on being stopped in my tracks

you would think that brushing my teeth in the morning was a fairly safe sort of activity.  Such a routine chore this is something I do every day without much thought at all.  Today, in the middle of brushing, I was stopped in my tracks.

I have no idea why, at 8.30 am this morning while looking in the bathroom mirror, the image of my Mum appeared in my heart, so strongly I had to stop brushing my teeth.  Suddenly and for no rational reason I was back in the past, before she passed away.  I could see myself, pregnant, waving to her as the ambulance men carried her down the stairs, the very last time I saw her.

Then just as quickly images flew across my mind, my boys being born, starting school, my darling girl arriving and taking over all our lives. How the twins grew ever more alike as the years went on. The children starting and leaving school. How our family has grown over the years. How my baby girl grew into a kind and funny gorgeous girl, and how, a couple of years ago my eldest boy gave us the greatest gift of all, our beautiful Granddaughter.

I felt unbelievable angry and sad.  How dare life mean that my Mum has missed all of this. How she never got to read her Grandchildren stories, and how I missed out on the support and wisdom of the generation that went before.

Tears fell, as I stood in the bathroom toothbrush in hand.  What a start to the morning.  Eventually, probably just a minute or so later the moment passed.  I finished cleaning my teeth, washed my face and got on with the business of living this life.

You see this life is the one I have.  It is up to me to make the most of every single minute, to relish in family, in sunny days and in life itself. I have already had two years more life than Mum had,  I have read my Granddaughter hundreds of stories, played in the park and rocked her to sleep in my arms.  I am fortunate beyond compare.

It’s funny how these things ambush us isn’t it? You would think some thirty years on this wouldn’t happen, yet it does.  Someone once told me that you don’t ever get over bereavement but you do get used to it and find peace.  This is true.  It is also true that every now and then the emotions escape from that safe place they are stored in my heart and turn up in a bathroom mirror, while I am cleaning my teeth.

a million steps later – challenge done

at three minutes past three on the 8th September, just a week ago today, on the High Peak Trail, the woman who never walked anywhere took her millionth step!! In just over nine weeks I walked 500 miles.
I have walked in the town, the woods, the hills, the dales. I have walked in cities and alongside canals. I have walked along the coast and on the beach.  It has been nothing short of amazing. As I walked I became fitter, as I became fitter I walked more.

So, I wonder what next?  First I enjoyed basking in the glory of completing such an epic challenge in such a short time.  My sponsorship for Diabetes UK has increased too, with a neighbour donating money having seen me on my daily walks for the past nine weeks.  I think before I start planning what to do next it is worth taking a moment to reflect on what has happened.

Back in April I was unwell, overweight and unhappy. I found movement painful and spent a lot of time pushing myself through the pain to take part in the most basic everyday things.  One day I really had, had enough.  I decided to try and eat less and move more.  If you have been with me through the blog you will know all this already, but what I didn’t know was how this simple plan, move more eat less would change everything.

Today I am three and a half stone lighter than I was in April.  I have energy and a lust for life I previously only dreamt about.  My car sits outside my house most days, only being used for trips out of town.  I have started a Facebook Group called Women Walking, and have dozens of members encouraging each other to take that first step.  It is simply amazing.

The next challenge is to keep up the fitness.  I have joined a gym!!  Honestly that is amazing in itself, and have learned how much fun moving to music is.  I have started swimming again and exercising in the pool is also great fun.  I still walk every morning mostly with my good friend who is now also walking every day.  All in all the Diabetes UK Million Step Challenge has effected every part of my life.  It has given me my body back, it has given me confidence and it has helped me to inspire lots of other friends to walk for health.  Truly if I can do this anyone can.  I really was the woman who never walked anywhere who now walks everywhere.

I can’t thank the guys at Diabetes UK enough, their support and encouragement meant everything.  I don’t want to kid people that this was easy.  I had dark days, I walked in the rain and the wind, I walked with blisters on my feet and when I was feeling so tired I just wanted to stay in bed.  The reason I carried on was knowing that people were sponsoring me and I had the responsibility to carry on.

