Friday, April 30, 2010

A pile of papers I was reluctant to read.......

In the post today, I received a transcript of Geoff's Inquest in 2007. Actual words on paper. Yes, it was that long ago, can you believe. Soon it will be 4 years since he died.

I had ordered a recording of it straight after it was over, and then filed the disc and never had the energy to listen to it. Or the inclination, to be honest. I thought I did ok representing the family, but hey, I was not going to listen and find out that I missed a whole lot of vitally important stuff. And when I agreed to hire the lawyers, I handed over my disc to them, together with my mountain of files and research. (I will get the disc back one of these days - the files are back already!)

Well. Today I read that transcript, and I was GOOD. As I was reading what the doctors said, I noticed things, and thought - I wish I had noticed that at the time - it is totally wrong.... and then I turned the page and the words say - any questions, Mrs L?? And zap - there I was with just that question. Sigh. My brain was firing on all cylinders at the time, and then some. I don't often say this, but I was proud of myself when I read that. Really pleased to know I had not missed much.

Of all the things in the world I thought I would do when I read it, grinning was not one I considered. But I was grinning. And reading it from the perspective of knowing what caused the massive abscesses round the base of his aortic valve, which caused the valve to "dehisce" - separate - as we all now know, I could see where the pathologists' theories were almost but not quite there. They had never seen anything like it. Of course they hadn't. Until then, they had never seen what toxic gluteraldehyde can do to heart tissue. Now they know. They have had a number of opportunities to see for themselves, unfortunately. Did I mention that there are a number of deaths, and not just Geoff's here? He just happens to be the first.

I have been thinking about how much more I now know. How much more the surgeons have found out. The government officials. The lawyers. The hospitals. In essence, reading the inquest is like reading a first year med student's notes, in contrast to those of a consultant specialist. We have come a long long way, and it is not over yet. I am just eternally grateful I kept asking questions. Not to mention that I feel as knowledgeable as a consultant surgeon as well by now.

The surgeon said that in 20 years he had never seen a heart destroyed like Geoff's heart. Never. Not quite the "unique-ness" Geoff would have preferred, however.

And it is actully quite nice to see spluttering doctors asked difficult questions (by moi) on paper. Facts - you cannot dispute facts. I still understand all the terms. I think they are engraved on my heart and mind deeply. They will always be there. Scars. Battle scars, in a way.

And now I need to go through it and correct the transcription. I was there, and I know the names and the terms well. That will help speed things up a little. Light reading for the long weekend. I don't actually mind, you know. I defeated the "fears" when I read the papers this morning.

As it is raining and likely to keep raining all weekend, I will curl up on the couch with a red pen, and feel like a teacher again for a while.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A week till the election, and a crazy parliamentary system.....

Hmmmm. I am sitting here staring at the blank page and am waiting for the muse to strike. The muse is absent without leave.

I woke to a beautiful sunny day, got the washing outside to dry, opened the greenhouses, and took yet more photos of the flowers, after inspecting the potatoes, which are jet propelled, it seems. They grow inches over night. And then at lunch time, David and I ventured out to search for new jeans. In the sun.

Just one hour later (and yes, the jeans have been bought) we got home to rain, wet washing and a swamp-like garden. And now the house looks like a laundry and smells of damp clothes. I must have missed the weather forecast, because at the exact point where the house morphed into a laundry, a friend popped in for a visit. And told me that rain had been forecast. Quite. I missed it. And the sink was full of dirty dishes too. We would not make the pages of Homes and Garden today.

Just as well I am not overly bothered by order, and that I think people are more fun than a tidy house. It is all in the confidence, people. I pretend it is all perfect. Hahahahaha. The tea is good though.

We had a lively discussion re the General Election next week, Gordon's Gaffe yesterday about bigots, and the Leaders Debate #3 happening tonight. Not to mention the state of the nation, education, health care and exactly how are we as a nation going to reduce the appalling debt we catapulted into with the recession and collapsing banks. None of the 3 parties are being specific. they seem to think we are idiots. Everyone with a brain cell knows we are going to have a tough time. We just want to know what they are cutting. What they are raising. And when.

It seems ridiculous at a time when so many companies have gone to the wall, and the remainder have trimmed back to bare essentials to be able to keep trading, that we have a public service sector, populated with unnumerable quangos (what exactly is the plural of quango?? -oes?-i?) which is mushrooming. It has to be trimmed back. In fact, it needs to be pruned radically.

This is an interesting and unique election, you know. We have never had leaders debating on TV before, and for the first time ever, it seems that the voters will be voting according to their preferred leader, and not so much their local candidates.

Mind you, I have yet to catch a glimpse of our candidates. Any of them. They have not arrived on the doorstep, neither have there been many flyers, and certainly no calls. Or canvassers. I had to look up the constituency on the internet to see who was actually standing, and then discovered that one of the candidates did not even bother to check his web page for spelling and grammar mistakes. Guess who is off my list already.

The thing which totally enrages me is the absolutely crazy rule in our "constitution" which means that if the Labour Party comes LAST in the election, but the party which gets the most votes does not have a clear majority, the existing government, which means the Labour Party, is given the first opportunity to form a government. WHAT?????????? It is CRAZY. There would be rioting on the streets. Unthinkable.

Here is what the BBC says about it ".......
if this is the case Gordon Brown, as the incumbent prime minister, will have the right to stay on and try to form an administration. This is even if the Conservatives have the most seats. He does not have to go until it is obvious that he does not command the confidence of Parliament - which would mean being defeated on the Queen's Speech vote, or, if he survived that, a subsequent no confidence motion in the Commons. "

Watch this space. Life in the UK could just become interesting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A little more re the garden.....

Vee's comment yesterday about sharing the bounty made me grin. The book club girls went out into the garden to view the monstrosity behind the fence, and eyed the abundance of lettuce. Thankfully, none of them have planted theirs yet. Good. My distribution is fixed then! In a couple of weeks the lettuce will be spread far and wide.

