Advent Day 17 – Sliding Doors

If you could have seen our house at Christmas back in my teen years,  Mum had very fixed ideas of what was tasteful and loved to decorate for the season.  We had a six foot tall artificial white tree complete with fairy on top and lots of lights.  Never tinsel, tinsel was frowned on in our house, as were paper chains.  Instead we had shiny metal coloured lanterns that folded out and hung from drawing pins on our ceiling.

One year she decided to change them and instead set to to make her own.  I am not sure where she got the large branches of a tree from, but I remember her spray painting them and adding glitter.  These were then hung in the corners of our living room ceiling where she added big baubles hanging from the branch.  To be fair they were unusual and beautiful.  Things went slightly awry at the Christmas dinner table when Dad opened a bottle of fizz at just the right angle to send the cork straight through the glass baubles, covering the floor and some of the table with shards of bright coloured glass.  Oh dear, I don’t think we drank the fizz, and the lunch went cold as we cleaned up the mess.

Our family traditions continued in our own adult homes, where we made new ones with our families.  My very first Christmas as a newly wed in our house, well Mum and Dad came to dinner.  I was nervous, but think I managed to cook up a decent roast.  The next year we were without Mum, but still made a table of six or seven, then the next year it was just two and our toddler son.  When the grown ups die, that makes you the grown up and in my mid twenties I don’t think I was ready for that.  Still we made the best of it.  I will never forget setting that table, and remembering the people no longer with us.

This Christmas we will be home alone, and yet with technology we will be able to watch our Granddaughter open her gifts, and our family will be together apart.

Advent Day 16 – Sliding Doors

we have had many deliveries to our door in the past few days.  Unable to see our lovely family in ‘real life’ this Christmas we have been busily posting gifts to each other.  Some have been bought and wrapped in the usual way, then re-wrapped and taken to the Post Office, others are coming via a well known online retailer.

There is the problem.  Our family like surprises, we enjoy not knowing what we are getting, and the fun of opening packages on Christmas morning. As  the packages are building up and to keep the surprise we have decided to gift wrap the boxes, without opening them, so that on the big day all will be revealed.  Now this is all well and good, and would work perfectly, except that we have no clue which package is which, and indeed which contain non present items.  What a lark. I spent a good half hour yesterday determining which one of six newly delivered boxes was the correct one to open.  All was well, we found the right one.

I would never have thought that this Christmas would be one to look forward to, but seeing all the boxes  under the tree, well it is quite exciting.  It made me think about all the other things we are given that we don’t expect or even at times pay heed to.  Maybe 2020 is the year that I realise exactly what is important, and also that which is not.


Advent Day 15 – Sliding Doors

today is a working at home day, again.  With schools closed until the new term, we are once again phoning, messaging and emailing all day long.  It is fine, we are lucky to have a job that transfers to home working, and an employer willing to support us with the right technology to do so.  However a down side of home working is that when things are getting on top of you, you can feel at bit closed in.  With no colleagues close by to have a brew and talk things through, sometimes your head can feel like exploding.

This is when I am doubly lucky.  For just fifteen minutes walk from my home office is the coast, the beach and the waves.  Today a lunchtime yomp down through town and the park, and over the bridge to the sea was exactly what was needed.  I decided to rest a while, and found a very special seat.  Our lovely friend lost her fight with this awful virus back in the Spring, and the bench installed by her family is a perfect place to rest a while.  As ever I touch her name on the silver plaque and say hello.  Then I, as she did many times before, I look across the sea.

The sky was very blue today, with fluffy white clouds, the winter sun surprisingly warm on my back.  I look across the water at the majestic windmills, ever turning, doing a synchronised dance above the waves.  The size and power diminished by distance, they stand tall and proud.  Renewable energy.  How fitting I thought, for this view, this sea, this bench and memories of my friend, well they do exactly the same thing.  They renew my energy.

I have always loved the sea, and as I head back home to work once more, I am reminded of how this water, these waves, this beach, well they have always been here.  Back over a hundred years ago when my Nina was born in sight of this same sea, it was all there, the waves predictably washing the sand twice a day.  I like to think of that, of her perhaps paddling, feeling the sand between her toes, and then I think of my Granddaughter, and how in time her children or Grandchild may also paddle in this sea.

