Sunday, 31 July 2016

Stored To Memory: A Beautiful Day

Didn't I read somewhere a little while back that people miss out when their focus is on taking pictures rather than being in a special moment?  And so it was that I took very few photos at my brother's wedding yesterday.   It turned out to be a truly wonderful occasion, moving and joyful and maybe more memorable because I wasn't too bothered about capturing it in digital form.  For my mum though I've changed my Blogger profile picture to one of me and Lou taken before the wedding ceremony.  I must have overheard her telling people about a hundred times yesterday that she likes my hair now it's fluffier!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The One I'm Not Reading

What surprises me about  the grief at the lost of my sister is the range of emotions I'm experiencing.  I usually wake up numb, my efforts are sometimes laboured and I can be tearful at the drop of a hat.  I was expecting all those.  What I hadn't anticipated were the times, just hours after Esther's death, that I can function as if nothing untoward had happened.  I can laugh, enjoy the company of my kid and plan for a wonderful productive future, the rest of my own life however long that might be.  No-one knows.

In stark contrast to our family's loss, my brother gets married today.  The wedding is still going ahead.  My sister would not have wanted it to be cancelled.   The day was planned with the hope that, after the end of her chemotherapy treatment,  Esther would be well enough to enjoy it.

Of course this will be a bittersweet occasion but one that will be marked by much joy and outpourings of love to heavily punctuate our sadness. I'm doing a reading at the ceremony.  My future sister in law dithered over her selection and sent me two lots of verse.  I practised this one and then the other, a modern poem, was her final choice.  This beautiful bit of Shakespeare still deserves an airing for its overall relevance at this time.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Tune For Tough TImes

The recent kindness shown by others has touched me greatly.  Friends, family, colleagues and hospice staff especially deserve  a mention as do those who've left kind words after my two most recent blog posts.   In a troubled world it is a beautiful thing indeed when humanity shines through.

Of course, music has been a comfort too and has also given expression to feelings which have been hard to articulate.  It's such a pivotal part of my life.   Perhaps it was inevitable that angry thoughts around God allowing suffering would surface.   In the throes of watching someone in mental agony in the middle of a long night there seemed no adequate response that would counter that one.  Even so, there's this song, that  often gets played on a loop on those long West East car journeys  that are an inevitable part of life at the moment.   It's the one that has been bringing  me the most solace.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Blogging Break

When I first started blogging  six years I set out to foster a daily habit and simultaneously conquer fears around subjecting my work to public scrutiny.  I've achieved both and so much more.   I even feel comfortable calling myself as a writer although I don't earn a penny from the activity.  After all it's not only our earning potential that defines us.   Connecting with others has turned out to be reward enough. Maybe financial gain would be detrimental.  Perhaps the absence of the need to generate pennies brings greater freedom.

Writing has taken on immense importance in my life and feels almost as mandatory now as brushing my teeth or hauling my kid's ass out of bed for school.  I have a voice where previously I doubted that I was allowed one.  I  post about the good times, share wonderful encounters and my potty thoughts. It's sustained me through life threatening illness, breakdown, break ups, bereavement and personal hardship.  

So it is with a heavy heart that I admit that I don't feel able to blog at the moment.   I have said before that I don't paint the whole picture in Blogland.  What is happening in my outside world is more overwhelming than anything I've ever experienced.  Normal life is on hold.  I'll resume it when I feel able.    Your kind support is always much appreciated.  I'll be back but I don't know if my return will be days, weeks or months away.   In the meantime I send peace and blessings.  Take good care of yourselves and those you love. 

Sweet Enough?

I visited a residential home the other day and someone had bought their mum with dementia a similar mug to this one.    I thought it was a pretty nifty idea.  Of course it would be no real substitute for talking to a person and asking for their preference if they're still able to communicate this.  But I can see that it would have uses in some situations, for example, where a person's speech or understanding is severely affected.

There's another thing to be mindful of here.   A person's sense of taste can change if they have dementia . Often they might prefer sweeter or stronger flavours than before.   So it might be that  their favourite hot drink could differ with time.

