Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Musings on My Mother

She's actually very happy.  My mother.  Happier than anyone else I know.  She lives entirely in the moment and is indeed experiencing a second childhood.  The cast of characters in her mind consists mainly of her mother and father and her three brothers, whom she adored and who looked up to their older sister.  Only one is still alive.  She's looking forward to the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, the Queen having been there all her life practically and part of the long-lost childhood where she spends her time.  She still knows who I am, which is a real pleasure.

Born on a Prairie Farm in the wilds of Saskatchewan, her father having narrowly missed the catastrophe of the Titanic - a telegram from the farm manager calling him back early made him cancel his booking and take an earlier boat across the Atlantic - she will probably end her days under the wide skies of Suffolk, a place she has no connnection with at all, just part of the random pattern of her life, of all our lives.

Dealing with all this has made me step back and reflect on my own life.  To try and come to some sort of terms with the things that have happened and where I am now, the pattern of 'birth, death and the whole damn thing' as Elizabeth Luard so succinctly put it.

Monday, 14 May 2012

My mother

I lost my mother sometime last year.  A series of transient ischaemic attacks have destroyed part of her brain and taken away most of who she was, leaving a large, guileless child/woman in her place.  Someone who has lost the ability to care for herself and needs help with even the most basic tasks.

I mourn my mother, the lovely, warm, kind woman who was always there for me, who always understood my point of view and supported me in everything I did, all the choices I made, no matter how questionable.  I miss calling her to talk about my dilemmas, to tell her about her grandchildren and hear about her day, make plans to see her again soon.  I still see her, more than ever now I have moved her to a lovely nursing home nearby where I can keep a close eye on her, but the mother I had all my life has gone.

She was always there for me when I needed her, and now I need to be there for her now she really needs me.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Perfect



A walk in a rain-drenched bluebell wood 
the last cool rays of the evening sun 
a wicker chair, a woolly jumper 
and a glass of white wine   

Practising for summer!

Birthday lunch

It was 21 years ago when I finally came face to face with my youngest son.  The time just flies by from baby to toddler, small child to large child, teenager to young adult.  

We met for lunch in a bustling London bar, all Farrow and Ball and mismatched tables and chairs, red buses swishing by on the busy, wet, Saturday streets, people scurrying under umbrellas in the relentless icy rain, but warm and cosy inside.


I miss my boys and the homes we made together, the lives we shared, but how lovely to meet up like this and share a birthday lunch.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Postcard


Delicious ice-cold, fruity, blond beer, steaming pots of fresh mussels cooked in white wine with onions and celery, perfectly fried chips dipped in garlicky mayonnaise, and pancakes (pannenkoek) met slagroom (cream) yes, really!

The entire nation on its bicycle; mothers and fathers, boyfriends and girlfriends, grandparents with grandchildren perched in front, clutching tiny pretend handle bars and looking terribly serious. Or walking dogs; big dogs, little dogs, every possible variety of dog.  I think every Dutch family must own at least one - they even take them out on their boats.



A huge bowl of sky in gorgeous shades of palest duck egg blue and grey.  And water.  Water everywhere. Canals leading off inland seas, taking us right into the very heart of lovely ancient towns where we could step off the boat straight into the nearest cafe or bar, wander through the streets, shopping for fresh bread, coffee, cheese and fruit, or just admiring the pretty Dutch houses and wondering how on earth they get their windows so very clean, before heading back to the boat to sit in the cockpit watching the world go by with a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta, cooked on the little swinging stove.


From Goes we sailed across the Oosterschelde to Zierikzee for the Mussel Festival, joined friends from England, stayed a day longer than planned because of severe weather then, setting off for Willemstad, were forced back to Goes, probably my favourite place in Holland, by an unpredicted Force 7 in the Oosterschelde, which is like standing fully dressed in the wind and rain, with someone chucking buckets of freezing water over you every few seconds. Not my idea of fun at all! Lovely fish soup and a glass of warming Calvados helped to ease my recovery from the difficult conditions at sea that day.


A long day's sail up the Volkerak finally brought us to Willemstad, another pretty dutch town, to stay for a couple of days before taking the boat up the Haringvliet to Middel Harnis for pannenkoek, then on to Hellevoetsluis where we fell in with a crowd of Dutch boaties who all have the same boat we have - an instant connection there.  We spent a couple of days with them and joined them in a race (my first) where we were totally outclassed, but great fun anyway, then a barbecue in their clubhouse in the evening, watching the sun go down over the water and chatting with the English speakers, swapping sailing stories and practising Dutch pronunciation to their great amusement.

                         
Time now to retrace our steps, back to Willemstad, then back across the Oosterschelde again, this time into the Veerse Meer and the pretty town of Veere for the night, then on to Middelburg in the pouring rain, then the train and the ferry home across the wide, cold Noordzee. 


Now where did I leave my waistline?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Getting There... maybe

I'm sitting here alone in my house tonight with a glass of Kentish white wine and a frittata, made with vegetables from a neighbour's garden.  I bartered the vegetables for a pot of the marmalade I make every January, a popular present.  Yesterday afternoon was spent sitting in the garden of another neighbour in the village, together with the latest additions to the next generation.  Tomorrow my next door neighbour and I are planning a blackberrying expedition in the country lanes that surround the village.



It's been just over a year now since my partner and I made the move from Kent to Suffolk and it's been a challenging and sometimes fraught time.  I have often been horribly homesick for my old life and familiar people and places, but having decided to leave my comfort zone, I am slowly beginning to reap the rewards. Friendships take time to grow, but there are some promising beginnings.



Today was spent sorting out the garden, a new challenge for me after years of living in rented houses.  It is a continual puzzle to me, what should go, what to keep, what will thrive and where.  There have been some successes and some ignominious failures. I am currently trying to work out what to grow beside my pink climbing rose, now planted in the courtyard outside the kitchen - should it be cat mint, lavender or a deep blue Hebe?  And what will do best in the very dry corner of the bed by the front door when the Cosmos has finished?  I'm tempted by a deep red lavatera framing the herbs - the silver thyme I planted there is spreading itself very nicely indeed. There is so much more to do, so many plans to make, but it's been a good first year and I'm enjoying myself, rootling around deep in the Suffolk soil.  It certainly keeps me grounded.




My peaceful time will end tomorrow, as it should.  I really wouldn't enjoy it so much if I had too much of it.  My youngest son, home from university for the summer, will be returning from his visit to his father in London, soon to be joined by my oldest son and his girlfriend, staying for a couple of days rest and relaxation - them, not me!  Then it's off to Holland on the ferry to join my partner, who took the boat over yesterday, for a week or two of cruising the Dutch canals and inland seas before it's back to earth with a bump and perhaps an end of summer Pimm's party for all our new friends and neighbours.


