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Gratitude 2

In my last blog post I wrote about the worry of my daughter facing the unknown with a breast lump. We have a strong family history of breast cancer so staying positive was not easy for either her or me, so the relief on hearing that she has a harmless hormonal cyst was huge. I lost my grandmother and mother to this disease and underwent preventative surgery in my 40s as I had by then had over a dozen cysts removed, a decision I have never regretted. It now looks as though my daughter may be following the family pattern of throwing up cysts as she matures but the treatments have improved so much that she was able to receive diagnosis within two weeks of first finding the lump and will now be monitored on a yearly basis. The C word is still scary but not in the way that it was for my Mother back in the 1980s, today there is far greater knowledge, a wider range of treatment options and an amazingly supportive breast care service run by the NHS in UK.

 

There is much to be grateful for and Breast Cancer Care will continue to be my number one charity to receive support

breastcancer care

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/

mental health, Philosophy, Uncategorized, Walking

Gratitude

waterfall

This is Llanrhaedr Waterfall, the highest in Wales and this afternoon we took a walk through the hills to reach the top of the waterfall. At the base of the falls there is a small car park and tea shop at the end of a four mile long narrow country lane The road stops here and you can go no further. There is no mobile signal or internet, and the silence is broken only by the sounds of red kites wheeling in the skies or sheep bleating as they make their way down the hillside with the barks of the collie dogs at their heels.

The autumn colours are deepening, the reds and oranges changing the countryside with each passing day as the shades intensify. There were a few other hardy walkers out this afternoon but not enough to spoil our pleasure in a glorious afternoon, a testing walk and a cup of tea in a delightfully quirky tea room whose decor cannot have changed in the last 50 years.

There is something very calming and reassuring about being in such a remote and beautiful place; it is more than just appreciating the natural beauty of the scenery; there is something grounding about being in a place which has changed so little for many hundreds of years. The buildings we passed were farm houses and barns, both fields and hillsides were covered in sheep and bracken and for just a few hours it was so easy to leave behind the 21st century. So much of today’s technology is amazing and helps us to connect with friends and family from all over the world – this blog is just one example- but it also a millstone weighing us all down with the need to keep up, to show that we are connected and in tune, we are having a busy and interesting life….and so on. But just for a few hours to know that no one could reach me was bliss. I had no need to be a supportive parent, a dutiful daughter, a caring friend but could truly look after myself, could relish the opportunity to replenish my inner being without feeling in the least bit guilty.

Tomorrow will bring a busy day where I shall be Mum to a frightened daughter as she heads to the breast clinic to have a lump investigated, and Granny to a little boy who can’t quite understand why Mummy is not quite herself so my gratitude for today is huge. Having topped up my reserves I shall be better placed to cope with whatever  tomorrow may throw at us.

It has taken me a very long time to learn the value of self care but I would urge anyone who is in a caring role to find time for themselves on a regular basis to do whatever makes you feel whole.

mental health, Philosophy, Uncategorized

A brush with mortality

The picture above is one painted by my husband and it reminds me so often of the importance to share our feelings, make that phone call, pay that visit now before it is too late. 

Last week’s hospital visit with my much loved Father brought home to me yet again the inevitability of losing him. My Mother died when I was just 36, breast cancer treated her with cold indifference, resisting treatment and ravaging her body within a few short years. Although she was only 58 at the time she seemed to be to be slipping into old age but now I understand that that was the effects of the illness, all energy and vitality was drained from her at far too young an age. For her final year she had little interest in anyone or anything, just getting through each day was battle enough until she simply gave up and slipped into a semi coma, neither alive nor dead for many weeks before she died. My predominant emotion at the time was anger, rage at the illness that had so cruelly changed her and fury at her for giving up and losing the fight. I felt cheated that we had missed out on so many years of shared time, that my children had lost their Grandma and would never have the bond that I had been blessed to have with my Grandmother. So, between anger and fury I look back now and realise that I was too busy to grieve. I had a full time teaching job, two children to raise, a home to care for and I filled every hour with busyness. I thought of her often, brushed away the tears and hurried to another task until the memories became less difficult but I never really grieved.