And the apples - well, the year before last we had so many apples I ran out of freezer space. They are cookers, so I cooked them, and froze them ready for crumbles, or to serve hot with custard, like Mum likes them. The rhubarb was also frozen. Rhubarb crumble is divine. Apple and rhubarb together is even better!

Last year, the apples were poor. I don't think we had more than a couple of dozen - nothing like the mountains of them the year before. but this year I think is going to be good again, so the freezer will be bursting at the seams. I think I actually need a bigger one. In fact I know I need a bigger one. But there we go back to the lack of space thing again!

We all share what we grow. Jean grows peppers and chilies in her conservatory, but I can't grow them here - they need to be really hot. So she grows them and shares. She also has a big garden, so will plant all the onions this year. I had them growing among the plants in the beds last year, and while that was good, I need the space for the lilies this year!

I think I mentioned last year that I plant herbs in my hanging baskets too. One has parsley in it, one rosemary etc, and I also pop in a couple of lettuces, and then fill the remaining space with annuals like a fuschia, geranium, lobelia, etc. It works really well, especially in the stand with 4 hanging baskets outside the patio doors. And there is mint growing in a trough on the wall, and chives in a pot at the back door. Sage and thyme in the beds, with the lilies and lavender. And lemon balm is running wild around the edges of the garden. I love growing things which smell great, and there are about 26 roses in the garden too. It may be small, but it is very full. See the moan post yesterday!

Today has been a day of form-filling, and I cannot tell you what it does to me. Glynis went home after 4+ hours with a headache, and Jean was wiped out too. And they were here helping me fill in the forms after our long ago visit to the lawyers. So much has happened since then. Jean, bless her, baked scones and brought them round to sustain us. Believe me, we needed them. Delicious too.

The worst of it is that I spent the entire day focussing on what I CAN'T do, instead of the way I live normally, where I focus on what I CAN do. And that in itself is enough to tip one over the edge. I do not need reminders.

Last night, I flicked through some of the old posts I have written in April over the years. It is always fun to see how things change, or if they do. How life keeps moving on, sometimes dragging its heels and sometimes as fast as light. The importance of the garden is there through each of the years!

The sameness, though, is reassuring, in a comfortable way. So much has happened over the years and there have been times when the dependabilty of routine things like the garden have taken on a much greater importance in a shifting and uncertain world for me. And so it goes, this rhythm of my life. The good the bad and the totally indifferent.

And the pesky form-filling. Sigh. Sometimes humour is the only way to sustain yourself. But as long as I retain the ability to grin, it will all be fine. I am all out of culinary inspiration tonight. I have just slapped a tray of croissants (crescent rolls) wrapped round cheese in the oven. That will have to do. There is salad in the fridge.

A rambling post. No apologies there - at least the garden is a great joy. I love watching it grow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A finite amount of space.......

Apple blossom on the tree. There is masses of blossom this year, so hopefully that will mean many apples later on!
I have concluded, my friends, that my planting plans do not coincide with the size of my garden. At all. This is the horticultural equivalent of my eyes being bigger than my stomach.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I had a reasonable sized garden, and then we extended the house. The planning officer told me to go as big as I wanted, because, Mrs Linds, you will use the rooms all year round, and the garden maybe just for a few weeks a year. And I knew he was right, so we went big. And don't get me wrong, I love my big airy kitchen-family room. I do indeed.

However, those were the days when I had not yet discovered that I could actually grow things and not kill them and that they would be beautiful and bright, and good heavens, I could grow stuff to eat too! And the washing line had to go because it interfered with the roses, and hanging baskets festoon every available wall, and troughs, and pots, and raised beds.......

The shed went last year, and the garden was re-arranged to accommodate the squirrel fortress, and so the new chairs arrived, and here we are. I HAVE NO ROOM. Too many pots, with too many beautiful things growing, and too many seedlings, and too many greenhouses and the sun is a factor, so they all need to be in the same place, and....

I need a double-decker garden. Maybe I could expand onto the roof - the new flat one I just had repaired......
Those sticks in the background are where my peas will grow. And there is the squirrel fortress on the left with the potatoes and spinach growing inside. Hahahahahahaha! Linds=1 Squirrels=0.

In the background on the left, you will see the tomato greenhouse - the one with the 3 sticks sticking out the top. It was in a box in the shed. I have had it for years I think, and never opened it but I bought it when it was on sale, and I am delighted I have it now. So today it went up, and the new chairs have NO ROOM. But my tomatoes will grow in the sun.

The tulip pots have veg seeds in them too, so once the tulips are over, the broad beans etc should take their place. And I have flower seedlings exploding in the greenhouse which will go in the pots too. My gem squash seeds I kept from last year have finally started growing as well. They go in a growbag on the top of the shed. I am nothing if not inventive. They climbed the wall last year, and hopefully will do the same this year.

And I gave in and replanted the peas. At book club last night, some of my experienced vegetable growing friends mentioned that the mice had eaten their peas, so I made an educated guess at the fact that my ex-mice had eaten mine too. The beds are now netted and I will be sitting there with a blunderbuss to exterminate any rodent who tries to eat the new lot.

Speaking of book club - it was here last night, and I excelled myself - I had not read a thing for book club. Other things, yes, but the book club things? That would be no. And all 10 of us were present and correct, which is highly unusual. The only thing that saves me is that I actually started the book club all those years ago, so they can't kick me out. Mind you, I am at the stage where I think that it is time to move on and try something different, seeing that books and I are not a great combination at the moment. I just can't remember what I read. the focus thing is wonky.

The nibbles were good though.

It is the most beautiful of days today, and I can't believe how different my attitude to the day is when the sun shines, and the doors are open and the fresh air is gently blowing through the house. I just love it. Jean and I popped up to the wonderful garden centre in the next village this morning, and had coffee and fruit scones - their restaurant is superb. I could hardly dare to look left or right as we walked through the rows of plants, seedlings, climbers, flowers..... I wanted to buy them all. But back to the moan earlier - I have run out of space. Maybe I should just move to Switzerland and fight my sister for her enormous garden. I could have a little wooden house in the corner, and dig.

