on looking for love and the danger in the internet

When I saw this on Facebook it spoke to me in a way that very few of the memes going around do.  A simple and true statement recognising the hurt and damaged children who know not how to be loved or indeed love themselves.

A child in need of love is an unhappy human being.  The best gift anyone can give their children is that of acceptance and love.  Children who have never had a boundary, never had the investment by anyone in their well being and emotional health cannot function in the wider world as well as others that have had this precious gift.

Sometimes those children grow up and become parents themselves, and how can they then bring the skills to their children if they have never been loved themselves?  Some confuse sex with love, some control and even violence, I have heard women with bruises say it is only because he loves me, he can’t help his feelings, and they truly think this is right.  Perhaps, for them, at that time it is a truth.

The internet is known as a place to look for love, from dating sites to chat rooms, people are connecting with like minded people and finding friendship and new partners.  Using social media is the new ‘going out’ and the Saturday night disco or club can in part be replaced by and online world of fun and laughter.

It is not surprising then that teenagers also use the internet to connect with friends.  However for those who are vulnerable can see it as a source of love, albeit a fake and dangerous love.  On sites such as Ask and Kik, teens pour their hearts out to a common community that cares.  Or do they care?  Are the best interests of the child, for a teen is still a child, being met by strangers, who often are not all that they seem?  What do we, the parents who love the social media world, who click countless memes every day, agreeing to end poverty, to challenge discrimination or to love cats, what do we do about the other side of the internet, the one in which our children are preyed on by those without conscious or fear of threat.

Do we know enough about those who film children to play the images to other children to pretend to be their friend?   Do we understand the need for those teens who are so desperate for friendship and acceptance they will find it where ever they can?  Do we allow internet access in bedrooms, give smart phones with cameras to vulnerable children and do we ever stop to think?

Perhaps because of my job and my training in Online Exploitation I am in a better place than others to understand the dangers, and I  want to tell the world.  I want to say that Skype is wonderful for talking to family across the world, but it is also a place full of chat and video links to strangers interested in our children.  I want to tell all my social media savvy friends about the roulette chat rooms where children are accessing adult content and being invited to play adult games.  Increasingly I am seeing on Facebook  a stream of missing children, and I wonder how many of those are seeking love from the world wide web.

I would urge everyone to pay attention to what children are doing, be it on the Xbox, laptop, ipad or phone.  Talk to them about the importance of keeping safe, and those who are parents I say, interfere, sit next to you child, be interested, get knowledgeable and lets keep them all safe, happy and unharmed.



On friendship, the school gate and the benefit of a good wine

Last month I was lucky enough to spend the evening with women friends I seldom see.  It was a cold night here in the Peaks and I really wanted to stay home, in pj’s and in front of the fire, but I made the effort, got ready and went out to the pub.  Once there I remembered the joys of Saturday nights out, good wine, lots of it, good conversation and the invisible link of friendship that never breaks.

When I became a Mum I was totally clueless about all things baby, never having changed a nappy in my life it was a steep learning curve.  Lots of things happened in those first days of motherhood, from complete panic to absolute tiredness, there was one thing I could never have forseen. The unexpected bonus of being a Mum undoubtably was making friends.  The friendships that grew from the shared awfulness of those early years,survived and grew through school days, teen tantrums and beyond.

Thinking back I can remember sitting in that wonderful (not) arena that is the Mum and Tots club.  Seemingly perfect Mummies, with perfect little darlings talking about breast feeding and NCT and organic nappies, made me, with my screaming toddler and twin babies feel a complete loser.  It was all I could do to get out of the house with all three children in one piece, brushing my hair was just not a priority. I decided there and then that a possett of sick on each shoulder was a fashion statement I could make.   Just how those women actually put lipstick on and matched their tights and skirts and shoes remains a mystery to me to this day.