The years have changed me though and I became aware a couple of years ago that I was already grieving in a sense as I accepted that I would have to say Goodbye to my father one day in the not too distant future but so often I would banish such thoughts with affirmations of his good health, lively mind, willing him to go on for ever. My second book, a short novella, was written to somehow deal with these thoughts, to help prepare myself for the inevitable and to some extent it worked. It was cathartic to write and many people have told me how much it helped them when facing the death of a parent. Should you be going through such a time do follow the link to ‘A Fearful, frightening Happening’; I would love to know your thoughts after reading it.

Dad has made a remarkable recovery from his surgery and for the moment his life goes on but the brush with mortality has reminded me yet again that none of us lives for ever and what is important is how we live and not for how long. There are no guarantees that I will outlive him, we simply don’t know but one thing I have learned from him is how much what we think, believe and do can affect not only our life but the lives of those around us. There is a responsibility that comes with maturity as we each become a role model for ageing. We can’t avoid the inevitable aches and pains , the need for spectacles or hearing aids, the joy of an afternoon nap, but we can hold on to our joy in life, a sense of fun and laughter, a curiosity in all things new and willingness to learn from our children and grandchildren. I have now become the conduit between the generations, making sure that my busy adult children find time to connect with their Grandad, that the great grandchildren spend time with this very special man so that they too will have memories of him, and equally sharing film clips and photos with Dad so that he sees the latest antics of the little ones, shares in their school plays and sports days and is able to take pleasure in knowing that they are happy and well even if it is at a distance.

Life today is so hectic and full, so busy and driven that a month, even a year can flash past in a blink and good intentions to spend time together have dropped to the bottom of the priority list. Sometimes we need a brush with mortality to help us focus again on what is truly important.

 

mental health, Moving home, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Life’s little surprises

It has been over two months since I last wrote anything on my Blog and now it feels as though so much has happened that I don’t really know where to begin. I expected a break due to moving house, what I hadn’t bargained for was over 6 weeks with out phone line or internet due to the incompetence of BT; an on running saga that I wouldn’t bore my worst enemy with.

Just as I was recovering from the stress of the move, the inevitable legal issues, lack of fuel delivery, newly ordered furniture going astray….and so on…it was time to be ‘Granny’ for a week and care for my 3 year old grandson which was a joy but brought a different kind of exhaustion by day 7. Now I was no longer just mentally tired but every bone ached from endless visits to the park, long walks, train rides and sitting on the floor to make the Pirate puzzle for the twentieth time in a day!

One young man headed for home with his parents and I collapsed in to an armchair for a snooze before clearing up the house, removing Lego bricks from the fridge, finding a stray sock under the bed, sorting out the pieces of at least five Thomas the Tank Engine jigsaws and slowly feeling the house settle back in the rhythm of two middle aged people. The peace was balm but I missed the cuddles and the bedtime stories, the endless questions and the sheer delight when he came across anything new.

Within a couple of day I felt a spring in my step again, only to be floored by  the news that my 93 year old father had been given a diagnosis of bladder cancer and was due to go in to hospital on Aug 24th. Thankfully he is otherwise very well, has now had his surgery which successfully removed all signs of the early stage tumour and he will need no further treatment. So after a few days he is now back at home, and having stayed with him to make sure he was coping, I am now back in my own home. I am in awe of his resilience, positivity and gratitude for his treatment; as I left him today he had his diary out making plans for seeing his friends within the week.

I have had a sign in my home for many years which reads :This too shall pass and whilst visiting Dad in hospital he told me that he always looks at it when he visits and how much it had helped him through the last few weeks. We talked about the simple truth of it, both good and bad times always pass, nothing lasts for ever and it is worth remembering to treasure the good moments because we know they will pass and not be worn down by the hard times because they too will come to an end.

Many years ago when running a workshop on lie skills I met an amazing American lady who encapsulated this thought neatly by likening life to a ride on the Big Wheel. In her words,

” Honey when you’re at the bottom and your feet are in the sh.. the only place you’re going is up to the blue skies but do remember as you sit at the top looking out at the wonderful view, the only place you’re going is back to the bottom !”

What a metaphor for life and one that has certainly been apparent in my life over the last few weeks and months. And right now, I feel that I’m starting to move slowly to the top of the Big Wheel again, the skies are blue and the sun is shining so I shall do my best to treasure it all.

