Lost gloves and heartache

I’m of an age where gloves feature large in my life as an essential accessory.  I guess this happened when I was about 43 before that I was so hip not even weather could get to me.  Now I’d rather be comfy, which mostly means warm.

 

I have gloves for different occasions – there are the emergency gloves I had to buy when I was Christmas shopping in Camden with the best boyfriend in the world, then there are my driving gloves that live in my car, knitted silver yarn with yellow (my fave colour) which have rainbows bought for me by Sheryl, the beautiful long length black leather ones which make me look like a dominatrix or that I’m about to handle something corrosive. Then there are my everyday gloves.  Dark blue faux leather which are scuffed and worn.  When it rains and they get wet the dye comes off on your hands and you spend the day explaining your frozen looking hands to people.  These are now also my ‘Boston’ gloves.

 

I woke up this morning and couldn’t find them.  I have returned to my hotel in between appointments just to look for them.  I lose things all.the.time.  My brain just doesn’t retain information like where I last had a thing.  I end up replacing everyday items with amazing regularity.  But these worn out hand dying gloves cannot be replaced.  My Dad bought them for me and now he’s dead so they have been elevated to my most precious things.

 

On this Valentine’s Day, text your loved ones – including parents, grandparents, children, chosen family, whoever makes your heart bigger – because when they are gone it will hurt you in ways you cannot even imagine.

 

I found the gloves.  I had chucked them in a shopping bag with some souvenirs so everything is ok again.  Now go, tell those you love that you love them xx

pexels-photo-207962.jpeg

Boston Bits

I have arrived safely in Boston and am completely in love with the place.  I had a pretty dreadful flight here from San Fran, turbulence, over-crowding, nowhere to stow hand luggage, stuffed right at the very back of the plane where we were served last by the grumpiest Steward I have ever known.  As we were the last to be served, the Steward explained he had run out of cutlery so would we mind sharing – really!  You can’t go anywhere without tripping over a hand sanitizer in SF and the current flu epidemic is making people even more anxious, so no, we will not be sharing our cutlery.  I opted for the cheese and cracker option…

It was with slightly heavy heart that I ventured out into the cold, dark rain on my very first visit to Boston.  The airport shuttle was waiting and my driver was nice enough but not very chatty.  I was up to this point not overly impressed.   Then I got to the world’s friendliest hotel and all was well with the world again.  My room is nice enough, I screwed my nose up when I realised there were no tea/coffee making facilities in the room but complementary refreshments are served in the lobby.  I wasn’t initially enamoured with the idea of having to get dressed to pad down seven flights of stairs for my morning brew but I love it now.  I am greeted with a cheery good morning by the housekeepers, on the first day I was asked how my night was, I explained I was in a slightly different time zone still and was cheerily told to take my time.  The reception staff are equally cheery and helpful.  I live with teenagers.  I’m lucky if someone grunts at me in the morning.  I could easily get used to hearing ‘have a great day ma’am’ every time I leave a building.  When I return the concierge guys out front welcome me back – even if I just pop to Star Market next door.  It’s not at all cheesy – it’s lovely.

Fenway Health

Initially I had planned to meet with folks from the Fenway Institute but Bob needed to have some dental work so this was postponed until Tuesday (today).  I was so grateful for a day to catch up.  My inboxes are overflowing already despite my best efforts and I have little time to write up all my experiences, adventures and meetings.  I did manage to walk to the Cheers bar and buy some souvenirs which was really the only thing I’ll have time for sightseeing wise.

Today was spent with Bob and Lisa from the LGBT Aging Project.  In contrast to San Francisco where every other building is a gym, in Boston every other building is a café (my kinda town) where Bob, Lisa and I met and had some lovely, insightful conversations about working in the LGBT space, the challenges, the gains, collaborations and who else I should try and link in with.  I could easily spend another month here making links.

I’m deeply grateful for the time today, my head is again buzzing with ideas of how I can bring this knowledge and understanding back to the UK to have a positive impact.  I was even more fortunate that Bob, Lisa and some of their colleagues are moving so they were keen to offload some bits and pieces including this – which I love!

They were even polite enough to give me a small, that’s how lovely people are here.  I hot footed it back to the hotel – I cold footed it back to the hotel, it’s -3 here – to write up notes and plot more fabulous plans based on today’s discussions.  I wandered over to the shopping centre opposite the hotel in search of gifts for ungrateful teens.  I got a bit excited to see a Neiman Marcus in real life, I’ve only ever heard of it on TV before 🙂 I can’t afford anything from aforementioned store so left.  I did drool at the window of Jimmy Choo for a while though before bracing the elements in search of a subway.

