Saturday, September 29, 2007
In South Africa, a "yard" is somewhere at the back of the house where you keep your bins and have a washing line. A work space in a way. In England, a "yard" is either a stable yard, or an old measure of length. In the States, it is a garden. In South Africa, and in England, a garden is the outside leisure area of your home, and is not usually associated with work areas. Maybe a greehouse or a shed will be the work areas at the bottom of the garden. Garden sheds are very English things. You will not find them in South Africa. That sort of stuff will be in the yard. Am I confusing you??? We are all supposed to be speaking the same language here!
Most gardens here have patios, and now the "deck" is all the rage here as well. Like the American "decks". I have rather too much experience of "decks" on ships. Only problem with decks is that they are increasing the rat population across the country, as they are finding that rats thrive under decks. I don't have a deck. Therefore, I assume, no rats. Yuck. I do not do rodents, as I have stated on a regular basis.
Most of our roads are tarred, not concrete, and so are our pavements, which are sidewalks in the States. "Stay on the pavement, sweetie" might not be good advice in the States! In cities, pavements are block-paved at times, or cobbled, or bricked. Our letters are delivered by a postman, who puts them through the door, but if we want to post things, we have to go to the post office, or to a letterbox which are usually regularly spaced through the vilage or town or city.
Most of the central heating here is gas, and the boilers are small and either in a kitchen cupboard or in a linen cupboard. In South Africa, there is no central heating and no mainline gas. It is open fires or electric heaters if you want to be warm. We do not have basements here, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why, when space is at such a premium. If you do have oil-fired central heating, you have a tank outside the house. My sister has a massive tank in Switzerland, which is only filled once a year. Her boiler is huge and in a separate room in the "basement" where the washing machine etc is kept. I dream of a room like that. Here, washing machines are either in the kitchen or in the utility rooms which are in most newer homes and very small. And the washing machines are all front loaders, not top loaders. In South Africa too. But in New Zealand, they are top loaders. Sigh.
Most people I know, cook on a gas hob, and have an electric oven. In South Africa, we call them "stoves" and here they are "cookers". I have never got used to that one. We use Centigrade temperatures here, and in South Africa, which went totally metric in 1962 or 3. I only ever learnt the metric system, so to say that I was befuddled by weights and measures here is an understatement.
In South Africa, things (like humans) are weighed in kgs. So I might weigh 60kgs (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!! - she picks herself up from the floor after an attack of hysterical laughter) but HERE, humans are weighed in "stones". Stones????? A stone is equal to 14 lbs. And there are 2.2lbs to a kg. So it is like going back to the dark ages when I have to estimate weight. Which allows some latititude, thankfully. I am foreign, after all. But airlines weigh baggage in kgs.
It is a little confusing here, because some things are metric and some in imperial measures. Miles not kilometres, pints not mls for beer, but not for milk...that is in litres. And in Switzerland they use dls not mls. Deci- not milli-. I remember being taught the "King Henry Died a Miserable Death Called Measles" way to remember the metric system when I was about 7. (And I am 53 now) - Kilo Hecta Deca Metre Deci Centi Milli to remember which way to jump the point to change quanitities. Simple. But there are no pints or stones or miles in that.
All the above musings were inspired by Barb saying that she finally understood that a garden was the same as a yard. I got a little carried away. There is no right way or wrong way to refer to things, it is just something that you have to adapt to when you move countries! Chips are crisps here. Flapjacks are oat biscuits not dropped scones. Our bread rolls are your biscuits, our jam is your jelly. Our courgettes are your zucchini. And so it goes.
The one thing I am really grateful for is when my US friends post photos of their ingredients for a recipe...I can blow up the photo to see the labels. So I know how much a stick of butter is now. Or what baking soda is ...Bicarb or baking powder...that was always the question!
And now I have run out of steam. And my son is up and wants to use the computer too.
Have a great weekend!
Friday, September 28, 2007
So we ate the chocolate cake I took in, and I left. (And right now the rugby is on, and it is a crucial match for England and I can't bring myself to watch...... 19-10 to England at half time. They are playing Tonga, and will be humiliated beyond belief if they lose.)
The urge to be creative is pressing at the moment, and as the weather is going to be wet and grey, I may well start some of those projects I have waiting for me this weekend. At least I can see my sewing table! This house is in dire need of reorganisation. I need to be ruthless and toss out loads of "stuff", and may change 2 of the rooms around. Just thinking about it is enough to bring on an attack of the vapours. I have just glanced at my scrollsaw, which is still living in the corner of my kitchen, and I can feel the need to start on some woodwork striking as well. And I can just see my mother rolling her eyes in her head as she reads this and contemplates more sawdust seasoning on her food, like last year.
Ho hum....... I am now going to curl up in the rocker, watch the rugby through my fingers, and contemplate my creative options. You will be the first to see the results.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Enough of the moans.
Every time I poke my head out the door, the heavens open and great torrents of rain descend. And every time I settle down to do more work, the sun shines. Typical. But I am getting there, and slowly the files are begining to look more or less complete. I cannot tell you what a relief it will be when it is over. The Inquest date is the 10th October, by the way. This time in 2 weeks time, it should be finished, and tomorrow in 2 weeks time, I will be in Switzerland with my sister.
