on towards the end of summer

today has been a bit colder than we would hope in England in August and it has made me think about the changing of the seasons.  Somehow moving from Summer to Autumn is the change I like least of all.  The nights begin to darken earlier, the wind begins to chill and the best of the flowers in the garden are at an end.  Autumn doesn’t seem to offer anything to us.  All the other seasons have festivals and celebrations or they have the promise of longer days and warmer weather.  Autumn usually just slopes in and changes everything, not necessarily for the better.

Today though I am not feeling as I usually do.  I am remembering the warm sunny days of last September and hoping for similar this year.  I thinking of sitting in Wales in the sunshine, of chatting in the garden with neighbours ’til late into the night.  I am hopeful. Another season approaching is fine by me.  We still have the remains of the summer, the trees are holding onto their leaves and the sky is mostly blue.

It occurred to me that at times I have forgotten to live in the moment of today.  I am guilty of being too focussed on what is coming next.  I have slept through days waiting for a special occaison, a meaningful date, the next big thing to arrive.  How crazy is that? There are many people who would love the possibility of living today.  Just today, as it is, with grey in the blue sky, with showers and with a chill on the wind.  People who are not able to enjoy being with loved ones, to be outside with time to enjoy.

So I say, whatever the weather today will be a good day, I will make it so.  Looking for the good in the mundane, taking time to smell the coffee and to reach out to those I love.  A good day will then become a good week, a good month and in time a good life.  It is up to me to make it happen.

on thinking, choosing and being you

the television news this morning is full of young people gathered in school and college halls awaiting the results of their A levels.  Shiny anxious faces some with huge smiles, others more subdued talk to the camera in the annual intrusion by the media.   What a difficult time to be a student.  So many choices, and yet maybe not any choices at all especially if grades are not what was hoped.

I would say to all these young people,  don’t panic.  Whatever grades you received today, whatever choices you make, will not define you forever.  At eighteen the world is an enormous place, and for some young people it is all just too daunting. We are living in a age where university seems to be the ‘done’ thing.  Where our young people spend time, being young in another town or city, cushioned, if they are lucky, by the bank of Mum and Dad. They will spend three years making friends for life and with luck gain a qualification enabling them to move into the workforce.

University isn’t for everyone, lots of young people are tired of education by the time they finish their A levels.  Thirteen years of classrooms, timetables, studying and sitting still  for some now is the time to kick back the heels and do something, anything else.

The question I would ask all young people, well everyone really, is what exactly is it that you want to do?  If the answer is ‘to be a doctor, a lawyer or and engineer’ then yes education is the place to head to.  What about the people who say they want to be poets, or writers, artists and designers?  What about the people who want time to think?

Thinking is the most important skill of all.  To be able to be quiet, in your own company and allow your brain to work, to ruminate on things that interest you and to form your own thoughts, is a vital skill.  I think it should be on the timetables.  We need to have time to think and to process our own needs and desires.  Thinking is the key to everything.  Those who can think can do.  Those who understand the value of thought understand the value of action.  Being thoughtful is a wonderful place to be.

So to all those who are at a crossroads I would say, perhaps don’t take the obvious route.  Spend a bit of time thinking about what your needs are and what you actually want to do and be.  This way you will grow strong, you will be able to be the person you already know you are and the world will respect you for it

on messages for my Granddaughter

Today is your very first birthday, the anniversary of the magical day we met for the very first time.  In the year since we have got to know you, and are delighting in watching you grow from a tiny baby into a clever, bright and beautiful toddler. It seems that already you know exactly what you want and you are not afraid to reach for it.  Good.  The time we spend together is happy and brings back the memories of your Daddy as a baby as I remember the love and fun a baby brings.

As the family gathers to celebrate there will be gifts and cards, wrapping paper to shred and cake to be eaten.  We will come together to be happy you are here and to congratulate your Mummy and Daddy for getting it all so right.  There is a present I would like to share with you, not something I can gift wrap so I have put it here.  I want to share with  you the things that I know, things I believe will be important for you to know, if not today, as you grow up and go through your life.   I hope you always know the following

1.  Know you are loved.

2.  Know that you can be whoever you want to be.  Believe in yourself and know you have to put the effort in, you can do it.

3.  Know to make the right friends.  Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, who challenge you in the right way and who will watch your back, always.

4.  Know to avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable.

5.  Know you are in charge of your body, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you get to chose what happens to you, no one else.

6.  Know that your Mum and Dad have your best interests at heart, always.  Know this especially in your teenage years, and remember when they tell you NO they are telling you they love you.  Tough but true.

7.  Know that you can do anything you want to if you want to do it enough.  There really is no such word as can’t.  Make plans, work hard, follow your dreams.

8.  Know to hang loose some of the time.  The best adventures happen with the least planning.  Learn to trust your instincts and to listen to your heart.

9.  Know your family history.  There are a long line of strong women in your past, all of whom are rooting for you, even those you never got to meet.  They faced tough times and survived.  So will you.  Know the men in your family who you were not able to know.  Gone before you arrived, they would have loved and protected you, they would be proud of you and your Mum and Dad and as with the women in your past, a part of them will always be a part of you.

10.  Know that learning is power and it will be up to you to find out about the world and work hard to learn about what is important to you.

11. Know how to find the fun, how to laugh at the moon and dance in the street. Be sassy, be confident and be happy.

12.  Know you are loved.

Happy Birthday darling girl, loved more than you would ever guess.  A funny little girl who understands her world.   We are blessed to have you.

on not dying after all

Five years ago today I went into hospital to have an operation which saved my life. Without being too dramatic, if I hadn’t had the care and attention quickly I simply would not be here today.

An experience such as this changes you.  After all this time I will never forget the way I was treated, cared for and healed by a team of people who worked together to fix me.  The 4th August 2010 was in some way the beginning of the rest of my life.

There is something about facing the fear of illness and surviving that makes you consider all that came after.  I can still see the doctors talking together, working out how to make me well. I can see the nurses who held my hand and the wonderful young registrar who stayed with me all night, a night I had no faith I would survive. Their skills, their professionalism, humanism and all round wonderfulness pulled me through.

On sunny days with my family I find myself thinking about them, and saying a silent thank you. Thank you to the NHS, the best of the best, from my GP who took my worries seriously, to the hospital clinic team and the surgeons and nurses who literally made me well.  Thank you really doesn’t seem enough.

In the five years since lots of things have happened and I have been here for all of them.  Here to support my family, through tough times, here to see my son marry his amazing wife, here to hold their daughter, my baby Granddaughter and to watch her turning from new born baby to gorgeous toddler in front of our eyes.   Here to make my wedding vows with the best man in the world by my side, surrounded by our friends and family to celebrate our good fortune in finding each other.  This is the same man who spent the hours I was in surgery in the hospital Chapel and who made sure his was the first face I saw when I awoke.  Here for countless sunny holidays and fun times, all of which would have been lost to me, but for good fortune and our NHS.

Five years on I am still being me, a Mum and a Wife, a Nana and a Sister. I still have great friends and a wonderful life.  So, this morning I will take a moment to reflect on how fortunate I have been, how thankful I am to live in a country where we can access the best health care ever, and to count my blessings of which I have many.

This was the second time my life was saved by the NHS, as a baby another operation in another hospital gave me my whole life.  I have always know this, but never had the memories, I was too young to remember.  This time I will never forget.

Thank you for the rest of my life.  I will try and make the most of every day of the time I nearly didn’t have.  I will stand up for our NHS proudly and loudly and I will fight in every way I can to protect it.  I have to, I owe my life to them.  Twice.