Hmmmmm........ you never know......

And don't remind me of the allotment. I know. I have one, and it is at the bottom of the village, but it is not outside my door, and I have to drive there, and yes, I do know how lucky I am and there is stuff growing on it, but there are rabbits who eat things, and I just want it to be here at my house.

And on that note, I will go and take up position as sentry next to the peas.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seedlings, sun and snippets......

I may have been a little over entusiastic when I planted my lettuce seeds a few weeks ago. Instead of the two or three seeds a pot, I seem to have 200 or 300. Which is definitely over the top unless you are a rabbit. The beans and peas are taking rather long to appear. And the squirrels have run off with most of the broad beans. The remainder are now in another squirrel fortress. As are the potatoes. They, on the other hand, are erupting through the soil like volcanoes. And the spinach is doing well. I only planted 8 seeds and they are all doing well. I must have been going through a lady bountiful moment when I planted the lettuce. Oh well.... my friends and neighbours will all get 3 plants each when they are a little bigger, and lettuce will be sorted. For the entire village.

Thinking about it, the squirrels may have vamoosed with the peas too. They should be shooting up by now. I may need more peas. But I will be a little more patient and wait another week and see what transpires. Or else I may be feeding the 40, 000 peas too. I have so much fun growing vegetables. I can't believe I waited 50+ years to do this, so if you are a young one, start planting!

The sun is coming and going, and light showers have been falling too. So nature has been acting as a pace setter for me. When the sun shines, I go out. When it goes, I come and sit down. Perfect.

I fell asleep on the couch at 9pm last night, and didn't hear David come in from his dinner with friends. He said I was sleeping so he tiptoed about. Gee thanks. I woke at 1.45am on the couch. Sleep didn't come easily once I toppled into bed. And today was the London Marathon, so I followed my own tradition of watching it from the comfort of under the duvet, and then from the couch, before I went to church. Watching all that effort while drinking my coffee in comfort makes me grin!

Here comes the sun again...... and off I go to inspect more seedlings......

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A complicated life.....

Today has been a day when my mind has gone awol. Too many things in there jostling for attention. Too many thoughts. Too many. And they were running rampant without my permission. There are days like that and today has been one. Sigh. My life is complicated, and I wish it could be simple sometimes. Time for the "too hard basket" as my friend Linds says. (The other Linds in NZ.) Climb in and pull the lid back in place and curl up and suck your thumb time. Metaphorically, of course. It seems I am not superwoman after all. That is a pity. I could do with the superwoman bit at the moment.

So I was sitting in the garden trying to sift through the warring images up there in the head when a friend arrived, and asked if the kettle was on. Perfect. So we sat in the garden in the sun, on those nice new chairs, and chatted the afternoon away with tea and coffee at hand. Just what I needed to do. The timing could not have been better. And there was laughter too.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes it is so hard to see how the pieces can all fit together. Neatly. Correctly. Especially when the pieces are people, and lives and responsibilities. I have come to realise that I really can't do it all. I can't actually do much, if I am honest. Not now. The spirit is willing, but even the spirit gets weary at times. But then, maybe I am trying to make a picture I can see and want, instead of letting the pieces fall where they are meant to go according to a picture I am not privy to yet. Maybe I am trying to play God here. Trying to make life fit MY way. Bigger sigh. You just had a glimpse of the warring mind. Enough.


The sun has shone all day, and it has been warm and beautiful out there in the garden. Everything is springing to life, and the colours are so lovely. The squirrels are not lovely. They have started digging up all my pots and seedlings again, and I have tried to net most of the garden. The washing dried in the sun today, and it smells of the outdoors. Beautiful. No sign of the mouse/mice today. I have also crocheted enough stars to decorate the heavens. And there are chocolate biscuits in the house.

And the quilt is finished.

It is big. Queen-size. 5ft 6" bed size. The most important part is that David loves it. So that is good.
Now it is time for the couch, and some tv or maybe my book. Bookclub is here on Monday and I have yet to get the books. Never mind read them. Oh well.
I hope you are all having a lovely peaceful weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A walk with a friend.....

Just LOOK at it. Any field mouse, no matter how small and cute, who thinks my garden is the Costa Brava and its own personal playground, needs to leave. And I will assist its departure by any means necessary. Snoozing in the sun. I was less than impressed. Its days are numbered.
Glynis and I went for a walk at a country park this morning. A slow walk. My stick came too, of course. The blossom is out now......

And the lake was beautiful, and so peaceful. Half the world seemed to be out for a stroll as well, but all happy people, who greeted everyone as they passed. The sun makes people smile.

The ducks were happy too. And the great bit is that there is a wonderful place there to have coffee or tea. And they have wonderful cakes too.

I really did mean to take a photo of the warmed chocolate brownie before I ate it. I really did. But somehow I appear to have inhaled it at speed. It was divine. It is a miracle I didn't scrape the plate even more.

So Glynis and I sat and chatted and relaxed, and it was a lovely way to spend the morning.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


"You can't walk backwards into the future"....... part of the UCB Word for Today this morning. That makes total sense, doesn't it? You can't walk backwards towards something.

That woke you all up. Good morning, all. You may need more coffee. Go on, I will wait.

I was thinking this morning (as I inspected the garden for field mice damage) about how we learn things about people too late. How knowing those things may have changed everything in my attitude towards them. How much my attitude needs adjusting at times. How we make sure people don't get close enough to really know us. How this leaves us isolated in a world few people know the password to, which means they never really enter and understand. And how learning the things which could have made such a difference sometimes only happens at funerals, for goodness sake. When it is way past the "too late" stage.

So I think we need to make sure there are no surprises at our funerals. What earthly (how appropriate is that word right here and now) good is it to find out who I am when I am dead??? I learned at the funeral I went to last week, that the man had lived in dreadful pain for years. Neurological pain. I didn't know. Few did. And that explained so much to me, because I am closely acquainted with neurological pain. And I understood why he had made the choices he did. Only after he died.

