Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Going backwards towards the future

Chester Station
We take the train up to Cheshire where both of us were born and were children and teenagers.  We lived there until we joined the stream of young drawn to London for training and trying out a touch of independent living.  Some stayed, we both did; some returned and continued their lives there, either bringing home new wives met in London or marrying local girls.  We girls, mostly met our future life partners in London and settled there or perhaps in Suffolk or Warwickshire, Oxford or Cambridgeshire, Scotland and Wales.  But looking out of the window of the train as we travel up for the funeral of a fine family friend, we feel the welcome familiarity of the lay out of fields, a rich landscape where Cheshire cows crop the thick grass precursors to what we will enjoy as thick rich  cream and Cheshire cheeses.  As we get off the train at Chester where we are met by an old and most dear friend, one who did return and marry and bring up her family there. We can almost feel or do we imagine what it was like when we were met there by our fathers who have been dead for over 20 years now,  they, still young or as young as we are now, are somehow palpable in our memories now tuned back in to our growing up place.  Of course, it isn't the exactly the same and the cars and the shops and the road layout have all evolved into what we recognise as 2018 but driving along the Chester Road, there are still those deep red sandstone houses and rolling fields which were there when we were driven along to ballet or horse riding or later on to parties at Mollington Banastre, Craxton Wood and the Devon Doorway, tentative teenagers suddenly waking up to romance and meeting boys!  
We are here for a funeral and there are familiar faces, familiar backs of heads in the Church in front of us.  The funeral is for a lady of 96, not so many left of that age so most of those attending are our age and above.  We are handed a card as we go in to record our attendance but we get the feeling that perhaps the undertaker is offering future services to all of us!  We search amongst those in the congregation in front of us for some of our old dance partners!   There are a few there and we have fun chatting to them afterwards about our children and theirs and our grandchildren and theirs.  There are daughters, grandchildren, cousins too, it is their mother and aunt who we are remembering affectionately.  We find that there are 4 of us who went to primary school together, one of them is daughter to the lady being remembered.  She lives in Scotland so returning to Cheshire is the same mixture of thoughts and emotions that it is for us.  We are so pleased to see one another.  It is a chance to remember, literally re form in our minds, that old life, the parents and their aspirations, their lives, shaped by war service and return from the war.  The life shaping what created them was the foundation of the way they brought up families, did charitable works and lived alongside one another, cousins, aunts, friends, all hoping that it would always be peaceful and that life would continue in a kindly trajectory for all of us.  Of course, there are changes in the way we go about things, and changes again in the way our families live, but there is a link which can't be denied and which is as palpable but invisible as the feeling of our fathers being there at Chester Station.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt! says who

None of these allowed
If you have ever had the thought that you wished this oh too too solid flesh would melt a bit, join me! For sure, once you reach the great and honourable age which I am about to reach, along with the years, the oh too too solid flesh also gets added on around the parts of you that used to slip into jeans and bathing costumes, not to mention bikinis.  And it takes more than an hour of meditation every day to take it off.  You wonder why I mention meditation as a way of taking off the pounds which have accrued to your person and you think I must be dotty to even mention meditation alongside weight loss but hey, in my newspaper today, it is claimed that meditation will vastly improve your sex life!  Now, in my very reasonable thinking, meditation is meant to lessen desires, to elevate you to the heights of almost bodiless bliss and not to add impetus to the parts of your life more concerned with sensual pleasure!  
So, here are Grandpa and I meditating away each day and also during Lent, going without crisps, chocolates and alcohol and we should be shedding both the too too solid flesh as well as the things which tie us to it.  But, let me tell you that it takes time to both reduce the body as well as its desires and having added 10,000 steps a day into the wine, chocolate and crisp free existence, the oh too too solid flesh is melting rather slowly.