Monday, 16 August 2010

Diversion

We hadn't planned a visit to Orford yesterday.  The idea was to take the boat upriver and spend the night moored up close to a nearby town and explore, but the strong winds that are sweeping through East Anglia at the moment made us rethink our plans.  Just getting the dinghy up to the boat and back was an act of faith and involved a great deal of splashing and bumping on the choppy river water.  Luckily the dinghy stayed the right way up and it was a huge relief to have solid ground under our feet again. 


Thwarted of our goal, we decided to drive to Orford instead and visit The Jolly Sailor, a lovely traditional English seaside pub, for fish and chips by a nice woodburning stove with the Sunday Times.  A couple of hours later, replete and satisfied that we had made the best of a disappointing day, we started our journey home. 


The diversion sign on the road home was a red rag to a bull.  Of course my partner had to investigate in the firm belief there would be a way through, so when we hit a solid lake of muddy water, with another car firmly embedded in it, he carried on regardless.  We made it to the far side and stopped to see if there was anything we could do.  Eventually, after much toing and froing, we managed to attach a tow hook and pulled the car and it's stranded occupants clear of the water.  The two adorable dogs trapped inside with their owners were particularly relieved!  The engine was, however, completely dead.  We ended up towing the lifeless car for several miles, at one point through a deserted airfield in the fading daylight - a surreal experience. 


Home turned out to be in the town we had originally planned to visit on the boat, so despite our diversions and changes of plan, we arrived at our destination, although not quite in the way we had intended.  Even more surreal, it turned out that our new friends live in a churchyard, the path to their front door marked by ancient gravestones.  We enjoyed a convivial thank you drink at their lovely house and finally headed back to our own home around midnight, well satisfied with the way the day had turned out, and possibly with some new friends.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Rose for a rose

I call them my shadow children, the ones I lost over 30 years ago; the embryonic lives that were never lived. Their spirits stay with me, on the periphery of my consciousness, the what ifs... the might have beens...

Of course I grieved for them deeply at the time, even though I never held them in my arms, never kissed them and changed their nappies, never left them at the school gates, chivvied them to do their homework, saw them launched onto lives of their own, lives that I would have only a small part to play in. I never knew the colour of their eyes, the texture of their hair, the smell of their skin, their personalities. I planted a rose in memory of my lost little ones and it has moved with me from one house to another over the years. It helps to embody them somehow, gives me a quiet focus for my private thoughts.


I was lucky. Despite the early difficulties, I now have three handsome, hulking, grown up sons who have filled the empty spaces in my life and given me little time to dwell on what was lost. But I have been thinking of them recently, following the sudden, unexpected death of an old friend's 16 year old daughter, a lovely young woman, full of bright promise, she had shared her life and filled her thoughts and dreams. She should be eagerly awaiting her GCSE results - she would have excelled - gone into the sixth form, fallen in and out of love, spread her wings, gone on to university, had a career, married perhaps... children of her own. All wiped away, never to be.



What solace can anyone possibly give to a grieving mother? What can ever even begin to help her to heal? She wakes up every morning to experience her loss afresh, as though for the first time.


I shall give her a rose to plant in memory of her daughter . It's not much, but apart from being there for her if she will let me, it's the best I can do.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Temptation

Oh my god, it's stunning!  Who is that woman in the mirror? The one with the great legs and the fabulous figure that goes in and out in all the right places.  How can a dress do that?  It was the perfect summer shift dress, the one I've had half an eye out for all summer and here it was in the sale in the local posh frock shop.  It just sort of slipped itself on and fitted like a dream. 


I had come into the nearby small market town for a quick trip to the dentist to fix my loose crown before the wedding in Kent.  I didn't really need a new dress at all, but then who ever does?  There are plenty of previous years' lapses in the wardrobe which would more than cover the occasion, but there's something about a new dress teamed with three inch heels and a pashmina...

So, just a quick trip next door to make an appointment with the spray tan lady - those white legs could certainly do with some help - then back home to do unexpected things to myself, like depilate, exfoliate and moisturise all over, most of which I have managed to get through life quite happily without until now, but apparently crucial to giving the tan a chance to take.  You certainly need time and money in bucket loads to be beautiful, or even in with a chance, I realised.

My partner did a double-take when I walked into the room,  looking for once like the woman we would both like me to be.  Sadly this will not happen very often, as the credit card bill will soon land on the doorstep and the consequences will have to be faced. 

Still, I enjoyed pulling out all the stops for once... and I thoroughly enjoyed my friend's wedding  Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Just beam me up

The boat surfed the threshing waves bouncing like a cork then slid into a trough as I glanced behind to see the large, heavy wooden dinghy we were towing poised on the wave's crest and crashing down towards us.  I clung on for dear life and said my prayers as the boat heeled over, seawater rinsing the decks, blinding me with spray.
 
I could think of a million things I would rather be doing right now; planting out my oxeye daisies, painting my nails bright blue, drinking ink ...

We finally made it into the river entrance and sailed more sedately to join the other boats taking part in the rally, anchored deep in the river mud.  Later that evening we joined them for a barbecue on the beach in a remote spot, inaccessible other than by water, chatting, laughing, exchanging stories.  Someone started playing music by the firelight as we watched the most glorious sunset I have ever seen and the light gradually faded from the sky. Then we waded through the mud to the dinghy to join another boat for a nightcap, before making our way back up the quiet moonlit river to our own boat to snuggle in for the night.







"That's the difference between you and me," I said to my partner. "I can quite happily go to a party and enjoy myself without having to half kill myself first."

"It makes the beer taste better," he replied succinctly.

Monday, 7 June 2010

East Coast Mud

We turned off the busy 'A' road and headed into the empty countryside under wide East Anglian skies.  After a few miles we took another turning, down a dusty single track lane, deeper into the remote countryside.  A few minutes later, the river glinted at us through the trees and we reached our destination.


We had moved the boat up to its new mooring late last week and are being initiated into the joys of inflatable dinghies and east coast mud.  Having unloaded and parked the car, it took rather a long time in the hot midday sun to pump up the dinghy, attach the outboard and load it with supplies for an overnight stay.  As I gingerly stepped onto the treacherous thing, it floated away from the jetty slightly, pulled by the tide, leaving me straddled, one foot in the dinghy, the other slipping off the jetty into the thick gooey mud.  Not my most dignified moment, but a baptism of fire into the reality of a river mooring, after the luxury of marinas and pontoons. 

We finally managed to get ourselves onto the dinghy, started the outboard and set off  a quarter of a mile upriver to our boat, sitting rather closer to the water than is entirely comfortable for a landlubber.  We tied up and somehow managed to haul ourselves precariously on board.  At last we got the sails up and drifted up the meandering river on a light breeze, moored up by a riverside pub, lowered ourselves into the dinghy again, rowed ashore for a well earned drink.

