2 men and a dog

She's moved in

Mum took up residence in the care home today.

She confided in me, just before we left the flat that had been her home for the last 6 years, that she was feeling a little apprehensive, maybe even a little scared, at the thought of going to live somewhere else -- but when I left her a few hours later, she was already eating cake and chatting to another resident in the communal living room ;-). I think she'll be alright. Or she will be in a day or two, when the results of her Covid test come back negative.

Now comes the hard part of clearing her flat, deciding what to do with all her possessions, checking all her papers, and informing all the relevant parties of her change of address. I should have asked for more than just 2 days off...

It's been a long day and I'm absolutely shattered, so I'll pick up the thread another time. I can't really think now, anyway.
epic fail

Don't panic!

So my sister was supposed to take Mum to the dental technician for her umpteenth appointment this morning, but she texted to say her boss hadn't approved her request for leave -- resulting in me having to make a mad dash across town to get to Mum's, get her out of bed, washed, clothed and fed, and finally, into a taxi. We arrived at the dental clinic at 10:44, right on time for her appointment at 10:45 ;-)

Umpteenth appointment, I said: well, Mum broke her dentures sometime in February. Got her an appointment to see the dental technician about a week and a half later; apparently, they were very busy. Mum habituated herself to living on soup and porridge; then, she was seen. And straight afterwards, the corona crisis happened, and all dentists were closed for two full months. They've been allowed to open again halfway through May, but aren't operating at full strength yet, and so Mum's had to come in for multiple fittings, each 2 weeks apart. Apparently, her next appointment, two weeks from now, will be her last.

But...while we were there, I suddenly remembered: I had left the house with a pot of rhubarb on the hob! I tried to call my neighbour, who has a key to my flat, but as luck would have it, he was out. When the taxi came back to pick us up (Mum has a subscription), I asked our driver if, after I'd settled Mum back in her chair at home, would he mind racing me across town to my flat which in my imagination was already either ablaze or severely water-damaged? Thankfully, he agreed...and waved the fare, saying it was all part of the service! To give you an indication: since I don't have a subscription to a taxi service, I rarely if ever book one; but if I did, to cover the distance between my flat and Mum's, I would expect to be charged somewhere in the region of 30-35 euros.

Luckily, when we turned into my street, my apartment building still looked intact -- and although my rhubarb had more or less been incinerated, all that was required of me to make it alright was to turn off the heat and open a window.

Of old people, the things that pass

In February 2014, Mum moved into her present abode. Ever since her last divorce in 1997, she had been living in a ground-floor flat in an inner city area that went from bad to worse, and after the second break-in in a year, my sister and I managed to persuade her to move to another part of the city...well, to the outskirts, really. And for some time, she was happy there.

But about two years ago, she began to forget things. Soon, she lost all sense of time; and I began to receive regular late night calls from worried neighbours telling me she was roaming the streets in search of a loaf of bread in the middle of the night. Many times, she locked herself out, and I'd have to come down from Amsterdam where I worked to let her in again. She flew into rages over the tiniest things; and began to lose the ability to express herself accurately, not being able to think of the words she needed. More and more, she began to fall back on the language she'd spoken in her childhood and teenage years: Malaysian. A language my sister and I don't speak. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Then, she began to ail physically: bronchitis, pneumonia, falls, and broken ribs. I no longer received those calls to come get her, as she no longer went out into the street, and became increasingly housebound.

The first week of March, she told me that she thought she might be better off in a care home. I promised to look into it. Then, the coronavirus struck and everything was put on hold for 4 months.

Two weeks ago, a representative of the CIZ, the central authority for deciding what care an elderly individual needs and can claim under a particular law, came to assess her; and on Friday, we received the highest 'indication', entitling her to round the clock care, 24/7, in the care home of our choice. We opted for one that advertised catering to the needs of former Dutch-East Indian colonials. On Wednesday, the care home called to say she could move in the next day.

But because of the corona crisis and the restrictions pertaining to care and nursing homes during the recent lockdown, we hadn't had a chance to view it yet. All I knew about it was what I'd seen and read on their website. So I told them I wanted to have a look round first, and then decide.

So I went to inspect it yesterday. And I saw pictures of sawas and kampungs on the walls, batik throws on the seats, heard krontjong music playing, saw other Indos sitting and chatting in the communal living room...I'm hopeful that Mum will connect and make friends with these people, who share the same background as her, when I take her there next Tuesday. But I know I will feel like a terrible person, when I'll leave her there, with her suitcase, on her own for the first night.
happy bunny

I'm IN!

I don't believe it -- I'm in!

When I came back to LJ some months ago, I thought I could just pick up where I'd left off. Unfortunately though, I soon found out that LJ had other ideas: for the first time in all our many years together, it locked me out. It told me I could regain access if I reset my password (for the first time ever!) and that it would send a validation email...which never arrived. Not once; however many times I tried. Until tonight, when it finally did. I hope this means I am forgiven.