Sitting in the group, watching the competitive parenthood of comparison, while my boys slowly and systematically broke all the toys, I felt invisible.  I was in adult company and I wanted to talk about the world, politics, life outside the home, anything but babies, but sadly not many of the lovely Mummies wanted to talk at all.  There was the talking through the child Mum, ‘now Amber show the lady how you know your alphabet’  to the competitive foodie, home made flapjacks and never a spoonful of sugar near babies mouth.  Sadly my children didn’t really fit it in and in truth neither did I.   I didn’t give up and eventually, three play groups later on, I discovered other less than perfect Mummies, and together we staggered through those early years with a good degree of humour and the glass of wine, which saved many a day.

The school gate was the next major hurdle and it was here I met the women I was out with last month.  My daughter started school and I was beginning to find my feet in our new home town.  When a lovely lady called Clare persuaded me the Parent Teacher Association needed new parents I agreed to help out, to be honest I said yes to make her go away.  She came back the next day to tell me I had been elected Chair!!  As usual in my life, finding myself in situations and not knowing what I should do, I made it all up, and found friendship in the rest of the Mums and some of the Dads.

How we laughed.  Organising the hell that is the Christmas/Summer/Spring Fair, what fun we had sticking labels on bottles, ripping up raffle tickets and sorting donated items, some of which were actually useable, the rest, sadly went in the bin.  School disco’s with cakes and pop and vomit and boysrunningroundandroundreallyfast and girlsinbestdresseschattinganddancing. We raised funds, we laughed we drank wine and sometimes we even cried, or maybe that was just the children.  One of my friends son spent two years at PTA meetings strapped in a buggy being fed biscuits.  Strange to think he is now doing GCSE’s and luckily he doesn’t seem damaged by the experience.

It is now thirteen years on, those women are still my friends.  Our children are all adults, making their way through University, College or work, we have survived the SATS, the GCSE’s the teen years and come through mostly smiling.  We have all changed too.  Some have moved away and return for brief evenings out, when visiting family, some have changed partners, some of us have got married.   In the years since babies some of us have returned to study, learned new things, traveled and generally lived a life. We see each other very occasionally, but when we do it is as if it was yesterday.  I like that a lot.

It seems to me that the world could learn a lesson from us Mums and some of the Dads.  Everyone should be able to pick up where you left off even if if it was two years ago.  We need to stick together, be loyal to each other, enjoy each others company, support each other in times of crisis, laugh at every opportunity.   I cherish my friends, they have made us who we are, and they know far too much about me to ever let them go!

Mother and Daughter, Daughter and Mother

My daughter and her friend needed me.  ‘Mum, you have to help us’, they said ‘we want to go on an adventure, you know about adventures, help us plan’  After pointing out that it has been at least 30 years since my last big adventure, hitchhiking around Europe with a tent, a bloke and £50.00 in my pocket, they insisted that qualified me for the job. Inter rail is their thing and going to places not every 18 year old wants to go is the idea.  While I am heartily glad my daughter does not want to do the clubbing in Ibiza thing, I sometimes think about how she is who she is.

In trying to work out my daughter, I have found myself reflecting on my own dear Mum, and my relationship with her.  Mum was a contradiction,  she encouraged the feminist in me, ‘never let anyone tell you, you can’t do something because you are a girl’ a frequent comment from the same Mum who’s main ambition for me was I settle down with a nice man and have babies. Poor Mum waited 7 years for her first baby, and she got me.  Never one to like being dressed up, always mucky, falling over, under and off everything and anything, she really must have thought she had brought the wrong child home at times. I was a risk taker couldn’t care less sort of daughter. Teenage years were the worse, I remember asking her how if she had never actually been anywhere, could she possibly know that our home town was the best place to live.  The confusion on her face is with me now.