There are now two things I have added to my wish list that I would never have dreamed of in my other life.  One is a nice firm fibreglass dinghy, the other is a boarding ladder.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Goats Butter

That's torn it.  All credibility gone.
 
I'm trying an exclusion diet for health reasons but I didn't expect my partner to actually go to the Village Shop and ask if they stock goats butter.  In front of a queue of villagers.  And then explain to the bemused assistant that butter can be made using milk from mammals other than cows...

Well, that will keep the village going for a while, until we make our next faux pas.  They are still reeling from the information that he practices transcendental mediation and is a Bowen Therapist, whereas I am thinking of training to become a homeopath.  Oh, and that we have seven children between us, and we're not married! That's particularly popular and spiced up many a drinks party.

Still we feel we are fulfilling our role as newcomers, giving them something to talk about.  Lots to talk about actually.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Stardust

Nobody said it was easy.

Sometimes there's a glimmer of hope and I start to think that I really can do this, I really can make a life here, but the truth is I'm like a plant without a tap root, frantically trying to push out a network of fine fragile new roots into the somewhat reluctant soil to compensate for what is lost, and I feel discouraged.

I know I've been here before, more than once, in a new place, building a new life and I also know that it takes time and that, sometimes, it never takes at all and you just have to go back to where you were and begin again from that place, and maybe that's going to be the answer in the end.  We no longer have children to help establish us in a strange place and I am struggling to find meaningful work and ways of passing the time.  People are very kind, but I have no deep connection with them and I'm not sure I have the will to keep trying.

There are wonderful things about life here.  The house is as lovely and welcoming as we had hoped, the village is idyllic though very sleepy and set in it's ways, the surrounding countryside is stunningly beautiful and we are enjoying exploring our new terrain.  We plan to carry on getting to know this part of the world, to enjoy what is available to us, to sail all over the coastline this summer exploring the inlets and rivers and try not to worry too much about the uncertain future. 

But I miss the life I had, with all its mess and difficulties.

Empty Nest

I abandoned my youngest son in a cold Northern city one fine autumn day. 

It's what we do with our young, it's our way of pushing them out of the nest.  We hope and pray that they really can fly, that they won't crash and burn.  And suddenly, there's a huge hole in my life, in my heart, in my home.  The house is often silent now, peaceful, serene, still, and I love it, so why do I still crave the noise and mess and sheer vitality of my son?  He regularly used to drive me to distraction and I often longed for the day when I could reclaim my life for myself, it having been so well used by my children for so many years. 


Everything in my life now is so different, it's hard to know where to begin counting the ways in which it has changed, but this has to be the most significant.  I'm now living in my new home, with my new partner in a different part of the country and slowly trying to put a life together, pretty much from scratch.
 
I think we must have been mad to do this, but at the same time, it seems terribly sane.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Marry Me?

'Marry Me?' he said, out of a clear blue sky.

My world tilted momentarily on its axis. We had both said categorically that we would never marry again, so why did I find myself saying 'Yes' without even pausing to think? It just seemed to be the right, the only possible answer. If I thought about it I might find reasons not to, but all the important decisions in life come from somewhere beyond conscious thought. The lunchtime busyness of the seaside restaurant had settled and we were alone with our oysters and champagne, both of us now in tears as he took me in his arms and kissed me.



Life has been very unsettled recently as I struggle to let go of the trappings of my old life and move into the new one that is opening up for me, and sometimes I am so scared to let go. After all, it has been a long, hard journey, rebuilding my life after it was torn apart; raising my boys to be confident young men, able to live satisfying, independent lives; finding friends, homes, work, fulfillment for myself on my own terms and while I don't think it will always be easy, to merge my life with someone else's, it is my new challenge and I shall give it all I can.


We plan to move to East Anglia in the summer after my youngest son finishes school. He has a new life opening up to him too, as he hopes to go on to University in the Autumn, all being well, the grades being right. At last he is beginning to take control of his life and to do what has to be done to achieve his goals.


I know this is not the end of my story, but it is the end of this particular chapter and, whatever problems we face in the future, we face them together.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Create

Create it says at the top of the page, and that is what I'm trying to do. Create a new future, a different sort of life for myself, as the old one collapses around me.

One thing is for sure, things cannot go on as they are. I know I can no longer afford to live in this house, now the maintenance payments have slowed to a trickle and could dry up at any time. I know my youngest son will leave school this year, hopefully to start an independent life for himself at University. And I know that my hands are telling me in no uncertain terms that I can no longer earn an income with them, as the joints swell and burn. No ambiguous messages there then, so what next?



We have talked through the worries we both have about moving in together, my lover and I, about making a life together, and it's exciting and scary in equal measure, but somehow we seem to have moved from 'shall we live together' to 'where shall we live together'. We could go almost anywhere, all our children now being young adults, and that's both liberating and frightening. We have a life here, friends, work, things we enjoy doing together. Could we find all the things we need in a strange place? Can we make a fresh start somewhere new?

We have looked at houses and they all have problems - one is a complete wreck and needs renovating, another is perfect, but a little too expensive and in the middle of Suffolk, another snatched from under our noses, and yet another is liable to flooding.

I keep looking for a sign, a way forward. These are tough decisions and there are no easy answers. Where are the angels when you need them?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Happy Christmas

It just sort of creeps up on you, sometime after the last firework fizzles out, and before you know it there's just a few days to go and a whole Christmas production to put on. If I didn't do it, who would? I don't think any of the people who will be sitting around my table this Christmas Day would consider making Christmas happen, and yet each year somehow it all comes together and we always have a magical day.

This Christmas will be bitter-sweet for me, as I know I will have to leave this lovely house sometime in the coming year, I know change is coming, so amongst all the giving and receiving, the sense of family and love and warmth, there will be sadness too.

I don't know what happens next; my future is an open book and the next chapter has no heading yet. I just hope I can find a way through this maze, and keep shining.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Adieu

The late afternoon sun slanting through the trees transformed the ancient country churchyard, turning the few remaining leaves to pure gold. There was a gentle breeze and a spirit of sadness and regret but also of deep peace. Dozens of black-clad mourners gathered in small groups, all saying goodbye in their own way. A modest woman, she would have been amazed that so many people cared about her and came to see her laid to rest.

We buried her with her lost husband, the love of her life. After all the years of treatment and all that she had suffered, her time had come, and although she was young to die, there was a sense of release and of a life complete.

It was, at the end, where she wanted to be.

Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Romantic Break


Even the birds struggled to stay aloft. My boot-shod feet slipped and squelched on the muddy, almost sheer slope, the wind whipping our words away as we climbed up a little-used track to the South Coastal Path. This was my romantic break, a treat and a reward for all the sometimes tough sailing during the summer.