So what's been happening? Not a lot, as the lockdown continues and my world has shrunk. I rarely leave the house these days; and if I do, it's only to go grocery shopping for myself and/or my mum. I miss being able to meet up with friends and feel sad when I think of all the gigs, theatre shows and exhibitions I held tickets to or was planning to visit but that have been cancelled (though some have already been tentatively re-scheduled for next year), while at the same time I've enjoyed spending more time at home with the cat. I hope...nay, I think, he's enjoyed it, too.
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The Rona

And so the PM has just extended our 'intelligent lockdown' till April 28, with the proviso that it may be necessary to push that date out further into May. Basically, 2020 is already a write-off.

So, what does an 'intelligent lockdown' look like? Well, the measures taken are slightly less draconian than the ones my Italian or Spanish friends have to deal with. We are allowed to go out, for the essential food or medicine shop. We can even go out for a walk, but we are not to do so with more than 3 people (and keeping 6 ft distance all the time) or crowd parks and public spaces. We can't go out otherwise, as for the last 2 weeks all bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, markets, malls, hairdressers, nailbars, sun lounges have been closed. Gigs have been banned till further notice, but at least till June 1st. Which is a bummer as I was looking forward to going to see Queen again on May 28 and 29.

I'm in my third week working from home. Feels like three years. I don't mind, really, though I do miss 1) people 2) faster network connection 3) big monitor. Also, as off tomorrow, I'm conveying into GSK, who have bought Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. They've just couriered my new laptop over to me, so joy of joys, tomorrow, I can begin the day by figuring out how to set it up for GSK systems. 30 Days later, Pfizer will kick me off what systems of theirs I will still have access to, that are crucial to my work; and then the transition ought to be completed by July 31st.

They're calling it a Joint Venture, but really, it's just a takeover. And I don't know what it means for my prospects. My line manager has assured me my job is safe until at least September (when my contract expires -- Pfizer were going to offer me a permanent position after that, but GSK may have other ideas), and now, with the economy taking a hit because of the Rona, I may very well be looking for another job by the end of the year. Actually, she did say she'd understand if I started exploring job opportunities elsewhere immediately...but unfortunately, I like my job and so I'm still focused on doing it to the best of my abilities.

Corona madness

So, how about this coronavirus, eh?

We currently have 959 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Netherlands. 12 People so far have died, all elderly, with underlying health conditions. We have a total of 1,150 beds in ICU, 70% of which are usually taken.

At first, the government advised us to wash our hands, then to stop shaking hands. Halfway through last week, that changed to a recommendation to work from home as much as possible and to avoid large gatherings, until all venues with a crowd capacity larger than 100 were closed on Friday. Football matches and other sporting events, markets, theatre shows and gigs have been cancelled, and even big weddings and funerals have been banned. We'll have to wait and see if any of these measures will have the desired effect -- we are about 14 days behind on Italy so it's possible it'll turn out to have been too little, too late.

Meanwhile, I've been working from home since last Thursday, and will be doing so next week as well. I had tickets to go see a theatre show today, to which I had been looking forward since August last year, but alas!...and I've yet to find out whether these tickets will remain valid for another date, or whether I will be reimbursed. I also had a couple of gigs coming up in the next few weeks, all of which have been postponed 6 months or more. It's going to be a busy autumn! It's fine, though, I fully understand why it has to be this way for now.

What I can't understand though, is my countrymen stockpiling supplies. I was in the supermarket just now and there were no bananas or any kind of citrus fruit; no tinned and hardly any fresh vegetables, the dairy section had been raided; and don't even get me started on the toilet paper! I even saw a man make off with the bakery section's entire stash of baguettes -- he had to pay for 53 of these at the checkout! This despite government and branch officials coming on the telly almost every hour telling people there is no need for all this panic-buying, that the supply chains haven't been affected and there's plenty of everything to go around.

Old age is no place for sissies

"I think I want to go into a care home."

These are the words Mum spoke this morning. She had locked herself out for the umpteenth time this month, prompting a neighbour to call me at work, and me to call everyone else on the very short list of people who have a key to Mum's, which solved the problem in the short term, but...

In recent months, I have had several calls from the police, informing me that they have encountered my mother in the streets, half-dressed, cold, and very confused; unable to tell them where she lived; and that they're making her comfortable at the station, or in a day centre, or have released her into the care of a neighbour who happened to be passing.

I have had calls from her carers, telling me she has gone AWOL, and nobody's seen her or has any idea where she might be, and can I call the police?

I have had calls from neighbours, telling me she's locked herself out AGAIN, and this really can't go on like this for much longer.

But up until now, Mum has resisted the idea of moving into residential care. Even though she can barely walk, can't read the clock, can't work out how to use the telephone, can't take care of herself, and complains of being lonely, the idea of going into a home was anathema to her.