Life goes on, and although we like to think we have all the answers, I expect the wisdom of the waves is that nothing is new, the world keeps turning.

Back home, windswept and breathless from climbing the hill, I am nonetheless feeling more able to get on with life. My energy is renewed, and I am counting my blessings.

Advent Day 14 – Sliding Doors

One benefit of this strange world we are living in has been the new ways of connecting with each other.
Two of our oldest friends live in England and prior to lockdown we saw each other maybe every few months. In March we spoke on zoom on a Sunday afternoon, and it was fun. We have done the same every Sunday since. It is now part of our week and something we look forward to.
They are the kindest men on the planet, and have helped me a lot during our almost thirty year friendship. Yet there is something different about us now, as the routine of sitting down to chat for an hour a week has changed things. We are closer than ever, and at a time when we have never been more separate.
Of course we look forward to getting together in real life, but I think we will remember this time fondly, because despite the distance friendship endures.

Advent Day 13 – Sliding Doors

We have had lots of change in recent years, moving house more often than is healthy, I have never felt settled.
Growing up I longed for change, to break out from the steady, safe and predictable life I saw in my family. I didn’t know then that it was that life, the one I was so disparaging about, well that life, and the safety it offered, enabled me able to leave, to try new places and to explore the world.
Looking back, my beginnings really set me up well for the incredible challenges ahead of me. Mum had drilled into her daughters that the world was theirs if they wanted it. Dad gave me my politics, my sense of fairness in the world and from our extended family I had a sense of belonging.
Almost twenty years in our last home town, and I thought it would be forever, but that was not to be. We have shaken ourselves down and decided to love wherever we live.
Today we are in house number five, this time in a beautiful bungalow in a special town which is populated by friendly folk. A walk to the shops involves stopping to say hello, over and over again, when strangers begin to be friends. We love being close to the beach and the countryside. I think we both want to stay here now, perhaps it is time to settle again.
I used to tell my kids that I would end my days with the sea in front and the mountains behind me. In my head this was always on a Greek Island, but to be honest North Wales does the job perfectly.

Advent Day 9 – Sliding Doors

in the juke box of life the tunes that we remember can connect us to people, places and times gone by. We remember the music from the big events, a love song, the first dance, and the song we play as we say goodbye for the last time.  Then there are the other tunes, those we don’t remember at all until we hear them again, and then we are suddenly singing, somehow knowing long, lost, lyrics.

This morning  I am driving along the busy road beside the sea, on my way to work. The sky is pink and orange as the sun begins to chase away the night on a winter morning.  I am listening to the radio, to an episode of a radio drama with very distinctive theme music.  Whenever I hear this music I am back in our family home, hearing this tune from my Nina’s room.  Her huge wireless was her connection to the world, she didn’t watch TV but loved this drama, billed as an everyday story of country folk. As children we knew not to disturb her listening.  It was many years later that I too became a fan of this programme, and I had no idea what it would lead to.

You see, it was my love of this radio programme that took me through the best sliding door, for there on the other side I met the man I would marry.  He also loved this radio show, and now almost thirteen years on, we both still listen, me in the car and him at home on a Sunday morning.

So, this tune is filed in my memory bank several times over.  A tune from childhood, when the my world was small and safe, and later the key to a future I had never imagined.  It was played at our wedding, as we left the venue together, followed by friends and family, the familiar, dum di dum di dum di dum, well it made everyone smile.

Advent Day 7 – Sliding Doors

there are a lot of caravans in North Wales.  In some areas I think there are more caravans than regular houses, there are plenty to choose from.  So, when we decided to purchase our perfect holiday home there was plenty of choice.

We scoured the internet and settled on a site in the hills, a mile or two from the sea, and made an appointment to view.  There was a lot of choice, in fact it took most of a day to view so many different variations of tin box living, but finally we found the right one.  Unfortunately it was on the wrong plot and after negotiation it was agreed, our new holiday home was sited on our perfect garden.  All was well.

The first time we visited the neighbours gathered around to say hello, and to tell us that we were getting new people to the side of our garden, who were moving a new caravan next door.  They also told us that we would be losing some our garden to their new plot.  We were unsure who these people were going to be.

We need not have worried, the couple who moved next door turned out to be two of the nicest people on the planet.  We have been gone for almost three years from our happy place, but our neighbours are still firm friends.  They make us laugh, are kind and helpful and every day we are glad that they picked to put their caravan nextthe next to the garden we picked.