We had booked a lovely Bed and Breakfast in a remote spot on the Dorset coast, overlooking the sea. There was crisp white linen on the king-sized bed, gorgeous, muted fabrics framing windows and covering cushions, antiques glowing in the soft light, so how did I find myself yet again battling the elements? The view from the top of the cliff was worth the climb, but in the end the Force 6 gale tearing into us became too much of an obstacle, so we abandoned our planned walk after a couple of miles, took a track inland, sheltered from the elements, back to the farmhouse.

Later, changed and rested, we sat by a log fire in a lovely old heavily-beamed pub, drinking beer and eating home-made soup, reading the papers and letting the short November day drift away.

The next day, we took a different route along the coast, keeping closer to the beach, sheltered from the worst of the weather, had a coffee at an ancient smugglers' pub then spent time just sitting on the pebbly beach, watching the light playing on the sea and idly chatting. This was more what I had in mind and it was, in the end, a lovely relaxing break.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Year Turns

After the recent stormy weather, it wasn't hard to fill the car boot with fallen branches to build a fire in the orchard. My son and I carved out pumpkin faces, threaded lanterns through the apple trees and borrowed bales of straw from a kind neighbour, scattered around the fire for seating. We put the stereo outside on a long extension lead, playing party music and waited for the guests to arrive.

There was a nail-biting hour or so, when it seemed no-one was going to come. My son kept smiling somehow as his friends phoned and texted, changing arrangements, re-making plans, but finally a friend arrived, then a couple more. An hour later, there were a couple of dozen youngsters gathered around the blazing fire, seemingly immune to the damp and cold, eating pizzas and hotdogs, drinking beers, chatting and laughing.

Much later, when everyone had left, I wandered around the dark, quiet garden, collecting whatever needed to come in straight away, leaving the rest 'til morning, stopping to gaze up at the clear, cold, starry night sky and enjoying the sense of peace and the pleasure of another successful gathering. Memories that I hope my son will carry with him when his life takes him away from this quiet corner of the countryside and into the wider world where he must make his own way.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Contrasts

Perhaps we shouldn't have gone to the gallery opening. The smart shiny people glanced unseeingly at us as we slipped through the door, so absorbed were they in all the other smart shiny people they had known for years. Strangely, nobody else seemed to be looking at the stunning pictures. More people drfited in and were greeted with shrieks of recognition, air kisses, as we bounced off them like billiard balls, unable to penetrate the invisible shield.


She used to be a neighbour of his, in and out of each other's houses, their children playmates, but they hadn't seen each other for years.
'I can't quite place you ...', she said, puzzled, as he greeted her and congratulated her on her work. 'Oh yes, didn't you used to be married to ... '
'Things change', he replied awkwardly as my smile slipped.

Not the right woman. Not the right place. Not my fault.



The next day, the thin autumn sunshine breaking through the misty morning drew us onto the water. We spent the day sailing up the river, the water like spun silk, dropping anchor in a quiet creek, listening to the silence, soaking up the late sun. Later, as the light drained away, we headed back to port under the bright, almost full moon, shivering in the damp, cold, river air.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Indian Summer

"Butterflies
drifting through a sunlit garden.
A leaf falls"

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Sunflowers


Today is my day off. I'm listening to the 12 o'clock news on Radio 4, the only sound in my quiet kitchen apart from the traffic that swishes past my house on the wet road; white noise now.

Since I tore myself out of my warm bed after a restless night, woken by the shrill alarm clock, I have driven my 17 year old son to school, shopped at roadside stalls for bramley apples, proper free range eggs and brightly-glowing sunflowers. I have bought a large round pumpkin with the earth still clinging to its bottom, to be stored in the woodshed until Hallowe'en.

I have mucked out the messy rabbit, cleaned up cat sick and spread the ashes from our weekend fire around my recently planted parsley to keep the scavenging slugs at bay. I have washed dishes, sorted laundry, put yet another load in the washing machine (where does it all come from)? I have got to the bottom of my son's pile of discarded clothes, a once a week task I cannot quite relinquish - yes I know he should do it himself, but I live here too. Smelly socks, dank CCF uniform, crumpled suit, rank shirts - what is the problem with deodourant?

There are a hundred things to do in my home today, yet I'm sitting at the computer writing up my blog, dipping into other people's lives, because I have to do something for myself. It is, after all, my day off.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Night Crossing

Our crew turned out to be profoundly deaf, a burly 6'2" giant. Somewhere in his sixties and retired, he delighted in telling tall stories of near disasters at sea in a very loud voice, whilst chain smoking, not entirely inspiring confidence. Quite overpowering on a small boat, he felt the need to touch me every time he spoke. I edged further away on the hard bench, trying to maintain some personal space, without falling into the churning sea, fighting nausea.

The night crossing was definitely a test of my courage and commitment and a huge challenge. Sailing in a small boat across the North Sea to Holland, wind over tide for those who know about such things, is a bit like trying to ride a bucking bronco, whilst at the same time trying to make a cup of tea, or go to the loo. A particular low point was trying to adjust my underwear and momentarily letting go of the nearest handhold, just to ram my forehead into the shelf opposite. The damp night sea air crept into every crevice of my being. Even my bones were cold.

Every journey has to end and we arrived in Zeeland on a fine sunny afternoon, all traces of sickness gone, looking forward to a good meal and a hot shower. What I got was a cool shower and wet shoes and clothes - the water went everywhere. The meal was delicious though. Life with TMITPS, I realised, is never going to be dull. Uncomfortable and challenging at times, but never dull.

The rest of the holiday was spent pottering through the inland seas and canals of this charming country, staying in small marinas and quays in pretty Dutch towns, eating wonderful meals and enjoying the hospitality of this gentle country and it's friendly people. Living on a boat was fun and sailing creates a strong bond between strangers. The locks were particularly interesting as everyone jostles in a small space, desperately trying to hook a line onto rings and bollards, whilst trying not to bang into each other or the dank, unforgiving lock walls. I quickly became an expert in fending off and tying clove knots, my new skill.

The journey home was much more straightforward. No crew for this, as I was supposed to have my sea legs, and I did. We managed the trip between us, mostly during daylight, constantly watching for the ferries and container ships that would suddenly loom through the haze, seemingly from nowhere.

It was quite an adventure and lovely to be safely home in my quiet, spacious house. But sometimes I find myself missing the intimacy of living on a small boat and the simplicity it demands.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Stuck in the Mud

The plan this weekend was to take the boat upriver to have it's bottom well scrubbed before we set off for Holland next week. A 26 hour crossing of the unpredictable North Sea which is going to be a serious challenge to my fledgling sailing abilities and probably a real endurance test.