For light relief, I have tidied up the work surfaces in my sewing room, sorted the washing, made a photograhic collage for the sublimation printer which I will do at school tomorrow. A sublimation printer prints your designs on to special paper with special inks, and then you use a heat press to transfer the image IN to not ON to the fabric. It becomes a part of the fabric itself, and then you can cut it and use to make whatever you like. My girls used to love designing their own fabric when I was teaching them, and I am going to make some things for Christmas using this technique. It helps to have a sublimation printer at hand! I do have to teach the staff how to sew in exchange, but I can do that.
I drew up a rough list of people I need to make/get Christmas gifts for, and nearly had a heart attack. There is not a great deal of time till Christmas left....not if you are making things. Not to mention posting dates for New Zealand come quite soon too. In fact, the sea mail ones may have gone already.
I have been thinking about how many places I have visited this year, with all of you out there. There is New Zealand, of course, both in reality and through Diana's eyes, and then there were two cruises that Morning Glory and Susie took to Alaska, Kathleen's Neighbourhood tour which went from the Black Hills all over the place, Susie's photos from California, Jewels' country life in the North East, Pea's photos from Ontario and Niagara Falls...... so many places I have seen through your eyes. Ree's ranch and Dawn's holiday trips, Crystal's time in Eastern Europe, Mary's trip to Ethiopia to get her girls, and so many more trips with my friends out there...... seeing them through your experiences has been fascinating, and it makes me think that when I one day do get to see them for myself, I will need you to be standing there pointing out the things you know about. I have learnt so much and just loved seeing all the photos....it is the next best thing to being there.
The world is indeed very small, isn't it!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Today is Dawn's birthday, so pop on over and say Happy Birthday, and it is also Morning Glory's Woman to Woman forum, and the topic is "Facing your parenting fears". There have been some great discussions this year and it is always so interesting to hear what everyone thinks. For those of us who are a trifle more "seasoned", it is great to hear what the younger ones have to say, and how attitudes have changed.....or not.
I haven't got the time today to say a lot. (What??? You have been back and forth to this post for hours!) But what I will say is that you never stop being a parent. Never. It doesn't matter how old your children are, they are still "the kids". Your babies. In your heart, that is. If you refer to them as such, you will get a look that would fry tomatoes at 40 paces.
Mine are 30, 26 and 18. My babies. Fears? Of course. It comes with the territory. I have the utmost confidence in them. It is just the rest of the population on the face of the earth that I am not sure about. I often wondered if I was a good enough mother. If I had done enough. Made the right decisions. Chosen the right schools for each child. How do I parent sons? Was I too strict? Did I listen enough? But that comes when they are older. Hindsight is always 20/20. I didn't have the time to worry when they were younger. Then, you just got on with it. As I mother, I lived in the moment, and didn't agonise over the "what ifs" all that much. I was 22 when I had Andrew, so I was young. I think that made a huge difference.
It is when they leave home that you get to know real parenting fear a little more intimately. My son was on the Underground in London that morning when the bombs went off, and he phoned me to ask what was going on, as they were stuck. By the time I discovered what was happening, and tried to call him to yell "GET OFF THAT TRAIN AND WALK", he was in the tunnels. Now thankfully, he was fine, and his train was not involved. Me? I aged 40 years in half an hour. I can't keep them safe all the time. I raised them to fly, and indeed they have done just that. And I am the cheerleader in the front row. Chewing her nails to the quick at times.
I think that one of the most important things facing new Mums today, more than it did my generation, is going to be teaching their children how to calculate risk. In an age where risk is legislated out of just about anything, the biggest danger to the young ones of today is where and how do they learn how to calculate risk. Without it, a generation will be raised who are not aware they will be called to calculate this for themselves. They will assume that they are always going to be safe. I don't think so. You know, we even have councils cutting down lovely old trees in parks here, in case children climb them and fall. Playground equipment is so safe that no-one wants to play on it. One school even banned the bubble blowing stuff (like washing up liquid) as the burst bubbles leave a wet spot on the ground that children could slip on. Give me strength. There is no more spirit of adventure.
When my children were small, the "blame" culture did not exist. If they got hurt and broke their arm, hospital doctors did not automatically assume terrible things. Nor would we, as parents rush out to find someone to blame. Accidents happen. Thankfully, mine never broke anything, but sure, they had their bumps and scrapes and sore heads. They also learned how to avoid repeating their mistakes. They ran around barefoot, and went rockpooling then ate icecreams without me using hand sanitizer to clean their hands. A bit of sea sand never hurt anyone. They ate fruit picked from trees. I could write a book about the risk factors in life. But that is enough for now.
It is now 4 hours after I started writing this and the heavens have opened and it is pouring. Throwing it down with vigour.
I had to pop in to school for a while to drop off some fabric samples, and stayed to chat to my friends at break time, have coffee, and teach my ex-boss how to sew a few things. And to look through some of the coursework folders. I miss them all. I think they miss me too. The people I worked with and the kids. Those girls, my girls, still matter to me, and I so want them to keep believing and do well. And I miss the chaos of lunchtimes with dozens of kids coming in wanting to make things. Sigh. It is not my business any more, but in a way, I wish things had been allowed to stay the same for another year for me to see them through their GCSEs. It does make me a little sad. No. A lot.