I’m a huge fan of travel cards and by far the best way to get to know a place is to travel by bus.  You get to meet the most interesting people that way.  On my last day in San Fran, I met a really interesting chap who introduced me to three of his personalities, they all seemed nice and he gave me some great tips on travelling to New York.  It never ceased to amaze me that pretty much everyone I met talked openly about having a therapist, except the people I met on the bus who I suggest would greatly benefit from some psychological intervention.

Charlie card

I bustled down to the subway – you have to bustle here or your ears drop off from the cold – and in my own bumbling inept way could not get to grips with the top up system of the travel pass.  It’s called a Charlie Card here which again is just a lovely friendly name for it.  I sent a photo to my step son, Charlie.  (I’m never sure if I can use the term ‘step’ children as G and I are not married but for brevity I’ll use it here in the hope that it will not cause offence to anyone and because to say ‘the son of my boyfriend’ makes me sound a bit grandiose).  With my Charlie Card I can travel any bus or train except the commuter line.  I have no idea what that is but have three appointments spread across town tomorrow so will suss it all out by then.  I’m such a chilled out seasoned traveller now.

The nice lady in the subway who probably has to deal with people like me visiting and not knowing what the hell they are doing all day was super helpful.  By which I mean she assessed me as very needy and did the whole transaction for me including paying with my bank card.  I wasn’t sure how the Charlie Card worked – some travel cards you swipe on but not off, some on and off, some you just flash at the driver – so asked for some clarity.  These you swipe against a reader on the barriers.  She made me swipe and go through.  I didn’t actually want to travel anywhere but I got on the next train because I’m British and would rather pretend I wanted to do something than let a helpful person down.  So I went to Arlington for a bit, then took a return train which took me out another exit and so helpful lady never knew.  Sometimes it is exhausting being British.

Walking back I found a lobster shack.  Not where actual lobsters shack up but where you can go in and eat something called a lobster roll.  I’d heard talk of these and wanted in.  They are delicious and I’m going back.  Obviously, I’ll have to wait until staff changeover because they might think I’m a lobster roll addict or something.  Here it is (totally acceptable to photograph food for a blog kids, just saying) The pickle was free 🙂

Lobster roll

I missed out on the complementary hot chocolate from the worlds friendliest hotel but the lobster roll made up for it.  Chatted to the family earlier and everyone is surviving without me, which is good.  Remember kids even when I’m not in the country I know what you are up to, don’t forget that.  Always watching, always watching (Roz, Monsters Inc)

Busy day planned tomorrow and tired out even though its only 9pm.  Bob has recommended an evening stroll around the Italian quarter, but I’m pooped so that’ll have to wait another day.  Big love from Boston x

 

LGBT+ Dementia care training, Chinatown and secret gardens

Was fortunate enough to experience some cultural humility and dementia care training yesterday back at OpenHouse.  I like the cultural humility ethos, but there were some differences between the way we work in the UK with those living with dementia and the tenet of the training.  Attendees were encouraged to say yes to all the demands and requests from the person with dementia, therapeutic (compassionate) lying appeared to be the norm and there was talk of offering hope in the face of the diagnosis.  Attendees were healthcare professionals who mostly worked in care home facilities from what I could gather, with a couple of exceptions.  Examples of residents not being told that their loved one had died and distraction appeared common.  Pretty interesting to note the different approaches.

OpenHouse

Nice walk in the sun to the next appointment with the lovely Stu Maddux. Stu is a film maker and executive producer.  He produced a film called Gen Silent which was shown at the LGBT conference I attended in Melbourne on the first leg of my awfully big adventure.  Gen Silent is a beautiful film which talks of the concerns and anxieties of the LGBTI+ elders as they age.  Here is a link to the trailer – http://gensilent.com/   I would urge people with funding to watch it and find ways in which this film can be shown more broadly in the UK.

Stu works in the heart of Chinatown and generously offered to show me around while we chatted.  He explained that the water line used to be at the same level as this building!

SF Shard

Walking around San Francisco you can’t help but be in awe of the resourcefulness of those pioneers who decided to build here.  The Bay was bought under control so that they could build on it.  Apparently old ships were used to secure water lots in the age of the Gold Rush and so beneath the finance district there is a whole fleet of ships.  It’s weird to think that San Fran was little more than a small town in 1848.  My house back home was built in 1860 – we have a different sense of history, for sure.

Stu navigated us towards a tall building to ride to the 15th floor so we could take in the sights from a little-known patio.  I’m so grateful for the experience and definitely not one I would have had left to my own devices.  Stu has plans to make three further films, the first addressing loneliness and aging.  I’m hoping we get to meet again in the future.  We walked back to his offices in Chinatown and he wished me well and gave me a hug.  Not for the first time on my travels I realised that this was the first hug I had had since leaving home.  I walked away wondering how I would cope in isolation or in a care home which monitored and managed by intimate behaviour…

I wondered back through Chinatown and found the secret patio building again, this time taking photos of the views and the marketplace.

