the sense of those we love

yesterday we went to visit relatives, a bit of New Year cheer and as always when we see those we don’t see often, memories were resurrected and remembered, people now gone were spoken about and those we love felt a little closer to us.

On the way home we are chatting about our day and hubby asked if one of the people we visited had changed her appearance, she was not as he remembered her being. Despite having been with her not an hour or so earlier I had no clue what he meant.  To me she has never changed.  Not since I was a child and she a pal of my Mum and Dad, she has always looked the same.

It dawned on me that those we love and have loved all our lives we seldom see.  What I mean is that the image of them is so imprinted in our brains that we no longer need to see their physical presence today. So, when I sit with my family I am content with my sense of them, I tune into the person I know to be them and take little notice of how they actually look.

Holding my Aunties hand we chat of the past, she has had great sadness recently and I wanted to be a comfort to her, wanted her to know I cared.  I have realised that she knew this, because she was also seeing her sense of me.  I am sure there were times when she looks at me and sees the child I once was, then the young Mum who looked to her and her husband to help, having lost my own Mum and Dad.  Maybe we all do this, the sense of someone, this knowing who people are from the inside as well as the outside.

As we talked on the way home it became clear to me that this is the essence of love, the understanding and acceptance of someone exactly as they are to you, with no other thoughts necessary.

Memory is a super power, for within our minds we can conjure up the best of times, a sense of continuity, a sense of self, and within that the sense of those we love, never changing, always there.

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.

on finding paradise

my friends and family all know that I yearn to live in a place with the mountains behind me and the sea in front.  I believed for a long time I would find this place in Greece or maybe in Spain.  Yesterday I found it in Wales.

Now I know Wales quite well, we spend a lot of time there and I enjoy it a lot.  The beaches are clean and the sea is often blue.  The mountains of Snowdonia watch over you wherever you go, sometimes hidden by clouds but always just around the corner.  I thought I knew Wales well.

Since I have been walking I am seeking out new places to walk and found a small town on the coast we had never visited before.  Yesterday afternoon saw us getting out of the car in paradise.  This place has everything.  It is small enough to be friendly and big enough to have a high street of shops.  It is overlooked by impressive crags and green hills and it opens its heart onto the sea.

As we walked around the nature reserve, the history of the place was explained to us by an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench.  He told of cockle beds and salt marsh, of a hospital full of ‘lunatics’ and of rich people visiting.  He pointed to the hills and showed us his house.  He clearly comes to walk as far as the bench where he can see home.  He seemed happy with his lot.

Later we watched flocks of birds landing and taking off from the shore, we found houses that I immediately want to live in.  We ate fish and chips on the sea front and enjoyed the views across to the island where my Nina was born. I feel so connected to her here, I am looking forward to trying to find the rest of my Welsh family tree, I feel sure that they are close by.

One day, when our gorgeous girl is off to university we will come here and make it home.  I am sure of this.  Once you find paradise you revisit as often as you can.

Million steps – days twenty six and seven

Monday’s walk was nothing out of the ordinary, usual route, usual steps.  Just saying it is crazy, to casually say it’s usual for me to be walking!

Tuesday started wet and windy, for the first time in a week or so I needed to wear my coat.  I did a fast route covering a couple of miles before the rain stopped and sun was starting to show.

Later I travelled with my daughter in law and beautiful Granddaughter to visit a very special place.  We went to the seaside, to a park where fairies live.  My gorgeous little girl loves fairies very much.  The first thing we saw was a wooden house, oh the excitement as we opened a tiny door and inside there were the fairies.  The look of wonder on a little face made my heart happy.  There were other fairy houses dotted around and we spent a happy hour peeping inside and squealing with delight.

I feel so happy to have a lovely family and am ever grateful I am fit enough to have fun with them.  We walked along the sea front to the beach where I was able to take a photo of my Granddaughter and her Mummy standing on the sand with the river behind them.  A poignant moment for me, as I have a photo of me as a two year old on the same sand, in almost the same place, with my Mum standing beside me.

The circle of life I guess.  My Mum never got to meet any of her Grandchildren, sadly it was not to be, so I feel the love and fortune all the more for having these special people in my life.  Down there on the beach with the same river lapping the shore, I feel connected to my past more than anywhere else in the world.  I am thinking of childhood summers on the shore, picnics and play, I am thinking of me on roller skates up and down the seafront and later as a teenager looking at the water and imagining the world at the end of the waves.

Our home town is miles away from the sea, my Granddaughter will grow up with the hills as her world not the sea, but just spending one day, on the beach and the circle feels complete.  She will never know the family who would have loved her so very much but I hope she will always understand the connections we have to the river, to the sand and most of all to each other.

