on endings

a little over two years ago, I, like many other people, became aware of the plight of fellow humans trying to escape from a brutal war, travelling towards safety and hoping to find sanctuary.

I have written here before about what happened next, about setting up a grass roots organisation, about learning more than I ever thought possible about aid, about support and about the evil in this world of ours.  For the last twenty five months, I have stood with wonderful people and together we have made a difference.

From a small start we grew, a shop, containers, baby boxes, bras, medical equipment, all sourced, donated and shipped.  I learned just how much hard work this involves.  Hours and hours of sorting and packing, the aching limbs salved by cake, coffee and friendship.

It is really hard to paint a picture of how all of the above feels.  At times it is like being in the midst of a crazy tornado, with boxes hurling themselves towards you, at others it is like being cocooned in a warm fuzzy blanket, such is the love and friendship we have found.

In the two years gone, we have also changed.  Circumstance have shifted, children have grown, our personal priorities have to be different now.

It was with heavy heart we decided that now was the time to stop  Now, before it became too tricky to continue with our own high standards.  Now, before we stretched the elastic so much it snapped. Now is the time

We have a plan, of course we do, we shall end well.  We shall certainly be more organised than our beginning became.  We vow to make sure all the love is parcelled up and sent to reach it’s destination, we shall spend every last penny donated on help and support for those who need it most.

Yet, this is the practical side of the ending.  The other side, the emotional side will take, for me at least a little longer.  Firstly there is the friendships made across the globe.  From the West Coast of American to the South of France, from the Greek Islands to Turkey, I have forever friends.  People who also stood up and spoke out.

Locally there are even more special people, who I cannot imagine not knowing.  One friend, who is dear to me, is the woman that the first time I met her told the tale of her literally taking a coat of someones back in a department store, to give to a cold tired refugee!!  There are so many more, near and far, my life is richer for knowing them.

So, endings, are even more important than beginnings.  Endings have to be done carefully, and each memory taken from the shelf of experience and placed into it’s own special box, to be kept forever.   Then they shall be ready to be opened again, to bring back the love and the laughter as we tell and retell the story of the twenty five months when we made a difference.

It has been my utter privilege to be a part of this, I shall miss it and yet will remain ever thankful that we did it.  I always had the thought that one day my gorgeous Granddaughter will be grown, and these cruel times will be history.  I wanted, when she asked the question of me, as  I am sure all those to come will do, ‘what did you do to help Nanna’  I wanted to be able to say, ‘I did my best, darling I did the best I could’ and alongside hundreds of others this is the truth.

Thank you Hummingbirds, for you have given me far more than I have ever offered to you.



on being in the right place at the right time

those worldly winds know what they are on about for sure.  Here is me, dramatically depressed, lonely in our paradise on a hill, worried about hubby, about homelessness, about lack of motivation, and feeling useless, remember that?

So, after fixing the dryer yesterday I had a new determination to get on with stuff here.  Now last week I was inspired by the donation box for the Food Bank in Tesco, to come home and find out more.  I rang the number and offered to volunteer.  Come along they said, next week will be fine. Today was the day.

Now, I have been poorly all week, this horrid cold and cough have left me feeling knackered, and it was half in my mind to cancel the meeting and rearrange. Old habits die hard, and if I have said I will be somewhere, then that is where I shall be.  So, at 10am this morning I pulled up outside an uninspiring building on the outskirts of town.

It is true that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover and the inside of this building filled me with delight.  A bright, clean and lovely place, with a bank of computers, soft cushions, home made cake and a coffee machine.  So, how have I missed this treasure?  Along with the Food Bank this is home to lots of community projects.  I am greeted warmly by a smiling volunteer, who tells me he has come over on his day off from a new job to help out as they are short staffed.  A good cup of tea later and I meet the man in charge of the Food Bank.  We are chatting, as you do, and I am feeling very much at home.  I explain about working on a weekend and he asks what I do. I tell him I am a youth worker, he smiles. Apparently they need a youth worker. Of course they do.

Two hours later, after meeting with the most inspiring women I think I have ever met, I am back home sending my CV, fixing up how I can help and before I left I am booked in for a meeting with the Project director next week. Suddenly I am somewhere I recognise. I can feel the energy and the can do spirit in this place, it has been hard fought for and is closely guarded.  It feels right.

As I am leaving I go back to the cakes and coffee to say goodbye to the volunteers, and I notice a sign on the wall.  It says, Rules of this Place, and there is a list of expectations for everyone to follow.  The very first one, at the top, is simply this   ‘Always try to be kind’.

I feel at home.

on mending not moaning

My Mum would never allow us children to whine or whinge, ‘self pity does no one any good’, she was fond of saying, ‘you have to get on with stuff’.  Yes, Mum, I say to myself today, you are quite right.  I am deciding to do just that.

Last night storms blew strong, keeping me awake, and this morning when the winds dropped we have no phone or internet signal, the mast must have been affected by the winds.

With no early morning social media to do, I decided to get on with our washing, which isn’t actually a simple as it used to be, although it isn’t difficult either.  I just use a small washing machine and a spin dryer.  All was going well until the washing machine jumped off its stand, well actually a makeshift stand that is a plastic box and it fell to the floor, breaking the lid from the base.  Luckily I was able to sort it quickly, it just clipped back together and after finding a more stable stand it continued to wash our bedding.

Soon it was time to spin it and as usual I placed a flannel over the top to keep it neat.  Except it didn’t, instead it jumped down between the drum and the case and jammed the spinner.  Today is just not my day.  I tried to fish the flannel out but it was impossible to reach, it was all too tight. The spinner wouldn’t spin, the clothes were soaking wet, oh my. Never mind I thought, I wil buy a new one, turning as ever to Google to find suppliers locally before remembering the internet was down, following the storms.  My life is ever more interesting these days.