 

 

So that was that.  All the meetings are done, my brain is fizzing with the new knowledge and insights I have gained from this most duplicitous of places.  I have met with some genuinely lovely people and am now looking forward to Boston.  I’ve just had an email suggesting that we have a friendly chat over bagels and coffee before I get to meet all the people at the Fenway Institute.  I think I’m going to be just fine 🙂

A warm welcome from OpenHouse and Alzheimer’s Association

Yesterday saw me heading out to Laguna Street to meet with Duff Axsom (coolest name – ever!) and various colleagues to better understand the work that OpenHouse do.  My understanding is that OpenHouse has been running for 20+ years and started as a housing support organisation for the LGBT+ community.  Since then it has grown and broadened its support to include more direct support services and community programmes.

 

OpenHouse has 39 apartments onsite and is in the process of building a further 79 apartments.  The waiting list is in the hundreds and currently closed.  The need for affordable housing is evident in San Francisco.  I heard accounts of how the lack of affordable housing meant that it was almost impossible for those who have moved away from San Fran hoping to move back.  It also means that selling up and downsizing is not an easy option so people are encouraged to keep their own homes for as long as possible.  San Francisco has some really beautiful buildings but it is not an easy place to be if you have mobility problems or frailty.  Often old apartment blocks either don’t have a lift or it frequently breaks down.  OpenHouse offer a volunteer befriending service to alleviate the isolation felt by some people.

Openhouse

OpenHouse has a broad remit, I saw a support group in action to help people who struggled to de-clutter their homes, I heard about cultural humility training, the support group for people who care for somone with a dementia, health and wellbeing support and how residents are encouraged to host groups too.

 

It was an absolute joy to meet and talk with Amy, Sylvia, Manuel, Duff, Jess, Ariel and Michelle.  Each person was very generous with their time and influenced and informed my thinking.  I am delighted that a new programme called ‘Embracing sexuality in older age’ (or something similar, sorry if I haven’t quite remembered the title) is being rolled out in a couple of weeks.  I’m hoping to keep in touch with OpenHouse to see how that programme is received, but it sounds like it’s going to be popular 🙂

 

I am very grateful to Duff for organising my day.  I had great conversations with everyone and was made to feel very welcome.  I definitely feel more at home in more subversive environments 🙂  Thank you OpenHouse x

Alz Assn

Today I headed off to the Financial district to meet with the Alzheimer’s Association to speak about their LGBT Dementia Care Project.  We had an interesting discussion about how to access and engage with organisations.  I found out that there is mandatory dementia training in SF which must be undertaken before and after staff have started working with people with a diagnosis.  Apparently, in SF you need 400 hours of training before you are allowed to work in a nail bar, but you can care with someone with dementia after only 4-5 hours training.  Good to know that the issues around getting staff released for training is just as difficult here as at home.  Looking forward to attending the training tomorrow at OpenHouse.  Tiring but great couple of days.

Made it Ma, top of the world!

The second leg of my awfully big adventure saw me flying into San Francisco late on Friday afternoon.  There was significantly less anxiety this time around as I knew my children and the best boyfriend in the world could survive without me as we discovered when I disappeared off to Australia for a month.  It is still a bit of wrench, but I quite like long haul flights now – no emails, people just give you wine and I watch more movies then than I do any other time in my life.  The jet lag is negligible.  I wake up at around 4am but I do that at home too.  I hope this does not mean that I will suffer when I get home…

 

The shuttle service from the airport was an adventure in itself.  I opted for the shared shuttle service as it’s the cheapest and not having the luxury of family waiting for me (like in Oz) and a notoriously awful sense of direction I thought it safest just to pay someone to deliver me to my hotel.  I knew that San Francisco was hilly, I mean, I’ve seen Steve McQueen in Bullet, but I had no idea how hilly.  I’m not a roller coaster kinda gal so opted for the ‘don’t look down’ approach during some parts of the journey.  I’m also not at all religious but found myself saying a small prayer to the God of brakes and clutches.  When my fellow traveller wished me luck as we dropped her off first, I knew I wasn’t the only one holding on for dear life.