However, had I NOT had close acquaintance with neurological pain, I would probably have dismissed his pain as something he needed to get a grip with. Pain is manageable, isn't it, after all? Oh, so swift to judge. So quick to assume. He was like me, you see. And unless you have lived with it, it is unimaginable. Believe me.

There are 2 types of people. Those who, like my father, crush their hands under manholes or break their ankles, and still drive home and sit in a chair and pretend nothing is wrong. And those who get a sniffle and are about to expire from swine flu or pneumonia. Double. I am my father's daughter. To see me is to see "normal". Externally. To be me is to hide what I feel. Try to ignore. Pretend all is well. Imitating ostriches is a great past-time.

I didn't know until this morning, that he lived on morphine, this friend of mine. He too, was like my Dad. He never moaned about pain. He dealt with it in his own way - privately. Internally. Alone. And I know why too - because it makes people uncomfortable to hear things like that. It can become who you are. You see someone who is hurting coming and you tend to avoid eye contact or perhaps cross the road, because you do not necessarily want to become a part of the darker side of life. The hurting part.

And that is totally understandable.

So was his reaction to that. And mine. How are you? Oh I am fine, I say with a grin. Thinking in the head....say nothing and you won't have to go into details which will make their eyes glaze over. It has to be exceptionally bad for me to say I am hurting. I am an expert in this sort of deception, and consequently, my own worst enemy, as my doctors moan. Because I want to be Linds, and not the one who is "sick". Because I am more than the pain. I am ME. And heaven help me if they get all sympathetic and solicitous, because I would either burst into tears or run hobble a mile rather than confront that. So one day, people may sit at my funeral, and will hear that "she lived with constant pain" and will look at each other and say - "Did she? I never realised. It explains so much. I would have understood why she did and said what she did......"

Just like I did last Wednesday. I am not proud of these words. I should have known better.

I would rather the surprises at my funeral be ones like - she learned to fly helicopters at 60. Or she paraglided off an Alp at 56. Or she wrote her first book at 58. Or did you know she actually DID go and lie on the cliff top in Norway and see the Aurora Borealis? Or stuff like that. Mind you, they would not be surprises, because believe me, you would be hearing all about those things AS THEY HAPPENED.

So we talk happily about the good stuff. And we stay silent about the bad stuff. It is the way we are wired. Well, the way I am wired.

Of course, this is just a blog. This is somewhere I write exactly what I choose to write. We all realise that this is simply one dimension of very multi-faceted lives. We do some serious editing along the way, and that is entirely appropriate. But in real life? How much do we keep to ourselves? How much do we let those closest to us really be part of? How honest are we? How many surprises will there be?

I had a very rare peek at my site meter the other day, and every time I write about deeper things, the stats soar. The ordinary? It stays fairly static. I never check the stats. They don't bother me, because they are not why I keep coming back here. The interesting thing though, is that a great many of my friends and family who actually know me in real life, read what I write. They worry about me at times, and they care, and that is wonderful.

You can't walk backwards into the future.

Sometimes, though, you have to stop, and turn around to assess how far you have come. What happens in the past shapes who we are as we face the future, of course. And yes, in my case, there is a great deal of looking backwards, because the whole hospital thing rumbles on at the pace of a comatose snail on crutches. Sometimes it feels as though I am stationary, marking time, watching and waiting and wanting the past to be over and done so that I CAN walk forwards into the future. And at times, I forget that there IS a future ahead too.

The UCB notes didn't end with that quote, by the way. That was the first part of the sentence. It goes on to say ".......and the future God has in mind contains more happiness than any past you can remember."

Thank God.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My little garden.....

Today I made the most of having my son at home. David cleaned all the garden furniture for me. You know, I have always been taught to "buy quality". So I did. About 25 years ago, I bought French Alibert garden furniture. Forget the fancy name. It is still white and plastic.

However, it is quality. So the wretched stuff will never fall apart. EVER. It goes on and on and on, and I am deeply grateful for that and must be thankful it has not fallen apart, but I am sick to death of it. Sigh. I am beginning to think that cheap and nasty may have been wiser. But then, I have had something to sit on for the past 25 years in the garden, so I should not complain. Moaning is not good, Linds, so get a grip. But I am sure you know what I mean. Bigger sigh.

It needed scrubbing, so David spent the morning doing that while I sort of tidied things up, and pottered about. Sons are very useful. He did a great job too, so at least I do not have to contemplate the scrubbing of the chairs-which-will- most-certainly-outlive-me.

And I do have the 2 nice new chairs after all. In a separate area. See how nice and tidy things are?? Be impressed. I had a dustpan and brush. In the garden. My little garden. It is not big at all, but it is amazing how much I manage to grow in it.

The tulips are lovely. So are the nice new chairs.

And then for light relief, I have added a photo of someone who has just found out that water comes out of the hosepipe. And she had an absolute ball in her garden , and somehow managed to avoid drenching herself. As Jean says, she can take over watering duties here when she visits!

I am just sitting here thinking how, in the old days, I would have had to wait weeks to see the photos. Ah, computers and digital cameras are wonderful inventions, aren't they?

I hope you are all having a beautiful Sunday. It has been a stunning day here today.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Quiet skies and a walk......

Yesterday evening, I decided that I wanted to see if there was a volcanic ash sunset round here, so David and I set off for the river. We were a little early for sunset, but the skies were absolutely clear - so strange not to see any vapour trails from planes. Normally there are always planes overhead. And it was so quiet......
There was plenty of life around, however.... of the 2 and 4 legged variety.
Thankfully, there was a river between Big Daddy and us. Not to mention the huge flock of sheep and many many tiny lambs. They bounce. They really do. From a standing start, they leap into the air. Too cute!

And you know how kids draw sheep with 4 legs in a line, and you think it looks rather odd??? They are right. They do have 4 legs in a row. And it does look rather odd.

The sun was lovely, but we thought it may look better from the other side of the village, so we started back to the car......