The good days outweighed the bad.  I have so many memories. Reaching the top of the Great Orme in hot sunshine was amazing. Starting to run instead of walking and managing to breathe as I ran along was fantastic.

This has been the challenge of my life, and it is no exaggeration to say it has changed me for the good forever.



a year on

this time last year I first saw the photograph of little Alan Kurdi’s body on the beach in Turkey.  Sadly this was not the first such picture I had seen, and it certainly hasn’t been the last.  Children are dying everyday, and it is shocking how many and how much horror has unfolded on my Facebook wall in the year since Alan’s death.

At the time I was pondering the refugee crisis.  I had moved from noticing it was happening to engaging with what was going on through news reports and social media.  I had the urge to help but not a clue how to do so.  I cried a fair bit, I empathised with the mothers, and the fathers, I held my family close and I counted every single one of my blessings daily.

What was different this time was the world’s reaction to it.  Everyone suddenly became aware that refugees are not aliens, they are humans just like us, and sadly too many were dying.  The media storm began to die down, as it always does, and within days I was left thinking it really didn’t matter if I wasn’t sure how to help, I was going to have a good go.

Obviously since then I know a lot more, I know how to work with others to get aid to where it is needed.  I know there are many more people who care than I ever dreamed possible. I have had a whirlwind of a year, during which I have gained so much more than I have given. ,My point is not about all that.  It is about how the death of one boy, in amongst the deaths of thousands, that death, that boy, galvanised a grass roots movement the like of which I have never known.

Almost everyone, in the thousands of people I know supporting the refugees, started a year ago.  The universe aligned with little Alan on the beach and people said enough is enough.  Individually at first,we managed to find each other.  This crazy movement crosses countries and continents.  People who would never have known each other are now firm friends.  The hands that help have stretched from kitchen tables in Europe to the USA, from cafes in Asia to homes in Africa.  All of this has been done by people who previously, like me, knew very little of this world.

There is a lesson here.  As a child of the 1960’s I was well aware of protest movements of alternative ways of doing things, as a rebel in the 1970’s  and 1980’s I cheered the Greenham Common women from my cosy home, I went on marches and I believed I was making a difference.  I wasn’t really.  Social media has changed the world, I believe for the better.  The individuals have become groups and have taken on the task of helping in a way that would have been impossible without the instant communication available on social media.

I am ever more horrified about the lack of action from governments, from the people in power.  The lack of will to stop the bombing, to open the borders, to offer safe passage for all.  Without this we will surely never be able to help these people to safety.  I find myself unable to watch broadcast news any more, I shout at the television far too often.  I can feel powerless and impotent to insist on the changes we all can see are needed.  I could dwell on this, I could become bitter and angry.  I choose not to do so.

Instead I look at all the people who, like me, stopped waiting for the governments to do what is necessary.  To those who I now call friends, who have put their lives on hold to go and help rescue people from the sea, to work in camps and distribution aid where it is needed. To the woman who spends her own money to free girls held as sex slaves, the ninety something great grandma who has knitted so many clothes for babies she will never meet, the woman who ran a sponsored race and gave the money raised to help.  The people who turn up week in week out to sort socks and pack donations. There are so very many examples of this amazing people power.

It is to their shame that history will show that when governments failed to act, when they chose to arm the bombers instead of broker the peace, when they closed borders and put up fences, they never once saw the refugees as individual people.  People like Alan Kurdi’s father, like the mothers of the lost girls, those displaced from a life that before war was not so very different from ours.  The powers that be did nothing.

History will also show that in this time another army was galvanised. From kitchen tables across the world people did what they could to help.  I think that governments would do well to pay attention to this grass roots movement of people who do, the energy, the skills and the tenacity shown in the last year is moving mountains.  Imagine how amazing it could be with any support from those who should and could get involved.

So, Alan Kurdi, the boy who’s name is known, and all the other boys and girls, babies and teenagers, men and women, who didn’t cross safely, who haven’t survived this awful war, we remember you all.  We will not stop trying to help in whatever way we can, and while we are sad today we are also angry, and that anger is a mighty powerful motivator.  May you all Rest in Peace.