on living longer than your Mum

tomorrow will be my birthday.  I have never liked having a January birthday, in the post Christmas period there is never any money about, people have given me lovely gifts just a month ago, and the weather is usually cold and miserable.  I used to envy my sister, her July birthday always seemed more cheery to me. Friends gathering together in the garden wearing pretty summer party dresses, it was all so much brighter.

Anyway, January is the month in which I was born, so I am stuck with it I guess.  As the day grows nearer family have been asking me what gifts I would like, and in truth, there is nothing I need. I have never been any good at buying things for myself, and cannot change that now.  I am becoming mildly grumpy at having to worry about what people are going to buy for me, you would think this is the one day I was not responsible for, instead I am greeted with complaints that I cannot give everyone a shopping list!

Still, this is the one birthday I have anticipated for a long time.  Tomorrow I will officially be older than my Mum ever was.  I will see the days that were lost to her. I will hold my Granddaughter and love her, something Mum never got to do.  I know I am fortunate to do so, and all the presents in the world are nothing compared to having time with the people I love.  The time we were denied with my Mum, and she will be on my mind more tomorrow than usual.

I am going to make the most of this year, as if somehow it is a bonus year, a time that was never promised. Having cheated death as a baby, I do feel keenly the need to make the most of each day of every moment.  Yes, I get bogged down in the mundane, in the shopping, washing, cooking, chatting and paying bills every day life we all have to get along with.  Within this I want to look for the unexpected.  I want to live in the moment, to focus on now and while planning for the future is important, and the past teaches us much, it is this moment, now, that is important.

With this in mind I am setting myself some pledges for this extraordinary year and for the years hopefully to come.  I will say to Mum, look I am not going to waste this time.  I am going to embrace it and live it as well as I can.

Whenever I think about my Mum I can still see her face the last time I ever saw her and it was full of hope.  She was being carried by the ambulance men downstairs on her way to hospital for the very last time. We had just told her I was pregnant and she was delighted she was going to be a Grandma, or a Nana or a Nina, we will never know the name she would have chosen as she wasn’t here when her Grandson arrived some six months later.  However, on that day at that time, she was happy, she was telling the ambulance men the lovely news and was glowing with pride, at me, the daughter who had probably tested her so much, and who was going to be a Mum herself.

All that was a long, long time ago.  I have lived longer without her than we had her, and now, tomorrow I will be older than she ever was.  So the pledges are important.  Mum I promise

I will live each day and give it my best shot,I will enjoy the moment and make the most of opportunities

I will make sure everyone I love knows I love them and I will do everything in my power to support them

I will try hard, and never say I can’t, because Mum, ‘Somebody said it couldn’t be done’ and they were wrong

I will laugh more than I cry and listen as much as I talk, (wow, that might be difficult but I will give it a go)

Most of all I will remember you Mum, and my lovely Dad and live the life you were both denied.

Crying now, but positive tears, I am strong and I am happy, I have a wonderful life, I just need to get on with living it.

I think I will bake myself a birthday cake this afternoon, something to share with everyone when they bring all the lovely presents tomorrow!

on blue lights in the snow

Today I was driving around the Peaks my job means I travel from village to village to see people and I was enjoying the snowy landscape which was amazing and beautiful all around me.   The snow gave the air that magical brightness and the trees were heavy with icicles.  The sheep on either side of the road were trying to nudge through the white blanket that had been cast over the green grass beneath. It was a winter scene straight from a Christmas card or a tourist postcard.

One of the roads I was on several times today is a main road joining the towns to the north of my home town.  It is a very busy single carriageway road, used by quarry lorries, buses and lots of vans and trucks, as well as many cars, that all meander their way through the Peaks towards the North or the South.  This road winds from many points which means it is possible to see far ahead into the distance as it twists and bends.

Along the road the water board have set up temporary traffic lights to manage the traffic while they dig up pipes, to keep the work force safe.  As always the vehicles back up quickly once the lights turn to red and I was about to join my place at the back of queue when I noticed in the distance the familiar bright blue lights of an emergency vehicle approaching on the other side of the road.  I was able to watch as, one by one, all the drivers, in cars, in trucks and in buses moved ever so slightly to make sure that the blue lights had a swift and safe journey through the queue.  Eventually the ambulance arrived at the lights and all the traffic stayed absolutely still, waiting until they had cleared the hold up and was off on the way to whoever needed them.

This is something that happens all the time, it is not unusual.  This area has a lot of road accidents, and the nearest casualty department is many miles away.  Today, watching from a stationary position, I had time to think about what might be happening.  Was there someone in the back of the ambulance who was maybe fighting for life?  Perhaps it was a Mum about to bring a new baby into the world, or someone urgently needing the attention and skills offered by our glorious national health service.  Whoever was in there, whatever the emergency I hope all was well.