So, when we chose our caravan, from all the possible sites at exactly the same time are now friends were also choosing to move.  That we ended up neighbours who became good friends, is another example of what can be on the other side of our sliding doors.

Advent Day 6 – Sliding Doors

stuck in the middle with you

sometimes we don’t even know we are heading through the sliding doors until we are on the other side.  Sometimes, carried by excitement or tragedy, we find ourselves in unfamiliar places, our feet not quite standing on firm ground.

Then comes the time when we realise that we have grown old enough to have lived a life, and yet still have a life to come.  It is here the time and place where we are no longer children, or even parents of young children, and yet we not old enough to be elderly, it is in the middle years when we become invisible.

It can seem as if, while you have been busy building a life, the life has been slipping away.  The fun times with babies and children turn into battle grounds with truculent teenagers, and then, as quick as a flash, it is done.  Over.  Similarly the career we studied for, worked our way up and finally found our spot in the workplace, suddenly that is not quite as we had thought it would be.

You see the choices made over the years, well we are so busy making them we stop thinking about them.  Then  children are grown, perhaps with children of their own.  The workplace becomes populated by the hungry, ambitious people that we can recognise as ourselves.  Except we are not like that anymore.  The world has moved on.  It can come as a shock to realise that others don’t know the younger you.  They have no idea of the passions, the battles and the pure fun and adventure you have stored in your memory bank.

So I have been quietly embracing my middle years, certainly they have brought change and drama and now as I am moving onwards there is also a sense of peace.  Looking back, and forgiving past mistakes, looking forward to future adventures maybe the best is yet to be.


Advent Day 5 – Sliding Doors

when the words won’t come.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes writing feels impossible.  An empty page lies on the screen waiting for ideas, waiting for thoughts.  Then it happens, a rough draft, which is deleted, rewritten and amended and finally approved.  Then it is read and re read, and eventually other people read it.  When that happens, there is moment of relaxation, of reflection then it is back to another empty page. another blank screen.

I guess this it a bit like life.  Sometimes you are unsure of the next step, of the right road to choose, well it can seem a bigger struggle than it needs to be.  We need to get words on our page.  We need to have something to work with, something to change, to adapt, to make our own.

Decisions, the sliding doors of life can come thick and fast, and our instincts, our reactions are as the words on the page.  It is always worth remembering that words can be edited, the story can be changed, that we can all write our own endings.

when the words won’t come, we write them ourselves.




Advent Day 3 – sliding doors

I was given my very first proper job, because the candidate they wanted turned it down.  I didn’t know this until some months into work, and it did rock my confidence a little bit.  I wouldn’t have been looking for a job at all if I hadn’t had a disagreement with our Head Mistress, who foolishly tried to remove my transistor radio from the class room.  That was a fun day.

I arrived home telling Mum that I wasn’t going back.  She was spectacularly unfazed by this, and suggested I start looking for jobs.  We found the job, office junior in a University Admin, Mum thought it was perfect.  I applied, and Dad took me into the city so that I would be able to find where I was going.  Such a special thing to do, Dad and me on what I think was our only trip alone into the city centre.

As we walked up the road towards the Senate House, Dad stopped and pointed out a building.  Old, huge and looking quite battered, this he said was the hospital where they fixed your heart. To my shame, I wasn’t that interested.  I was more keen to look forward not back.  It is only now, as a parent I realise just how important that building and the people inside it were to Dad.  He would come off the docks at lunch time and change into a suit in the public toilets, before visiting me, his tiny baby daughter, Mum and him desperately hoping that all would be well.  Then he would change back into working clothes and go back to the dockside.

I was one of the very first babies to have open heart surgery in the UK.  The man who operated on me was an American, who had been invited here to teach this new technique.  Mum and Dad, married for seven years before I was born, had almost given up hope of being parents.

They were told, and told me that if I had been born just a year earlier, well I wouldn’t have seen my second birthday.

So it seems to me that things do happen for a reason, and maybe it isn’t just sliding doors, but also a chain reaction that influences all our lives.  I was born at just the right time to be fixed, by a man who had decided to come to another country to share his skills.

So when Dad and I passed the hospital on the way to my first job, it must have been a huge moment for him, and for Mum, the little girl grown up.