 

The hotel receptionist could not have been nicer.  She asked me where I lived in the UK, I usually say not far from London when I’m anywhere abroad but explained I lived in a small town near MK.  It transpired her sister lived in the exact same town.  What are the odds!  We had a lovely chat about her sister and I found myself being offered a room on the top floor instead of near the middle where my original room was.  The view from my room is just amazing.  The pics don’t do it justice, but I can see out across the bay and I am intoxicated by the night time view.  For someone who is slightly ADHD the twinkly lights are just so much more interesting than telly.  It’s like having the biggest big screen TV ever 🙂

 

I unpacked and took a walk around just to get my bearings.  I wasn’t at all hungry, having eaten seemingly endless meals and snacks on the plane so I just chilled in my room and waited until it was a reasonable time to go to bed, despite the fact that my body was telling me it was 3am in the UK.

 

Saturday saw me hitting the hotel gym because when in California and all that.  Gyms are big here.  Walking around there are endless gyms in amongst the shops, the open doors (it’s also very warm here right now) give you a glimpse of people running, pumping and sweating through workouts.  Health is a big deal here.  They have a channel called Beachbody TV!

 

I needed to sort out some vitals.  A travel card so I could get around, some food basics – I have a fridge in my room and the cost of breakfast was ridiculously expensive so, as I mostly only eat yogurt for breakfast I stocked up, water, milk, some trail mix – I’d never had this before, but I now eat bags of the stuff!  I sussed out the laundry, thankfully the hotel has a guest laundry as I packed much more sensibly for this trip, mindful that people will give me lots of printed information and that the children will all expect gifts, so I left a little room in my case.  Travel cards have been essential wherever I have stayed and in San Fran you need a Muni card.  I got horribly lost around Chinatown looking for the bookshop that sold them, but getting lost is absolutely the best way to explore a new place.  Eventually found the bookshop, but they no longer sold Muni cards J  Maps are also vital so found the Tourist Information office and got myself a route map.  I also needed a different SIM card.  I had planned ahead this time, taking one of the kids old iPhones so I didn’t need to keep changing SIMs when I wanted to phone home.  Luckily the hotel is right next door to a T-Mobile shop so that was easily sorted.

 

Saturday was definitely a day of walking, but I kind of sussed out the place a bit too.  There are some startling differences between here and home.  Everything is more expensive than you think because they add taxes on after you pay for something.  Homelessness is a big problem, I’ve seen people being shooed away from café entrances for asking for food, people with evident mental health problems being ignored and begging, lots of begging.  It’s pretty different to the ads we see at home about Californian life.  I have found that a bit hard to be honest.  Other cultural differences include tipping for everything, but I was given solid advice about this by my brother who lives in Phoenix – good service 20%, mediocre service 15%, crap service 10%, don’t tip in coins, tip bar staff for every drink they serve, even if it’s just a dollar.  I’m getting the hang of it.  Slightly weirder differences – there are quite big gaps around toilet doors.  This might be oversharing but it’s a thing.

 

One of the things I find hardest when away is knowing what the shops sell.  At home we all know Tesco, M&S, Boots but when you are abroad you have little cultural reference.  I wander into places which I think might be a little grocery store only to find it sells art supplies or something.  Because I’m British, I pretend I totally want to look around at all the art supplies so spend 15+ minutes browsing in a shop I don’t want to be in before making a face that is supposed to depict ‘oh you don’t have the art supplies I wanted’ and walk out.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

Alcatraz

I digress.  Having settled in a bit and survived the first couple of nights, even taking myself out for dinner, I decided that Sunday would pretty much be my only sightseeing day so I headed over to Alcatraz by ferry.  It is an amazing place and well worth the trip.  As I listened into the audio tour, I couldn’t help but think how being trapped on an island reflected some of the conversations I have had with older people living with dementia. At the very end of the audio tour there is this quote from a former inmate which really did resonate with some of the comments I’ve heard:

“and I’m watching the cars whizzing by and the people walking and everything was moving too fast and I didn’t know how to move with it and then I remember how envious I was of these people, they all had a destination, they are all going someplace and I didn’t know where I was going.  And I was scared to death.”

This image and quote also resonated, it never ceases to amaze me how you think you are going off to do one thing but it informs your thinking about your research, even if those thoughts are a bit tough.  Thinking time is so important and something I see less of at home with the pressure to always churn out a ‘product’, there seems little space for creativity.

It was all there for you to see

 

Monday has seen me coming to terms with my route map and heading off to visit with the very lovely Jason Flatt and Amy Mack (who should really be a rock legend with a name like that).  Jason and Amy work at University of California, San Fran in the Institute of Health Aging.  We had very interesting conversations around health disparities and the LGBTI+ community, sexuality and dementia, screening, training, human rights and came up with loads more questions than answers J  Jason and Amy have a long to do list of projects but I’m very much hoping that we could link in with Australian colleagues at some point and put a project together to further our research endeavours.  Mind buzzing with opportunities and options.  A fabulous day, the sort where I think maybe a career in academia wouldn’t be so bad 🙂

Jason & Amy