I can't look back. Something challenging is out there in my future. There are times when I think I have had enough of the challenging bits, and then I think..... life could get boring without them. I am a work in progress, as I have said. Many times. Ad nauseum.
So this is yet another random hotchpotch of things today. I seem to have a bad case of verbal you know what. Coffee... I need coffee......
Monday, September 24, 2007
Updated to add: It appears we were hit by a squall.... a line of mini tornado thingys. Branches everywhere and some considerable damage to cars, houses, etc. OOps. I did think the wind was rather odd. And the horizontal rain....... My house is fine, thank you. I am lucky.
I am procrastinating, as you might be gathering. I should be cross-referencing hospital notes. I will do it. After I have had more coffee. At this point, could I just add that I wish I had a friend who was a medical secretary and who knew HOW to cross-reference these things.
One more thing. You know I said I need to learn how to be a barrister in 3 weeks? I don't. I just need to be me. I am not a lawyer. I will not be pretending to be one. I am just a woman who is intelligent and articulate who has a big heart and that will have to do. David did not take up the offer of armour when he faced Goliath. That was not the point. Neither will I. I am not naive either. The fancy barristers might think I am a sitting duck to line up in their sights, but I am placing 100% faith in the fact that I have the ultimate advocate, and that justice and truth will prevail.
And that many prayers will help.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Today, we (David and I, and the babes and their parents) went to lunch at a friend of mine in a nearby village. She has the most beautiful home, and her garden is a paradise for children to run around in and play football and hide and seek. They had a wonderful time, and David was a star... he kept the football going all afternoon! The photo above is of the countryside at the bottom of her garden.
This is part of the garden, with the house in the background.
And here is an action shot of the babes trying to stop one of David's attempts at a goal. We managed to have a BBQ, even though there were a few spots of rain now and then. A lovely afternoon.
I am reading When the game is over, it all goes back in the box by John Ortberg and if you have not heard of it, I really do urge you to go and get it now, and read it. Then give it to your friends. One of the reviews I read said it was so important for young people to read as they set out their life goals, and then for the older person to read to review where they are going and why. I am paraphrasing here. All I can say is that I had very little sleep, because I could not put it down, and that has to mean it is good! It is. Excellent.
The trees are really starting to change colour now, and I must go and look for some leaves. I want to make an autumn collage. In England, people do not tend to decorate their homes for the seasons, and I think that is a shame. I know my sister does, in Switzerland, and although there are not many seasonal things to buy here in the shops, I am sure I can make a few things myself. Time. Here we go again. It speeds up, it seems! Where on earth has this year gone? And before we know it, the clocks will be going back too.
The rugby world cup is still on, and is reaching the exciting stage now with eliminations pending. England may just make it to the next round, if they manage to beat Tonga this week. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are definitely through already. I do like watching good games of rugby.
So....... dinners and lunches out, good books to read, a happy son breezing about, laughter and conversation, a glass of excellent wine, the company of great friends and a chance to lie in this morning. A good weekend, I think. Absolutely. And England won.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
This is where the inquest will be heard, by the way. Those windows on the right of the photo as you look at it, are the courtroom.
We went today, and sat in on another inquest which had lawyers and cross questions etc, and it was, again, interesting but not too intimidating. And afterwards, just imagine walking out of those doors...if you turn left on the pavement, you go to the old jail, which is now a very nice hotel (the rooms are all old cells) and a Krispy Kreme place. Now I have never been there before, but we stood and dithered about what to try for ages, and I can happily report that the apple crumble doughnuts are delicious! Coffee was not bad either. And it started raining, so we walked at speed (the days of running are gone) 5 minutes down the road to the right of those doors, and arrived in the shopping area. Back to M&S to browse. Sigh. The image in the mirrors was not a glorious vision, especially after the hair got wet and started to levitate. I dream of "chic" and "elegant", but seem to be doomed.
I have decided that I will, from now on, view Oxford as a shopping mall. And forget about the rest.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Not content with that, I zapped outside and started hacking away at all the dead parts of the garden, as the garden refuse collection is on Friday, and I will not have an empty bin. Zapping, whirling and whizzing are my 3 new words. Speed. Not a word normally associated with me. Not if you could see what I look like trying to get up from the rocker. I curl my legs under me and sit on them (yes, Mum, I know you keep telling me not to) and then lose the ability to walk and do my crone impression. Not today though. And did I mention the loads of washing I tossed about too? Then it rained. The washing is in my kitchen.
Please tell me you all end up doing what I do.... I take some towels to the bathroom, say, and see that the basin needs cleaning, so I clean it, and then decide to clean the mirrors, so go and get the mirror cleaning stuff from the kitchen, and see a cobweb there, so put the mirror stuff down and go and get the feather duster, and see the bits that need vacuuming behind a door, so go and get the dyson..... you see where I am going here? And then I spend the next couple of hours retracing my steps and doing things in reverse. Sigh. Maybe Barb needs to start a cleaning school. I need to organise myself.
