Walk a mile in my shoes

Sometimes I am confused by human nature, but unfortunately I am never surprised.

I think that everyone has a tendency to be selfish, to think only of their needs and wants, but there are people who take it to the extreme.  Then there are those who do something unexpectedly wonderful for you and restore your faith in mankind.

We used to run our own company and employed a lot of people.  Sadly, because we were company owners, people saw us as rich and lucky.  Some were wonderful, but many stole from us, lied, used company property  for personal use that wasn’t allowed or made decisions they weren’t qualified to make.  The company was a good one and the job we did was rewarding in itself, but employing the type of people we had to, made us very cynical.  We became embittered and always stressed.  We eventually lived, expecting trouble and tarred everyone with the same brush.  We had no faith in humanity because of our experiences.

On the day we flew out to our new life in Spain, My husband lost his wallet in the airport.  It fell out of an unsecured pocket.  In it was credit and debit cards, €1000 in cash, his driving licence and basically everything we needed for our new lives.  I remember the colour of his face draining from normal to green at the second he realised his wallet was missing.  He ran back to search everywhere he had been, but to no avail.  We had been chatting to an airport cleaner when he made his discovery and as soon as he came back to us, he said, “Well, I’m never going to see that again.  I don’t know what we are going to do.”  The cleaner immediately grabbed his hand and took him to lost property.

He reached the counter but was told nothing had been handed in, just as he expected.  They gave him a form to fill out and whilst doing it, he was thinking about how we could rent a car without his licence and that certain things had been booked using his cards and he would have to present them.  We could get money but we needed that cash for payment of bills.  He was really worried.  Just at that moment, another member of staff approached and asked him if he had lost a wallet.  He said that he had and described it.  The man said he had it, it had just been handed in.  Ian was amazed, happy to at least get his cards and licence back.  He utterly stunned when he found that all the money was there too.  Nothing had been taken at all.  We were so thankful and asked if we could give the wonderful honest person, who had handed it in, some money to say thank you, but we were told it was against policy and they hadn’t left a name.

It was a lesson in humility for us.  We were so down on human nature, so suspicious of people and their actions, ready to believe the worst in people, yet here we were, the recipients of a strangers selfless actions.  It continues much the same today.  We are not so embittered as we once were, maybe still a little suspicious, but we have found some wonderful people around us.  Help has often come from unexpected places, and people, who were just acquaintances, have proved to be wonderful friends.  Equally, there are people that thought close friends, who have shown themselves to be incapable of true friendship.

As a member of this species, I travel on, observing and learning.  We all judge each other according to our own standards and find each other lacking in many areas, but are we qualified to judge other people?  One of my favourite phrases is “Walk a mile in my shoes.”  We all live such vastly different lives, experienced pain and happiness in individual ways, how can we truly comment on someone else’s lives?

 

 

 

Autumn memory

My little dog runs ahead of me as always.  She stops and looks back to see where I am, waits a while until I catch up with her and then off she trots again.  Her nose is to the ground as she scents for anything interesting and there is so many wonderful smells in a wood, in the autumn.

Again she stops and looks at me with her little Black and Tan face, Her white body finished off with a cropped brown tail.  Her tail was cropped as a puppy, before she ever came to me and as was the original fashion for a Jack Russell.  It was the perfect indicator for how she was feeling.

As with all dogs, she would drop it down if she was unhappy but it would not reach between her legs as it was too short.  When I first met my husband, he had a boat on the Norfolk broads and we always took her with us.  At first, she was unsure and her tail was as down as she could get it.  Then she discovered she could walk right around the boat using the gunnels and her tail raised a little until it was stuck out in line with her back.  Finally she realised that when we were cruising along, she could run round and round, bark at the ducks and swans, and become the mascot of the boat, as people looked, pointed, giggled at her and gave her lots of fuss when we moored up.  She loved the boat and her tail raised straight up in the air as soon as we got on it.

For all that she loves the boat, she hates water and will do anything to avoid it.  Our favourite time is our walks on land.  So here we are, on a cold, sunny autumn day.  I kick my way through coloured fallen leaves and she sniffs out the squirrels and rabbits that are prolific here.  Most of the trees are bare now  and looking at the ground, I see many forms of fungus.  There are toadstools as well as huge field mushrooms growing in and on the tree humus. It’s a perfect place for them.  I am also genuinely delighted to see a fairy ring.

Ok, I know I am a little old to believe in such things, but it really looks like one.  There, just over there, is a group of toadstools with the red caps and white spots, just like in all the fairy tale illustrations I have seen.  I don’t need a great imagination to conjor up fairies and pixies sitting atop each stool and talking about whatever it is that they talk about.

