he shook his head in despair and started open and closing his arm, as though there was something in there.
Now I know many of you will be shouting “stroke!” at this point but when you are in that situation you doubt your own judgement. He had none of the droopy face that the ads showed so I called Aid in, saw the anxious look on his face and called for an ambulance. What we feared had happened; this lovely, intelligent man who had been completing a Sudoko had just suffered a stroke. The irony is that the Sudoko he had been doing was called “Killer Sudoko”!
He was in hospital for 3 nights in total. To our relief, because they acted quickly and because it was just a minor stroke, he hasn’t suffered any major effects (although his speech isn’t quite as coherent as it once was) so he was lucky in many respects, although it was very frightening for us and the kids who were also there.
Anyway, we got to the Orkneys in the end and had a lovely time with my dad. It’s a beautiful part of the world and we were very lucky with the weather. Unfortunately we came back to some bad luck.
The week we got back our oven broke and despite us trying to locate a heating element to fix it, we needed in the end to shell out to buy a new one. Then the washing machine went and was out of action for a week whilst we tried to fix that, having spent our emergency funds on the oven. Luckily a new motor and filter eventually solved the problem but the extra spends took their toll on my new budget.
I had set us a monthly budget because we had been struggling to make ends meet month after month. I was now shopping at Aldi and getting all my meat from the reduced section of Asda. I had stopped the few school meals Art had in favour of packed lunches and no food was wasted; anything that could be made into a pie, was. We had turned off the radiators and made small changes like buying cordial instead of orange juice and getting the 20p i newspaper just to make tiny savings. It was a struggle but we were managing ok. Then we got the news that Aid faced redundancy.
They were closing the depot he worked at, although he was offered a transfer to the next nearest in Bristol. Only it wasn’t very near and they were changing his working hours, so he would be working 40 hour weeks with no overtime pay spread over 4 days. That would mean getting up at 4.30am to travel to work, drive 10 hours and then return home at around 6.30pm knackered and not capable of much. He was already falling asleep as soon as he got home from work. Not getting overtime pay would also mean we would be around £100 a week worse off.
Broken Teeth and Bust Lip
At around the same time I received a phone call from school about Art in the morning. He had bust his lip they told me after a collision with another boy, the other boy banged his head which bled quite badly and they took him to hospital just as a precaution. I was reassured that Art was fine, his lip was bleeding but he was ok and didn’t want to come home.
When I arrived to pick him up after school it was obvious that something was wrong. His bottom lip was curled under and he was very withdrawn and pale. Children came running up to me to tell me that the collision had been so bad that Art had actually bitten into this boy’s head and his front teeth had broken. I looked into his mouth straight away and saw his front teeth were very badly damaged and his lip; well that was a soggy, fleshy, bloody and swollen mess as his jagged teeth must have bitten straight through it. I could not believe that he hadn’t been sent home.
That night he ended up in A&E after going into shock and vomiting everywhere. You can imagine my feelings about the school! Not only had they not told me of the severity of the incident but they hadn’t even noticed his teeth! In fact they told me that he was “full of bravado” about the incident – as if he had enjoyed it??? According to his classmates Art didn’t speak for the rest of the day and didn’t touch any of his lunch. I was beyond furious.
A meeting with the Head ensued. I wanted to know why nobody checked his mouth properly, why the obvious signs of shock were not noted, why I wasn’t given the correct information about what had happened and why, when he hadn’t eaten or spoken all day, nobody raised the alarm and sent him home. The Head apologised and promised a review with extra First Aid training for staff. I contemplated putting in an official complaint but what other result would I get? The Head is quite new still so I thought I’d give him the benefit of doubt.
Art, as you can imagine, took a long time to get over what happened. I still have this image in my head of what the other children told me; of Art standing in the playground, his mouth open and dripping with blood, ashen-faced and in shock and I wasn’t there for him. He had to have emergency dental treatment and now has caps on his front teeth which, when he’s older, will be replaced with longer-lasting crowns.
A New Start?
In the meantime Aid went into application overdrive. He sent off dozens of application forms, phoned up companies, handed his CV out to scores of places, attended interviews and then just before Spring Break we had a breakthrough. A digger company he had contacted and who had received his CV wanted to interview him. He did a small driving test, they were pleased with what they saw and although he hadn’t operated diggers for a couple of years they were happy to take him on. What’s more is that it was just down the road, he could cycle to work and we could get rid of one car which would save even more money. The hours were better; he was only getting up at 6.30am and getting home for 5pm. For once I truly felt that things were going our way.
I dreamed of the money we would save by getting rid of a car and I felt able to relax our budget a little. We went out for a meal to celebrate and I bought the two hens I had always wanted in our little garden. We made it a wedding anniversary present (14 years) and I got 2 Polish hens. I was thrilled and very happy. Unfortunately this spell of good luck was short-lived.
Just three days into the job they told him not to return. This was yesterday. Why? Because apparently he didn’t have enough experience on a building site. His experience was all over his CV, they knew how much experience he had before they employed him, they saw how he operated the digger, yet they decided that he wasn’t experienced or fast enough and rather than give him a decent chance, after just 3 days they got rid. Just like that. Our hopes shattered.
On the back of this job offer he had accepted his redundancy and not taken the transfer offered. So now he doesn’t have a job. Yes we will get the redundancy money which is a week’s basic pay for every year he has worked there. He’s been there 6 years. Quite a slap in the face eh?
Yet I know that we are far from alone. This single mum is battling problems worse than ours and I have friends whose battles with serious health issues make you value the life you have. As Aid says, we are the lucky ones and we need to remember what is important in life. That is each other; our family. We have a roof over our heads, we aren’t starving and we are all in good health. Yes things might get a lot worse yet but if that happens, then we’ll deal with it and we’ll cope because coping is what you do right? No matter what life throws at humanity, we just seem to keep going because what other choices are there?
There will always be changes.