Why am I starting every second sentence with "not"???????
The house is no longer a tip. I have worked out that I can plough through paperwork and make calls and do research for a maximum of 3 hours at a time, and then I have to do something else. Like go for a walk. Clean things. Active stuff. And reading or trying to sit and rest is not an option, because the brain thinks it is still in work mode. Nothing I do is going to bring him back. I will just do my best on the day, and that will be good enough. Tomorrow we are off to watch a contentious inquest. Life is such a social whirl! I may just have to do a little more retail therapy afterwards. We will see.
This has to be the most interesting and uplifting post of the week. The only exciting bit was when David and I went to help Louise move furniture into her new studio. Up a ladder, as the stairs have not been built yet. I always knew all those hours at gym would pay off!
And now CSI MIAMI is about to start, so I am off to sit on my feet again. I will be back.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
- I know more about post mortem reports than I ever thought necessary
- My house is a tip
- I can converse re diffuse alveolar damage, macrophages and subvalvular abscess cavities
- Remind me to buy light bulbs
- My kitchen looks like a paper bomb has exploded
- I forgot to wash my hair
- Post-it notes are man's greatest invention
- It rained on my dry washing
- Medical consultant friends are wonderful even when they live at the bottom of Africa
- It was 4 degrees C last night
- I discovered Facebook
- Consequently I only crawled into bed at 2am
- I am a wreck with no sleep
- So I am going to bed
Monday, September 17, 2007
I have photos. I will post them in the mornings in dribs and drabs. Or find an axe. Maybe you need to take back that you make me smile award after all, Susan!
I live in the centre of England, in a village. It should really be called a town, as there are about 6000 people living here, but we like to be a village. Those of you who have been to England will know that villages are very close to each other, and as we live on a hill, I can see about 5 other villages from the end of the road. The church spires are the defining points! We are surrounded by countryside and farms, and there are public paths all through the fields, so we can walk down to the river, and along the canal, and round the lakes.
This village has a church tower which is over 1000 years old, and some of the houses are very old too.
There has been a lot of development in recent years and more houses are being built even now. The village is centred round the Square, where we have our shops. There is a chemist, which has a gift shop, museum, tearoom, bank and heaven knows what else in it, a patchwork shop, a florist, a costume hire shop, many hairdressers, a beauty parlour, a post office, a DIY shop, estate agents, photographers, supermarket, corner shop, bakery, butcher, take aways (chinese, indian and fish and chips), a coffee shop (which makes wonderful paninis and great coffee too!),
The coffee shop
accountants, a doggy parlour, electrical shop, and a restaurant. Doctors and dentists, and chiropracters. A library, and infant school (4-7) and a junior school (7-11) and play groups and a nursery. We have 4 churches, and numerous societies and clubs. A Cricket club, football clubs, tennis courts and a bowling green.
The "rec" - recreation ground
There is a huge recreation ground with play equipment for children, a skateboard ramp and basketball court. There is an industrial area as well. We have 3 farm shops to the north, south and east of the village.
One of the farm shops
The old gates to the Infant School.... can you see the separate gates for boys and girls?? Thankfully, they are not in use now!
Children start school at 4 here. Much earlier than I was used to when we moved here. And at 4, they are at school from 9-3.30, after 6 weeks of half days to get used to it. Houses and gardens are small, generally, and can be in terraces (all joined together) or semi-detached, which means 2 are joined together, or detached. Standing alone. Bungalows are single-storey houses, and houses are double-storey. This is a small island, and it has 60 million people on it. We are running out of space.
I love this row of terraced houses overlooking the fields in the valley. I have always wanted to paint them. One day.
Most people walk around the village. Nothing is too far away, and there are paths through the houses to make walking easy. I have friends all over the village, and we are a cosmopolitan crew. I know I have written about this before. I know people from Singapore, Canada, South Africa, France, Holland, New Zealand, Australia, India, Jamaica, Austria who live in the village.
And yes, we have red letterboxes to post our letters in, and there is still a red telephone box in the Square. I can't remember when last I saw anyone use it, but before the advent of mobile phones, it was very popular! Milk is still delivered on electric milk floats before dawn.
The post office (and red letter box) next to the fish and chip shop.
And this is the road I live in. Our home is not one of the old ones. I think it was built in the 70's, and is a detached house. We have lived here for 17 years now, and have altered it extensively during that time. I sacrificed most of the garden to create more living space when Mum and Dad came to live with us nearly 10 years ago.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Susan at Penless Writer, has awarded me the "You make me smile" award, and I am both touched and honoured. And a little amused too! It certainly made me smile this evening as I sit here. Thank you, Susan!
On Friday evening I managed to get my calendar completely snarled up (well, the diary thingy on my mobile phone, which beeps at me to tell me where I should be) and found that I was supposed to be at 2 dinner parties, a concert with friends, and fetching and carrying my son about town. At the same time. Yes indeed. I have yet to discover how to be in multiple places at the same time, so it took some grovelling and speedy exits to make 3 of the 4 happen.
