I was at a fundraiser last week where, amongst the various attractions, there were several women giving massages of various types. (Now stop thinking that, it was all highly respectable.) And there was a lovely girl doing Reiki and reading cards. “Why not?” I thought. I’ve never had a card reading but it was all in a good cause! And so she read my Angel cards.
I do find it difficult to take these things seriously and keeping a straight face was most definitely a challenge. But I took it all in good heart. She told me various things about myself and, as with all these things, it’s always possible to find something to relate to amongst the generalisms. So apparently I’m very caring and would make a good counsellor. Hmm. Not sure about that one. I should make more time for myself. Now that I like but so, I imagine, would most mums. And I should be more decisive.
More decisive. MORE decisive.
So, I wonder, does that mean I should turn from Bossy to Bully?
“I’ve put you down for the cabbage” said FB. “Oh that’s OK” said I. This was a little while ago – December 1987 for the pedants. GPD and I were living in Pembrokeshire in newly married bliss, working at a consultancy in the stable yard of a field studies centre. We lived in a doll’s house cottage in the countryside, GPD’s bachelor pad that we were gradually transforming into a house for two. It was an idyllic spot, unless the army was on exercise; our cluster of cottages was by a tank firing range and during the summer the Europeans would visit and spend a week or two blowing the cliff tops to smithereens. They would generally do this at night, and the windows would rattle with each deep, echoing boom. Not the sort of stuff you find in estate agents’ blurb. It’s a beautiful area nonetheless; I was back there last summer working on a beach below the range and our cottage looks as cute as ever.
Anyhow, the kitchen staff at the field centre had recently catered for some big event and were on strike, refusing to cook a staff Christmas dinner. Undeterred, we all agreed we’d do it ourselves Continue reading →
I had a phone call from Outer Mongolia the other evening. It was so faint it certainly sounded as though it was from the furthest corner of the planet but I did decipher someone closer to home. Did I want to meet for coffee, asked the distant voice from another world? By now I’d figured it was one of my occasional running friends. I’m sure we all have friends who we meet in one context but rarely in others, so this invite was slightly unusual but very welcome. I work at home, you see, so I’m always up for being disturbed by not-to-be-missed social events. Call in for coffee any time you’re passing, I say to people, but they rarely do. “I wouldn’t want to disturb you if you’re working”.
Anyhow, we arranged to meet for lunch today, midday, in a local bookshop cum cafe. But I work at home, and the phone rang just before I left with a call I had to take. So I was late, about 7 minutes in my estimation. I looked round the cafe: noone I recognised. I browsed in the bookshop. Still noone I recognised. I ordered coffee and sat with the newspaper. The place was still full of strangers. Had she been and gone, I wondered, because I was late? But I wasn’t really that late. So eventually I phoned her. “I’m in the kitchen” she said. “But we arranged to meet for lunch!” I said. “Didn’t we? 12 at the cafe?”. Continue reading →
Neglect. As in My blog has fallen into a state of neglect. I haven’t written anything. It has accumulated spam comments (now deleted, I hope). There are real comments, including some from Reluctant Memsahib, one of my favourite reads, and I haven’t responded. I’ve been busy. I’ve been away. I have lots of excuses. I don’t really like excuses, though. My sister has taken me to task. “Why doesn’t your blog work? It won’t load” she asked. I think it’s sulking.
It’s not that there’s a shortage of material. The holiday, for instance, is begging to be told. Stories about the fading American lady in Fiji Continue reading →
I’m sure we all have friends hovering on the periphery of our consciousness. Friends who have been important in a particular stage of our life but with whom we may have lost touch. Even so, we think about them often and know that if we were to meet up, we would pick up just where we left off all those years ago. Julia was one of those friends. We were at University together in Durham, mainstays of the diving club. Every weekend we all piled into the university minibus and headed off up the old A1 to St Abbs where we dived off the shore, either at Petticowick or outside the Harbour. Petticowick was a slog; a steep, grassy slope down with the gear and, of course, back up at the end of the dive.
My first dive in Britain was at Petticowick, after learning to dive during a gap year in Jamaica. I vividly remember my introduction to the cold, greenish murk of a November kelp forest, shivering in a too big borrowed wetsuit with a piece of orange canvas that purported to be a life jacket around my neck. “Wasn’t that wonderful!” proclaimed my buddy, Tim, later of Eden Project fame, as we staggered out of the water. “Drifting down through the kelp, in that beautiful clear water!” He clearly hadn’t been on the same dive as me. Still, I perservered and learned to like, if not love, kelp forests. The following year Julia and Chas arrived in Durham and joined me in the diving club while I switched subjects and joined them in Zoology lectures. We became firm friends within a wider group Continue reading →
I’ve been tagged by Lynne to tell you seven things. I’m not sure there’s much you don’t know about me, as I’ve already dumped a large proportion of my life into these blog pages. However, prompted by some old photographs I came across the other day, here goes (and apologies if you’re heard most of this already):
1 The first alcohol I ever drank was Red Stripe beer. It was in Daphne’s bar, a roadside shack with reggae blaring out, somewhere by the road between Cow Bay and Kingston on the Jamaican south coast. We used to dive at Cow Bay every Saturday morning and stop on the way home at Daphne’s for escoveitched fish, sourdough bread and ice cold Red Stripe beer.