Although it's entirely possible that by tomorrow she'll have forgotten what she's said, I'm going to start to set the wheels in motion on my mother's final house move.

Drive-by post

The other day, LJ sent me a message, telling me it missed me. And so I resolved to show my face here again -- just as soon as I had something worth saying. I thought I had, earlier today, and spent hours writing a really long and somewhat rambling post, but LJ ate it. I guess it didn't really miss me, after all.

A few things have happened since last time we spoke; the most glaringly obvious one being that I'm back in work, and have been for about 6 months. I have just had my first evaluation, and it's all good -- excellent, even. They said they were particularly impressed by my leadership qualities, which I didn't know had been on show, but there you have it, and it's nice feedback to be given. Especially since I came to this job and this industry as a complete novice, and have been on a steep learning curve. I'm currently employed as the PCH Customer Engagement Program Coordinator for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and acting in the same role for Asia-Pacific including Hong Kong and Taiwan, but excluding China for a big pharmaceutical company. The position is in pharmaco-vigilance, or safety; and basically means that I am tasked with keeping tabs on all primary market research or branded promotional programs that offer the possibility of two-way communication to our customers (i.e., patients, healthcare professionals, and consumers), and (are intended to) run in those regions; making sure all regulations are met and the proper processes and procedures followed and that all monitoring is carried out according to the highest standards and according to the national and supranational requirements. That's quite a broad sweep, but the PCH in my job title narrows it down somewhat to Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, which is the entity I work with: over-the-counter medicine and nutritional supplements. I know it sounds quite dry, but I like it!

My own health has steadily improved over the last year; but alas! Mum's has declined. She is now virtually immobile and her Alzheimer's has fully extended its grip on her brain. Most days, she mistakes me for one of her sisters, and gets upset when I don't 'remember' certain events that happened in her and her siblings' childhood; old petty jealousies coming to the fore, like "Daddy gave you a bicycle while he fobbed me off with a scooter -- well, I showed him, I took that bloody bicycle apart!"

As to the kitties: Manasse finally stopped over-grooming himself after I put him in the Cone of Shame for a month (I should have thought of it before; it would have saved me a fortune in vet's bills), and is back to being a beautiful, somewhat rotund, tom. But Clio passed away on the 1st of February, after somehow suffering a very bad fracture to her tail. She was 2 months shy of her 19th birthday.

Now, fingers crossed this'll post this time!


Every year since 1981, there's been a festival in my hometown called Parkpop (because it takes place in one of the municipal parks). At first, and up until 2014, all bands performed on the Sunday and the entrance was free. That's how I came to see INXS, Blondie, Marillion, Sinéad O'Connor, Robert Plant, Kula Shaker and Robbie Williams; as well as the very first time I ever saw Paul Weller live on stage. From 5 years ago, the festival which by now had begun to attract half a million visitors, was spread over 2 days, Saturday and Sunday, and was no longer free: you had to pay for access to the park on Saturday when all the main acts play :-( Headliners have been Golden Earring, DJ Tiësto, Madness, and OMD. In 2017, they added the Friday night to the program as well, mainly for small local bands to be heard playing in a venue in the town centre. Entrance to the venues on Fridays and Sundays is still free.

This year, theheadline acts for me were:
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I met a couple from Las Vegas, who had travelled to The Hague specifically to catch Tears for Fear's gig. They were on a European holiday, and were staying in Budapest when they heard about their favourite band coming to perform a mere 1,416.5km from their hotel. That's fandom for you!

Skunk Anansie were the closing act, but after having spent 6 hours on my feet in a huddle in front of the stage in what is basically just an open field in 35C heat, I decided enough was enough and retreated to a wooded area where I could still hear the music but not see very much.

Two days later, I went to see Stray Cats on their 40th anniversary tour Amsterdam stop.
in the corner of your eyes

"I'm an instant star. Just add water and stir"

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It's as strange to see oneself on television as it is to hear oneself on tape.

Last night, I was in the audience for a Dutch live early evening talk show. One that I'd only begun watching 10 or 12 days ago. And that, completely out of the blue, a friend of mine then invited me to.

The experience of going into a tv studio was actually quite a pleasant one. The crew and host were chatty and super friendly -- prior to entering, we had been asked to switch off our phones and put our belongings in a locker, so the picture was actually taken by one of the cameramen on his phone and sent straight through. I was surprised by how small the studio was, in fact...it seemed so much roomier on the box! Saxophonist Candy Dulfer (of Lily Was Here-fame) and her band took care of the musical interludes, which was something of an unexpected treat; while discussions on the night ranged from what it meant to be Dutch (boring!) to the upcoming Democratic debates (less so). Afterwards, we were fed and watered; that is to say, we were treated to a lovely steak dinner, wine and coffees included...If the opportunity presents itself, I'll definitely do this again ;-)