And then I came home at midnight to watch the "highlights" of the humiliation of England's rugby team at the hands of the South Africans on TV. My older son was delighted, as he supports the Springboks, and I was not, as I support England. I am thinking of applying for the job of selector. I mean, what are they thinking of playing old men (of 36) ??????????? Where are the young ones? It was a joke. It was a disaster. Sigh.
I can't actually remember what I did yesterday, but it did seem to involve moving about rapidly too. Oh yes, I know I took 600 photos to show Glynis, and bless her, she valiantly plowed through the lot. A true friend! I also seem to recall falling asleep in the rocking chair at some stage of the evening. I did do more, I promise. I just seem to have misplaced my memory.
Today I woke with my brain racing through lines of questioning. Hmmm. Enough of that. Church was lovely. I am so glad I moved to this new church across the valley. It was Harvest service today. And then a BBQ at the babes, with Jean as well. Sitting out in the sun (and rather strong wind) was lovely, only I needed to come home and have a nap afterwards. Good grief. I am getting old. I seem to be talking about dozing, sleeping, naps all together too frequently.
I love weekends. I love spending time here at home pottering about, and having time to spend with friends. I love the warm sunny days we have been having. I know it is autumn now, and I can see that in the garden and as I drive about. The leaves are starting to fall, and soon the trees will be bare. I think my favourite seasons are spring and autumn. There is that magical golden light at sunrise and sunset, which is gentle and warm and glowing. Not harsh. And certainly not grey and revoltingly dull. I don't do grey and dull. But then, I suppose, there are the fires you can sit in front of, and the pots of home-made soup bubbling away, and Christmas, and snuggling under puffy duvets......... there is always something to look forward to. And snow. I like snow. It is not grey.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Knowledge is power, I have always said. And so Louise and I trundled off to Oxford yesterday to see how things work at inquests. While it is not something I would recommend as a fun day out, it was actually very interesting. I got to see the courtroom, where you sit, how to get there, where to park, etc etc etc. And how things happen. It seemed quite informal, and that was reassuring, but I am going to a "contentious" inquest next week to see what happens when there is a dispute, which might be more to the point. And may be the reason I change my mind on the spot. We will see. I need to see cross-examination in action too. You can just see my brain whizzing along at 2 zillion miles an hour trying to absorb it all, can't you? Of course you can.
The biggest thing for me, is that I know the facts better than anyone else. I was there all the time. Any barrister would be handed the file a day or so before the case, and I have to know more detail than they would. It seems logical. And it means more to me. Not to mention that I do like to be able to feed my family.
I have my questions. All I need to be able to do is to stay detached and calm and factual, and not collapse in a quivering mess. I can do this. I have to be able to do this. And I am very grateful that I have never been intimidated by authority or white coats. The hospitals are going to have their legal teams there. (I actually got to meet the head of one of those legal teams yesterday. He was told I was in the building and asked to have a chat, and I ended up talking to him for an hour or so. Interesting. We had only spoken on the phone before. ) There are 7 doctors being called and me. I am called as a witness too. But think, maybe it will be harder for the doctors to actually answer me. They will be under oath. And they know I was there. And maybe it will be better than having a barrister. A real one.
By the end of the inquest quest, we were exhausted, and so felt in the need of a little retail therapy for light relief. Not to mention food. Looking at the new winter fashions was fun, especially with a friend to spur you on. But by the time I got home, I was ready for bed. I was totally drained. But I am in possession of a beautiful new skirt and cardigan. She talked me into it.
My sister, who is coming for the inquest, has suggested that I go back with her afterwards and have a few days rest in Switzerland to unwind. I must say, the thought had not occurred to me, but it has definite appeal. Everything I am doing is focussed on one day at the moment, and the day after is not something I have given a thought to yet. So who knows..... I may be walking in the Alps soon. That is something good to look forward to.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
On Monday, I was going through some posts, and found out that Amy Wilhoite, who I have been reading about and praying for for ages, had suddenly taken a downturn, and seemed to be losing her battle with cancer. And you know, it was like the bush telegraph on the blogging neighbourhood springing into action. As I moved from post to post, people had started to realise how serious her condition had become, and posts started appearing all over the place, alerting everyone else. People who did not know about her, started reading and praying too. Women who were about to blog about random frustrations, stopped and altered their posts, saying as they did, how much this put their woes into perspective.
I watched the comment count go up and up on the Wilhoite's blog, and just sat there till very late at night here, marvelling at the people all over the world who were united in their prayers for either Amy's healing or her peaceful move towards heaven. Their support for her family, and the tears shed when the news came in Brandon's deeply moving post, has been wonderful.
We are not virtual people, even though we meet in a virtual world. We are all real. Amy was real. She had a real illness. Her pain was real. Heather is real. Kelli is real. I am real. I hurt. I cry real tears. I laugh. I feel. I am real flesh and blood. No, I don't know all of you in real life. Yes, we all have protective barriers up to keep us safe. We don't even know each others real names. Yes, we all hide so much of who we are, for reasons we feel are very necessary. But we are real.
