this year, next year

it is traditional at this time of year to put together reflections on the year just gone and to look forward to what may come in the twelve months ahead.

I have always loved New Year, a time somehow to start again, to grasp new challenges and to have another chance to get things right.  It does seem a little strange, how the turning of a page on a calendar evokes such emotions and feelings, after all tomorrow really is just another day.  Perhaps we have a chance every day to make changes, to do things differently, maybe we should think about that.

This year it is more difficult to put thoughts on the year just gone.  It began well, dancing with my hubby and  daughter, we laughed together, enjoying the atmosphere in our local pub.  Walking home, still laughing, we had every hope that the year would be good to us,  our little house in the hills would be filled with love and we would delight in watching our family grow and that good things would happen for all of them.

To be fair, some of our hopes and dreams have been fulfilled, others not so much, and I am thinking as I am writing this, that that is always the way of this life.  Yin and Yang, Good and Bad, Happy and Sad, one is always close by the other.

If I had to sum up the year just leaving in one word it would be ‘uncertainty’.  Throughout the year all things I believed to be true were challenged and the world I though was safe and secure became fragile.  We began the year living close to our friends and our family, happy and healthy, I had a job I loved with people I liked, hubby was as constant as ever.  Our darling daughter was home from her travels and working locally and looking back now, I had no idea just how fortunate I was.

As winter was ending another job came my way and by Spring I was loving working with a new team of people, and really making a difference.  Globally the world continued to be a strange place with people impossible to trust gaining power and the politics of separation abounded.  Then an election was called and the hard work of campaigning gave us focus for our energy.  We delighted in a successful campaign as our candidate was elected, and as the summer began things were looking great.

A knock on the door in late June set in motion changes that would have been impossible to foresee.  Our lovely little house was ours no more, we needed to find a new home.  In the midst of this hubby found he was not as well as we always believed, things began to be rocky.  Together with friends and family we held tight, moved to another hill in another country and waited for good news. I learned this year that the time spent worrying seems to take much longer than the times we spend in laughter.

Gradually days turned into weeks, and in those weeks our gorgeous Granddaughter continued to grow into a darling little girl, our big girl changed jobs, went on another adventure and on her return dithered with decisions on where her future was to be.  The boys kept on being themselves, one also found a new job and life went on.  Good friends faced their own challenges, dealing with loss and illness, this summer seemed a tricky time for everyone.  Soon Winter was approaching and life on the hill was becoming difficult, we really needed to find a home.

I had sought out a place to spend my time usefully while living on the hill and it was there I made a new friend,who unexpectedly had the answer, and at the end of this year we moved into a sweet little house close to the sea.  It is beautiful and perfect for us, albeit too far from those we love.

The week we moved in was also bittersweet.  A hospital appointment gave us great hope that hubby will be fixed, his broken heart can and will be mended, and yet almost at the same time, we had the worse news of all about another member of our family.  My cousin had been by my side all of my life.  She had challenges of her own, which we all struggled with at times, but our love and care for each other was ever present.  It seems hard to believe I am living in a world without her in it any more. The tears that fell daily were indeed for the loss of a loved one, but also for the loss of a life I had grown accustomed too.  Selfishly I let the fears and uncertainties of the six months before to overtake me,  there was nothing anyone could do or say.  I now understand how grief, filled with memories and regrets, can truly disable you.  The price of love is the pain of loss, and at the end of such a turbulent time, there was little left in my emotional bank to cope. Her funeral, a day of celebrating her life, really helped, sharing  the love with others was important.

The next week it was Christmas, a time of joy and love, which seemed impossible to me but actually that is exactly what we found.  In the midst of turmoil and sadness my wonderful amazing and gorgeous family made me laugh, smile and be truly grateful for what I have in my life.  Sons and a daughter who have grown into effective, caring and funny adults, a husband who has stood beside me through all the emotion, steady as ever, holding me up.  Friends and family who invited us into their homes, offering food and fun, love and laughter,  and those who travelled to our new house and helped us make it a home.  I am blessed.