None of this either

Monday, 12 March 2018

A little about Ruth and a good life

Her name was Ruth.  She died today and she was ready to go.  Let me try to paint a word picture of this woman who was Swiss by birth but found herself, a child, living in Germany at the outbreak of war.  Her older sister was sent home to Switzerland but she, her mother and a younger sister remained whilst her father, a master baker was conscripted into the German army to bake bread for the troops.  They were left living without him just on the border with Russia and that was not an easy place to be.  First Russian troops crossing and pushing lives around in front of them, no care for the women and children trying to find a way to live, trying to find where their father was and if they could just get out and go back to Switzerland, join back up as a family.  The Russian troops weren't kind especially to her mother and to her aunt and that pushed these women to flee them.  Pulling her mother who was weak and ill on a sledge, with her younger sister, Ruth found the way to a repatriation centre and miraculously their father found them there, he had followed their trail. 

She told me all this story some years ago, we had become friends, we shared the same birth date.  This was only the start of her story because she came to England, found work and found a School for adults interested in what were the causes of the fortunes of men and what was behind it all.  She took up meditation and practiced it regularly.  Did she think she was good at it?  Probably not but she was a woman of discipline and she believed it was a good thing.  I think it must have served her well because in the last years of her life she was always bright and cheerful even when unable to do much.

She had a nice home, she had a car, she had friends and everyday she called her two sisters in Switzerland.  First one sister died, then the other developed dementia.  Ruth became disorientated, her sight and hearing began to let her down.  She could no longer drive, no longer study or read and eventually moved from her flat with a few favourite pictures and books to a residential home.  Her friends began to dwindle away for the same reasons, losing independence and some of them dying but there was the good man Bart with a gentle voice and utterly kind who visited her each week, saw to it that the staff looked after her, saw to it that she was supplied with what she needed and read to her from books which meant a lot to her, books of Wisdom and Comfort.  I visited her some months ago and found her resigned and calm, always polite to the nurses and still so nice to me who she probably no longer recognised.  There were plans to move her to a nursing home, she wasn't keen so when we heard that her heart had stopped, we felt that she had made her way to her own home and how well deserved that home is.

There are probably more unsung heroines who braved out times of difficulty and forged a life to be proud of.  It is worth finding out as much as you can about them while they are still around. Their legacy is their steadfastness and courage and kindness.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

A long line of mothers going backwards and forwards.

My grandmother and my father (left)
my grandparents
We hear people arriving for early Church from the Church Cottage bedroom and we zoom out of our pyjamas and brush our hair and whizz out just in time!  The Church is where Grandpa's mother married his father in 1938, so 80 years ago.  We have the photographs; photographs of that time, with the male guests dressed in top hats and their ladies in flowery hats and furs.  The bride is so young, 21 which seems so young today and the bridegroom, with his own aeroplane, so dashing and the one gazing at the other.  The poor bride was taken on honeymoon in the small aeroplane by her dashing husband and was promptly sick into his boots.  She was a mother within a year and then it wasn't long until the war broke out and time together was limited by his postings.  Another baby, Grandpa arrives, the war ends and life goes on.  
Your great grandfather. the dashing groom
The Bride
On Mother's day we think of all mothers, especially the ones who mothered us and who aren't around any longer.  We think of new mothers as well and are amazed at how extraordinary all mothering is.  Mother is the word which arrives with the child and we get to pin that word to our heart for all the years of mothering and with it we get the package which contains all the love and patience needed until the child grows up and grows beyond us and then we pass the word on to the next generation of mothers.  We have just been one in a line of mothers and we honour all those, behind and in front of us and wish them all well.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Taking small steps!

walking with babies and children

Thanks to those kind people who have sponsored me already to walk the 10,000 steps.  March is the beginning of the challenge and March is tomorrow.  I need sponsors to shame me into making sure that I do those steps.  You can be one if you follow THIS LINK.