By the time we arrived home I had completed a respectable 14,000 plus steps on a sunny day when memories were both remembered and made.

on the hills and the wind

Yesterday was the first of June, the start of summer and a chance to get out into the countryside.  Hubby and I drove about ten minutes from home and parked up in the most beautiful spot.  High hills all around the horizon and behind us, in front lay a valley of greenery and rivers.

I was struck, yet again, by the beauty of the landscape.  In the distance a small village, stone houses and a thin snake of a grey road wending its way across the land linking up people and places.  The sky is big here, at times it seems bigger than the land, the clouds touching the hill tops in a layer of mist, there are birds flying high and the soft sounds of the countryside all around.

The wind is whistling, bringing a chill to the hillside.  There is little sunshine today and the wind makes it hard to stand and stare for long.  We move along the ridge, taking in another perspective of the view. From here we can see more of the town, we look down beneath us at rocks in the grassland that seem to have slipped from above.  The grey stone contrasts with the green field and gives a look of power, albeit fallen power.  Ahead there is a family, helping each other over a stile, the youngest being lifted high over the fence, there are smiles on fresh wind blown faces.

So, Joyous June- reasons to be cheerful number one, has to be the glorious countryside.  To be able to stand and watch as the beauty unfolds all around is a pure pleasure.  This particular hillside is in reach of many people, being close to several cities, it is accessible to all.  It cost nothing to walk here and yet the gain is everything, even if the wind reminds us that summer is not quite arrived yet.


on losing your way

It has been a funny old year so far.  2016 arrived with the usual fireworks and fun, then January sloped through the door, nothing much happening.  No snow, lots of rain, a birthday came and went and now it is the middle of February.  Six weeks into the New Year and it is feeling just like the old year. Perhaps this is the way.  Maybe things don’t, after all, change with the turn of the calendar.

As I sit in my kitchen it is another grey soggy day.  Rain has fallen often this year, and, although we are lucky not to be affected by flooding, the constant dampness does nothing for the spirit.

Yesterday there was a brief break in the clouds, weak sunshine and blue sky above gave the hope of Spring, perhaps it is just around the corner after all.  The bulbs in pots certainly think so, they are already standing tall above the earth and have little regard for the lack of sunlight.  Perhaps it is always so.

I think it is fortunate that February is the shortest month of all, as it is my least favourite. Weeks between now and warm sunny days, the tiny change in the length of the days does not console me, we are still stuck in Winter.  Twenty nine days is long enough.  Once March bursts in,  blowing away the wintry blues, the days will begin to stretch and the sun remembers to shine through the cloudy skies.  But for now we are in the midst of February.

I am wondering if it is just this end of winter blues that is making me feel lost.  Somehow I am less sure than I have ever been about who I am and what I should be doing.  Autumn and Winter have whizzed past in a whirl of collecting and sending aid to people in need. My email and social media is full of tragedy and heartache.  Even the positivity and kindness of strangers, who over this past six months have become friends, is not enough to make my heart stop aching.

I am thinking of the other times, when a younger, braver me juggled house and home, work and play.  When children are small, when you are working to make a life it is so easy to forget to remember the life you have.  I am struck by the thought of all the beds I used to make, all the meals I used to cook, the mucky faces I wiped and the cuddles we had,all the battles I used to fight, the shirts I have ironed and the love I have been surrounded by. It seems impossible to me that my children are off into the world, making their own lives and although they keep in touch, in some ways, my job here is done.

So, no longer the mother hen, no longer the working parent, not even working anywhere, it is perhaps unsurprising that I do at times feel a little lost.  I used to wonder what was the purpose of me, now that the mothering is largely over, now I am no longer employed.  I often thought that days spent writing and thinking did not in any way make up for a real purposeful life. In February, in the rain, this feels even more real.

When lost it is always advisable to use a map, to look ahead and to chose the road you are going to take.  This is what I am in the process of doing.  My map is one of opportunity, the road ahead is full of promise. I need to focus on the future.  I may not have my own babies any more but I do have my Granddaughter who brings laughter and love into the room with her every time she arrives at Nana’s house.  l need to remember every day spent with this little one. Time with her is pure joy, no juggling work and packing school bags, just love and cuddles and reading stories.

You see it turns out I am not lost after all.  I am just on a different road, and this time I am choosing my path carefully. It has taken a while to realise that although this is a new route the journey is one I have done before. I am making memories and friends along the way.  I am open to helping others but also I am learning to be selfish.  Learning to put me first and to seize the opportunities in front of me. As with every other road taken, the destination will probably not be what was first expected, but one thing I am good at is adapting to the real world and I have every confidence in myself.