I stop for a while and have a closer look until Penny runs back and gives me a nudge.  I can almost hear her thoughts.  “Will you hurry up.  There is too much to sniff out and we can’t hang around here.”  So I follow and she runs off again, always stopping and looking back to see where I am.  Never going out of sight, no matter what wonder lay ahead.  She never leaves me.  We can walk for miles and she never tires, unlike me.  She doesn’t care if it’s hot or cold, along as it’s not raining.  She doesn’t run away to chase rabbits, to sniff them is enough.  Her need is to stay close to me.  She is my loyal little friend, my protector and companion.  Her love is honest, unconditional and delightful.

When it’s time to leave, I call her.  She stops and looks at me.  She turns back wanting to pursue her trail but I turn and walk the other way.  There is no need to worry as within seconds she bounds past me, ready to lead the way again.  The pattern continues.  Run ahead a while, stop, look back, wait for me, then run on, until we reach the car.

It’s nothing spectacular, just friendship, Autumn and a walk, but it’s a lovely memory of a lovely time.

 

Dad’s Immeasurable loss

The day my Dad died changed my life immeasurably without anything changing.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I will try and explain.

I moved to the south of England when I was just 18 and left my family in a remote part of the North.  There I met my first husband, married, divorced, brought up two children, married again and then moved abroad.  At first, money being the issue, it was difficult to keep returning and sometimes a couple of years would go past before I could make the journey to see my parents.

When my marriage broke up, I was on my own.  Living in a different area with two small children made me more reliant on friends than family.  I did see a little more of them as they would come down to London on occasion to see my sister and Dad loved going to the proms.

Eventually money became no object and I would make the journey north as often as I  could, with the restraints of school timetables and work commitments.

Over the years,  our best form of communication, was the telephone.  Dad was a mine of information and if any of us kids needed an answer or advice, we would pick up the phone and dial his number.  I always had a need to tell him everything good, but never mentioned anything I thought could hurt our relationship.  If there was any possibility that I thought he would disapprove, it was never spoken about.  I needed him to be proud of me.

He was not a demonstrative man and would never openly say that he loved any of us, but we knew he did.  We were all incredibly proud of him too.  He was an intensely private, artistic, highly intelligent man who was awed by the natural world around him.  His knowledge of bird life and plants was immense and he was happy to impart it to anyone who asked.  That was the key.  You needed to ask.  He would never presume to tell you his opinions nor say he knew the answer unless asked, so he was a humble man too.  When you had the right question though, he completely opened up.  You could see the passion for his subject in his eyes and you would get caught up in his enthusiasm.  Our old neighbour still has one of the best gardens in the town after Dad taught him and it’s wonderful to see that garden and know my Dad still lives on in it.

I once called Dad from Spain, after seeing a pair of hoopoes flying around in my new garden, and in my excitement rang to tell him.  The first thing he said was, “Upupa Epops.”  I paused for a moment, wondering about his sanity before begging his pardon.  He repeated, “Upupa epops.”

“Dad, are you ok?” I asked.

“That’s what it’s called. It’s latin name is Upupa Epops and you will never forget it.”

He was absolutely right. I never have.

He died of cancer at 1.15am and his loss still haunts me.  I left my family that very morning and flew home as I had a gig that night.  It was a surreal experience. I left a house full of grief and took my broken heart on a plane back to Spain, surrounded by passengers who had no clue that just 4 hours earlier I was watching undertakers remove my fathers body from his house.  I stepped off a plane to sunshine and slept as soon as I got home, then dressed in all my finery and stepped on stage with a painted smile on my face and entertained people for 3 hours.  I still have no idea how I did it, but if I had my time over, I would not do it again.  My biggest regret was not staying to be with the people who needed me in their grief because I needed them.  Time cannot change it though.

I returned home to a place my father had never been.  Here, there were no memories.  I have no recollection of him sitting on my furniture or in my garden.  Unlike England, he never helped me design my garden or walk through the supermarket filling up my basket with all the naughty things he liked.  We didn’t go to the pub here or drive in the countryside or go for dinner.  He didn’t birdwatch from my terrace and inform me of all the species I can’t recognise.  Here, in Spain, he never existed.  I go about my life with no change.  But the change is still immeasurable.

I never stop missing him.  I never stop wanting to pick up the phone and talk to him.  Everyday I see something beautiful and know he would have loved it and I want to share it with him.  I see that little bird with a black cap and green wings and I feel robbed of his knowledge.  I want to show him where I live and take him into the mountains.  I need him in my garden.  I know I can live without him as I have during most of my adult life.  There is no change in that.  The loss of his love, support, knowledge, advice and presence is a change that is immeasurable.