2 I was the 2nd woman to land on Rockall – by 5 minutes. The first woman went on Woman’s Hour to talk about it! But GPD and I are pretty sure we were the first people to dive with sharks at Rockall.
3 I did the Nevis River race in 1979 or 80, with a crazy bunch of mountaineering friends. We had to hurl ourselves into a raging torrent clutching a lilo, shoot the rapids and jump over the waterfall Continue reading →
It is almost a year since a friend of mine, a fellow member of the local triathlon club, died from a brain tumour which she had battled for several years with remarkable good spirit. I found I couldn’t write about this at the time as it was not long since I had started chemotherapy myself and the emotions were very raw. I have been reminded of Trish constantly in the last couple of weeks since the news emerged of Seve Ballasteros’ illness. I have now just heard that another friend and colleague, someone I have known for many years – in fact she was once a girlfriend of my husband – is in the final stages of breast cancer. This news, although it was expected, has filled me with a huge sadness. Mixed with the sadness is a large element of guilt, which I know I shouldn’t feel but I do. It has made talking to Dale about cancer very hard over the past year, since she has been growing iller as I have improved. It is guilt that I seem to be alright, I seem to have got away with it while these friends have not. It is guilt that it has been hard to talk to her at a time when she has probably needed it most. Why me? Or why them? There is nothing fair or just about the way cancer strikes a family.
Of course, it will be several years before I know for sure that my cancer is not coming back but at the moment all the indications are good. I have been trying to write a post for sometime, for my own benefit, to encompass my experiences of the past year, but it has been proving difficult. Today, though, I’m remembering Trish and thinking of Dale, sending as many positive thoughts in her direction as I can muster. And I shall try not to feel guilty but to feel hopeful and grateful that it seems as though I am going to be a cancer survivor.
A week or so ago I was on the Menai Straits in Wales inspecting the underside of boulders. As you do. More of that another time, I hope. I came home to find, amongst the usual glut of emails, one telling us that Ken Farrow, a fellow diver and long time friend, had died suddenly, probably whilst I was wandering the Zostera beds of Foryd Bay. He had surfaced from a dive with his wife Alison, off the wild and spectacular Noup Head on Orkney, climbed onto the rocks nearby and simply gone to sleep. It may be the way to go, but what a gap he has left behind.
It was Monday morning, yesterday now. I woke up knowing exactly where my legs were. As the morning wore on I learned to identify every individual leg muscle. The big ones at the front – the quads. And yes, there were the hamstrings. And the calf muscles, especially the one just above the titanium-reinforced ankle. But ouch! The worst were the ones in my bum, the glutes. They made their presence felt every time I stood up from my chair. If it’s that sore, it must be girls’ weekend away time.
…London buses. With apologies to The Guardian. Lest I become permanently marked as a moaner and ranter, I thought it was time to write something positive. And I always enjoy the “In Praise of…” piece on the Guardian Leader page – an antidote to the ranting and complaining of so much media. I would like to write something about GP1’s recent school report. But that would be too depressing and would definitely negate the required positive, enthusiastic, upbeat tone I need. Perhaps I’ll wait until after Parents’ Evening for that one. So London buses it is.
I think it’s about 3 years, maybe 2, since our last extended visit to London. That was over Easter and was mainly memorable for GP2 breaking his two front teeth on a bench in the Imperial War Museum. We were in the Trenches at the time. Easter Monday was spent in dental casualty at Guys.
I’ve discovered a wonderful support group of friends. You know deep down they’re there all the time and it really doesn’t take much of a crisis for them all to rally round. G and I sat and chatted not long after the cancer was confirmed and decided my hair had to go. Not completely – its demise would come in its own time, maybe three weeks into the chemo – but as its days were definitely numbered, it would be easiest to start with it short. Smaller handfuls when it goes, you see. And maybe less of a shock. So the girls came round with the tools of the trade and cut my hair by good humoured committee. I now have a stylish new look which shows off all my earrings; it’s just a shame it’s not going to last too long.
I’ve just had two girls’ weekends away. Yes, that’s right, two. The first was a trip to Birmingham when I met up with my three sisters. It was our first ever weekend with just us (our mother died a couple of years ago and we’d mostly relied on family gatherings to get together), but certainly not our last. We took in The Parrot in Art at the Barber Institute, largely because Elizabeth Butterworth is a neighbour of my London sister. We went girlie shopping, a novel experience for me as the mother of two sons. We had an Indian meal and went to China Town for some of the New Year festivities. But mostly we talked and, with two of our number teachers, I am now an expert on the English education system with particular reference to special needs. I have to say that some of the stories from the Manchester area are very reminiscent of Scenes from the Battleground but perhaps without so much disenchantment.
My more recent weekend away was my annual trip to the Lake District with a Manchester-based friend from college days and another long-standing friend from Durham. We tried to work out for how many years we had been doing this trip and came out at somewhere between 12 and 16 or so. We always go in winter, hoping for snow on the hills and last year we were lucky with a fantastic day on Helvellyn followed by another on Blencathra. This year it was mild, damp and grey with barely a patch of snow in sight and, with the hilltops in cloud, we were less ambitious; Place Fell on Saturday and a stroll round Aira Force on Sunday. More teashop visits this year though! And lots of talk. It’s good to keep in touch with old friends.