So February, you will soon be gone, leaving just a memory of rainy days and cold weather, and as you go I will be feeling the warmth of the sun in preparation for the Spring.  I am choosing happy, choosing life and although sometimes still lost, I am loving this journey, for what it is.  Life and it really is for living.



on the journey – a mothers tale

We walk to the harbour, I am considering just how dangerous can it be, we will be in the boat for such a short hop and then to safety. The boys are quiet, they appear worried, perhaps they can feel my inner panic, the panic I am ignoring.  I am good at ignoring these feelings, in the last months I have ignored the pain in my legs, the ache in my arms, the fear in my heart, but the children can sense it.  Maybe it is the noise of the water, unfamiliar and black, black as the night sky above that is making them so.

The waves are crashing to shore, suddenly I think that perhaps in another time, another situation this maybe a romantic place,  somewhere to stroll hand in hand, but not now, not tonight for me it is only a place of fear.  The boat seems small, too small for so many, a quick glance around and I see faces I have seen many times on this journey, yet we have no eye contact, no smiles, we are all keeping it together, if only just.  Onto the boat and there is no room for us all to sit together, I gather the littlest one on my lap, the other two sit across and down the bench from me, I don’t like it but take comfort in that they are used to looking out for each other, since we lost their Dad they have been as one.

We move off from the land, I hear voices are shouting, loud in the night, I am glad I could afford the life jackets they will keep us safe

We are out in the sea now, bobbing along the waves, I remember a time when we went as a family to a river, a sunny day when the children paddled and we smiled so much. I often find myself remembering and imagining, putting myself back into the happy times.  It helps a bit.

The darkness of the night seems kinder out here, it envelops our craft and offers an anonymity,  I am sure that all will be well.

I have heard the stories of how kindness will meet us on the beach, how we will be fed and clothed and safe.  Safe is all I need.  The boys are relaxing, this is one more adventure for them, tears have gone, now there are smiles, unless you look into their eyes. As their mother I know how the pain they have seen is reflected in their eyes.  I weep for their lost childhood, for their sorrow and most of all because I couldn’t change anything.

We are nearing the shore now, men are shouting, lights are flashing, it seems we are heading for the wrong beach. I reach to grab the boys trying to pull them closer to me, they are too far away. The boat rocks, the people on the other side are shouting, someone stands up, there is more rocking, the waves are crashing and suddenly we are not safe. Still not safe.

I watch in horror as people start to jump into the water, I sit frozen to my seat, holding the baby and the only bag I have left, I don’t have enough arms for all my children.  I call out, too late they have jumped together, of course they have, they do everything together. I cannot see them in the dark water.

A pain I didn’t know I could feel hits me, I cling to the baby, we have come through so much together, walked so far, and now just minutes from safety I have lost them.  I need to leave the boat, but I have the baby, it is cold, so very cold, but I have to find my boys.  I lower myself into the water, thankfully it is not deep I can stand, just about, I hold the baby high, she won’t survive the cold water. My bag is still on my back and I can hear my boys, they are calling me.  I fall over into the water and suddenly I cannot breathe, everything is wet and cold.  I stand and fall again, then suddenly strong arms are holding me, they reach for the baby I hold on tight.  Together we reach the shore.  We reach safety.

Around me it is chaos, there are screams and tears, but there is hope, we have blankets put around us, the baby cries, she lives, I am thankful.  I still can’t see my boys, but I have faith they are here and safe.

Later, much later, there will be a bus and a camp and I have hope that we will be helped. My boys find me and I hold them so tight I fear I will never let them go.  We are the lucky ones, we have made it through hell and have found freedom.  Nothing can ever be as bad as it has been. My boys will not have to fight in an unwinnable war, my baby girl will not be used and abused.  I have done it.  I am Mother and I have brought my children to safety.

Sometimes I think about our other life, where our home was beautiful, where my babies were born, and they slept in their own beds, with toys around, where they squabbled and played and learned to read, the house where their Daddy and I lived a life so wonderful. We had love and friendship and we didn’t know, we just didn’t know how wonderful it was until everything changed.

I know we will never see their Daddy again, my strong and handsome husband is no more.  He is with me in spirit, in my heart and he is proud of me.  Proud that I have done this, I have brought our babies to safety. Nothing else matters.




on the year of change

When I look back at the year just ending there will be so many things to reflect on.  Watching my gorgeous Granddaughter change from baby to toddler, taking her first steps and finding her voice.  Delighting in every stage, we simply could not love her more.  Taking equal pride in her Mum and Dad, who have come through tough times, now more positive than ever, they are an amazing team.

A summer spent in a Welsh garden, nestling in the hills, our own little bit of paradise.  We were joined this year by friends and family, creating happy memories of fun in the sunshine.  We built a shed, we planted and watched the flowers bloom.  We laughed here, perhaps more than I ever have before.  Getting to know new friends, joining neighbours for Pimms and beer, swapping stories and finding shared interests.