I loved my Mum, but we never really understood each other, which makes me sad now, because she is not here to talk this through and find out just what we did have in common.  It wasn’t all bad, our relationship. When she knew she was dying it was me she talked through the practicalities of life without her.  She showed me where her stash of jewelry was kept, where her Will was and how she wanted me to look out for my little sister and my Dad.  I think in those days, before she died, we were closer than ever.  I remember laughing so much together at the absurdity of her illness. From a strong and vibrant woman, her illness made her body weak, so much so that once, when she was unable to walk home from shopping, I offered to carry her on the already overfull shopping trolley, we sat together on a bench and she giggled so much and so did I, then we walked home.

Later when my children were born, I began to understand a little bit more about my Mum.  About the love she had for me and my sister which had consumed her.  Her need to keep us safe, to make sure we were happy and to be the best we could be.  All the time I was mistaking this love for overbearing, as I fought to be free.

Anyway, back to my daughter and her adventure.  My girl is my fourth child, and was born 9 years after her twin brothers and 11 years after my first born son.  By the time she was growing up I had cut my teeth on the craziness that is raising sons.  I had done the trips to A&E with the risk taking twin, every school holiday.  I had done getting into trouble at school, not doing homework, and the climbing where they shouldn’t.  I had had the brush with the law and the alcohol/late nights stuff with her brothers.  I was exhausted with boys turning into men around me, growing bigger, eating more and more and testing my parenting skills to the limits.

My daughter was a calming influence in the male madness that surrounded me.  I think she benefited from my own experience of being a daughter,  I was quite a laid back Mum.  I didn’t worry about her going to watch bands from the age of 12, I spent many an evening waiting in the car outside the University for her and her friends to come running out.  I didn’t mind she liked to go to cities, and was proud of her confidence in making new friends and getting herself out and about to visit them.  I even managed not to panic when she took herself off to Berlin for a festival.  I understood the feeling of wanting to do it all, now.  I used to be like that.

So this summer’s adventure is in planning mode.  After studying maps and Googling lots of options, they are fairly settled on flights to Zagreb, then rail travel across Europe towards home.  I know they will have scrapes, I know it will cost them more than they think, it will be tiring and exhilarating all at once, but they will have memories to last a lifetime.  Just like me she will look back and know that for  one summer she did it all.  The memories and  the lessons she will learn will stay with her forever and one day if she is lucky, she will be sitting in a kitchen listening to her daughter asking for her help planning an adventure.

on living with pain, inspiration, and getting your fabulous back on!!

For some time now I have been suffering from a condition that means that my body reacts to stress and tiredness by increasing levels of pain in and around my joints.  Mostly I can manage and live with this.  I have learned to listen to my body and to make the changes needed to avoid making things worse.

Yesterday I had a very stressful day, lots of difficult meetings and at the end of the day, in the evening a meeting with the staff team I manage, all of whom are likely to lose their jobs in the near future.  To come together to plan for a future that possibly most of us will not be part of was a difficult thing to face.

Sharing my concerns with others I elicited a number of responses, from the ‘get on with it’ to the ‘it will be alright on the night’ comments.  I could tell my body was making it’s own mind up how I would be dealing with it all, and it was not a surprise to me that by tea time I could barely walk.  There is something so frustrating about your body choosing it’s own reactions.   I cannot control it, I was hobbling about in severe pain and feeling completely awful.  Now I am concerned and worried about the meeting and incapacitated by my joints deciding not to work properly.

I needed to eat, so a quick dash, well more of a painful amble, into the supermarket for a ready to cook pasta dish and some veg, back home to put it in the oven, realising I had no time to wait for it to be cooked I grabbed a piece of chicken, left over from last night’s supper and made my way back to work.  At least the family had a meal waiting for them.