Later tonight, as the clock strikes midnight the New Year will arrive, full of promise for better things, our hopes and dreams pinned to the turn of the calendar. This time though it will be different.  I am older and wiser than before.  Lessons I have learned this year just gone have changed me forever.  I no longer will wish for a Happy New Year, for I know that happiness is tenuous and fleeting.  Instead I will be wishing for a peaceful New Year, for one in which we can find our own way through the challenges that face us all.  I will be hoping that we all find strength and love around us, and always have much of what we need and some of what we want.  Globally I wish the world could remember we are all human kind, sharing the same planet, we all have hopes and dreams.  I wish that we will be able to reach out to each other, to delight in our happy times and to comfort and to lend a helping hand where we can.

So, lovely readers I wish for you all of what you would wish for yourselves, I am hoping that life is kind to you and that in turn, you are kind to others.  May you have peace in your lives, your loved ones close by and find laughter beside any tears.  Whatever the next twelve months holds for all of us, may we make the best of it, and in turn find the best in ourselves.  Thank you for reading my blog and walking with me through the days of my years.




Advent 17 Days 5 and 6 living on the hill

another joint advent, I am not doing so well with daily updates, got a lot going on just now.  So, this is about making the most of what is now, about hoping for the best and about making new friends.

A few months ago life turned upside down for us, it is well documented how we became without a home and moved to the hill, and the ups and downs of health and heart that ensued.  Well four months on we are still, for a while, up on our hill and I have learned so very much.

There will come a time when we will look back at this life we have had, we shall laugh and remember all the good times, we will explain to people how we now know just how easy it can be to slip through between the lines and find yourselves in a different place.

Mainly I know that hubby and I are resilient, that we make a good team, and that together we can hold tight through the worst of times.  I have learned that there are people who are quick to tell you how sorry they are, and there are people who walk alongside you.  People who suspend their own stuff to help you through yours.  I have learned that worse things happen, dear friends have proved that this summer, but equally when it is you, it is difficult.

I think we always had hope,  We thought that it would all work out in the end, and that we had to cling on to good stuff, brush over the difficult and concentrate on moving forwards.  I doubt anyone, apart from my hubby will ever know just how much this affected me. The powerlessness, the difference and the lonely times, I will never forget.

However hope has won, as we knew it would, we delighted in walking beside the sea, a place that calms me even when things seem really dark.  We managed to keep strong even when all seemed hopeless.  I began to understand my grieving for our previous life, and to make sense of the new.

Finding new friends, which strangely has led to a change in fortune has been wonderful.  I am reflecting however, that this did not happen by accident.  We made a definite plan to embrace life on the hill, and once we stopped worrying about the future, the future presented itself.

This Advent I would hope that everyone can be thankful for what they have, even if it seems not very much.  I am reminded again of the poem Desiderata and the wise words that have guided my life since teen years.

You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

So as the universe is unfolding our very different future, I am thankful, for the lessons learned and for the opportunity for a new beginning.

All will be well.

Advent 17 First Friends

Looking back at my childhood most of my early friends were linked to family and to Mum and her friends. Mostly girls, and mostly my age we rubbed along ok with each other on play dates, generally living our lives with Sindy dolls and our scooters, all done in a fog of cigarette smoke and perfume, the smell of Mums back in the 1960’s.

The road we lived in had few children living there.  Next door both ways were ladies of a certain age, and further down the road there were retired couples and those with grown up families.  Over the road, there was a council owned house, amid all the owner occupied semi detached, this was bought to house the Head of Parks and Gardens and he and his family lived directly opposite us.

There were, I think three children, a boy and girl older than me and another boy, just my age.  We became firm friends.  I have so many memories of this first friendship.  We would muck about in the back garden, building things from bits of wood his Dad brought home from work.  We had the run of the local park, excitedly we could access all areas and spent happy afternoons playing in the greenhouses and other forbidden areas.  Once we hid in a garden for ages and got in so much trouble when parents couldn’t find us.  We didn’t really care, I think this was the first time I tested my freedom, dared to do something different.