Moving home, Uncategorized

Britain wasn’t programmed for heat like this

Heat_Wave

For most of the time we bask in a temperate climate, hovering between 14 and 24 degrees and we are attuned to this; this is what we expect in Britain and today as I continue to pack boxes and delve deep in to the recesses of dusty cupboards it is 31 degrees here in Cornwall. It is just too hot!!

Dressed only in shorts and vest top my body swiftly disposes of each glass of water that I drink by sweating profusely. I know in the annals of English literature that horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow but here and now in June 2017 this lady is sweating and it isn’t pretty or comfortable. To add to the situation the pollen count is through the roof and I am suffering with hay fever so both sweaty and sneezy. I can see that I am painting a good picture here and whilst my husband can’t understand why I have taken time out to sit and type this but in some weird way having a rant has helped!!

Now that my frustrations have been expressed I shall go and make a cool refreshing salad and wash it down with a cold glass of wine. Thanks for being there fellow bloggers.

Politics

Another election has been and gone…

I am not a highly political animal by nature; I tend to value an ethos of effort, hard work and reward; a belief in kindness, consideration and in having a sense of responsibility to those less fortunate than myself and for this reason I am usually swayed by personality rather than party, by character and stature  rather than Conservative or Socialist. I began this election campaign by feeling that Theresa May was the one to vote for, the person to take us through the difficult Brexit months ahead but it soon became clear that the woman I had imagined to be clear thinking, compassionate and lucid had been reduced to an empty vessel spouting platitudes and slogans. She was reluctant to answer questions clearly, scared to enter in to televised debates and each day saw an increased automaton like performance which switched off me and many others in the UK.

I was left wondering where to place my cross as I didn’t totally agree with Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of life after June 8th. Much of his thinking was positive, his wish to attend to our failing NHS, our education system, our emergency services was commendable but there was always a lingering doubt in my mind as to the specifics of how all these measures would be funded.

As it happens where I put that cross is now not so important. We have a hung parliament, a coalition of sorts and we wonder how long Mrs May will remain in Number 10. Personally I feel very happy with the result; with no majority our Prime Minister will have to consult with and listen to others and maybe finally we will get to hear words such as moderation, agreement, co-operation and compromise being bandied around in Westminster. The divide between rich and poor must be halted and where possible reversed, those who are successful and earn high salaries must pay their fare share of taxes, as must the large corporations. In all of this I back Jeremy Corbyn. However it is also important not to wipe out all aspects of conservative values : rewarding those who strive to succeed, helping students by providing grammar school educations ( I was a pupil at such a school and would never have achieved as much as I have without that excellent grounding), encouraging people in to jobs and restoring a sense of self respect.

As in most arguments, there is good and bad spoken on both sides and what is needed now is for both parties to begin to listen to what each other has to say rather than to talk over their opponent. When working with young children I often used the ‘talking stone’ ( who ever held the stone, had the floor and no one else was allowed to speak until they had finished when the stone was passed to another child) and this solved many an argument or division of opinion and more importantly allowed even the quietest child their turn to be heard. Perhaps someone should take the PM a stone?talking stone

Moving home, Uncategorized

The Last Lap

snail-after-the-rain

The race has been a long one, much more of a marathon than a cross country, not the sprint for which I had hoped. We seem to have been training for ever (in reality 18 months), regular work outs on line to sift through the hundreds of available properties, intense sessions of pounding pavements as we walked the streets of towns large and small in search of that special place which would call to us and feel like home. Moments when the end seemed to be in sight but at the last minute the tape was moved and yet another 1,000 metres was added to our race.

Now we feel sure that that tape is back in view; our running shoes are wearing thin along with our energy and patience. We have trawled through our cupboards discarding the memorabilia of past races to move house, sifted through the debris from our early years keeping only those things which delight and hold true sentimental value and memories to pass on to the children and grandchildren and the packing boxes now stand empty waiting for us to begin the last lap of this race.

Although we have loved living in our present home I can feel myself slowly disconnecting and letting it go; I feel ready to hand it over to the delightful couple who want to make their home here and with each day that passes my focus turns evermore to the new house, the excitement of new beginnings and life across the finishing line.