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden Peace

I love trees.

I grew up in a house at the edge of a large wood. The trees ranged from young to old and the favourite of all was a huge sycamore that stood just across the lane. That tree seemed to stand guard over us. It’s seeds gave us toys to play with, it gave us shade from the sun, music when the wind blew through it’s branches and, if us kids were home alone at night, it would scare us with ghostly creeks and groans.

The woods were our playground. From one tree hung our tyre swing and we wore a huge grove in the earth below from dragging our welly encased feet through the dirt with each sweep of the swing. Just a little further on was the garlic wood. Wild garlic grew in abundance underneath the tree foliage, watered by a tiny stream. The smell was pungent but when the plants produced their little white flowers, there was a magic to it.

There were tracks all through the woods that were worn in by the sheep that grazed there and us children would spend hours following them one way or another. They always led somewhere. One way would lead the the neighbours, half a mile away, but if you turned right at a certain point, you could zigzag down to the best swimming site in the river.

It was through those woods that I desperately ran, to get help from our neighbours, after my baby brother toppled into the river. I saved him from drowning but his head was bleeding profusely after hitting the stones below. Poor Mum had just turned her back for a moment. She carried a screaming child while I ran on to get help. Apart from a small scar all turned out well.

Many times we helped Dad to cut up trees and haul the logs back home. We were never allowed to be there for the felling, but we got the donkey work. The logs provided a lot of warmth with their burning but, more than that, Dad appreciated the beauty that was held in each grain of wood. He was a very artistic man and would make coffee tables, stools and even the old rugged cross that still stands in the local Methodist church. Our dining table was hewn from a huge tree and it took him and a friend many months to complete. He would cut small pieces and smooth them and burn the most amazing pictures onto them using something that looked like a soldering iron. I still have one.

If trees could talk, I wonder what stories they would tell. They stand sentinel in a constantly changing world. Each tree is so unique, each species brings its own beauty. There are flowering ones and evergreen ones. Those whose leaves change colour throughout the year until they fall and those whose leaves are more like spines. A tree is a tactile thing. Each bark is different and range from silver to red, rough to smooth. They are numerous, various and historic.

I almost feel their spirit and easily understand where the myths about tree nymphs and fairies cam from. Trees bring me comfort through their scent and walking amongst them brings me a sensation of safety. I challenge you to sit surrounded by trees and not feel a connection to the natural world around you.

Even writing this has brought me the realisation that when life throws it’s challenges, the place I need to be, is amongst trees. Maybe to me peace equals trees and that is why I love them.

Summer break

Two months have flown by without posting a blog.  Why? I hear you cry.  My crazy life, is the answer.

My summer was a chaotic one. My husband flew out to Germany and my daughter flew in to keep me company for most of the month.  In tow, were my granddaughter and grandson.  Oh my goodness,  I have definitely forgotten what it’s like to have children around.  I spent most of the time up to my ankles in the debris they dropped behind them wherever they went.  The TV was constantly on with mind bendingly worrying violent kids programs.  We lost wall lights, car keys, bowls and plates.  We found holes in walls, expensive digital cameras used as toys and leftover food everywhere as well as lovely pen drawings all over my cream leather sofas.  I also now have a challenging laptop which has developed Alzheimer’s after being dropped on the floor from the dining table, because it was in the way of the TV.

I still love them deeply, but I was very relieved when I deposited them through the departures gates at the airport.

The following day I flew out to Germany to join my husband for a few days.  I was genuinely exhausted before going and having spent 3 days sightseeing in the wonderful city of Dresden, came home needing a months sleep.

I discovered during this time that, not only do I need peace and quiet to write, I also need calm and to be in a happy place.   My brain needs space to think.  Ideas and words need to whirl around and assemble on a blank screen.  The needs of others dominate my thought patterns and the rule of once a mum, always a mum, resurfaces.  I cannot help but care for the people around me when they need it, and my creativity, thought processes and ideas are stifled until they are silent.   Sleep is also pretty essential.

Writing makes me incredibly happy, but instead of finishing my novel over the summer, as I had planned, I feel frustrated that it remains incomplete and that frustration has led me to delay getting back to it.  I now know there are going to be times when writing is impossible because life gets in the way.  Time does not allow me to do everything I want and quite often there is little enough of it, to do the things I need.

Nevertheless, here I am again.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I have sat down and written something.  It may be short, it may be waffle and written in a few minutes when I have a break, but it is here and just writing these few word is a cathartic exercise.  Onwards and upwards and watch this space.

 

Energy sapping heat.

