on Dads

today as every Fathers Day my social media is full of loving messages for lots of Fathers.  Some are yet to be Dads, some are young parents, some are old and some not here any more.  No matter, the love is there to see all over the page.

As a woman and a Mother I have always wondered what it must feel like to be a Dad.  For my relationship with all four of my children started long before I met them in person.  From the early stirrings of butterfly kicks to the uncomfortable wriggling of twins, I knew my children were there.  I would talk to them, and loved lying in a warm bath and watching them wriggle.  I was blessed.  Dads just can’t do that.

When Dads meet their children for the first time it must be a massive leap for their emotions.  If they are lucky to be there for the first seconds of life the bond of love must leap from the first cry straight into their hearts.  The connection a Mother has is broken at birth, soon to be re established over the coming days, weeks and years.  I do wonder how if feels to be a Dad.

When my darling granddaughter was born, my son, beaming and smiling just minutes after meeting his daughter was in a dreamlike state.  Lack of sleep and emotions of love across his face.  I told him I loved him and he replied, ‘today I know just how much you do love me Mum’ the memory makes me cry even now.

So, to all the Dads out there, and all the men who love our children, to all the men that made us the women we are and to all the blokes who support and love their family every day, today is your day.

There used to be a saying that went ‘behind every great man is a woman’ I think there is some truth in that.  I also think that alongside many great women are the Dads, the husbands and the partners that believe in you, support you and love you.

Today I celebrate the marvellous men out there, just going about everyday, being annoying, getting things wrong and relying on us women.  The men who get up every morning and go to work to earn money to support a family.  The men who hold our hands and our hearts and the Dads who made us who we are today.

on guns

As a little girl I was once bought a cowboy suit.  It was fab, it had a waistcoat complete with a Sheriff badge and a cowboy hat, there was a gun and a holster to put it in.  I remember putting it on and prancing around the garden pretending I was on a horse.  I never thought of the gun until one of my aunties watching me play asked me if I was going to shoot the Indians?  At that point, aged about six or seven, I didn’t want to be a cowboy any more.

You see, when watching the Westerns that Mum liked so much, I always liked the Red Indians the best.  With their feathered headdresses and magical tent villages I thought they were great.  I had just not realised what being a cowboy meant.

Times have changed. We no longer use the term Red Indian and hopefully we don’t glorify the mass murder of the tribes by the white settlers any more. For that was surely what it was.  The movie industry of my youth was full of epic films of this slaughter and everyone accepted it as entertainment

In 2015 the USA is paying the price of this invasion and slaughter. It is the right to bear arms, set into the constitution following all the history of the theft of native land, which means that today many, many Americans carry guns for their own protection. The protection afforded seems somewhat limited in the light of how many are killed by shooting. Guns are normal, we are told, and necessary.  Well, in a week when a toddler shoots himself with a gun from his Mother’s handbag, and a group of people at prayer are shot to death in a church, is this really normal?  Is it acceptable? Sadly these are just two instances of death by shooting that have made our news bulletins. I am sure there have been many more we will never hear about.

The President himself draws the diagram, and speaks of gun control.  His voice is not heard. The gun lobby are strong and it seems to me it is in the psyche of these people that without a gun all will be lost, they will be unsafe and unAmerican.

I am left wondering about all the dead Native Americans, killed with weapons they could not fight against.  A bow and arrow is deadly and accurate but no match for a rifle.  It seems to me that all the land that had been cared for, respected and tended over generations and was taken by force from the tribes who had lived in peace with their world, is now worthless in a country where people are killing each other everyday.

I have no idea what will solve the problem of guns in the States, but I do feel that the roots of the problems are forever in the history of the land.  The movies, the sanitised glory of victory over the native people and the fear of each other and of strangers seems embedded into some of the population.

As a little girl I knew that shooting anyone was wrong, I knew it instinctively and certainly.  I was six when I realised just what had happened in the Wild West, and I continue to be saddened as I realise it is still happening now.

on homesick blues

today my daughter is returning from holiday, she has had a week in the sunshine, they have swam and danced and laughed a lot, no doubt she will be bronzed and healthy looking when we pick her up from the airport later. Another thing I am in not in doubt about is that she will be fed up to be back at home. I think this girl is destined to live her life in sunny climes, and to come home to a soggy wet June afternoon will not suit her at all.