You didn't think I WALKED, did you??? I would have loved to walk there. Not possible at the moment. We are having a bit of a crisis with failing to manage the pain bit.

And meet 2 of the cutest little lambs.......

And a very regal looking swan too......

We drove to the opposite end of the village and stood and watched as the sun set, and it was stunning. The sky was a lot more red than normal, and that is apparently the volcanic dust causing the sky to change colour. You can't see the dust / ash. That is what makes it all a little surreal. It is there and can cause untold damage to the engines of planes, but it cannot be seen. I believe them. Better to be safe.


This Icelandic volcano is proving to the world that no matter how advanced we are, we are not able to control everything. Planes on the ground. That means millions of people in the wrong place. There is also a possibility that the UK will run out of fresh fruit and veg, and if this goes on for much longer, it will have a catastrophic result for industry too. As my sister says, if there are no planes, that means no tourists, and what happens to places like the mountain she works for? Hmmmm. And there is no telling yet when planes will be flying again. The BBC has a full report on things.

But, in the meantime, I keep looking at the empty skies - who knows when, if ever, I will see skies like this again? And I listen to the silence. Well, I would have done so all day, had the buiders next door not decided to start work at 8 am on a Saturday morning. It sort of wrecked the silence. Oh well. It is silent now, so I can sit out there a little while and look upwards.

We are not in control. With all the gadgets, gizmos and brain power and technological advances, we are not in control. You know what? That makes me smile. I knew that already.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The wrong kind of clouds and other mixed bits....

Today the skies are quiet. All air traffic has been grounded while the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland flies over northern Europe. And us. I am wondering what the skies will look like tonight, if the grounding is still in place.
Down here in Middle England, the tulips are starting to bloom, and they are a wonderful splash of colour. And so is this double daffodil which was part of the mega bag of assorted daffs I got last autumn for a bargain price.

The broad beans are starting to shoot and some of the potatoes have green tops pushing their way through the soil, so the garden is awakening at last. The seedlings are taking their own sweet time to do anything, but then it is still cold.

The last few days have been busy and draining, because the funeral was yesterday. It was a lovely service, and lots of people came, so that was so good for the family. My friends and I sorted the food for the tea, and isn't it amazing how just the right amount arrives - people are so kind, and we could not have calculated better if we had tried. And it is interesting to see how people from outside this village seem taken aback by the community spirit here. How sad that it doesn't appear to flourish in cities very often. Here it is a given that friends will rally round, and as when Geoff died, they were out in force yesterday. A good feeling.

So I flopped by evening. And crocheted a little while reclining on the couch in a comfortable manner. And glared at the tv. It is not co-operating, and the old sky box is about to totally expire I think, so I keep getting the tv equivalent of the blue screen of doom with nasty little messages telling me that no satellite signal is being received. Stupid box. I get the free channels only, so you can't call the satellite people and snarl, because it would cost more to fix than to subscribe for a year. AND I gather we are switching to digital next spring, so the analogue channels will cease transmitting then. Gee. That means we will not get ANY tv unless I:
  1. get new ones,
  2. get a booster aerial,
  3. and or freeview boxes for each tv in the house,
  4. or subscribe to either Sky or Virgin (cable).

    But that is next year so it can go in the "too hard" basket till then, and I will continue glaring at the blue screen or pixilated garbage I get to watch. You can tell I am totally thrilled to bits about it all.

    However, that brings me to the next point, which is what I will probably get to miss tonight on tv. The very first live televised debate between the 3 main party leaders in the UK, based on the American candidates debates. Oh joy. They are all apparently extremely nervous. I wonder why.

    In the UK, you see, we have Prime Minister's Question Time every week, and it is broadcast live. They screech at each other, jump up and down, insult each other, shout and jeer, while the Speaker is yelling "Order ORDER" and they have been known (the back benchers) to throw things at each other. Believe me, it is a real circus. And there is always a winner, and loser. They are used to this. But with the 3 live televised debates, they have agreed something like 76 rules, including the one saying that they will all shake hands at the end. They are not used to debating/arguing in a quiet restrained manner. The audience has been vetted, as have all the questions, and there is a set time limit for the answers as well.

    Hmmm. Just what we need. One week down, and 3 to go still until May 6th.

    Well. My brain is a trifle absent right now. Maybe a snooze is in order.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Before kids....when we were different people!

Snarl. Every single one of my sweetpea seedlings is GONE. Eaten. And no sign of the culprit. I am less than happy. AND they were in the greenhouse too. Just so you know. This is not a good start to anyone's day. Sweetpeas are vital to my health and happiness. And yes, that is a little over the top, but I GREW them. More snarling.

Jean and I were chatting about this, that and the next thing over coffee this morning, and the subject matter turned to the things we did before kids. BK. And we laughed till we nearly cried. There was her story about working in Nepal, riding on the back of a motorbike sidesaddle (skirts, you know) holding an umbrella, and my story of learning to "drive" a huge ship (ammunition carrier) up the English Channel. And the best thing is that our kids don't know much about the people we were BK. And they would be a little surprised or amazed by some of the things we could tell them. Once we got started, the stories triggered more memories, and the laughter grew. Ah, this is one of the rewards for getting older.

She has a copy of all the letters she sent her parents from Nepal. Bless her, her Mum typed them all out. I suggested that she scan in her photos and make it into a book on Blurb or one of the other book people. The great thing is that one of her sons is a graphic artist, and I am sure he could do pen sketches of his mother holding that umbrella. Hysterical. It is unique, and so special, and maybe our kids would see us in a totally different light if they knew a little more about us as people, and not just mothers. More specifically, their mothers. The things we were doing at similar ages.

I know that I knew quite a bit about my Dad when he was young, but didn't see many photos of him as a child, and I always had this image of him looking exactly as he did as an adult, complete with moustache, but just with very short legs. Where I got that image from I do not know. Odd. Very odd, and of course he didn't look anything like that at all. His youth was fairly well documented through newspaper cuttings, as he was a national athlete. But I don't know much about who he really was, and what he thought, or the funny things which happened in his life. There are always funny things somewhere. Or amazing things. Or even sad things.