On Friday, however, I started sneezing, had a splitting headache and felt really rough, so TMITPS set off alone to do whatever needed to be done to make us seaworthy, while I curled up in bed to concentrate on fighting the bug.

Perhaps it was just as well in the end as, when he phoned a few hours later, disaster had struck and he was well and truly stuck in the mud, just yards from the pontoon and relative safety, the tide going out rapidly and the boat sinking deeper and deeper into the thick smelly gooey muck, mosquitoes filling the cabin. He had very little food as it was meant to be a quick in and out trip, and an empty water tank, as he had emptied it out in an attempt to lighten the boat and free it. He was completely alone out there, covered in mud, in a very remote spot, waiting for the tide to come in again and lift him out - if he wasn't too deeply rammed in. It was an anxious time for both of us, although I decided that being safe and dry at home was definitely the better option!

Luckily the news in the morning was better. The tide had done it's work and he was afloat again, the boat scrubbed and the prospect of an easy return home. I just hope that the trip to Holland goes more smoothly and the jinx is satisfied for now.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Now (and then)

Staying in the moment is one of life's hardest lessons and one I wish I could have learned better a long time ago.

When I met my ex-husband, I was always thinking about the next step - moving from dating to being in a relationship, then living together, eventually getting married, buying a house, having a baby, then another baby and then another, buying and selling more houses, always searching for the dream, without realising that I had it all the time. Sadly for me, the dream turned into a nightmare and the road ultimately led to separation, divorce, the break-up of my family and massive financial insecurity.

My life is very different now, not better nor worse, just different. It is only when devastation is complete that rebirth can begin. I can hope and dream about tomorrow, but for now I have today. And it's enough.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Remember When It Rained

I'm sitting in my son's bedroom, which used to be our study (he has captured and isolated the computer and I can only access it by using threats of withdrawal of services) and listening to Josh Groban on YouTube singing the most powerful, beautiful song I have heard for a long time 'Remember When It Rained' and quietly reflecting on my life.


I worry about tempting fate, that things will fall apart if I talk about it, make it real, even in a virtual sense. I am so happy with my life now, but experience has taught me to live only in the moment, so I try to stay with that. A couple of nights ago, we celebrated the first anniversary of the beginning of our journey to love each other, and we do. Love each other. I have no idea whether we can continue to hold onto this feeling, make it work tomorrow as well as today, but for now I love and am loved in return.

It doesn't get any better than that.



Monday, 7 April 2008

Cocooned

The iron-grey sky sealed our small corner of the countryside as we tramped through the whitening fields, the rest of the view lost in the horizontal blizzard that whipped our cheeks rosy red, hats pulled down over cold ears, scarves tightly knotted, gloved hands thrust deep into pockets. We turned for home, taking the short cut this time, as the world turned empty and white around us.

Back at the farmhouse, he split the last of the winter logs and we lit the fire, opened a bottle and idled the rest of the snowy afternoon away, cocooned from the outside world. The Sunday papers kept us busy, then a late lunch in the snowbound conservatory, candles lit, spring flowers in a jam jar glowing on the snow white African table cloth. We ate a delicious leg of lamb from the local butchers, with roasted vegetables in olive oil and garlic, red wine gravy, then chocolate pudding. My favourite.

For a little while, it was time out of time, and a lovely magical day.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Families and Other Challenges

As he opened the barn door, an icy blast of wind blew us into the vaulted room and the six twenty-some-things seated companionably around the kitchen table, eating, laughing and talking, turned and looked at the newcomers as my son and I joined the group.

It had seemed a good idea at the time, as we talked about how to manage the occasion and planned his menu, for me and my son to come along towards the end of lunch and have a drink with his children and assorted girlfriends, all staying in the area for Easter. In the end, it just seemed to underline our outsider status. Jokes flew around the table as the meal came to an end and coffee was served, but difficult feelings simmered just below the surface as we all skated over thin ice.

I slept badly that night, and woke in tears with the grey dawn, remembering the moment, exactly 24 years ago, when my second son was born at our home in London, his 2 year old brother asleep in the next bedroom, my mother in the bedroom above, my then husband elated at the safe birth of our new son.

Our lives have changed beyond recognition now. My 24 year old son spent the day in Yorkshire with friends, his brother in London with his father and his second wife, as my youngest son and I try to bridge the gulf between the family we were, and the life we have now.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Today is My Blog Birthday

I knew it was around now, that first tentative post into the void that is virtual reality. It took me a while to discover my comments box so I posted just for myself to begin with, because it nurtured something inside me that needed an outlet. I was quite happy really, in my own way, thinking no-one would be interested. Why should they be?

How wrong I was and what a rich experience it has been, meeting you all, enjoying dipping into your worlds and sharing mine with you. How kind you have all been and how supportive of the journey I have been on this year.

I have no idea where my life is going and whether this relationship I am involved in is going to go the distance. He is a lovely man and we share great happiness, but also, sometimes, pain. When he catches me where I still hurt most, where my wound hasn't healed over, I feel I cannot bear it. And yet ...

Thank you to all my lovely blogging friends for your company, your encouragement, warmth and humour and for sharing the last year with me.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Full Circle

The wheel turns full circle. Last year I didn't get to Lille. My carefully made plans unravelled and my new dark pink travelling bag went unused as illness intervened. Time has passed and things have changed. I am now preparing to spend a couple of days in Bruges with TMITWJ. We can't go for the weekend, because he is sailing, but it is half term and we want to spend a couple of days away together and for some reason we have agreed on Bruges. This time I shall be driven, we shall take the ferry as he loves the sea, and I shall have a lovely man to share the experience with, to spend time walking and talking, eating and drinking, someone to hold close.

I still cannot quite believe that things have changed so much for me and find it hard to trust that I can continue to be as happy as I am today. Surely that would be too much to hope? Not that it's been plain sailing for us. There have been major wobbles and problems continue to arise and challenge us, but somehow we are still here and it just seems to get better all the time.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Christmas Walk

The sun came out briefly as we assembled by the white five-bar gate which separates the farmhouse from the busy B road connecting two villages which, a decade or so ago no doubt was just a quiet country lane. Today there was little traffic on the road and we soon headed off into deep countryside, following the thin trails linking one footpath with another, chatting and admiring the beautiful, unspoilt, wintry scenery, always keeping the Church Tower in view. Our lodestone. After a while we met the road again briefly, beside the old abandoned windmill on top of the rise, before crossing the ancient churchyard shaded by yew trees, and back into open country.

An hour or so later we emerged by a lovely hop-strewn pub, log fire blazing, and a very welcome drink and lunch. One or two people peeled off after lunch, but the die-hards set off back across country, following The Man in the Woolly Jumper who had the map, losing our way occasionally, finding ourselves in someone else's driveway at one point, but always finding a way through in the end.