Life is not all happy sunny people. Life can be seriously awful. I can be revolting some times. I lose my temper. I get frustrated. I lose perspective. I say things I regret. I am not always in a good mood. Just ask my kids. I fail. I get things very wrong. I am real. I get miserable, and depressed at times too. I don't want to be bouncy all the time. I am a lot more than that.
Amy was a real flesh and blood woman, just like you and me. Her husband is a real live man, who is hurting. I know just how much. Her little son is a real flesh and blood toddler. Just 21 months old. They have parents who are hurting. Family and friends. In a virtual world, people don't bleed. They don't cry real tears. And they certainly don't die.
We talk about meeting each other IRL. In real life. Well, my friends. Hello. THIS is real life. We can't restart the computer and have Amy pop up any more. It doesn't work like that. Whether I am close enough to pop in for tea, and give you a hug in person or not, I am real. Thank God.
I read somewhere that to have a successful blog, you need to blog about happy stuff. WHAT?? I don't know about you guys, but I never started out to a) be successful at this and b) spread happiness like a fairy. I started out to write about me and my life. Boring at times, desperately sad at times, unbelievably happy at others, amused at still more......... I follow no guidelines. I blog about my life. Moods and all. I say what comes naturally.
Don't expect perfection from me. It is not going to happen. And my expectation from you? Just say what you really think.... not what you think I want to hear. Be real!
And now I am going to shut up.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Morning Glory and Lei have asked us to focus on gratitude this week, and to list 11 things we are grateful for, together with the reasons why. There is the added significance of the fact that today is September 11th, of course, and no matter where you are in the world, it is a day no-one can ever treat as ordinary.
So much to be grateful for. And I have to say that the older you are, the more there is to list, so just 11 is somewhat of a challenge.
- A happy childhood. This is something I know has shaped who I have become, and it has been the example I have tried to follow raising my own children. I am immensely grateful for the parents who made it happen, and for the family I grew up in surrounded by love. I am so grateful too, that as I grow older, I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood to take out in my mind, and revisit. Growing up in a family with a strong "church" tradition, has also been a great blessing, because, from my earliest memories, church and all the associated activities, have been a part of who I am.
- A good education. Part of that happy childhood included going to excellent schools where I was encouraged to learn and question, and search for answers. And the university I went to not only refined that learning process, but became a place where I had to use my own judgement on significant moral issues at that time. The combination of the happy secure home, the great teaching, and the moral guidelines from church all came together when justice was challenged, and gave me the confidence to make decisions which I have never regretted. And it also enabled me to support my family when I had to.
- The man I married - the father of my 3 children. My family has been the centre of my life for over 30 years now, and I cannot imagine life without them. Without him, I would not have these 3 children, or 32 years of memories just like the ones I have today. Life was not always easy. He was away for 9 months of every year, but he was a huge part of my life, and I will always be grateful that I met him. For so many reasons.
- My family. Not just my children, but also my parents and sister and brother-in-law. And the wider circle of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. More memories of people long gone, and that childhood all inextricably mixed together. And more recently especially, the love and support from my Mum and sister. I know it has always been there, but the encouragement and faith they have shown me over the past year has been amazing. My 2 sons and my daughter are (and I am allowed to be biased) the best children in the world, and I have been blessed with a wonderful daughter-in-law too.
- My friends. Both near and far. Some I have known since I was a very young child, back in the dark ages, and some are more recent blessings. All are part of my life, and part of me. I cannot imagine what life would be like without them. You know, there is a saying I read once - you have friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I prefer the lifetime bit, I confess, but looking back, there have been the reason and season ones too, and it is only when you pause and look back that you realise just why. Things shared. Tears, laughter, pain and joy. Highs and lows. The constancy of those friends no matter what kind of hurricane blows through my life, is what keeps me anchored safely.
- My health. Ok, I do know that I am starting to creak a little now, and while my mind thinks I am 21 and a spring chicken, the bones and the waistline seem to have a plan of their own. But I am so grateful that I am fit and have no mega health issues. Believe me, I am not taking anything for granted here. I look in the mirror sometimes, and think...where did those lines come from? Exactly where should your waistline be? When we were on holiday, and saw signs on our walks saying that the route was not suitable for the elderly , my kids thought it was amusing to turn round and ask if the "old person" thought she could make it. Hah! Indignation fires the adrenaline.
- My faith. Stronger by the day, and the reason I can cope with life. I am an optimist by nature. And knowing that my sins have been forgiven, and that I am a beloved daughter of a God who cares for me on a very personal level is something I am eternally grateful for. Nothing surprises me any more. Nothing terrifies me. No matter what I may face, it will be for a reason, and ultimately for my own good. He has plans for me. I just have to find out what they are. You know, your whole life changes with faith. You find yourself wandering down paths you never thought you would venture onto, with eyes wide open, looking all around you in wonder. All it takes is faith. It colours every facet of my day.
- My community. Both here where I live, and the blogging neighbourhood I am a part of. Communities of people who are real, who care, who challenge and support me. Communities where interesting things happen. Where there is room for so many different interests. Book clubs, sports, sewing, history, craft, dancing, music, drama, writing, working with children etc. Communities which strive to make a difference, and where I belong.