Rising from my accustomed idleness towards the goal of 10,000 steps, I find (thanks Rachel) that there is an app with a heart which tells me how many footsteps I have taken each day.  About 4000 does the dog walk once, 2000 is round the house and up and down the stairs and then there are the very teeny tiny small steps I take attached to the once teeny tiny now nearly walking baby who is back for a short stay because her mother has the flu.  I realise that meditation is not physical exercise and nor is tapping away on the computer and that both those non-activity activities haven't prepared me for doubling my daily walk.  Even if I take very small steps on the dog walk, it doesn't add much so I realise I just have to double the effort.
Walking round and round the kitchen with the about to be walking baby gets easier as she gets taller because I don't have to lean over so far.  It is a most interesting thing watching a baby grow up.  We are excited by each new step, thrilled when she pulls herself up but then realise that shortly all the kitchen cupboards will need to be made Bea proof.  I am thinking as I walk round the kitchen and up and down the hall with those small fingers tightly gripping mine that before long, she will be off, she will be walking around by herself.  And then she will be walking out of the front door attached to a hand and eventually she will be out of that door, will have passed her driving test and be waving us all goodbye as she takes 
off to University and then into life and perhaps off to foreign lands.  When you are in the midst of rice cakes and broken nights you can't imagine the day when that baby who seemed to actually belong to you, has taken her or himself off into his or her own life.  It is partly a triumph and partly a rather sad part of being a mother or grandmother.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Ray-zing money for nurses because of the three times free Ray

Watching the last few weeks of a life highlights important things.  One of them is good nursing.  There is nothing like a good nurse with the relevant skills to relieve pain, to give confidence and comfort and to work with the person and the person's family.  If that person knows that their body isn't going to dominate and pain cloud the mind, they can begin to move in their own way towards the exit gate.  Now that requires love and skill.

 Without nursing in place, finding the exit gate can be a horrid horrid experience for the person going that way and for their family and friends.  Our three times free friend, Raymond got the best of nursing at the end but it had to be fought for because this service is strapped for nurses and strapped for cash.  He was able to be just where he wanted to be and it meant his family who had walked the steps of his illness up to then could confidently keep him company without being overwhelmed by unnecessary anguish, his or theirs.

Its a daffodil walk in March
But nurses are in short supply and good nurses need to be trained.  People who have nursing within them, need to be encouraged that this is a great great career even if it isn't the best paid job in the world.  It is great because it allows great love to flow naturally and that doesn't happen in every job.  Other professions require different qualities but good and loving nurses and doctors are what makes the difference to a person in pain or fearful.

So, I am going to walk 10,000 steps a day through March which doesn't sound too bad does it?  It is also lucky for the dogs and lucky for me who currently am far from fit and far from thin.  I am doing it because Marie Curie promises to give more people the sort of care which makes the difference but they need the money to do it.   I am also doing it because I saw what a difference it made to Ray and to all his family.  I also saw how pressed the services are to provide it and that they need all the support they can give.  If you would like to help me raise enough money to fund a nurse, go to the just giving page.  I will do my very best to walk and will be hugely encouraged by support.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Forgetting the birthday PRESENT

What a lot of parcels there are!

Oh Benji, Whoops, we forgot that today you were going to be all of 3 years old.  We  shouldn't have forgotten because your name is on the list on the back of the kitchen door.  There are 3 February birthdays in our family whose names are on that list and each one of you is presentless or more or less presentless.  I expect wherever each of you were when your birthday dawned, those kind people who were present presented their presents, those not present had a bit more difficulty getting their gift through to you.  One lot of birthday chocolates are currently still impounded in Indonesia or may have been eaten by the customs officers!  

We are a bit wary of sending things which may not reach the person with the birthday.  But being our sort of age, we seldom look at what date it is and consequently forgetting important dates happens.  We are building up a huge stack of presents here for the time when those who can,  come and collect them, some will be birthday, some will be Christmas but they will be telling you that we may forget the dates but we never forget the birthday boys and girls.