The light was fading by the time we got back to the house, my sons grumbling by now. Friends rallied round, someone put the kettle on, TMITWJ lit the fire and mince pies were warmed in the oven. After a reviving cup of tea a few more people arrived and bottles of fizz popped as the fire warmed us through, conversation flowed and friends and family relaxed together by the brightly lit Christmas Tree.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends!
I am looking forward to catching up with you all soon,
but time has wings at the moment and I am a whirling dervish.
I wish you all a very happy and peaceful time. 

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Tears Before Bedtime

Nothing ever goes completely smoothly. The new school year started so well, with such good intentions on all sides, but gradually things have slipped. We are back to the usual early morning routine. 'I'm not going to call you again!' 'If you aren't ready, I shall just go without you and you can find your own way to school!' Six miles across country and no buses unless he catches the 7.45 from the village - fat chance! The letters home - broken bounds, coming home at lunchtime if he doesn't have lessons, work not done or handed in, threatened suspensions, lectures from tutors. All the old familiar themes. How could I ever have thought we had cracked it this time?

Which isn't to say that there hasn't been progress, that things aren't moving in the right direction. I hope. But I fool myself if I think things have resolved. And, to make me feel really bad, apparently it is all my fault. The way he is. That's the hardest thing to take. I look deep inside myself and wonder, and worry. Perhaps he is right. All the times I got it wrong, when I was too tired or emotional or stressed to be the perfect mother I wanted to be and we certainly aren't the perfect family, but in the end, you do the best you can with the cards you are dealt and that is the only positive message I can give my son today.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Bonfires

They do things differently in Sussex. When I was a small child, bonfire night meant a family party in the back garden with silver fountains, Catherine wheels, the occasional rocket and sparklers held tightly in gloved hands. Yorkshire parkin, perhaps, and potatoes wrapped in silver foil, cooked in the embers.

More recently, bonfire nights have been large organised events held at the children's schools, or in the glebe field of the nearby village church. Big bonfires with spectacular fireworks and the chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances, if you can find them in the flickering light.

So when I was invited to a big display in a nearby village the weekend before last, I was expecting the usual jolly but civilised affair. We parked on the far side of the busy A road that bypasses the village and walked through the narrow streets lined with tumbledown houses and cottages, wondering if we could gatecrash the parties that seemed to be happening behind every lighted window and, if so, which one we would most like to join? The high street was a heaving mass of warmly wrapped bodies as people lined the route ten deep. We found a vantage point and minutes later the procession exploded into view.

Scores of people, dressed in bizarre and macabre costumes, with blackened faces, paraded along the street, carrying flares, letting off firecrackers, beating on drums. A primative and tribal ritual that has been carried out annually in this village ever since the gunpowder plot. There was, apparently, strong anti-Catholic feeling in this part of the world and there are a number of bonfire societies which plan this event annually. Secret societies where membership is passed on from generation to generation.

The procession retraced its steps to a large field on the outskirts of the village, the crowd following behind. The bonfire was lit, the largest and fiercest bonfire I have ever seen, forcing the crowd back with the intense heat it generated. Then the fireworks started and the sky exploded with light and colour, at one point a tree set alight by a maverick firework. I snuggled closer to The Man in the Woolly Jumper (previously known as The Man in the Pink Shirt), who has come back into my life, as, somewhat stunned, we retraced our steps to the car and the 21st century.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

We have kittens

It's official. Having fiercely debated names, we have decided to compromise and have one each. We are now the proud and somewhat mad owners of two small ginger kittens, Orlando and Dante. One for each of us and both welcome additions to our family. My older cats, also litter mates, have their noses firmly out of joint, but I hope all will be well in time.

Now I just have to resist doggy delights. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Hallowe'en

It's only 5 o'clock, but it's already dark outside this Hallowe'en. I still cling on to the family traditions from the days when there were three young boys in the house with me every day, along with an assortment of dogs, cats and rabbits. These traditions helped to keep me sane when my world was falling apart and so, today, the pumpkins that rather surprisingly grew in the vegetable patch this year - how? why? - have been carved into macabre faces and lit with tea-lights then placed outside the front and back doors to ward off the spirits that roam tonight.

I have spent a lot of time recently walking alone through the beautiful empty autumnal countryside that surrounds me here, a sure way of calming my turbulent thoughts, longing for a dog to keep me company. We have been dog-free for four years now, and I am trying to resist the temptation to fill the dog-shaped hole in my life. My animal family has gradually reduced to two cats and a rabbit. Very manageable. But just recently the desire to have a new little creature in the house has been overwhelming, so a very small ginger kitten is going to join us on Friday. I won't be able to take him for long walks with me, but I can sit and cuddle him on long winter evenings as I read my book by the fire. My son and I have very different ideas about naming him and negotiations are ongoing. Any suggestions gratefully received...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Late Autumn Sunshine

I should have been in London on Saturday, visiting some old friends, but the trip was cancelled at the last moment leaving me with an empty day. I pottered around desultorily, doing a few chores, wondering if I would go to the coast and sit on the pebbly Sussex beach, read my book and watch the children play in the waves.

In the end, having wasted half the day, I decided to join a friend who had mentioned a folk festival in the nearby market town and had invited me to join her in the pub garden overlooking the high street to watch the procession go by, morris dancers, folk singers, witches and warlocks. A pretty, gaudy sight.

I wandered up the high street taking in the spectacle, then back to the pub garden. As I scanned the crowd looking for a familiar face, someone touched my arm and I found myself face to face with the Man in the Pink Shirt. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of weeks. Things had unravelled. He bought me a drink and we stood outside the pub for a while together, watching the crowd, talking, kissing a little sadly, enjoying each other's company and the late autumn sunshine.

Then we kissed a final goodbye. And parted.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Sea Change

He gets himself up in the mornings now without being called, dresses, breakfasts and chivvies me, yawning and still half-dressed, out of the house.

Spending the summer wondering and worrying - had he done enough? Would he lose something that was important to him? Would he be going back to his school or not? All this certainly put everything in context. And then the triumph. He could do it and he could do it by himself!  Somehow in the last few weeks a wall has come down in my son's heart and mind. Whatever was blocking him seems to have melted, I hope for good. He has visibly matured, grown up and become more comfortable in his skin. We went out in September and bought his first suit, navy blue and washable, but very smart. He chose shirts and a tie, shoes that were neither too smart nor too casual.

And all this new positivity is reaping it's rewards. Staff are pleasantly surprised and impressed and respond to the new person he is becoming, friendships are maturing and being sealed. There is even a pretty girl in the picture - long red hair and coltish legs, and a part in the school play.