It occurred to me as well that not everyone likes a builder-type mug. If that's the case maybe a trip to a ceramics studio might be in order.  How about letting creativity take hold and say, producing a dainty little cup and saucer set on a similiar theme?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Essex Gospel

Here's Billy Bragg, a person with a strong Essex identity that firmly kicks  those TOWIE stereotypes into touch.  We are not all glow in the dark orange and designer gear obsessed.  I haven't been in a tanning salon in my life!    A rallying cry was needed yesterday so I was listening to this Youtube track in the car.  I particularly love the introductory spiel where Billy describes how this song came about.  The verse below spoke  to me the most.  It reminded me  that of the power that that can be  claimed  through acting with love in these hard, greed driven times.

Now the way the world is run
Too many people looking after number one
Don't seem to notice
The damage that they do.
No, it's not widely understood
There is, there is a greater good.
Do unto others as you would have them do to you,
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

A Prezzie

It's that time of year when school artwork wends its way home.  I've been hearing about the aboriginal themed cushion that Louis' been making me in his art class  for yonks. We've had updates at mealtimes and at parents evening. The teacher alluded to a rather excellent anteater within the design. I seemed to have provided half the boys with backing material for their designs.  It's been a real tenterhooks time I can tell you!

 Finally I got to see it in the flesh yesterday. I'm as pleased as punch.  It's one of the nicest presents I've ever had!

Monday, 11 July 2016

Estuarine Immigrants

I took the train this weekend.  My West Country route  to and from Bristol encompasses what must be one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, the bit of the line between Exeter and Newton Abbot. Okay, it has a tendency to being washed away. Some of it is precariously close to the sea and it's not uncommon in rough weather for the trip to be livened up by a wave rolling across the carriages.   I for one would be terribly upset if it were ever re-routed  inland.

Along the tidal estuaries of the Exe and the Teign birdlife is abundant.  I especially love the little egrets.  They're a common site but only established themselves in this country from continental Europe at the end of the 1980s.  I've just noticed from this Pixabay shot that they have yellow feet, just like a lot of those boring footballers in the UEFA cup final last night!

Sunday, 10 July 2016


Did I insinuate yesterday that I was going to dance until the wee small hours of this morning? Well that was the plan.  It turned out that not only was the flesh weak but the spirit became totally unwilling and failed to cooperate.  After a brilliant day where I met up with a friend after a quarter of a century and cooed over the glittery-ness of men in  drag I went into meltdown.

We'd come back to have supper at Red Mel's flat before heading out to see the final acts at Bristol Pride and exhaustion hit.  There was nothing for it but to excuse myself. The others understood. . I snoozed then showered and donned jammys .  While mainlining tea I read a good book.  It was an excellent call.  Staying well during stressful times means listening to myself.  Rest was what I needed not revelry.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

I Can Sing A Rainbow

My own sexual proclivity leans towards blokes who would scrub up nicely as lumberjacks and protect me in the wild woods.   Think GĂ©rard Butler in a check shirt wielding a chain saw.  Yowzer!   In spite of this I'm excited to have rocked up in Bristol for Pride, an event synonymous with the LGBT community.  After all I count quite a few of these guys as very dear friends. So the plan for today involves camping it up and dancing my little socks off, in the VIP area no less.  Watch out the gay community of my favourite UK city.  I'm going to be giving you a run for your money!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Lil' Heffalumps

The ability of others to work in miniature never ceases to amaze me. The scale is just not accessible for me from a temperament or dexterity point of view.  Big, bold and a bit rough around the edges are characteristics of my own creations. It has to be so.

The rather gorgeous Colossal website recently showcased this amazingly detailed piece of work, carved from a carpenter's pencil by Cindy Chinn.  Teeny tiny graphite elephants parade across an African landscape.  Probably someone's going to contradict that and say that the piece is inspired by an Indian tableau.  But hey, I'm posting ahead and at this time of night I really can't be arsed!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Dementia Connections

This is Carrie, one of the most inspirational people I've ever had the privilege of meeting. Please take ten minutes of your time to listen to her.   I'm her clinical supervisor but go away from our meetings thinking that I might be  learning way more from her than she ever does from me.  She's petite and quiet,  unassuming even, not adjectives that anyone would use to describe me.  However we have much more in common that would outwardly appear.  What unites us is a shared desire to increase our understanding of the psyche of those people with dementia who suffer dreadful agitation and distress.   Thankfully they are in a minority but their numbers are not insignificant.  Our aim is to help them hold onto their identity and make sense of a world that can become increasingly bewildering and horrific as the disease progresses.