Checking my messages my lovely niece had replied to my question about how to deal with the meeting, I am reproducing her reply exactly as she put it

‘Excuse me? Who is this woman who has taken over my aunt? Where is she and what have you done with her??!
You have dealt with so much worse than this, one person can not carry a bus full so everyone take responsibility for yourselves! You are an amazing woman & what will be, will be. It’s how you deal with the situation, what you learn from it & what you do next that important. Now go and be fabulous xxxx ‘

When someone puts it like that it is hard to ignore.  Go and be fabulous, wow, what an idea.  Hobbling to the car, barely able to walk, clutching chocolate and fruit, to make the meeting a bit more sociable, I am thinking of being fabulous.  I am thinking of the learning and what to do next, I am thinking how blessed I am to have people such as my niece in my life.  I am still in pain, I am still heavy in the heart, but I am searching for my fabulous.

At the meeting there are, as expected, many questions, none of which I can answer, there are people angry, sad and disillusioned. They are a wonderful team, they just need to get their fabulous back on.  And they do.  The theme for the last term as we know it is to be Inspiration and Celebration.  Gradually they get excited.  The programme will encourage the young people we work with to think about who inspires them.  They plan to play games and the young people to all get the chance to tell each other what they like about their friends.  They plan a party where all the  young people will come together to celebrate being young, being inspired and being inspiring.  Artwork will be produced and good news stories looked for and reproduced on the walls of the club.  Young people will be encouraged to find their very own fabulous.

And me, at the end of the meeting, physically almost dead on my feet, I am still not sure how I managed to drive home, but inside, ignoring the pain, I felt proud.  Proud of a team of people who can turn negative into positive.  Proud of my triumph over pain and relief that the meeting had been less difficult than I had thought it might be.  I was inspired by each and every person in the team, who worked together to take care of each other and to be professional to the end.

That is what I call being fabulous.

on applying for your own job and not knowing if you want to be successful or not???

It is another Monday morning, it is dark and it is not raining, which is a bonus I guess.  I am up and about early, today is a full and interesting one with plenty of varied work to get done.  Hubby is recovering slowly for which I am very grateful and things are returning to some sort of normal.

This month I have decisions to make.  The work I have done for the past 16 years is to be no more.  Government cuts and changes to the Child agenda have meant restructuring and reorganising of the way work is to be done.  When you have a job over a number of years certain things start to happen.  You build relationships, with co workers and partnership workers, with young people and families.  You find out what your strengths are and where you are weakest.  You take on training and develop your skills.  You begin to understand how, why and what is to be done and set about to do it.  In the past 16 years there have been lots of changes, but nothing quite like this. I know it is not possible to take millions of pounds out of a service and continue the service as it was, I know that change is inevitable. I just wish I could decide how to I should deal with it.

It is not just watching people who I know are skilled and good at their work dissolving into tears as they realise there is no place for them in the new structure.  It is not just the feeling of hopelessness that seems to be hanging in the air. It is not even concern for what will become of myself, my mortgage and my confidence, overall the feeling is one of numbness.  I have to decide between no job, and a job with half as much work again for lots less money per month, which I may not be offered.

Life will go on, I will complete the application form for the job I am already doing, I will even attend the interview for the job I already have, where I will be tested in half an hour in an office in the Town Hall, by people who already know exactly what my skills are and how I do my job.  

I know some will say I am lucky and in a way I am.  I have had years of steady work, doing something I love and what I have done has made a difference to lots of people’s lives.  I have a lovely husband who is earning, although not enough to sustain us without my salary too. I also know that every week has a Monday morning, a good percentage of which will always be dark and wet and rainy.  I know that there are sunny days ahead, that no one is dead, that we have our health and we are happy.  As the big stuff is threatening to overwhelm me and my colleagues, it is worth remembering that we are but a speck of dust on the surface of the universe.  That what goes around will surely come around and all things will pass.  Cliches aside, it is all a bit rubbish.  Picking myself up I repeat the mantra that has got me through the past 2 years of this process, I have a job today, today I will do my job.