The heat saps my energy and I feel the trickles of sweat down my back.  Wearing make up becomes impossible in the summer as moisture forms beads under my fringe and they merge into rivulets to drip from the end my nose.  My top lip glistens and I purse my lips to catch the salty taste on my tongue.

I have a constant need to replace the water my body is fixated on losing in it’s efforts to keep me cool.  My whole body is  sticky and feels unclean.  The dust that hung in the air is now attracted to the magnetic force of sweat and my hair, normally full of styling products hangs limply, unable to withstand the onslaught of  humidity.

With a rise in temperature comes a rise in temper.  Hauling bottles of water upstairs to the kitchen leaves me breathless and irritated.  Why don’t they bundle them into four’s instead of sixes.  I struggle to heave the weight of water in each hand, but I also need the balance.  It’s a difficult choice between two trips or too heavy.  My hands are so slippy that it’s difficult to keep hold of the thin cardboard strip that supports the weight of  24 litres.

My brain feels as though it has swelled beyond the capacity of my skull under the oven temperature of the sun and the pressure is making my eyes want to pop out of their sockets.  Each beat of my heart sends a throb of blood filled pain to my brow causing me to frown.  My breathing becomes shallow as I tense against the agony of a heat induced headache.

I drop one lot of bottles as I fumble for my keys, but they are in the pocket on the other side so I drop the other hands burden.  I try and spear the lock but the bunch slips from my greasy fingers and hits the floor.  The sun belts it’s unrelenting force against my back as I bend to retrieve them.  Come on, come on, I urge them, just work.  I need cool now.

This time I manage to open the door but heat hits me from the inside of the house as well.  I grab the bottles of water and deposit them somewhere on the floor between the living room and kitchen, and stride straight to the bedroom shedding clothes as I go.  It’s little cooler without my thin layer but my anticipation of what’s to come spurs me on.  I grab and don my bikini, pick up my towel, slip my feet into my flip flops and head back out into the belting heat.

Cool blue water beckons me like a smooth talking lover and I kick off my footwear, drop the towel and lower myself down into the refreshing blue depths of the pool.  As the water washes over my body and my blood temperature descends to normal, the little elephants that were stampeding through my head begin to slow under its caress.

I tip my head back into cool peaceful tranquility and float with closed eyes.  I feel the corners of my mouth turn upwards as my smile returns and just in that moment reflect on the pleasure of living in a hot country.

Trials of separation.

Today is the last day before my husband disappears off to Germany for a month.  We have always been pretty insular in our relationship.  We have fantastic friends but we love to be in each other’s company the most.  I know of many marriages where people make excuses to spend time away from each other and if that works for them, then fine.  It doesn’t work for us.

During our 16 years, we have always worked together and so can often be in each other’s company for 24 hours a day, but apart from the odd bicker; because we don’t row; we are happy with that scenario.  A month apart therefore, is very difficult to cope with.

The last time he went, I must confess, I had a great time.  I was busy with work so I couldn’t mope around and I had lots in invitations from friends to join them for dinner.  I arranged a girly night and had some girlfriends round for a Big Girls Pyjama Party.  It was brilliant, just like being a kid again but with alcohol.  We had facials, manicures, pedicures, music, and giggles.  In fact, when my hubby cane home, I was quite put out at having to stop the constant socialising.  I had fun.

This time, my daughter has decided to spend most of the month with me.  She is bringing my granddaughter and grandson and has informed me that I am going to teach them to swim while they are here.  Apparently I taught her and her sister but Wierdly, I have no recollection of that, but, if being Nana is teaching them to swim, that’s a good job done.  We will have fun and it will be great to spend more time together than we have been able to in years.  We are still going to have a girly afternoon or two though, where the girls of the pyjama party persuasion will be invited.  I think maybe the Big Girls BBQ.

I will fill my time with fun stuff and enjoy my grandchildren, but I hate this last day.  Tomorrow’s trip to the airport and the goodbye for a month is looming at me.  The thought of coming home to an empty house is horrible and so are all the extra jobs I have to take on because they are usually his.

I know the dogs will be unsettled because a pack member has gone and I will have to change their routine so that they sleep in my room.  That’s not because they won’t stay in their own bed, but because I keep hearing odd noises when I am on my own.  If the dogs bark, I have something to worry about.  If they don’t, I know all is well.  Unless I have deaf dogs.   Since we met, my husband and I have had a phrase.  “I know I can live without you, but I don’t want to.” and after all our years together, that is still the case. Mushy? Maybe, but true.

The time nears and the packing starts.  Maybe one day when I am making money through writing, either he won’t have to go or I can go with him.  Who knows, but for now, we have to go through this ritual and I live in awe of the people who do this on a regular basis.  We are pack and separation is unnatural.