One of the things that we agree on is the importance of the language we  adopt around those that we care for.  We strongly feel that using words like 'violent' and 'aggressive' isn't helpful.  People with dementia  might lash out bodily and with their tongues when they interpret the world as a very frightening place indeed.  Most of us would fight if we felt extreme threat. It is a very understandable response.

It occurred to me the other day that if a person is labelled in terms that describe them as dangerous others will interact with them differently.  Most will approach them with a sense of trepidation and adjust their communication and actions accordingly.  I believe that this increases the risk of harm. People with dementia aren't stupid!  They'll pick up on those negative emotions and quite rightly deduce that something is terribly wrong with the interaction.

What I've found helpful is to cast my own fear aside.  I'll greet the person warmly, tell them my name, look into their eyes and make physical contact, normally by holding or shaking their hand.  And if they seem scared  I'll acknowledge that and try to soothe them.   Sure I'm mindful of the need to stay safe but this isn't the uppermost thing in my mind.  What tops this is the desire to connect, human to human.

I'm not saying that this is the whole story by any means.  Carers often have to perform necessary tasks which could seem threatening to someone with dementia.  Imagine what you'd feel like if someone was trying to remove your clothing and you didn't understand.  But in normal social interactions that don't involve intimate self care my approach seems to work.   I am rewarded with intensely meaningful connections with another.  And I  haven't been hit for a very long time.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Stop Thinking!

Okay, let me be the first to admit that calling someone a knob end when they cut me up in the car yesterday wasn't being entirely impeccable with my word. What made it worse was Louis was in tow to hear this little tirade. Oops! Adhering to those Four Agreements, it's going well then is it?

Actually. it's a whole lot better than it seems. Frequent reference to these really rather sensible rules for living is making a difference.  I'm bolder in speech with the aim of making myself clearer to others who have a different dream. I counter this extra audacity by being much more careful about what comes out of the old gob. Less judgmental,less bitchy, I hope.  The one about not taking stuff personally is a toughy  but I'm working on it. Sometimes what others throw at you beggars belief, stark reminders that the realities that we each create in our own minds are so very different.  The concept that our best will change according to our capacity at any given time has been much easier to take on board, a wonderful  antidote against mental self abuse.

Here's more of don Miguel Ruiz wise words.  It's only just occurred to me that thinking, thinking, thinking all the time isn't the way to inner peace and  enlightenment.  Leaps of faith don't come about through fretting  and nit-picking analysis. I'm surprising myself.  My capacity to dumb my normally busy little brain right down seems to be improving.  It's almost as if I've found the 'OFF' switch and can now use it intentionally, even at times of stress.  Those silent spaces are lengthening.  'Don't Think' is my new mantra.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Socky the Occy

It would be really lovely to do some crafting. Maybe some linocuts to adorn some of the many bare walls in our house, give away or even sell. Or a bit of silver smithing?  I'm hankering after a thumb ring and could make my own. Chance would be a fine thing at the moment. There's too much else on.  Out of sheer necessity DIY of a novel kind is filling up precious leisure time.  I suppose it's creativity of a kind but it's not as fun.  I'll spill all and show you what I've been up to in a day or two when my project is completed.

So it was great when Louis came home from a weekend Scout camp with something he'd created. Socky the Occy is just made out of, yep, a sock, an elastic band and a couple of googly stick-on eyes. He's a bit rough and ready but I love the concept.  It's a bit mad. The most random thing  is that he's stuffed with lavender and smells much more lush than most cheesy footwear. Louis loves him so has  kept him for himself.  But when I've been a good Mama I'm allowed to have Socky in my bedroom at night on loan.  For, of course, his lovely scent is supposed to have  sleep inducing properties!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Facing the Music

I'm stronger and consequently more purposeful than I've been for years.  Maybe ever.  Yet, outside the sometimes sanitised world of  Blogland a train that I'm not driving is again set to crash.  I'm definitely a passenger in the first carriage though and, bar a miracle, what is likely to happen will hit hard.   That's the nature of disaster and tragedy.  They turn up  in our lives without a by your leave.  Even the most meticulous of our plans can be upturned. It's worth remembering this.