I know more about my mother though, because she has written down a great deal. But again, when we write, we all self-edit, and so we can lose a lot of what we really felt. And thankfully, Mum is still here, so I can ask her.

But my story - well, it is nothing fancy or stupendous, but there are things which happened which were important to me, and things which were seemingly unimportant at the time, which have had great bearing on the rest of my life too. There were crises of conscience, decisions to follow confrontational paths, and daring to stand up or out. In or from the crowd. And when I look back, I remember that I was only 21 when I got married. Not many weeks older than David. And all those things had happened already. How different things were back then. My parents must have been tearing their hair out by the roots. I was a bit of a challenge.

And when I got married, again, my life followed totally different patterns to anyone else I knew at the time. Or now, for that matter. I travelled at sea with Geoff when I could, while we lived in England, and before I had Andrew. But I know very little about Geoff growing up. Yes, I know the important bits - growing up in post-war Britain, chickens, playing on bomb sites, no toys, air raids. But I don't know about his childhood friends, and what they got up to. Or much about his school days, other than that he went to a grammar school (the bright kids all went to grammar schools in those days). I know, for instance, that once upon a time, he was offered some land on a beachfront. He turned it down because it "was too far away from anywhere". The Seychelles. Now that was not one of his finer financial moments, people. I could do with a stretch of beachfront in the Seychelles. How nice.

But it is time to sift through those memories before I manage to forget the lot, and write them down for my kids. Maybe I will surprise them. Their Mum is and was a real live person, you know.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Noise is relative, isn't it - David got out of the car in the village centre yesterday and said "It is so quiet here" and so help me, all I heard was noise. It is relative. He has been living in a small city - that is where he goes to university. This is a village - even though there are over 6000 people living in it, it is still a village. And to him, it is so quiet. To me it is noisy. The kind of background noise I am used to. Although I remember moving here from a huge city and seem to recall it was quiet then too to me........

When I go to Switzerland, I find it so quiet. My sister may not agree. It is all relative.

And then there is the kind of noise in my head as well. Not audible. Just words and thoughts and ideas, and worries and fears and delights and lists and challenges....... You will all know exactly what I mean. I sit down and to an observer, I will look perfectly peaceful and at rest. Hahahahaha. My mind is a kaleidoscope of colour and sound and the words zoom around like deranged spacemen in super fast jets. Star Wars in the head. And they just don't stop.

We live in a world where you can't get away from anyone. Mobile phones, laptops, 24 hour news channels, emails...... 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, our "inbox" is flooded with words. Our inbox = the brain / mind. I often wonder if being able to get the facts immediately is progress or not. Our imagination doesn't get much of a chance to exercise when facts are at our fingertips. Mind you, when you have kids on global trots, you really do need the instant access to facts, because we all know what over-active maternal imagination can do and Interpol doesn't need every mother calling every 2 days. They could just have better things to do.

I digress.

Words. Images in the mind. When I sit down to have a quiet time, and just "be", it is warfare of the mind. I start talking to God, and zoom, zap I think about whether I switched off the gas, when the washing machine will finish the load, what bill needs to be paid, the phone rings.... Or I start talking, and I see the fingerprints on the silent tv. The dust on the coffee table. Then I think of the needs I have..... when to do this, write that. I read a passage and it triggers a thought and off I go on a totally unrelated detour.

I am an expert at distraction. Focus? Not easy. I don't want or need to empty my mind. That can be very dangerous. I just want it to slow down and go into sleep mode, so I can concentrate on being with God, and listening for that still small voice. That still small voice which has to compete with the Star Wars scenario. And yes, I am well aware that God is quite capable of booming and upping His volume. But I also think He needs me to put Him first and to learn to listen. And I am not very good at it at all. I need more discipline. And a load more humility.

We are learning about the gifts of the Spirit at church at the moment and today was about prophesy, something we are all able to do. Prophesy. Pass on the word we are given. That, of course, would be if we shut up long enough to hear the word in the first place. How many messages have I missed? And how often do I make excuses for not listening? Or not believing what I may hear? Or ignoring it as a phantom random thought?

I am too busy trying to save the world. My world. Fix things, Sort things. Keep on. Survive. Be all things to all people, and forgetting that I am a child of God, and that I have responsibilities there as well. To listen to what He is telling me.

I fill my mind with words about Christian living. But I don't let myself digest them properly. I read them, finish the book and start a new one. I just don't slow down and think about what I have read. Learn from it. The input rate must stay on a maximum setting. I fill my days, my nights, with sound. New ideas, new possibilities, all jostling each other to become more prominent. Maybe I let my mind run so fast because I am afraid to stop. Afraid of what I will hear.


The solution is simple on paper. "Be still and know." There must be a book on being still see how my mind is working?? Ridiculous.

I had just written all the above, and stopped to do some unplanned but lovely entertaining this afternoon. And then I came back to finish this post and I heard the ding to say I had a new email. Ahh. Good. My daily devotional from The Purpose Driven Life . Pop over and read it. I think it is the equivalent to a sledgehammer on the head. The still small voice just got really loud. Booming even.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A son back home for a little while.....

Well, David is back home for his Easter Break before heading back to uni and the last term of the year. Exams and all the rest. A couple of weeks at home is great for his mother, of course. I have Stuff which needs doing. Heavy stuff. He has a list. Bless him, he walked in the door and started casting his eye about checking up on what needed doing. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me it has been months since he was in his protector mode, and he wanted to make sure he knew what was needed. Sigh. I must have done something right along the way raising him. He is a gem.

It has been a stunning spring day today, and the tulips are about to bloom. I can't wait to see the colours. Particularly as I seem to have forgotten which ones I chose! My mind chooses to forget details like this. Highly irritating and completely without my permission.