So when the restructure is done, when those who stay are staying and those who are going are gone, what will become of the young people the new structure cannot cater for.  Who will run the youth clubs, welcome the lonely and the lost young people through the door, week in and week out. in the many, many fabulous spaces where lovely, qualified and dedicated people make a difference to so many young people’s lives.  A hall, a pool table and a kitchen, basic requirements. Who knew that food was so important in working with teens? I have seen youth clubs set up in church halls, in scout huts, on mobile vans and in parks. I have put up thousands of notice boards, Christmas trees and Rules of the Club posters. I have worked in sports halls where the rain comes through the roof and in state of the art dedicated spaces full of resources. In every one teenagers are welcomed and valued, are listened to and encouraged, are challenged and motivated, are cared for and sometimes saved. From the quiet, hood over face, sitting in the corner teen, for whom just actually walking through the door has been an achievement, to the loud, shouty bunch of boys, to the girls with attitude and dress sense to match, the youth club can and does become a second home. Here they have always found adults who want to get to know them, will help them to grow and will allow them to make mistakes and understand just how very difficult it is to be a teenager.  


Whatever happens next in the world of work, I have been lucky to have had an amazing job, and maybe, just maybe it is time for a change.  Perhaps this process will actually turn out to be brilliant and new opportunities will come my way. I just hope what is left behind is enough to support those young people who need to be noticed and to be supported.  I also hope I find a way to keep the roof over our heads and the food in the cupboard.  Watch this space.


on orange hair, a mirror and the confidences of hairstylists

Today I decided I was due a visit to the hairdressers. I can never book in advance for these visits, on the odd occasion I have tried to do this I always end up cancelling or forgetting the appointment.  For me, it is when I look in the mirror and have the, ‘oh my goodness, is that really me’ moment that provokes the appointment making.

To be honest I should go more than I do, as the great orange hair incident of last Christmas will prove.  I know I should have booked an appointment, but I hadn’t, then we were going out, somewhere nice, with nice people, I looked in the mirror and an older version of my Mother looked back.   At the time, with the hairdressers fully booked, by more organised people who knew they were going to be out and about, it was Christmas for goodness sake, I was out of options.  There was only 2 hours before going out, so I opted to use a home colour kit.  I have used these before, I know what I am doing.  It has always been fine.  It was not fine this time.  Suffice to say the bright orange of the first application did not go darker, the promise of mahogany brown locks on the box morphed into a rust coloured head that any circus clown would have been proud of.  With now only an hour to the party, daughter and husband set off to buy more colour from the supermarket, when I knew I should have been getting out a hat and ringing for help.  Several coats of dark brown later, and with only the hint of bright rust roots, half an hour late, but still in time for dinner, we went to the party.  It was fine.  I think.

I should make the appointments because I really like going to have my hair cut and styled. I especially enjoy the salon atmosphere, there are always lots of comings and goings, and the way everyone goes out looking better  than when they came in. Well, when I say everyone, I have had my moments in hairdressers.  I will never forget taking my daughter for a trim, aged 9 she was very fussy about her looks, she still is now, anyway I watched as the scissors clipped and the comb was racing through her hair.  The final flourish, the cape removed and she burst into tears!!  A boy she was not, and a boy is how she looked.  Even to me, her Mum, who made all the right noises. I paid bill, thanked the hairdresser, and got her out of the shop.  The tears fell, we walked to my friends house, she took one look at the pair of us and reached for the gin bottle, we eventually distracted and persuaded said daughter that her hair would grow and she disappeared to play with her pal while we opened the bottle.  At least she wasn’t orange.

My current hairdresser is fab, she is patient and calm and always manages to make me look the best I can.  We were chatting, like you do, our relationship has developed over the years from the standard have you booked your holiday? talk and I feel we know each other well.  She is younger than some of my children, which doesn’t matter at all, she is interesting and skilled at her job.  We got talking about how people chat when having their hair done.  She said some people talk so much they suddenly realise that they have said more that they planned.  People tell her things they haven’t told anyone else.  We pondered why that might be.  We decided that it is communicating through a mirror.  No one is looking directly at the other.  There is a void, a gap, a space between the vision and the conversation which is quite comforting. Everything appears back to front, and perhaps not quite real.  I think it is this space that builds confidence, the other worldly effect of the discussion, be it about health, wealth or what is on offer in the local shops.  the space in the mirror lends us all the feeling of safety and of intimacy at the same time.