- Having enough. Over the past year, I have learnt to be so grateful for small things. It does not take much to make me happy! Things are not important. Everything else is. People. Life. Experiences. Love. Laughter. Caring. Feeling. I have enough, and for that, I am grateful.
- Challenges. That way I get to grow. To see just what I am capable of. If anyone had told me I could teach a year ago, I would have laughed. Now I know I can. I love trying out new things. New things to make. To experience. To do. To become. I will always be a work in progress. Watch this space.
- Dreams. Hope. The ability to look forward to the future with anticipation not dread. Please remind me of this in the next few weeks if I start floundering. I am so grateful that I can live in the present, but still hold on to those dreams, and work towards making them reality.
An eclectic mix. So much more I could add, but I have gone with generalizations rather than specifics. I have a hot cup of coffee next to me, a computer to write on, in a warm clean home, with space to relax, with food in the cupboard, and beautiful plants in my garden. A phone to connect me to the outside world, and clothes to wear, and a car in the driveway, and a camera to record my life, and enough money in my purse. And I am loved. Gratitude...... my heart is full.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I have just read the latest update on Amy Wilhoite and she is not doing well. She needs your prayers.
UPDATED: Amy died at 4pm September 10th.
Definitely goosebump time.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Doesn't this look incredibly British? And so peaceful. It was a lovely day, and warm and very beautiful.
There are series of locks all over the network, to raise the boats up or lower them down, and we watched this one. If you look on the right, you will see the men pulling the lock gates back into place. If you want to use the lock, you are the one who manages the gate process.
And look how the water drops. And the boat. It is quite quick really. Well, quick is a relative term. The average speed on the canals is about 2 miles an hour. This is the kind of holiday you take to really relax and slow the pace of your life. Apparently it takes about 4 days to go roughly 60 miles.
Once the blue boat had gone through the lock downstream, 2 boats came in to be raised up. You can tell that we were there a few hours. It is absolutely fascinating to watch.
And I just loved this... please note the 2 border collies on the boat! They were so cute. Some people actually live on the boats, by the way. They have pot plants on the roof and beautiful canal painting on the sides of the boats.
And this was on the way up the river on our trip. I think the word "glide " is what I am looking for. The narrowboat glides up the canal. We had a wonderful time, as I said, and my cousins, who had never seen the canals or narrowboats or the locks just loved every minute. I have no idea how many photos were taken, but I do know there are a lot!
And while we are on the subject of water, here is a photo of another place near where I live here in middle England. Having guests means I get to take a closer look at what, perhaps, I tend to take for granted.
I live in a beautiful place.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
So here is my happy list for today:
- David bursting through the door after school, flopping in a chair and talking about his day
- Seeing my son settle down and complete his homework without a word from me
- Long chats on the phone with people I love
- Having people smile at me (hopefully not because I am a source of great amusement!)
- Visiting Ikea with a friend and fortifying ourselves with strawberry tarts
- Seeing my daughter appear on line
- Getting photos via email of my far-flung family
- Picking vegetables I have grown
- Having quiet moments to myself
- Calls from my son and his wife to tell me about their day
- Curling up with a good book
- Hot cups of coffee
- The smell of the roses in my garden
- People popping in to visit
- Watching CSI without interruptions!
- Looking through family photos, and remembering the laughter and fun
- Reminiscing about my youth!
I can think of a great many things which make me happy in general, but this is for today. So the walking in the mountains and watching the sun rise on the beach, and sitting in front of a fire dreaming and having my family all together, the lazy mornings with breakfast in bed and watching Roger Federer win tennis tournaments etc etc etc can wait for another time! I appear to have had a happy day!
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
And in the silence, I have time to think, and to try to work out things that get lost in the frazzled days that seem to be my norm. I love people, but there are times when I am all "peopled out", and that is how I am feeling at the moment. Time and space for me. I have wanted or needed that for a long time, and now I have a few moments, I am cherishing each one. It is a good feeling.
The silence is the kind which happens when the voices of children playing outside in the gardens stops. The lawnmowers are silent, and the cars seldom go up and down the road. The TV is off, and so is the radio. Just the soft drone of a passing plane, and the rhythmic sound of the tumble drier turning and the hum of the computer innards.
It is so easy to be rushing all over the place doing stuff, and then you flop into a chair exhausted, and seem to have accomplished very little. That is what I have done all week. I have been trying too hard, and have not been listening to my own advice and to the need I have to simply "be" for a little while. It is just fine to let random thoughts drift in and out of my mind, and it is just fine to rest. Who knows where those thoughts may lead me? And who knows what message I might finally get, when I allow myself time to be receptive? Just think.... I may realise something in a eureka moment, which could actually change the course of my life. That is quite amazing.
I have no idea why I sometimes feel so guilty when I just rest. I remember a time a while back when I was asked what I was doing when I was sitting in a chair staring into space, and my answer was that my brain was working so hard, that I could not do anything else at the time. I was grappling with things in my mind and wrestling with huge decisions, and all I could do was to sit there and turn inwards, and let my mind whir away at breakneck speed. I may look as though I am doing nothing at times like these, but believe me, there is a lot going on inside. And even though this is not a grappling moment, my brain needs to work while my body rests. Or maybe the brain needs a rest too. We will see.