Which all leads me to question ... what really was the problem? Because there is no doubt there was a very real and quantifiable problem and that it started when he was very young. What particular combination of genes and family circumstances led us down the difficult path we have both travelled?

I suppose, in the end, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is to negotiate that path day by day and somehow find a way through until the moment comes when he is ready to take over his life. And I can let him go.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Autumn Blues

Leaves and fallen apples litter the grass in the orchard now. It has an air of faint neglect and spentness, the hammock stashed away, no more time for lazy afternoons. The bonfire has burnt itself out and the charred remains smoulder gently in the light breeze. A lazy wasp investigates the fallen fruit as I wander through the trees, wondering when I will find the time to cook the apples to a fragrant pulp and mix them with the blackberries that grow so abundantly in the hedgerows as I walk through the quiet lanes.

Jars of plum jam are stored in kitchen cupboards or have been given to friends and family. Pears have been pickled with cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries and peppercorns and glow palely as they marinate in their spicy vinegar, waiting to be opened when winter bites. Logs are stacked in the woodshed and the year begins to unravel slowly towards it's busy end.

Friday, 24 August 2007

The Dreaded GCSEs

It had sat there in the calendar all summer, like a toad brooding under a stone, waiting to trip us up. All plans on hold until the day arrived and we could breathe again, know where we would be next year, whether things would continue as before, or if we needed to scramble around frantically, trying to find a new school/college, or perhaps even a job. Results day had finally arrived.

We had tried not to talk about it or dwell on it, fearful of anticipating or expecting, skirting around the issue. I know my son hardly slept the night before. I don't exaggerate when I say that neither of us had any real idea what to expect.

We got into the car yesterday morning with set faces, not speaking. What could we say? 

'Don't come with me, Mum,' he said, 'I want to do this on my own. Wait for me here.' 

He got out of the car and strode off across the school forecourt. I got out too and walked around anxiously. Ten minutes later he reappeared and I knew from the big grin on his face that it was going to be OK. Against all the odds and all expectations, after all the years of gruelling parents' evenings, complaints from teachers, letters home, unhelpful professional interference, he had pulled it off when it really mattered.

He has 10 good GCSE's and has sailed back into the Sixth Form of his school. The show goes on. I am a good mother. Actually, I am an excellent mother. And he is a star.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Little white, lacy, strappy things

My sons are home! The washing machine and dishwasher rumble incessantly, there is never enough milk, bread, cereal or red wine, casseroles bubble on the stove and the mother in me stirs and purrs contentedly, testosterone drifting through the house as their deep voices mingle and merge.

So why, I wonder, did I take a detour on my way to stock up again at Waitrose, to trawl through the racks of sale price clothes in Fat Face, discarding the sensible sweat shirts and fleecy, warm zippy things and finding my way to the little white, lacy, strappy vest top, to be secreted amongst the carrots and potatoes and meat and cheese? Perhaps my mind had drifted towards the Man in the Pink Shirt, currently battling the wind and tides somewhere off the South Coast, no doubt swathed in utilitarian waterproofs?

I suppose I could always hide it under a sensible fleece if I go sailing again. Only I would know it was there, surely. After all, if he had wanted a sensible woman, what on earth is he doing with me?

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Sailing Lessons

'Down below' was even smaller than I had expected. More intimate. For a six berth yacht, there was surprising little space. Even the two of us had to negotiate the cabin and deck with great care.

We set off down the channel towards the Solent, first under engine then, when the wind got up, the sails went up and things became really interesting as we tipped and rolled in the swell. I kept forgetting that I should push the tiller in the opposite direction to where we were heading, but this didn't really matter until we were approaching Cowes and fell in with the racing yachts during Cowes week. Rather a lot to cope with for a novice but somehow we negotiated the crowded waters and eventually found the river leading to the pub.

We berthed three deep, cut the engine and sat for a while, drinking champagne, eating the olives and goat's cheese and french bread meant for a lunch that never happened, chatting to the friendly men in the next berth as the sun went down, trying to remember who wrote 'Sitting in the Dock of the Bay' and wasn't there a Kink's song about boats and a river? 'Waterloo Sunset' perhaps?

On Sunday morning, we were jarred out of our lazy breakfast too soon by the French couple tied up alongside us and anxious to leave, but with the wind and tides with us and the sun beating down, I was at last able to change into my pink swimsuit and sit peacefully on deck, soak in the hot sun, watch the boats criss-cross the calm sea, rub sun screen into each other's backs and admire his skill as he brought us home again.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Favourite Restaurants

Debio has nominated me to write about my five favourite restaurants so now I'm wracking my brains for special places to eat that aren't my conservatory!


I love visiting 'Porters' in Covent Garden. It's a good place to treat my sons to a special lunch on the rare occasion that we all manage to meet up in London. Good English food - Wild Boar and Sage Sausages with Mashed Potatoes and Onion and Ale Gravy, Steak, Mushroom and Guinness Pie, Beer Battered Cod, all excellent quality, good value, no pretension, a great buzz and not far from Charing Cross and my escape route to the countryside.


When I go shopping in London, I sometimes head for 'The Bluebird Cafe' in the King's Road. Again good quality ingredients, terrific ambiance and lots of interesting people to watch. A light, simple lunch, a glass of wine and a coffee really make the day special. I love visiting the King's Road and browsing round all the interesting shops and dreaming of living in one of the lovely houses in the side streets that would once have been within reach. I have a passion for Interior Design and there are some wonderful showcase shops in the area to inspire me.


One of the biggest towns in my corner of England is Tunbridge Wells and on special occasions I usually head to either 'Blanc' or 'The Hotel Du Vin'. Blanc is part of Raymond Blanc's empire and the food is simply divine. There is a special deal for lunch on weekdays when you can have two courses for £10. A glass of wine and a coffee on top of that is still an affordable treat. I went there on my last birthday with a good friend whose birthday is the day before mine. We always meet up for lunch in the middle of March.


'The Hotel Du Vin' is a wonderfully luxurious, beautifully renovated building and an oasis in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Comfortable squashy armchairs, lovely antiques and well chosen accessories make this a special place. The dining room is swathed in white linen, the silver cutlery and glasses reflect light from the French windows that lead onto the Terrace where coffee can be taken on a fine day. I haven't been there for a while, but my ex-husband used to take us there sometimes when he had pulled off a big deal. It was always famine or feast with him, but the feasts were well worth waiting for.