Wondering, as you do when you are a Mum, just what will make her happy I am remembering how she was last year living in the sunshine, how she seemed much more of herself and how much the environment we live in affects us all. Hopefully she will find her happy place and live there, but in the meantime we will be dealing with homesick blues, at least until she settles back into the routine of everyday life.

At her age I was living in a student house with very little cares or worries.  I was having fun living in the city and never thinking of tomorrow.  I had just had my own adventure, hitching rides across Europe and seeing places and meeting people I could never have imagined. When I look back on those happy times I realise that that was probably the last time in my life I was free from worry or care.  Soon after things began to change and within six years I had a family of my own and was dealing with poorly and dying parents.  I can clearly feel the person I was back then, and wish I could have held onto the freedom a bit longer.

The house I shared was minutes away from the city centre where there were bands to see, boys to meet and dancing to be done.  My housemates were funny clever people, all from very different backgrounds to me and we rubbed along well.  We had a rota for chores and a communal shopping list, we laughed a lot back in the day. Money was scarce, we had none really, student grants were limited and none of us worked.  Studying happened infrequently and mainly the days were full of adventure, taking washing to the bag wash, buying cheap bacon bits from Tesco and raiding the phone money box to buy beer.  Simple stuff, parties and friends and absolutely no responsibility at all.

The memories from those days carried me through a lot of my adult life.  They also informed my parenting. I understand the need to try new things, to live a bit dangerously and to make your own mistakes.  I had to fight my parents for every bit of freedom I grabbed back when I was young.  They believed in being responsible, in settling down and in being safe  Things I never could imagine wanting to do.

The irony is that once they had gone, I became that safe, responsible person, who worked hard, brought up a family and who, every now and again, would remember the freedom of the past.  It has taken almost forty years for the circle to move around, and although I still have worries and cares, of course I do, I have children and now a granddaughter to worry about, now I am starting to be free again.

I am not planning to recreate the past, for the past is gone, but I am hoping to get back the feelings.  I hope that I will be able to spend time in the places that make me happy, with people that are fun and I will laugh a lot.  You see it is still me, I am still here, I have been hiding under a cloak of responsibility for a long time, dealing with the real life of growing a family, that job is almost done, I am about to shake off the cloak and start to be me again, because really I haven’t changed at all.

on gentle anarchy in the sunshine

All my life I have railed against the rules.  I never did do just what Mum and Dad expected of me.  I questioned everything and often made my mind up to follow my own path.  As I grew up my family got used to me doing things differently, and that in some way became my persona.  I left school, admittedly in a hurry after a discussion with the Head which didn’t go in my favour, I started work and began to grow up.  All around me I saw things that made me cross and I never could not mention it.

Later as a young mum things were even more unequal and I found myself in good company with a group of other mums.  We decided to change the world and had some success, lobbying and creating a Well Woman Service.  I think eventually the powers that be found it easier to give us what we wanted rather than argue with us.

Later again I found myself fighting against injustices for young people, shouting loudly and making authorities take notice.  Once again rules didn’t really do it for me.

I suppose the point I want to make is that it is all right to break the rules, Especially when the rules are causing problems and stopping progress, when power is in the wrong hands and when there are wrongs to be righted.  Standing up and shouting loudly is an effective tool in changing the world.  When one person does it they maybe considered odd, when a thousand voices do it someone will listen.

Now my life has changed, leaving the world of work I now have no authority specifically influencing me. I spend my days in the garden, where there are loads of other rule breakers.  The daisies refusing to accept the will of the paving stones and pushing their smiley faces through the cracks.  The poppies amidst the shrubbery their blousy blooms daring me to challenge the position they have chosen in the border.  The wasps and the bees chasing between the blossom and the beetles and slug getting on with things and eating whatever they chose to.

