Way back when, a few months ago when things on the horizon looked very different, I booked myself on to a conference in London. A couple of nights in the big city and a leisurely chance to catch up with extended family and old mates and see some exhibitions, what could be nicer?
Now I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing but I’ve decided to go anyway, as it’s the Carers UK annual general meeting and it feels like an important thing to to – meet other carers and in particular, survey the political landscape.
Amidst the chaos of Brexit negotiations, NHS breakdown and Universal Credit, it’s clear that social care will be stretched more than ever.
The government say that £62.50 a week Carers’ Allowance is perfectly adequate and their purse is now closed. Yet the percentage of people being looked after by family and friends is growing all the time and I fear for the future. I think it will be interesting to plug in to what other carers are saying and what kind of solidarity we have together.
Of course going away means getting everything shipshape for Nick beforehand.
He’ll have the carers coming in from Acme but though sweet and reasonably efficient, they miss a lot of things and they’re only there for three 20 minute calls a day anyway. So me going away means doing all the shopping, getting to the bottom of the washing basket, stocking up on boxes of wine and hiding them (my husband knows where and will visit while I’m away) making sure the timers are working on the TV and radio (Nick pulled them all out on the first night of use) organizing bill payments and appointments for next week and blah blah blah, all the usual endless admin – just for two days!
It’s crazy. My own house, I’ve just left in a shambles. The boys won’t notice.
The trip itself has turned into one big juggle and a squeeze as I seem to be incapable of relaxing enough to just stay with one person and spend time with them – of course not! There is rarely a chance to get away these days so I try to cram it all in, seven people lined up to see over two and a half days as well as the conference, and I’m hoping to sneak in some art too.
I think this is all part of the carer’s mentality – you forget what it’s like to linger and pause, unless it’s out of sheer exhaustion. So you just cram it all in while you have the energy and try to keep all those spinning plates in the air.
I'm not at all sure that it's healthy. But it's what you do.
The other carers who make it to the conference will have had to prepare and juggle things in their own lives in order to get there, under who knows what impossible circumstances.
It will be interesting to meet other people in the same boat – and I’m quite sure, people who will make me feel as if my life with Nick is a doddle in comparison. I’m looking forward to learning how they do it.
But anyway, at the moment just the prospect of sitting on the train on my own with a book feels like the most delightful luxury.