Waving my daughter off on her adventures, hoping that the world will love her as much as I do was tricky, but then finding to my delight that she makes friends easily and is living in the moment every day.  I couldn’t ask for more for her than what she wishes for herself.  Her spirit, her sense of fun and her friendliness equips her well wherever she chooses to be.

In the middle of family life I was beginning to feel a bit rootless, wondering what I should be doing with myself and how I could find my own place in the world again.  Social media brought new friends, people from across the world and I have loved getting to know these people, talking often, sometimes too often.

Then came the end of the summer and with it news of the refugee’s walking across Europe in search of a new normality,  their homes destroyed and lives threatened they set off to in hope towards a new life. Shocking images leapt into the living room and were not forgotten. They are not forgotten yet.  It took me weeks to work out if there was anything I could do to help them on their journey, but once I worked it out a whole world I had never imagined lay before me.

Once I saw into this world there was no going back.  In the midst of helplessness and despair there was one amazing focus.  There are lots of people, just like me, coming together to help.  All my life I have wanted to change the world, this year was the year I worked out how to do it!  I know whatever I do, here in England may not change very much for very many, but there are hundreds of people just like me, everywhere, and together we are changing things.

I understand that we cannot stop bombing and war, that some people will continue to hate, and there will sadly be many more babies dying in the seas.  But the wonderful network of people across the world and especially within Europe are making a difference every day.  The small acts of kindness together are comforting those on the journey.  A new pair of shoes, a warm coat, a kind word and food in the belly.  All provided with love and care from strangers, some of whom are now amongst my dearest friends. The strong and brave people who put their lives on hold and give time and love to those arriving on the shores of Europe, guiding boats into safe beaches, treating the sick, feeding the crowds.

So in a year when so many governments across the world turned away from those in need, when the mega force of media magnates raged against people who happened to live and love in a place of war, when my country inexplicitly elected politicians that were never going to care about anyone but themselves,  where we could have given up hope, we didn’t.  Instead we got off our sofas and did something, and this alone meant that we were joined with many more people who also did the same.

As we leave this year behind and move into 2016 I cannot help but think that 2015 will be remembered forever as the year the world began to change.  The year that ordinary people worked together in spite of governments, in spite of people telling them it was hopeless.  A wave of hope and friendship was forged, where it no longer was enough to give a bit of cash to an appeal, when people power was harnessed and help was offered.

As I watched my Granddaughter this afternoon, working out her world, laughing and playing, safe, loved, warm and well, a part of my heart was lost to all the other toddlers, the Mums and Dads, the Nana’s and Pop’s who love as passionately as I do, to the people still walking towards safety, those sleeping in tents in the snow and the children playing in the mud in a camp. I hope they know ordinary people are coming to help them, that we care and we will not longer leave it up to someone else.

I start this new year in a positive yet reflective mood.  I have hope that the human race may yet be won with kindness and love, and that we will all choose to offer the hand of friendship to others.  I understand I am the luckiest of people, I have all that I need and most of what I want.  May 2016 be kind to you all.

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 Dads

today as every Fathers Day my social media is full of loving messages for lots of Fathers.  Some are yet to be Dads, some are young parents, some are old and some not here any more.  No matter, the love is there to see all over the page.

As a woman and a Mother I have always wondered what it must feel like to be a Dad.  For my relationship with all four of my children started long before I met them in person.  From the early stirrings of butterfly kicks to the uncomfortable wriggling of twins, I knew my children were there.  I would talk to them, and loved lying in a warm bath and watching them wriggle.  I was blessed.  Dads just can’t do that.

When Dads meet their children for the first time it must be a massive leap for their emotions.  If they are lucky to be there for the first seconds of life the bond of love must leap from the first cry straight into their hearts.  The connection a Mother has is broken at birth, soon to be re established over the coming days, weeks and years.  I do wonder how if feels to be a Dad.

When my darling granddaughter was born, my son, beaming and smiling just minutes after meeting his daughter was in a dreamlike state.  Lack of sleep and emotions of love across his face.  I told him I loved him and he replied, ‘today I know just how much you do love me Mum’ the memory makes me cry even now.

So, to all the Dads out there, and all the men who love our children, to all the men that made us the women we are and to all the blokes who support and love their family every day, today is your day.

There used to be a saying that went ‘behind every great man is a woman’ I think there is some truth in that.  I also think that alongside many great women are the Dads, the husbands and the partners that believe in you, support you and love you.

Today I celebrate the marvellous men out there, just going about everyday, being annoying, getting things wrong and relying on us women.  The men who get up every morning and go to work to earn money to support a family.  The men who hold our hands and our hearts and the Dads who made us who we are today.