This first friendship was huge fun, we liked each other a lot, but it also taught me about loss.  For when we were about ten years old, his Dad decided they would move to a new town, a bigger park and a better job meant they were leaving.  I simply couldn’t believe it.  One day they were here and the next a big furniture van arrived and they were gone.  That was it.  In those days children were never consulted, or indeed told about much, in my world the family vanished and it seemed to happen overnight.  No communication, we weren’t even on the phone, I never saw him again.

Soon a new family arrived over the road, this time with four children, one, a girl, joined my class at school, but she never really became my friend.  We rubbed along, walked to school and chatted but she could never replace my first friend.

Of course many years have passed since then and I have many wonderful friends, but sometimes I do think about this boy, about the fun we had and a bit of me still misses him.  Of course it would never happen now, social media, phones and internet mean we all can stay in touch, but for me and him there are just the memories of summers in the sun, testing boundaries and laughing til we collapsed.

I did hear that his family eventually emigrated, but never  did know where.  I wonder if he remembers me?

Advent 17 Days 2 and 3 Hope, inspiration and friends

we have just returned from a wonderful weekend during which we were fortunate to spend time with some of the best people on this planet.

We sat in a glittery Dome and watched time and again amazing ‘ordinary’ people who were given awards for doing extraordinary things.  One winner of an award is a woman I count as a friend.  She is tiny in stature but my goodness her heart is huge.  She single handedly powers a voluntary organisation to support a whole estate.  She is the go to person for anything and everything, Help with form filling, yes, no problem, need a job, she will help find one with you.  Food is needed, she will do a deal with a supermarket and tickets for a Christmas show, cheap as chips when this amazing human being does her thing.

This blog is about friendship and it is about hope, and this particular friend embodies both topics completely.  It can be a dark and scary world out there, especially if you are a bit vulnerable, maybe through illness or sadness.  How wonderful to have a advocate, from your own community, who is prepared to stand by your side.

I know the place she works her magic.  It has a some what unfair name for being a less desirable place to live, but this view is only held by those who don’t know the place as I do.  Yes it has it’s problems and the people there are not the richest in the world, there might not be a lot of spare money about, but boy does this place have love.  I spent five years here working with the community and can honestly say it was one of the best places I have ever worked.  Some of that is down to my award winning friend, for it is her and those around her who create a community.

The awards evening wasn’t the Oscars, but it certainly felt like it, and the people picking up awards were not getting them for playing a role, but for being themselves.  Actually not for being themselves, but for being the best they can be.  Surely that is what we all should aim for this Advent, to walk an extra mile to help someone along the way, to be the light in the darkness and to offer friendship to those who need a friend.  It isn’t really that difficult to do, if you think about it, it is simple.  By being the best we can, we allow others to be their best too, and that way we help each other to brighten the world.

So, if one day you find yourself in a Dome, or on a council estate, or at the Oscars, in fact wherever life takes you, please take the time to look around, and seek out the people who are doing the best they can, once you find them do then take the time to stand alongside them, that way we can all raise our game and together be the change we want to see in the world


Advent 17 Day 1 Friendship and Hope

amazingly this is the sixth year I have written an Advent,  celebrating a theme and bringing Christmas closer with each post.  This year the theme is embracing friendship in all its forms, and in doing so will also reflect on hope.  In dark days hope is the lantern to light our path, and for me this year has had its share of dark times.  In those times the friendship offered to us has been comforting and made all the difference.  So, hear we go dear reader, Day One of Friendship and Hope.

Today I stood in a supermarket wearing a snazzy tabard and invited shoppers to think about buying an extra item for the food bank.  It was an extraordinary experience.  Firstly people knew exactly what a Food Bank is and what it does, it needed no explanation, people understand what is needed and why.  With very few exceptions people then shopped and donated, there were tons and tons of items to help others.

It made my heart happy and gave me hope for the future.  More than one person pushed an entire trolley full of things our way, others gave simple items, and lots of special treats for the coming Christmas period.  It was a pure pleasure to see it, Community in Action.

The idea that a whole town can get behind those in need, that everyone understood that people need food, and were willing to help, it was joyous and hopeful in an otherwise sad and scary world.  I can’t think of a better way to begin Advent than to celebrate the community of friendship offering help to those in need.