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

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.