I have decided that the garden is a good place for anarchy, without respect for the rules of an immaculate planting system and constant weeding it is full of colour and vibrant. Actually even with constant weeding it is doing its own thing.  Good. Because so am I.

on family

today we had an amazing day and I will write much more about it in the next couple of days.  It was a day of sunshine, of family, of friendship and of love.

We have met together often, my family and I, and lately it has always been about sadness, today it was about goodbye, bon voyage, and remembering a life lived well.

I could tell you about the ferry boat, resplendent in bright colours, I could tell you of journeys made to the river, I could tell you of strawberries and pork pies, of panama hats and flowers.  I could tell you of love a family has for each other, of difference and similarity, of fun and of peace.

They say you can chose your friends, but not your family, well I am doubly blessed.  I have chosen my friends wisely and love them all, but my family is part of me, from childhood memories to grown up struggles, from being the youngest to, almost, being the oldest generation.  All the ups and the downs and things that make us strong, we can face them together, with love and with pride.

My family are the people I would have chosen, if I had had the choice, and I love each and every one of them.  Today was an amazing day.

on muddy marvels

a group of people I know have taken on a challenge which involved getting themselves very muddy and physical to raise money and to recognise the brave struggle of a workmate in fighting illness. Today I have seen the pictures of women in tutus hurling themselves over obstacles and getting more and more mucky, laughing and crying in turn, generally doing more than they ever thought they could.  It is a tremendous achievement and an example of teamwork, friendship and downright determination to make a difference.

It has made me think about the stories behind all the epic challenges, the marathons run by first timers, the cycling through the night, fire walking, stay awakes and sponsored walks.  It would be easy to dismiss these as stunts, as personal challenges or as just a bit of fun, but in truth it is all much, much more than this.

The women getting muddy today spend their time helping families and children.  They work long hours in a difficult and constantly changing environment, and yet they took the time on their day off to raise money.  Their colleague has been an inspiration, refusing to let serious illness defeat her spirit and we are all hoping that she is soon well.

For everyone out there trying to make a difference I salute you.  No matter if you are charging around the countryside getting muddy, or cycling into London in the middle of the night, you are doing good. Memories are being made and friendship are being forged.

Hopefully one day these awful illnesses that sneak up in the night and steal our friends and our family will be beaten.  In the meantime we can all be grateful for the muddy, mucky, weary heroines who push themselves more than they thought they ever could to raise the cash for cures.

on uprooting

for reasons I cannot explain I really don’t like the fuchsia plant.  Finding one in our garden in Wales made me want to dig it up instantly and get rid of it.  Luckily my neighbour really likes these pink bulbous excuses for flowers (I know, but it there are not many things I don’t like) so it was agreed to give the offending bush a new home.

We set to, spade and cutters at the ready to dig and move the bush.  The soil is quite dry after a spell with little rain and offers no resistance.  We dig and rock and find the roots, all is going well.  As we begin to lift we realise that the roots are not giving up quite so easily, and it is an epic struggle to pull and drag them out of the soil bed, some were even heading under the fence to next door.  They were doing their job and hanging on tight. We managed eventually and the bush is now settled in its new home, standing proud.  The roots, we hope, will soon settle and grow in the new garden.  All will be well.

This whole tale reminds me of how we humans can pull up our roots and start again.  How, after a period of adjustment, we can begin to feel at home in a new situation and eventually we will bloom and prosper.  It also reminded me of how difficult this can be.  The struggle to make the changes, to leave behind the familiar and to move to the new place.  As the bush is settling into its new patch, back in our garden already other plants are claiming the soil as their own, and in time it will be as if it had never been there.

We do well to remember this.  Everything we stress about, worry about and fear is over in the blink of an eye.  Life really is for grabbing and living.  Don’t be afraid to uproot yourself and move to a place where you are loved, where you need to be.  It has all been done before, many many times.  Today is what we have, use it, live it, love it find your place, somewhere you love and are loved.

on magic and memory

Yesterday I went to a park where as a child I had played for hundreds of hours.  Set near to the shore the trees and paths are just as I remembered, the white bandstand gleaming through the leaf laden branches and the sun casting shadows across the grass.  A place so familiar it is part of me, and where if I closed my eyes I could see myself, together with my friends, rushing down the steep paths towards the sea on our roller skates, hotly followed by the parkie, wheels were not welcome!!

