"So, where's my sock gone now?" asked Mum, having shown the doctor her feet, which have thin and peeling skin on them because of what the Communist would have described as "old age and poverty".
The sock had, interestingly, vanished without trace. So had her glasses.
"Stand up, Mum, I think you're sitting on it," I yelled.
"YOU MIGHT BE SITTING ON IT!"
"What, on my glasses?" asked Mum.
"No, on your sock!"
As she stood up and found her sock, and then found her glasses in her bag, and then sat back down again, the doctor was looking at the list of ailments she'd brought with her. He was very nice - I see him for my diabetes - but I could tell he was realising that seven minutes for this consultation was never going to do it.
"And my hands don't work properly," said Mum. "And I can't hear, and I've lost my sense of smell, and I forget things all the time. What else was on the list, Daphne? I've forgotten."
The doctor dealt with the hands - some arthritis - and realised how long everything takes, and the amount of forgetfulness that goes on, which is probably caused by the major stroke that she had in 1992, when she was a young thing of 68.
"You should apply for Attendance Allowance," he said. "I think your Mum is eligible for it. All you have to do is fill in a form which is about a hundred pages, whenever you have a fortnight or so to spare."
Attendance Allowance is a non-means-tested benefit of about £50 per week for over-65s who need help with their personal care. And although my mother, who is 87, is physically amazing in some ways - and still busy gardening for several hours every day - I give her a lot of help now with shopping, and remembering things, and finding things, and putting out her tablets, and checking she's remembered to take them - - all that kind of thing. She'd never go anywhere if I didn't take her, except to the Post Office along the street.
If she had Attendance Allowance, she could use it for whatever she likes - and I'm hoping she'll use part of it to get a cleaning lady in once a week. Mum's not doing too badly at the moment on the cleaning front - but I'd like her to have someone coming in now, before she's in dire need of it, so she can get used to it.
So this morning was Filling In the Form day, and Stephen and I decided to do it online. The form isn't quite a hundred pages - - just thirteen pages - but it's a bit gruelling to do. All her illnesses - - date of birth - - National Insurance Number - - list of medications - - supporting documents - -
Also, the form only works with a limited number of browsers, most of which were current in the 1990s. Oh yes, and you can't submit it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings because the website is out then - - for coffee, or something.
So - - - we logged in to the Government Gateway, and got a username and password, and started ploughing through it all, saving it as we went. Then we couldn't continue because it wanted to know what kind of phone number my phone number was - - and there was no box to say so, and without it we couldn't progress.
So we saved the form, and tried a different browser, and this time there was a handy box to say it was a mobile phone, and on we went.
As we approached the end of the form they said they want a statement of Mum's problems from "the person who knows best what they are" - - but that, apparently, can't be the same person as the one who filled in the form, if someone else has filled it in for her.
Now how many eighty-seven-year-olds who need Attendance Allowance and who are also capable of filling in an online form do you think there are? I'd guess it's a fairly low number, wouldn't you say? But that's the point really - there's only me, the person filling in the form, who sees Mum on a daily basis. But we nominated Stephen to make this statement, and hope that works.
So. After what seemed like as long as single-celled creatures took to evolve into Professor Brian Cox, we reached the end of the form, and then I remembered that I hadn't put "deafness" in her list of things wrong with Mum, so we saved it and went back to that page, and then the whole thing stalled completely and did NOTHING for a very, very long time.
So we logged out and logged in again and filled in all the password and User ID and got to the same place and it stopped again and continued to do NOTHING.
So we thought - - oh, sod it - - and went off to the pub for lunch, and Mum came with us and enjoyed it very much.
After I had eaten the WHOLE CARVERY (because I had swum over 70 lengths this morning, oh yes!) we returned to tackle the form again. Logged in - - passwords - - user ID - - - through the website to the same place - - NOTHING.
So we changed browsers back to the original browser - - and lo! it worked! So I added some information about Mum's deafness (clicking the "Add another illness or disability" box which for some reason amused me greatly).
Then I went to the end of the form, where it said that someone else could fill it in but that Mum herself had to type her signature.
So I enrolled Mum in a Computing for the Over-Eighties course at evening classes, and after a few months she had learned how to type her name, so I got her to type it, all by herself, because of course I couldn't type it for her in any way at all, as that wouldn't be right - - -
And then pressed "SUBMIT" and HURRAH! it worked and gave me a reference number.
It also asked me to send them a copy of my Power of Attorney which I know exists. Definitely. Somewhere. The Communist set it up a few years ago, and kept everything neatly filed - - but now -- who knows? So I will go and look, next time I have a couple more weeks to spare. I do hope it all works and she gets her money.
At the end of the doctor's appointment Mum said "It's not fair. He thinks I'm a potty old lady and I AM a potty old lady. But he doesn't know that I used to be top of the class, and that I got the only scholarship to University from my part of the North-West, and that I was a journalist, and that I was a teacher, and that I used to remember everything."
Old age, as they say, ain't for sissies.