After they passed through the lights it was our turn to move and as I drove on towards the office I was thinking about what it is like to be on your own in a car.  I always have the radio or music on when I am driving, I like the warm air to blast at both my feet and my hands and always feel very cosy and comfortable within my little car.  I was minded to think about something I read years ago, about how on a motorcycle you are in the picture of a road, whereas in a car you are looking out at it through glass and by definition are separate from it.  This made me think again of other drivers, the truckers who are home from home in their cabs,  the quarry wagons, high above the cars as they carry loads of rock and stone.  the bus drivers, taking yet more passengers safely from place to place, and I got a real sense of how many individual people are driving along the highway.

How amazing then, that within this isolation, each and every driver responded to the blue lights of an emergency. They all as one without fuss or trouble made the path easy for the emergency services.  So many individuals working as a whole, reacting to the universal signal of fear and danger, the understanding that this one vehicle needed to get through and as one they moved to make sure this happened.

I got to thinking about  the underlying motivation for this, is it that one day, any one of us may be the passenger needing the help and skill of the ambulance service.  Whatever it is, it happened today, and it will no doubt happen again tomorrow.  May all our journeys be as uneventful as possible, but how lucky are we to know that if we need them, not only will our amazing ambulances get to us, every other driver on the road will play their part.

on doing the best you can

Today a friend shared a short film about a hummingbird on her Facebook wall.  Watching it I was struck by the simplicity of the story, how one small bird tries to put out a forest fire, while all the other animals sit back, watch the flames and worry.  The hummingbird carries water one drop at a time, and how when told by the other animals that they are doing no good, they say ‘I am doing the best I can’.

Now I doubt if the hummingbird ever did put out the fire, but I know for sure that they could look themselves in the eye.  Because ‘doing the best I can’ is about all any of us can do.

There will be times when things look bleak, when through illness, sadness or pure exhaustion we all feel defeated. It is at those times we have to do the best we can.  When the road feels too long, a single step brings us closer to the end.  When the pain threatens to overwhelm us, focussing on the good can give a little respite.  When we see sadness, offfering a hug or a kind word is often the best we can do, Never forget that all these little actions add up to one huge difference.

In life I believe it is not the grand gestures, not the exotic holidays, new designer clothes or expensive gifts that make the difference.  It is the small things.  The regular telephone call to a lonely relative, that sometimes you are too weary to contemplate and yet when you ring, as you always do, you can hear the difference it has made in the tone of voice at the other end of the line.  Just ten minutes out of a busy day to make sure someone knows that you care.  It is cooking your family their favourite food, and not minding when they are too knackered to notice.  It is smiling at a stranger,  because you can, and getting that smile returned.

In the scheme of things it is the people who pay attention to the small things who make the world go around.  I am talking about those who don’t mind (much) being the one that always keeps contact between friends, because they know friendship has a value beyond compare. It is the people who notice how others are feeling and reach out to them when it is needed.  It is the ones that make us laugh, for a laughter is a tonic and we all need more fun in our lives.  These people are the hummingbirds of life.  Slowly, quietly going about doing the best they can.

In this mad crazy world where it is difficult to know what to trust, who to believe and what to think, we can all choose to be the hummingbird, and not the animals who sat at the edge of the fire worrying about devastation to come. We can do the best we can, everyday in every way,  in this way we can all change the world.

on friendships, wine and killing pain

Today has been a funny sort of day, pain in both legs has reduced my sleep over the past couple of days and it is fair to say I was borderline grumpy by lunchtime today.  Pain killers help, but it never really goes away, and it is not so much the pain as the reduction in my ability to do the things I want to do that gets me down.

As ever I have a word with myself and limp off down the street to spend an hour with my favourite pick me up, my gorgeous Granddaughter and her Mum and Dad.  Later, back home we get ready to meet up with some old friends in the local pub, a belated Happy New Year drink and a chance to catch up with each other.

I take a couple of pain killers before leaving home and once in the pub have a couple of glasses of wine.  The people we are with have been my friends for over 15 years.  We have spent many nights in the pub, and even more days at the school gate, at parents evenings and hosting sleepovers for each others children.  Those children are now grown, and we find the time we spend together is much less.  Some of the people we meet tonight I have only seen a couple of times in the last year.  It makes no difference.  As is the way with proper friendships we pick up instantly where we left off.  Our shared experiences and our liking for each other is the short cut we need to have a lovely evening.

Yes, we catch up with news, we listen to each other and we laugh at the stories told.  It is almost what we don’t say that is the strength of these relationships.  We have all known each other long enough to have that shorthand old friends have.  We understand who each other are and celebrate our successes as well as support each other through the harder times.

My pain killers are doing their job, I am feeling better and my mood is lifted in the company of these good people who can make me smile every time we meet. once again I am much cheered by my good fortune in this life, to have such great relationships and special times.