Yesterday was another sunny day and I had come to the park to find the pirates!  Well at least one of them who lives in a gate house at one of the many entrances to this beautiful place. These artists turned pirates are the people who created a pirate ship from driftwood that has become a tourist attraction and a community project, their skills and imagination I have written about before on this blog it is a wonderful thing.

In the park I was introduced to the latest piece of magic, the fairy dwellings, which have sprung up in the trees and grass across the park.  Tiny doors and windows giving small faces a glimpse into the fairy world.  Above a wooden eagle is hanging in the branches keeping a careful eye on the tiny world below  As I watched families were arriving the children keen to explore and find the fairies.

In the middle of the fairy houses there is a new project, this will have fairy doors and a circular space in the centre it which will be placed some very special treasure.  This will be the memory tree, and the first memories will be for a little girl who is not here any more to play with the fairies.  Instead her classmates and family will have their very own tree in which to put items to remember her by.  In time other people will also use the space to remember those who are lost to them.

Alongside the memory tree there is a large flat stone, bearing the inscription ‘Wishing Stone’. I saw people touching it, and silently giving their wishes to the stone.  Decorated with dozens of smaller hand painted stones this is indeed a lovely spot to leave your hopes and dreams.

So, in an ordinary park, on an ordinary afternoon in June, magic is indeed happening.  The sort of magic that surrounds us all when we dare to believe in fantasy, fun and fairies.  The magic of hope, of love and of memory.  The magic of imagination and play.

So many parks have signs saying do not touch, keep off the grass and no playing here, this spot is the exact opposite  Here they are saying touch, feel, dance in bare feet on the grass and live in your imagination.  Blessed are the children that use this park today.  From a couple of artists playing with driftwood to an enchanted wonderland of hopes and dreams, who knew what would grow, and who knows what is coming next?

on hidden places

today we walked along the sea front and down a short hill where we found a tiny stone built chapel. Inside we found an altar stone and six chairs for parishioners.  Poems and prayers were up on the wall and the room felt peaceful and calm.

Despite my lack of any religion or religious feelings, as in many such places, I am touched by the history within.  It seems it was first the home of a holy man who had travelled by sea from France and landing on the shore he set up home on the beach and built a sanctuary for prayer and meditation. How amazing that some 900 years later this is still standing as a place of prayer.

The best bit of all during the visit was when we came out of the chapel and saw the majesty of the sea, the breakers hitting the shore just yards away from where we were standing.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining and I was left with a compelling feeling that these same waves have been hitting the same shore every day, it is perhaps the same sea that brought the holy man from France.

It made me consider all the troubles and the worries of the world in a different context.  How much influence do any of us have, whatever we do, the sea will hit the shore and the sun will shine in the sky.  Over the hundreds of years between us and the holy man, wars have been fought and lost, dynasties have been founded and floundered.  The sea has continued to break on the shore, the tides ebb and flow and the world goes around.

Suitably chastened and put firmly in my place in the world, we continued to a happy cafe for warm tea and chat.  The old poster from my youth Desiderada comes to mind, especially the line ‘And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’.

on simple pleasures and a space station

Yesterday in Wales we sat in the sunny garden and counted the daisies.  There are hundreds and hundreds all showing their faces to the sunshine up above.  As I picked some and threaded them to make a chain we talked of childhood, of motherhood and of other fields and gardens and other chains made for children who are now parents themselves.

Later in the evening a shining star moved across the sky, blinking and winking its way above the earth, we went back out into the garden to follow its progress.  The sky was clear and lots of stars were twinkling their lights and shining brightly.  This star was man made, a space station, the stuff of fiction and dreams to us as children and now nonchalantly flying by, what a sight to see.

So, that was yesterday, daisy chains and space stations.  From one world to another in a couple of hours.  The magic of man and nature all in one day.