The frequently amazing John Peel said "It's a terrible thing when we feel sorry for our parents." While my Dad lumbers around like an 83 year-old ox, my Mother has spent the last year being grumpy about being frail at a mere 73.
In the last year, she's had so many heart operations even she's lost count, and the medications for that are interacting with the medication that is saving her sight. A woman who has always obsessed about nice views is now in danger of having none at all.
Having given up on BUPA as the premiums made her depressed, she's now learning a lot, very rapidly, about the state the NHS is in. She used to work in nursing, so she's full of praise for the quality of care she gets. "They ask if they can use my first name. I like that.". The NHS has proved adept at flinging her from one end of the country to the next and providing her with great care along the way.
It has been a bit trickier moving her to the next county. She is in Taunton. The local eye specialist is in Plymouth. It is an hour by train. But, for various complicated funding reasons which my mother honestly doesn't understand, she can be treated there, but not by the NHS. They simply can't quite guarantee moving the funding across in time. Nobody doesn't want to, and yet it is fiddly. She wishes to see the Great Eye Consultant at the local Centre of Excellence - and this is, in theory, what the last few years of NHS Patient Choice reforms have been. In practice, you have to be very patient while waiting for your choice. If my mother had waited, she would be blind by now.
Instead of which, my parents cheerily tell me they've taken out a loan. They're even looking at the horrors of equity release ("Well, a house is one thing. But eyesight is another, dear."). My mother has discovered that the power of even a very little money works wonders. Suddenly all the forms and automated appointment systems that a 73 year old finds so confusing are whisked away, and instead my mother has a new hobby. Having afternoon tea while The Great Consultant stitches away at her eye, saving her sight.
A skilled sewer, she admires his technique ("He fitted four stitches in a millimetre the other day") while deploring the material he's working with ("My eye's had it. It's fraying as he sews it. If it was a sofa I'd reupholster from scratch.").
It's an odd situation. One made more so by it being a long drive to Plymouth than my father can do in a day. So they take the motorhome, and park up at the hospital. Dad makes himself some toast and reads the paper, and mum goes in while a very patient man sticks needles in her eye. "It's not why we bought the motorhome," she says. "But it does very well."