I am like this when I decide to redecorate too. I can see things 3 dimensionally in my head, and I move all the furniture about and work out the ladder logistics, and how things will look in my mind while I sit in a chair staring into space. It must look bizarre, but it works for me! So my planning is all mental, and I never write any of it down. Which, of course, is why only I can do whatever I am busy planning, because no-one else has a clue what I am doing. Sigh. It does have its drawbacks, I concede.
When I planned the extension to my house 10 years ago, I could see it all in my head, although no-one understood what I was talking about, except, thankfully, the architect! That was when I realised for the first time, that it is not usual for people to see things the way I do. I can look at a plan of a house, and see the finished building from the floor plan. Map-reading is simple too. My brain just seems to be wired in an interesting way. Perhaps this is why I am creative. Or maybe being creative makes my mind work like this. I am rambling again.
So. I am taking time to sit in my rocking chair and reflect. The summer has been a "doing" time. And now I need to let my mind catch up. (Or maybe it is just a more subtle part of the aging process.....!)
And how about this for excitement.... my friend, Louise, is moving her studio, and she brought me her overlocker as she has no room for it any more. Her overlocker! Which I have borrowed frequently, might I add, as mine is deader than dead from overuse. You really do need to go and look at her website to see the most beautiful things she makes. She is an amazing textile artist. She has a loom, and uses her weaving as part of her mixed media work, and as stand alone pieces too. Brilliant. I absolutely love her work. It is unique.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
- The cutting board and bits have arrived at the school so I can go and collect them later this morning. It will be strange to see everyone again, and not be a part of it all, but I am still happy with my decision to leave.
- The car battery was replaced free of charge. Well, I do believe that 4 months is a little short for the expected life span of a car battery, especially when the lights were not left on or any other stupid reason for its demise. It was a rogue battery. The car goes. That is all I require it to do. Whenever I switch the engine on.
- The photos are being developed. The machine finally recognised my USB thingy and obliged. I will collect them later today.
- Book club was good last night. I managed to stay awake. This is always a bit of a challenge when I am curled up on a comfortable couch, warm and relaxed. I tend to drop off. This is obviously why church pews are so uncomfortable. To keep you awake.
- The house is sorted for my cousins to arrive later today. It will be lovely to see them and to catch up. Our children grew up together. Well, when they were little, before everyone moved.
- And I chatted to Diana for a little while on messenger, and she told me she had had her hair done, and I KNEW WHERE THE HAIRDRESSER WAS! This was why I had to go and see where she lived.
So there you have it. The weather is a little cooler than I would like, but there is no sign of rain, and autumn is certainly in the air. When I spoke to Mum and Marge, they said that Switzerland has had no real summer at all, and now the snow is expected down to 1300m. They are at 1000m where they live. It has been an unusual summer.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Then I decided to put all the photos I want printed together and took them to the local place which does them for 4p a print, and so help me, the machines are broken. Try next week. So the scrapbooking will have to wait too. I did play about with word art and inserted photos into words and letters, which I will use on the quilt one day and in the scrapbook, (when the photos are printed!)
That took an hour or so. Does that count? And I did see some friends and catch up. As I said, it is a lot harder than it seems to actually DO something for yourself!
I am plowing my way through the Pit book which so many have read, and maybe I am missing something, but I am finding it somewhat less inspiring than I expected. We seem to be going in circles and getting nowhere, and I am more than half way through it. Now give me a Max Lucado book and I am off and running. Anyway, so the reading idea is not a good one. I am not inclined to think....ooh I have an hour or 2, let me go and get my book....... No. It can stay up there next to my bed.
I sat down to watch uninterrupted TV and there was nothing scintillating to watch either, and I keep seeing things which need doing, which do NOT fall under the "do something for yourself" category. Cleaning, tidying and redecorating, etc etc.
I did think about laptops. I even looked at one or 2 in the shop (when I did the food shop, which is a chore, not a pleasure) and then became intensely practical and frugal and decided that I had no idea what to look for anyway, so stopping was a good idea, before I got quite carried away and actually bought one. When I came home, though, I suddenly thought that in all likelihood, a laptop is something I may very well need for the inquest, to be able to access the relevant notes fast, instead of paging through a zillion pieces of paper with post it notes attached to search for something quickly.
So actually, I am better off just plodding along doing what I have to do. When something does turn up which falls into the category of fun or for me, I will do it. I am just not very good at going out and finding it at the moment, and to be frank, worrying about being incapable of finding something only compounds the problem. I reckon church counts, and we had a great service this morning, so there you are....... I did something!
Schools finally go back on Wednesday, after the summer. It will be good to have some structure and routine back in our days, and David needs to get his prospective universities organised, so he can visit them in the next few weeks too. His application has to be in before Christmas, and the weeks will be flying by fast, as they always do when there are deadlines to meet.
Ah well. We have cousins visiting from South Africa this week, so my posting may be sporadic. And tomorrow, I will have to clean and tidy this house. It can't be put off any longer! I can hardly bear the excitement.........