When I was married, holidays were rarely planned in advance but would happen fairly serendipitously. We would sometimes drive down to the Dordogne, hoping that the cottage I had pulled out of a hat - before the days of the Internet- would live up to its promise. They were sometimes surprising. I don't know if it's still there now, but we would always go for a meal at 'Les Glycines' near the caves at Les Eyzies. A simply stunning comfortable small hotel with a lovely garden and a sumptuous restaurant where well behaved children were more than welcome. I remember on our first visit that we took it in turns to wheel our four month old son around the garden when he cried but the staff were so kind and helpful it was more of an opportunity to show off our adorable son. It was there that I discovered white wine Kir and now I always keep a bottle of Cassis in the fridge for summer evenings and remember those long ago summers.

I won't nominate anyone else this time, but if anyone feels like picking this up, I shall look forward to reading your favourites soon.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

The Man in the Pink Shirt

Even the sun shone for us. It was a perfect summer evening, snatched from a disappointing summer.

He arrived promptly, wearing his trademark pink shirt and carrying a bottle of red wine. We sat in the orchard for a while, drinking white wine Kirs, enjoying the late sunshine under the plum tree as the Chicken Cacciatora bubbled gently on the stove and we took it in turns to give it a stir from time to time. Somehow new potatoes and green beans cooked themselves and supper was ready.

We moved to the conservatory, lit the candles and opened his bottle of red wine. The food was delicious, we talked and laughed, then later kissed and cuddled, watching the bats flitting in and out of their nest in the eaves above the conservatory. It was a truly magical evening and I just want to hold onto that feeling.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Crushed Thyme

It happened so suddenly as accidents do, out of a clear blue sky. One moment I was quietly going about my chores, at peace with myself, enjoying this brief oasis in my life and looking forward to the end of term and the long summer break.

My ankle went over as I stepped down from the kitchen into the garden. I yelped with the sharp agony and froze, completely unable to move, still upright but with my foot bent at an unnatural angle. The pain washed over me and I felt myself beginning to black out. I managed to lie down before I passed out, half lying on the path, half resting on the cushion of thyme that grows by the kitchen door and I hung on to the scent of the crushed herbs, fighting the faintness and nausea that threatened to overwhelm me. Eventually I dragged myself back into the kitchen, trailing crushed thyme, sobbing with the pain and my own helplessness. I felt very alone.

Slowly, with shaking hands, I started to phone friends, to try and find someone who could come and help me but only answering machines responded to my plight as people went busily about their lives. I hadn't seen my serenading friend, the man in the pink shirt, since the night in the churchyard. An arrangement had fallen through, our answering machines had spoken, things had drifted. Could I call him now? Throwing pride to the winds, I did. He came, drove me to A & E, pushed me in a wheelchair as I looked around for the cameras - surely this merited a slot on 'Casualty'? Afterwards he drove me back to his house, fed me tea and smoked salmon sandwiches, put cold compresses on my poor swollen, bruised ankle, before bringing me home again.

As soon as I am mobile again, I shall cook him a thank you supper. I could hardly do less now, could I?

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Three Beautiful Things

Sitting at the computer over lunch, I browsed a few web pages and found myself in the Three Beautiful Things blog. It's such a lovely idea, to make a note of the little things that give pleasure and distinction to a day, so I thought about what is making today special for me.

1. Having the house to myself for the first time for many difficult weeks as my son struggled through his GCSEs. He's gone to stay with his father for his work experience week and I have the luxury of having only myself to consider. The house is clean, tidy and quiet.

2. Admiring the beautiful tapestry cushion cover that my mother is working on for me. It is a Candace Bahouth design and full of vivid colours and intricate patterns. Something special connected with my mother that I will always have, even when she is no longer here.

3. The sweet flavour of the red pepper I chopped into the Bolognese sauce that I cooked today, along with red wine, garlic and herbs from the garden.

It's so important to keep focusing on the good things, even when life is far less than ideal.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Curdled Milk

'This milk's off,' I said to the Deputy Head, 'in fact the fridge is warm. Feel that bottle of white wine. Is it yours?' 
'Yes,' he said, 'do you fancy a glass?' 
'Oh, no thanks,' I replied, rather ungraciously. It wasn't the best offer I had ever had. It was late afternoon and we were just trying to have a final cup of tea before heading home to children and supper and chores. I suddenly thought of the bottles of fizz sitting in my lovely, cold fridge at home, waiting for a special occasion and decided I could do better than that!

'Why don't you come over to my house and have a glass of wine in the orchard?' I suggested. It was such a lovely, clear, warm late June afternoon and an opportunity simply to let everything go and enjoy the evening. And he came, along with a few other friends who could drop everything at short notice, bringing nuts and crisps and more fizz, and we had an impromptu drinks party in the orchard, moving the wooden table and chairs around to catch the last warmth of the sun as it sank towards the west and the shadows grew longer.


Sometimes, you just have to seize the moment.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Turning Point

'You changed the course of my life,' I said to her as we stood talking in the Marquee beside the white-covered trestle tables, laden with food and drink. She looked shocked. I suppose it is strange to think that a casual decision, taken one busy working day, can shape someone else's life.

I was a fresh pretty young girl, newly arrived in London from Yorkshire when she took a chance on me, offered me a job working for a large international company without checking my shorthand and typing, which weren't all they could have been.

Not that I had thought of her at all, these 30 years or so since that day, but seeing her there now brought it home to me that it was that decision that had changed my world, brought me a marriage that lasted 18 years, our three amazing sons, life-longs friends and the invitation to this party in a Sussex orchard on a fine June day.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Flotsam and Jetsam

How did we come to find each other, all these years on, washed up outside a bistro on the beach in Brighton?

We watched the sunlight glinting and sparkling off the cold, greeny-blue water as a small sailing boat drifted by on the horizon and people swam in the chilly waves, shrieking with the seagulls as we drank a glass of wine and wove our stories; how we came to be here, what had shaped us and brought us to this moment.

Then he headed off to Heathrow, to Hong Kong and, finally, Melbourne, back to his other life.


And I headed back to mine.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Scottish Reels

It was quite simply one of the best parties I had ever been to. The Scottish reels were an inspired choice and the perfect antidote for inhibitions as we all made mistakes and fell over our feet or span into someone else. For a while, we all became children again, laughing and giggling and talking to complete strangers.

I took the floor with a friend but we were immediately whisked away from each other by the dance and I found myself stopping with the music in front of a tall, slim man wearing a pink shirt. I have a weakness for a man in a pink shirt. We chatted for a few minutes and discovered we had friends in common before the music started up again and we whirled away from each other, in opposite directions.

It was much later when I was taking time out at the bar, chatting to people I hadn't seen for a while, that I saw him come across the room towards me. He joined the group and someone introduced us properly, then the group gradually dispersed as people rejoined the dance floor or saw other friends and we were left temporarily alone. We talked for a while and I wondered if he would ever ask me to dance. I was itching to get back on the floor. At last he did and we danced the night away, leaving the party in the small hours.