So, hair all done and look good, well as good as it gets, and definitely not orange, I make my way home, still thinking of the relationships developed in the name of looking good. In the salon this morning in two hours, I saw elderly woman, some in their eighth decade having white curls gently pushed into place, I saw a twenty something having foils twisted into her long blonde hair, perhaps to make it even blonder. I saw young men in their early twenties having their dark hair clippered and shaved and cropped.  Everyone wants to look their best.  The salon is the place to be.

The phrase ‘just a hairdresser’ is seldom looked upon as a compliment. Well I think hairdressers have it all going on.  They cheer, they curl, they dye and they cut, they listen, they laugh, they support and befriend.  Wherever we go in the world people have hair and people need hairdressers.  I think that they are all awesome.

on early morning driving in the rain and the joy of radio

This morning, as yesterday, I was up and out early to take my hubby to work.  As we traveled along the wet and dark road winding through the Peak District countryside, it could have been quite miserable.  He is half asleep, it is cold and a bit rubbish and there is not a lot to say.  Both our minds are on the day ahead, and the 17 hours or so before we will be back in a nice warm bed. I am a morning person, so am quite awake.   I am also a late night person, it is the bit in the middle I struggle with!

Anyway, I have the radio on in the car, always.  This morning a very cheery DJ, I don’t know how he is always so excitable and happy, even at 6am, is chatting about nonsense, his enthusiasm for the new day streaming out of the car speakers.  Anyway, all of a sudden a song from childhood blasts through the radio. This song is of its time and was used in an advert for a popular fizzy drink.  All of a sudden the energy in the car changes, hubby is laughing, I am singing, badly, and smiling.  Shared memories of childhood, together with a jolly tune have switched us both onto the fun factor.  The DJ must sense this, I wonder if the collective voice of listeners somehow transmits itself back through the airwaves, and he chooses another old song by the same band, the fun goes on, the singing continues. We arrive at hubby’s workplace and he gets out into the cold dark morning, but I can tell he is still smiling on the inside.  So am I.  Another day, to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and enjoyed.  It is still raining, it is still dark, but inside I am Teaching the World to Sing, even if I am totally tone deaf myself.

on how in the blink of an eye your world can change

Suppose you are lolling about in the post Christmas blur that is the days before everything gets back to ‘normal’.  You are considering taking down the tree, eating the last of the chocolates, reflecting on the parties and the presents, thinking about times gone by and looking forward to the New Year.  Minor squabbles, because everyone has been at home together, the change from routine, all conspire to make the start of the year that little bit more irritating than usual. That was my family last week.

In all the time we spend together, how often do we actually appreciate what we have?  How often do we take the mundane, the trivial and the downright ordinariness of life for granted.  I do, all the time.  I have a great life. It is true that with a bit more money and a bit less stress, with a nicer climate and another car, it could be improved, but all in all it is wonderful.  And I have taken it for granted.

Last weekend my gorgeous and wonderful husband discovered that he has a health issue.  Now luckily for our family it is treatable and not going to be the end of him, but, and it is a big but, without good luck it could have been much worse.

Without going into details, because this is not about the health problem or about how good the NHS are (amazing, if you are interested) it is about the feeling you have when someone you love goes into a room with a doctor and no one is smiling.  This has not happened to me in over 30 years, and then it was my dear parents, and both of them lost their battle with illness, way too young.  The feeling is one of fear and of anger.  I found myself wanting to shout at the very stressed and overworked staff who were trying so hard to take care of everyone, I wanted to say, ‘look here, its my husband, he is ill, notice him, now’ and as ever with me when I am scared I seem angry.  It is the lack of power and control, the fear of what might be, the unknown.  How in one second your world can alter forever.  Mine did.  Hubby is home and recovering, but I have changed.  He has always been my rock, the one who looked after me, who cared for us all, handsome, kind, loving and invincible.  Except now I know he isn’t invincible. He is however still handsome and kind which is a bonus.