I have moved home many times during my life but I can honestly say that I have never experienced such a tough and trying challenge as this one. Emotionally there was much bound up in this move as the reason was to be closer to the rest of our family, both young and old and I was stupidly optimistic at the start, imagining that all would be straight forward. How wrong I was this time as we were plagued by the aftermath of Brexit, a slump in the housing market and the fact that our house was a ‘ one off’ and needed just the right buyers. Our moods have risen and dipped, soared and slumped in tune with our energy levels but finally the end is in sight and like the snail we have just a short crawl until we make it to the finish.

So forgive me if I am rather quiet for the next few weeks as physically I shall be tired but also elated, mentally exhausted but also energised with the thought of creating a new home and practically I shall be waiting for British Telecom to connect me to the internet again and guess what?….. they move at snail’s pace!

Terrorist attack, Uncategorized

After breakfast…….

…..is when I usually make a second cup of coffee and sit at the computer, check my e mails and then log on to this site to see who has written and what inspires me to respond before settling to my own Blog writing on occasions.

This morning I had already been thinking as I went about my early morning tasks of making tea, feeding the cats and loading the washing machine of subjects which may influence today’s writing. The ups and downs of house moving are never far from my mind at present, frustrations with the UK’s politicians as we grind through yet another election build to boiling point quite frequently, the latest amusing anecdotes of my grandchildren’s escapades had all flitted through my mind. Now having switched on the TV and heard the latest shocking news of the terrorist attack in Manchester last night all these ideas simple fade away and I am left contemplating the horror of what has happened.

Thousands of young people, many of them still children, had headed out full of excitement and enthusiasm to watch Ariane Grande in concert at the Manchester Arena. As the show finished and the audience began to make their way out of the auditorium a suicide bomb was detonated at the exit killing 22 people, many of them children and injuring 59. Many adolescent girls had been dropped at the arena by their parents who were then waiting outside to collect them; children and parents were separated and unable to find each other in the midst of this dreadful situation. As one eye witness said on the BBC this morning, “It was carnage.”

Once again our ordinary way of life has been threatened, our sense of well being destroyed and as yet we do not know who the perpetrator was, only that he is believed to have died at the scene.

As always the goodness in people came rapidly to the surface and the ordinary citizens of Manchester rose to the occasion by helping in whatever way they could, spare beds and couches provided for those who could not get to their homes or hotels, cabbies offering free rides to ‘anywhere’, food and drink supplied to all the rescue service personnel involved. It makes me so proud to be British when I see such a response and I like to think that should it happen on my doorstep then I would do the same.

The 22rd May 2017 will be a marker point from now on for many families who are facing this new day with broken hearts and bewilderment that any individual could take it upon themselves to mastermind such an evil act. Those of us in the UK sitting watching the devastating events unfold on our television screens feel an instant need to connect with our own children and families, a need to reassure ourselves that they are safe and well and to count our blessings that this time we have escaped such a tragedy.

I spoke with my own daughter before writing this and she had been working for the previous two days at a large show held at the NEC, Birmingham. She said that there was a much higher level of security than usual but she had felt, as always in large crowds, a sense of anxiety throughout the weekend, feeling vulnerable in a place where so many were gathered under one roof. She should have been able to relax and enjoy the opportunity of meeting with others in her profession, sharing skills and ideas and promoting the company for whom she works, not looking over her shoulder and eyeing up anyone with a rucksack as a potential assassin.

I currently live in a very rural area and will soon be moving to another similar spot; quiet villages where one knows all the residents, where neighbours keep an eye open for strangers or unusual happenings, where life  moves at a slower pace and in time with nature’s calendar and although I enjoy visits to cities after a few days I am always ready to return to the tranquility of the countryside. I take my hat off to those city dwellers who have no option other than to face the day following these awful events by retracing their steps to work, dropping their children at schools, heading off to lectures at university or into town for some shopping and a coffee with a friend. Your bravery is commendable.

None of us know what each day will bring, news good or bad, joy or sorrow but none of those young people deserved such an ending to the delights of what may well have been their first  live concert. For those who were killed their families will never truly recover from such horror; those who were injured must start the long slow journey to regain their physical and mental health. We should not forget those who escaped injury in the physical sense but who will bear the mental and emotional scars of such an event for many years to come.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Manchester and all who live and work there.