Home later, hubby and I relax in front of the television, eating the leftover party food, bought for Christmas, but just as tasty in January.  We are not sure when we will all get together again, there is talk of a weekend in Wales, birthday celebrations are planned and another night in the pub will surely come about sooner or later.My sore legs are not hurting, I am feeling content and once again counting my blessings.  I am a very lucky woman.

on a modern day fairy tale

Once upon a time a device was invented that allowed ordinary people to communicate with each other, across the world and to say and do whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do so.  This was wonderful and many people began to share experiences to compare lives.  Pictures were exchange of cats and jokes were told,  and in the middle of this magical lovely communication some of the people started learn about each other and together they began to question the role of governments and people in power across the world.

This really upset some of the governments who worried about how this invention was allowing people to talk and organise in ways beyond control, they didn’t mind the cat pictures too much, but they needed to find a way to justify blocking this communication. They thought really hard about how they could achieve this and eventually started to imagine ways in which it could be achieved.

Perhaps if they could get people to believe they need to be scared of each other so they wouldn’t notice what was really going on around them, they wouldn’t want to communicate with each other, that could be a reason for restricting the communication levels and for the governments to start spying on what such people are saying and doing.

Then someone had the idea that what was needed was an enemy,  someone that people would be scared of and not want to talk to.  The governments decided they could create an enemy.  It would need to be someone that would be realistically easy to identify, perhaps they would dress differently to the the ‘norm’, and they decided who that could be.  There was a problem,  no one from that chosen enemy had any real issues against the government or any of the people in the countries where these governments had chosen to make them an enemy. In fact the rest of the people also hadn’t an issue with the chosen group, and they were living pretty much side by side and doing ok.

The governments then decided it would help their cause to start a war with the chosen enemy in their own country, to bomb and kill people and to do this in the name of keeping everyone else safe. Over time people would begin to trust the governments and to believe what they read in the media, and begin to think that they needed to be afraid of each other and that they could not trust people who looked, dressed or worshipped differently to them.  Then they might stop all this communication and organising and leave the governments in control and with all the power.

But  people were still communicating with each other and finding that not everyone did believe the governments and some people were actually saying there were other things that were much more important, things, like poverty and freedom and health.  These people started to act to change things, they challenged the governments and came together.  The governments were upset, their plan wasn’t working, they  needed to keep this enemy constantly in the public eye, to keep everyone scared. The war hadn’t worked out too well, some of the people who should be scared were even saying it shouldn’t have happened that way, and they were still organising and communicating with each other in ways you as the government couldn’t control.

Maybe then the the governments had to think of another way to remind people to be scared of each other.  In fact some of the chosen enemy began to be fed up with being treated as the enemy and decided to start a war of their own.

So glad this is only a fairy tale, it could have been really nasty in real life.

on trees and bending in the wind

We have woken this New Year’s morning in the Welsh countryside with the wind whipping around us, shaking and moving all in its path.  Through the window I can see the trees and I am watching them as they bend and shake, the now bare branches showing the structure and form behind the blossom and leaves so familiar in the summer time.  Today the trees offer no shelter from the sun or the rain, they are naked and beautiful standing proud in the gusting, blowing, angry sounding wind which feels as if it may move the mountains.  Stepping outside I am surprised to find the wind feels less angry without the walls and windows of our home to break upon. Standing in the garden I can feel its power on my face and my hair is blowing, much the same as the branches of the trees around me.  It is warm for the time of year, and as ever here in our magic place the sun is beginning to peep out from behind the clouds.

Standing in the garden that I am reminded that I have always loved trees. I love the age of them, how as we pass by every day we forget that many are older than we are, some old enough for our grandparents to have known them.  I love the way the roots, the anchor that keeps them steady and growing. are hidden from view and all the attention goes on the new growth, the blossom and the leaves that arrive each Springtime.  I love how we can shelter under their branches and how they provide for so much nature, the birds nesting and the squirrels squirrelling their nuts away within the bark.  I love the colours, the changes from season to season and from species to species.

Later this evening the wind increased ten fold and around us we could hear the rattle of doors, the banging of unsecured fixtures and fittings and the buffering of the walls surrounding us.  At times it was a little unnerving, but we snuggled up safe and warm and reassured each other that all would be well, and it was.

It seems to me that trees have a great message for all of us in the year ahead.  There sure are going to be windy days, days when it feels impossible to keep standing, but with good roots and a strong trunk we too can bend with the wind and stand up straight against the madness around us.  Instead of trying to fight adversity why not go with the flow, literally, and in doing so perhaps discover that things are not as bad as they may have first seemed. We must try to pay attention to our roots, unseen they fix us within our world.  Let us all try hard this year to hold onto our friendships, our love for our family and our history.  None of which takes any money at all. All it needs is for us all to take time to reflect and to consider and to be thankful.  Don’t forget in the whole mix of everything we are all roots for one another, the next time you see a friend in danger of snapping in the wind, make sure you hold on tight and see through the storm together.