So I have learned that all the blogs in the world do not matter, whether the decorations stay up or come down doesn’t matter, one car, little cash, cold weather, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is life, and living it to the full, every day in every way.  Grab happiness in every moment, pay attention to family and friends, and embrace the world as it is, do not waste time waiting for something wonderful to happen because something wonderful happens every day, I just didn’t notice it before.

in praise of Aunties, storytellers and lovers of all kinds

this quote from the Dalai Lama is my thought of the month and it has made me think about what is a successful person?  How do we judge success and what value do we put on experience, on kindness, on thought and on love?

New Years Day saw my hubby and I lazing around, watching TV and reading, not a very motivated start to the year but so relaxing.  Yesterday it was time to do something, so we jumped in the car and went to visit family.  Spending time with older people is often challenging, and we managed to visit three of our elderly relatives in one afternoon.

Seeing my once strong Auntie in her nursing home, looking thinner than ever, could be upsetting. She is surrounded by all her important possessions, her one room home a microcosm of her once full house, her life in a nutshell.  Listening to her talking, very quickly you understand that the physical form is only hiding the person, she is still there.   This is the Auntie that helped my Mum take out a whole fireplace, grate and all in an afternoon, because they could, the tale of their horror at the size of the hole it left in the wall and the subsequent antics to cover it up are part of family legend.  This Auntie was the one I rang from the ambulance when I couldn’t get Mum, I was on route to hospital after a swimming accident, she came and held my hand while I was stitched up and then she took me back to Mum.  It was this Auntie I spent most of my early years with, on days out and holidays, I remember being told off, I remember laughing til we cried. She is still there, this Auntie, just a bit frail and weak.  She said that the home staff are lovely, but had tried to get her to join in with other residents over Christmas, she is not impressed with the other residents, they are all old, she says.  It is just a heartbeat ago that she was strong, and it would be so easy to think she isn’t anymore.  I think she is stronger than ever.

Auntie number two still lives in her own home despite failing sight and as she is approaching her 90th year her spirit is strong but she suffers chronic loneliness.  I regret living so far that a weekly or even a daily visit is not possible, but delight in our almost daily phone conversations.  She has great memories and is a very positive person.  Her failing health is a frustration to her, as I am sure it would be to me, she is a woman who has been very independent and she finds it hard to ask for help.  Anyway we chatted about the forthcoming wedding of her only Granddaughter, which impossibly for Auntie is to be held in Chicago.  Auntie had hoped to be there, but yesterday decided the journey was just too much for her and she doesn’t want to spoil it for everyone by being poorly.  Auntie is coming to stay with us when the wedding is happening and we are going to have a live Skype link to the ceremony, how exciting is that?  We are all going to get dressed up and there will be Bucks Fizz and cake, it will be fabulous evening, I can’t wait.

The third relative is not actually related to me but is my relatives mother in law, she lives in her own home with her family living next door.  Her every need is taken care of and she delights in the company of family on a daily basis.  We got to talking about the old days and she told us tales of buying an old car and with her husband taking her young family off on adventures, sometimes taking the whole Sunday roast with them all wrapped up for a picnic lunch.  As she told the stories there is a glimpse of how life used to be.  When she was the home maker, the wife and mother.  The same is true of all three visits we made yesterday, all three women have lived a full life, taken care of husbands and children, gone to work and spent time laughing with friends.

If we want to define success, how better a measure is that?  A life lived with love, hardship endured, all these women knew poverty and war time, each has watched loved ones die, family grow and their friendships endure.  I hope they all know how much they are still loved, and how important they are.  It is sometimes too easy to see the body, the frailty, the infirmity, but listen, look into the eyes and see the life.

If we want a definition of success we need look no further.