I left the Easter decorations up so that he could see them, but tomorrow they will come down. Spring can stay (the decorations) but the Easter stuff needs to be put away, much though I love it all. Happy colours. Gentle colours. Colours to make me smile - the pinks, yellow, blues and greens.

I have been patrolling the garden, checking for the horrible lily beetle, and watching to see when the potatoes will start growing. Not to mention all the seedlings in the greenhouse. Patience is not one of my gifts.

And the new week brings with it a funeral as well. Wednesday. It will be a difficult day for my friend and her family. But they will not be alone.

I hope everyone is having a great spring weekend, and that the sun is shining wherever you are! Now I need to go and cook something.....

Thursday, April 08, 2010

As requested....

The chairs needed to GET to the patio, people. So you get to see one chair. I sat in it. I am still alive. There are 2 chairs.
And the table. I have yet to check how secure it is.

And the corner of the garden with more daffs.

Sun, flowers and little frustration too...

Sod's law. Today we have SUN. And today my leg has gone on strike. I have Things I Want To Do. And Stuff I Want to Try. And Places I Want To Be.


I need more coffee.

This has been a quiet week - I have spent time making calls for my friend, crocheting another hat, doing a great deal of sleeping in unintentional places at ridiculous times. Like the couch. Taking care of Officialdom. And eating the remaining apple dumplings. They re-heat really well, by the way.

It has been really cold, and today is apparently the start of 3 days of warmer weather. I have plans. I want to plant stuff. Fill more pots. However, it is not going to be today. David will be home in a few days. I will have a list ready. The camellia bush is full of buds, and they are starting to open - just look how beautiful the flowers are this year. In a few days the whole bush will be a riot of colour!

I saw some lovely garden chairs on offer recently, and my mother and sister said they would give them to me for my birthday (which is a long way off ), and so I attempted assembling them a couple of days ago.

Yes. Well.

I will never complain about Ikea furniture assembly instructions - they are clear, understandable and readable. These chairs are not from Ikea. And there is one tiny diagram written in miniscule spidery font, which I defy anyone to interpret. But I had the parts on top of the kitchen table and sallied forth. Then Margaret popped in for tea, and I dropped a rubber washer. Could I find it??? That would be no. I searched for hours. And did they provide extras???? Of course not. So I ended up using a plumbing washer instead. I am a master of invention and making do. Winging it.

They are assembled. And 3 people have tried sitting in them and they are still assembled. As in, no-one has ended up on the floor. The little table which came with the set was a nightmare. I assembled it, following the dodgy instructions, and it was all wonky, and twisted, and definitely not square, so I had to release all the bolts a little until the glass top would fit in, and then try to tighten them "blind" - without turning it upside down (and breaking the glass) just by feel alone. I think that may need more attention before I actually put anything like a feather on top of it. I have no idea why they could not just come assembled. Assembled would be very good indeed. I am a fan of assembled stuff.

Of course, the weather has been so awful that they are still in the middle of my kitchen in an attractive fashion. They need to be out there in the sun so I can go and sit on one and relax. And make more plans.

Tomorrow is the last day of the period of notice from work. So from Saturday, I will have no connection with the school. A new era dawns.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

And so it starts....

Four weeks and two days......... we have four weeks and two days of political wrangling ahead of us, now that the date of the General Election has been announced. Finally. This is not a suprise to the nation, let me tell you. It has been going on for months. And this is as political as this blog is going to get, people. They have been pontificating on tv since dawn, and I am already ready to rip the plug from the wall.

There has been a parade of obscure pundits spewing views, and I have to say I have been more fascinated by their teeth, their carefully chosen ties and their excitement than the vitriol which has spouted from their lips. Please tell me when we will get to the stage where the whole lot of them sit down, and talk civilly to each other??? Not in this lifetime.

However, this is not what I meant to chat about this fine and sunny Tuesday morning. No. I wanted to tell you about the views I heard re technology and votes and electioneering. "They" seem to think that the techno demography consists of 20 somethings. "They" talk about people preferring to read leaflets dropped through the doors, meet candidates on the doorstep and such like, and that facebook and twitter and THEY FORGOT BLOGS are not really that important, and the domain of the young. Hmmm. Mr Obama may beg to differ. His campaign mastered the techo world with vigour, and no matter what your political persuasion may be, that is something everyone would concede.

So I listened to the little man on the studio sofa (who was not young - maybe my age perhaps??) saying that the old ways work best, and I thought.....hello? I am not 20 something. I have being tweeting since long before just about anyone in public life in the UK knew it existed or what it was. I have been blogging and have been a part of the blogging community for years now. I use facebook. The average age of my friends is not 20 something. Nor are we techno morons. Nor, come to that, are we fluffy airheads. We are thinking, intelligent articulate women, who are not daunted by technology, and who enjoy global forums. (That sounds impressive, doesn't it!) I am absolutely not the only middle aged woman in the country doing just that - embracing modern methods of communication.

However, having said that, I do not want politicians popping up leaving comments. Nor do I want their twitter feed filling my home page. Nor do I want to be "their friends". I do not want them arriving on the doorstep in waves either....think - every candidate appearing at different times......I can choose to bin the leaflets. Switch off the tv if I have had a surfeit of politics. I don't think they have a clue how many people switch channels when party political broadcasts appear. Politicians and the real world do not meet on very many fronts, after all.

My vote will be used wisely, after lengthy consideration, and in keeping with my views. Nothing anyone can come up with in just four weeks and two days, after the inescapeable debacle of the UK and world politics and economics of the past 2 years, is going to change that now. I have a brain, which I use regularly, thankyouverymuch.

But to presume that the techno world is the preserve of the young and carefree is a mistake.

Come to think of it, bring on some sitting politicians - to my front door. I have some questions re hospitals, cover-ups, the Freedom of Information Act, the inability of government office(r)s to carry out the simplest of procedures, and a host of other issues to discuss. I rather suspect they may depart at speed.

Ayeyaiyai. Maybe I should stand for parliament. I always fancied being the Speaker, and yelling "Order ORDER" at the top of my voice.