Whilst contemplating the inevitable I found inspiration from the unlikely source of a  '90s financial services advert. . Funny that because as it's not something that I've thought about for years.  Maybe it's a little message from the divine world reminding me that, in spite of troubles ahead, there will be solace to be found through the love of others, music, beauty and nature.  Those involved will be able to steer a course through these saddest of times.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Days Out In Devon: River Dart Country Park

Don't get me wrong. I love my bricks and mortar house at Brixham. But when I'm there I can also find something to do: nooks and crannies to clean and things to mend.  I'm sure you'll all know the score.
Thank goodness for Klaus the Knaus, my motorhome. For he is sanctuary, a place where my friends and I can take refuge from a world which places demands from all sides.
Luckily in Devon I don't have to drive very  far to find a spot that allows for high quality chillin'.  This weekend Sugar Plumb and our boys have rolled up at River Dart Country Park.   My journey there coincided with the terminus of the school bus that Lou takes to get to his Dad's house.  Result!  He turned up at exactly the same time that I was passing in the van.

 The park is only about a mile on from where I picked Lou up It's a place that stuffed to the gunnels with stuff that encourages kids to step away from those blooming screens.  There's big slides, assault courses, nature trails and soggy activities based around a big lake.  Handily there's camping too.   The park is marking its 40th year by setting forty challenges for your stay.  One of them is to find the tulip tree, a type of magnolia.  Ta da! We did that and were blessed to find it flowering.  Isn't it incredible?

This lovely tourist attraction used to be a favourite haunt when Louis was a littl'un.  It was only a few miles away from my former home.  I'd been a little concerned that he and his friend would find it baby-ish now but I needed have worried.  These types of activities are good for all ages.  Hell, I even had a go on a rather large zip slide myself.  I'm rather pleased that no-one took photos of my very inelegant dismount!

A few of the activities cost extra.  We treated the boys to a go on the high wire course which turned out to be entirely age appropriate.  They loved it!  I took on the role of official photographer from the ground.   Here's one of my shots.  I think it shows my own little monkey up to dare devil antics.  Look no hands!  In spite of his dyspraxia his sense of balance seems to have turned out okay.  He was pretty proud of his mastery up there.  It's lovely when something sporty boosts his confidence.

We've had a brilliant weekend break doing all the usual camping stuff: eating pasta and barbecue,  drinking wine, chewing the fact and spending time in the open air in spite of the chilliness and intermittent showers.  This is England in July after all. A heatwave isn't guaranteed.  So will we be back?  Absolutely!  An return in the autumn before the campsite closes at the end of September might already be on the cards.

Saturday, 2 July 2016


I added to the repertoire of things that I no longer need a bloke for yesterday.  Of course, it's great if one's around when you need a bit of help.  The damsel in distress act is perfectly acceptable on those occasions.   But it's good to be able to do manly jobs with your own wee, fair hands.  In fact the accomplishment brings about one of the greatest feelings of satisfaction that I know.

So what was it that I mastered for the first time yesterday? Well, with the help of YouTube and my trusty Skoda manual I jump started Klaus the Knaus.  My poor motorhome's battery was as dead as a dodo when I arrived to take him off his storage pitch for a weekend of adventuring. Amazingly I managed the whole operation without passing 10,000 volts through my torso!

Friday, 1 July 2016

I Surrender

I figured some time back that trying to control another person will either  be a non starter or distressing for them.  So,  what's the point of being nagging or domineering?   But when I was poorly a few months back the need to micro-manage every aspect of my own life became a fixation. And of course that's not possible either.  Again and again, life throws up stuff  that isn't part of the best laid plans.  It seems sensible to nurture acceptance of the idea that it's not always possible to exert influence over what happens  however hard we try.

This lovely meditation explores current themes in my own thinking around surrender, vulnerability and faith.  I've found it helpful and share it because others may too.  It  sits well with  Niebuhr's well-known serenity prayer. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.