So, I thought to myself, what would Mum do? I also then remembered the times, when I, as a single Mum, had my own tool kit.  How hard can it be to take a spin dryer to bits?  Turns out it is a lot easier than putting it back together.   A small screw removed the cover at the base and then just three more screws and the drum was free.  I just popped my hand it and removed the flannel. Fantastic.

It is fair to say it took at while to locate the nuts I had failed to notice falling off when removing the screws, and a bit longer to fiddle them into place, but with perseverance I did it.  The spinner lives to spin another day.  Washing done, all is well.

The whole thing has helped me to remember that I can actually do most things if I let myself try.  I am thinking of all the jobs I have done over time, fixing shelves, sorting squeaks and creaks and generally getting on with stuff.

I am going to treat everything that is happening to me at the moment just like that spin dryer.  If it is broken I shall fix it, if things don’t go to plan I shall make a new plan, and maybe, just maybe things will turn out alright in the end.

So, thanks Mum, for a long lost memory, so many things you said and did stay with me, and help, especially in the difficult times. You were tough on us as kids, when along with lots of love made sure that we could stand on our own two feet.  Self pity is an indulgence, occasionally an essential tool in the survival kit, but never a default position.

So, this afternoon the sun is shining, and yet rain still around falls often in crazy bursts of energy in the Welsh hills, phones are back working as is the internet.  Things are being fixed all around. All will be well.

on raindrops and tears

there is a reason for the lack of blogs this month and it is quite simple really, I do not have the words for how rubbish I have been feeling.

It is increasingly difficult to motivate myself to do anything really, I seem to spend my days wondering what is going to happen next.

Hubby is in the middle of lots of tests and we are hoping to find out soon how broken hearted he is, and how they are going to fix him.  Meanwhile, he is going to work, loving his new job and coming home with lots of tales of new colleagues and new places to go.  I am so happy he is happy, and yet there is a cloud around us, for we don’t know what is going to happen next.

I started walking again last week, going out every morning, to the route I love, down towards the sea, along ‘my’ beach.  It felt good, I felt good, we can do this I thought, all is going to be well.  We are booked to walk the London Bridges in October, hubby and me and I was excited to do this challenge together in his home city.  As I walked daily, he joined me in the evenings, we are training for our epic stroll across ten miles of bridges.  The hotel is booked, as are the train tickets.  We are both looking forward to a normal fun weekend, the sort we used to have often.  It seems like it has been a long time.

You may remember that our previous trip, to the Para Athletics in July had to be cancelled as we were in the midst of his poorliness.  This was to be a chance to chill, have fun and raise some money.  Sponsors are coming in, the excitement was building.

Then, you guessed it, the letter for the test, the one were hubby has to actually go into hospital, that one, is booked for one of the days we are due to be in London.  I admit I cried.  I know his health comes first, I know we are lucky to live in a place where tests are done quickly and with care. I know all that.  But really, universe, did you have to book it for that day?  I cried again.

As I am getting used to the not going to London thing, the weather decided to take a turn for the worse.  Storms and high winds, rain making a loud sound on the caravan roof. It is cosy and warm inside, but I have no inclination to go outside at all.  It is almost as if the weather is joining me, with tears of its own.

I try so hard to put a positive spin on life in this blog, but frankly it is getting hard to do so.  It seems that every step of the way a barrier is put up or a bridge is torn down.  It is as if no matter what we do, or how we try, the tears are going to fall.

I have to keep reminding myself that it will be alright in the end, I just don’t know when the end will come.

Anyone fancy a weekend in London, we have a hotel room for sale?


on the saddest time of all

today my thoughts are far from our troubles and firmly with good friends who have had an unimaginably difficult summer.

Right at the beginning of the holidays,  their gorgeous Granddaughter lost her life in a road accident, which also left her Mum very poorly and her brother injured.  At one point the family were in hospitals across two counties while medical staff fought to save them.

Today, some five weeks on, the family will say goodbye to the little girl, so full of life, who was the centre of their world.  Siblings are bereft, Mum is in a wheelchair and Dad doing his best to hold it all together.  This breaks my heart.

When you become a parent the world changes forever. Suddenly so many fears you had no idea existed are at the front of your mind.  Keeping them safe, helping them to grow, to develop, to come to adulthood, becomes a priority.  Later once they are grown they begin to follow your journey, with children of their own, then, as a Grandparent the level of anxiety trebles.  All the same hopes and dreams you had for your babies become extra important for the little people they have created.

So, it is with heavy heart I put myself in my friends position.  Watching her baby boy, saying goodbye to his baby girl is a pain I cannot envision.  It actually takes my breath away.

Throughout this terrible time my friends have worked together to make things as good as they can be.  They are strong for the family, although I am sure at times they are falling apart in private.  I feel unable to do anything to help, but send love and warm thoughts, every day, and especially today.

You see it really is true that nothing material matters at all.  In the end it will always be love, and those we care about that are the only things that we should focus on.  In the end it is people not places, houses, or possessions that count for everything.

After today, the world will carry on for this family.  School will reopen, Mum will continue to recover and gradually things will go back to as they were.  Except they will truly never be the same again.  It is my hope that they find their way back and that one day they will smile again.

Another good friend of mine lost a child some ten years ago.  She says that she never wanted to be defined by this one terrible accident.  She has, through love and time found a kind of peace.  I hope beyond hope that my friends and their family can do the same.

It is a cliche that we all should live for today, but sometimes the world reminds us just how tenuous life is, and I for one am going to hold onto that and try my best to use it wisely.