I may have to rediscover my DVD collection. Little house on the prairie sounds perfect right now. Pity they all appear as little green people on my tv. (It is approaching its final death throes.) But in the meantime, my camellia is starting to flower, and I can't remember a time when it had more buds. Just beautiful. The tulips are also starting to flower, the lilac is in bud, and the irises are shooting up. The Easter decorations will be coming down this week, and time moves on.

And I reserve the right to issue my own State of the Nation Address one of these days. Hahahahaha.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter weekend......

Happy Easter, everyone! He is risen!

The weekend has gone by in a flash. Good Friday means hot cross buns for breakfast - a family tradition. Toasted, with butter melting on them.

Good Friday was a grey and cold day. Wet too. Very much how Good Friday feels inside me, remembering the huge sacrifice made because of love alone.

So I baked Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings. And had to go out and deliver two thirds of them to friends immediately, to prevent myself from eating all 12. They were, in the words of Matt, Glynis's son, sensational. I overdid them a trifle, but that made NO DIFFERENCE at all. They were delicious. I also made homemade icecream, so we will not discuss the state of the hips.

And then I went to Peter and Glynis for a wonderful supper on Friday night - salmon. My favourite fish. I can't remember ever eating anything but fish on Good Friday. Just lovely to share a great meal with special friends. Jean was there too, with her son, Chris.

On Saturday, after staying up very very late on Friday night in an effort to finish quilting the quilt for Saturday, I managed to sew on some of the many buttons I intended sewing onto said quilt, and then left to go to Andrew and Ann's home because David turned 21.
And when your baby turns 21, you have to be there. Ann had decorated the house, and David was wearing the required badge, and he had a wonderful day. Andrew collected him from his uni in the morning, timing his arrival to make sure Diana's surprise grocery delivery for David had been delivered first. She arranged for a birthday cake and other assorted treats to be delivered on his birthday. How special was that!

The birthday cake in all its glory!

And it was delicious! He loved the quilt I made for his birthday, but I have it home again to finish the buttons. I have holes in my fingers. isn't it amazing how the needle always finds one of the holes, every stitch you sew????? Sigh. I will post photos when I have finished it completely.

The birthday boy. Man. My baby.

Lindt bunnies under Ann's Easter tree. Today is Easter Sunday, and we all walked to church around the corner from where they live - a wonderful Easter service. And home for the bunnies to meet their end. More deliciousness.......

Missy was on top form. She is dancing, standing on her head (see above) and jumping. Or trying too. We were curled up laughing at her efforts to get the head, the knees and the feet to work together, but she did clear the floor twice. What a little performer she is - she now walks with a hand on the hip at times. Priceless. I don't think she stops for a second. Up and down - constant movement. And she bends double and roars with laughter. So many changes in just a couple of weeks. She has also discovered chocolate. She had a tiny Lindt bunny's ears very firmly in her mouth after lunch. She loved it. Just a nibble, mind you, but she could not be left out. And the helium filled balloon was her favourite toy of the moment. Endless fun on a string.

And then I came home. And filled the greenhouse with pots ready to plant things. Now it is flopping time, but flopping with a grin firmly in place. David had a lovely birthday, and his brother, sister-in-law, and sister made it really special for him. And I have a day to relax tomorrow.

I will be back.........

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Children growing up.......

Try reading emails while talking to a daughter on MSN, skyping with daughter-in-law and granddaughter and answering both phone and mobile at the same time. And drinking the coffee which kickstarts the brain early in the morning. I was in need of a nap after that lot. My multi-tasking days are clearly over, or at the very least, a little rusty.

And the sun was shining for a brief second, and I missed it. I was multi-whatever-ing. And now the rain and freezing cold is back. Oh well.


I will actually be seeing my youngest son on his birthday on Saturday! His 21st birthday, although I have no idea how that happened. He was a toddler just 2 weeks ago....or so it seems. I have been trying to find out what he wanted to do for the past few weeks, if he had plans, where he wanted to be, etc etc etc, and in typical David fashion, he was ambivalent. So I decided that he was 21 and did not really need to see his mother and he could have fun with his friends. Only his big brother had different plans, and has arranged it all. There will be cake, and much celebrating going on. So my weekend has taken on a different look.

How can my baby be 21? Ridiculous. I was a little surprised when I found out he was on his way 21 years ago, but oh, what a blessing he has been to this family. He is like a rock, and has a wicked sense of humour. He is also the quietest of my children, but doesn't miss a thing. A very deep thinker, with a fascinating mind. And the kindest of hearts. A real gentle giant. He is also the biggest in the family - he towers over us all. His older brother was not too thrilled about that part.

David grew up over night when his Dad died, and I know that Geoff would have been immensely proud of the man he has become. You know, my mind is just filled right now with the memories of that little tornado of a boy with long curly red hair and boundless energy. So different now he has grown up to that little one. Setting off alarms, climbing burglar bars, looking for Tracy Island in the ocean, Power Ranger suits, refusing to get in the pool, sliding down stairs on his stomach, mountaineering all over the furniture, singing in the choir, writing books, cheeky grin, cricket.
And this is the son who walks in the mountains with his Mum too, who enjoys our adventures. The one who helps out at youth clubs when he is at home. The son away at university studying Forensic Biology. The one who can navigate me through Strasbourg (where I always get lost when driving.) Who loves helping out in his uncle's restaurant. So physically strong. Yet so incredibly gentle. What a wonderful combination.

He, like each of my children, is nothing like the adult I thought he would be. He is exactly as he was born to be. Unique. Wonderful. All fascinating to their mother. When they were small, I had an idea of what they may become, but the reality has been so different, and so exciting for me to witness. Their characters have grown, matured, changed, evolved. Their interests have done the same. They are all strong enough to make choices, and follow paths in different directions, and they all have the courage of their convictions to keep on those paths.

So now my job is done, in a sense, and I get to sit back and watch where those paths take them all. And that is wonderful. Just as long as they remember to send their mother a postcard now and then. Or email. Or text. Or any of those other electronic whatsits........