Moving home

Far too much choice

Now that we have come to terms with the sale of our house and the fact that almost  all of our furniture has been included in the deal we are faced with having a beautiful new home and the task of choosing new tables, chairs, beds and sofas not to mention soft furnishings, lighting, rugs and so the list goes on. Over the last twelve years since we have been together we have slowly replaced some pieces of furniture, fitted a new blind, painted a room and updated the cushions and throws but we have never had to contemplate such a spending spree. Initially I thought this would be fun, an adventure, an exciting opportunity to create a new home and make it unique and individual. What we hadn’t been prepared for was the absolutely mind boggling amount of choice with which we would be confronted.

Our first purchase was a sofa and matching armchair which we saw on passing a furniture store, both immediately liked and fitted our requirements in size, colour and price. This lured us in to a false sense of security. Deciding we would like a wing backed armchair in a contrasting colour – plum, damson, claret, aubergine I foolishly Googled and found myself on one site alone being presented with 347 chairs and that was just in the UK. By the time I reached the 40s I’d become so confused there was no option other than to close the computer down and reach for a refreshing glass of chilled Sauvignon. Over the last week this pattern has been repeated over and over again with everything from pendant lights to silver grey curtains, from rugs to bedding. Since when did we need this amount of choice?

Is it just me that finds the prospect of sifting through more than 300 armchairs daunting rather than pleasurable? I had hoped that the internet would provide me with help in narrowing my options and so saving me from trailing around endless stores, and I suppose to some extent this is happening but so many of the items seen on the internet are internet only. In other words you are expected to order your furniture, your lights, your rugs and curtains without actually seeing them in the flesh as it were. There is an argument that says this is perhaps not so bad when you are buying a pair of curtains; if the colour or fabric are not what you expect you can soon return the goods and receive a refund. But what of a dining table and six chairs, a purchase of around £1,000? Are there really people who are happy to blindly order having only seen the items on line? How do you return a dining table?

Clearly I haven’t moved with the times as much as I thought I had; I happily purchase a new dress or pair of shoes on line but large items of furniture are a step too far. After many hours spent on a complex selection process we finally narrowed down our choice of armchair and were relieved to see that we could actually visit a store some twenty miles away and actually sit in it before ordering one in the colour of our choosing. Thankfully the chair turned out to be every bit as comfortable as we had hoped, the colour swatches were available in store so I now have a sample to take around with me as we pick up accessories for the room and we have completed purchase number 2! Its going to be a long haul to complete the house and we are going to have develop greater powers of selection or perhaps deselection as we move from living room to bedroom, bathroom to kitchen in our search for items that attract our attention and fit the brief. Either that or our wine consumption will be steadily rising!

After all that here is the chosen chair.

 

Aplum chair

 

Uncategorized

Buying a House – sight unseen!

2016-06-30 2016-06-30 001 001 (3)

Today we met the people who have bought our old Cornish farmhouse for the first time, even though they settled the deal more than two weeks ago. Many of our friends and neighbours have looked aghast when we have told them that the house is sold but the purchasers have done so purely on the recommendation of their daughter and as the day of meeting them grew closer we, too became apprehensive and wondered what their reaction would be as they stepped over the threshold. Would they like it, hate it? Would the deal fall through? Would we lose the lovely new home we had set our hearts on?

After a seven hour journey from Whitby in Yorkshire they arrived this afternoon and fell in love within minutes. Their beaming smiles, relaxed body language and increasing delight as we moved from room to room were all the evidence we needed that they were happy. It has been an unusual sale, we did have to trust in what they were telling us but it was clear today that after many months and countless viewers trooping through our home, the right people have found it. Not only were they happy but we liked them as people, feel happy to pass on the legacy of this lovely home to them knowing that they will treasure it as we have done.

After the tour, tea and biscuits, more questions and exploring, and three hours later they left as friends with hugs and kisses. Our home will be in safe hands and this very special corner of Cornwall will have two new residents who will fit right in like the last couple of pieces into a jigsaw. Life truly does have a way of working out.