Monday, 19 September 2011

Celebrating Getting Wet

19th September 2011

I’m looking at our wedding photos scattered on my desk - twenty five years next week. My bouquet is pink - it matches the colour of my new husband’s shirt. My two nephews and one niece are our page boys and bridesmaid. My other niece is only just walking. She calls us ‘Bobbin and That Lady.’

On Saturday our eldest pageboy hosted our Silver Anniversary party - he now has a son of his own and his brother has just got engaged. Our bridesmaid shares the date of our wedding - her three years to our twenty five. They all come and celebrate us, remember us - my big beloved family - who sustain me like a deep underground well that never runs dry.

So when I think I am abandoning my husband by my endless busyness, when I think he’s abandoning me by losing his words - I can see the silly story I made up long ago. The one that keeps me apart from the fountain of love which is always there - if only I could remember to get wet. On Saturday my family reminded me - all day we feasted on Spanish Tapas, chocolate cake, champagne and laughing, holding the baby, holding hands - and I splashed in the water....

Last blog for a while - we are going on holiday to the high mountains of Madeira......

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Ten Minute Blog

15th September 2011 Thursday

A ten minute blog......

Morning lemon and ginger tea and lovely talk with a dear friend - she brings chocolate brownies and lemon drizzle cake. My husband and I throw all diets out of the window and share them after a late supper tonight on the sofa watching Billy Connolley eat an enormous slice of peach pie and ice cream in his programme about Atlanta.

Solitary salad lunch in the garden in hot September sunshine. I take a long time to savour every mouthful of sweet ripe tomato and tight curled little gem lettuce. Someone is creosoting their fence, the smell stinging my nostrils. I’m happy my husband is out walking in woods with a dear friend. I know he’ll be loving it.

My father says,

‘Do you notice anything different about me?’

Luckily I see he is wearing new glasses - bifocals.

‘But it’s still hard to read,’ he says.

Macular degeneration kicking in then.....

Tonight we sit in a big circle of friends and before we start the music to meditate by, we laugh about the end of the world coming on 26th September - someone’s prediction of our planet colliding with another one which has been heading our way for centuries.

I hope it’s not true - I feel there is more still to do - more life to love...

Well, it was a bit more than ten minutes....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Missing Him

14th September 2011 Wednesday

Today I wanted to give myself up to the long curves of Dartmoor under a blue and white sky. I wanted her noisy brown rivers to drown out the racket in my head. I longed to bask in the open hearted company of our dear friends as we walked her sharp stoned paths. I wished I could let the gales of laughing blow away my jealousy and my shame.

I’m jealous of anyone who I think is normal. Ashamed that I think my husband isn’t. Afraid I’m losing sight of him - my eyes and ears always on alert now for that word that eludes him - making him smaller than he is.

I’m just really missing him.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Prickly as Brambles

13th September 2011

Early morning hot chocolate with a dear friend in town to fortify me for my shopping mission. I’m on the hunt for a long or short outer garment in navy to wear with a dress I already have for a smart evening dinner next week - a farewell do for my husband from his company. My friend says she can lend me a lacy cardi which is a relief as my expedition is fruitless - I will have to take back the two drapey things I bought as they look all wrong with the dress.

I always feel anxious about these sort of events - hate being (semi) centre of attention. Stressing about the outfit is just a distraction from the dread of it all.

My husband takes me and my new haircut out to lunch at Wagamama’s - I pick out all the spring onions in my crispy noodle salad with my chop sticks and add them to his plate. I miss a few and I’m left with strong onion breath all afternoon. Afterwards we walk and talk in our local park, the blackberries and sloes all out of reach on their prickly branches, bending in the wind.

I ask my husband if he feels any different - it’s the third week of his exclusion diet. He says he doesn’t - apart from having lost some weight. I ask him if he has any plans for his life now that he has what he wants - time to create. He says not really - he’s still feels resentful about the ending of his career - pushed out, demoted. Lost. So he looks at the sky instead and says aren’t the clouds amazing.

I feel a bit lost myself and as prickly as the brambles. I find no consolation in clouds.

I can see that getting used to our new situation is not the same as accepting it. You can get used to walking with a stone in your shoe. But it still hurts.

Tonight driving back along the M5 from a DVD night with two delicious women I follow the path of the full moon - a silver scrying bowl swirled with crystal tears.

Monday, 12 September 2011


12th September 2011 Monday

Late this afternoon I peel apples, sitting on the patio wall - my bare feet planted in the wet grass - the sun hot on my hair. I watch an earth worm inching and hitching its way through the weeds and dandelions following the curve of the bricks. I’m transfixed by the ringed ripples of its pale supple body. Behind me in the kitchen I can smell the pots boiling on the hob - sharp pungent chutney, earthy beetroot, beany borlotti beans and in the oven - sweet red tomatoes roasting with basil. Today I can love this September bounty instead of feeling burdened by it.

Last night, after my dear cousins had left, I watched a clip of Joan Halifax - an inspirational Buddhist teacher who works with people in the last stages of life - talking about compassion. She said to be able to accompany another in their suffering you cannot be attached to the outcome - that you need a strong back and a soft front - resilient but your heart undefended. I have noticed how for me old and present fears have made me rigid, tight - like the pain in my back - which keeps me upright but not very bendy, not very receptive. Maybe I could learn a lot from that earth worm.....

The link for Joan Halifax is

Thursday, 8 September 2011


8th September 2011 Thursday

Didn’t stop and listen to the birds chattering in the garden today.

Didn’t take my cup of tea into the sunshine on the patio.

Didn’t write the thank you card to my father that I planned to.

Burned the bottom of three saucepans - cooking green tomato chutney, apples and blackberries.

Ate too much toasted coconut granola.

Snapped at my husband for buying potato crisps with Monosodium glutamate in them.

Forgot to be grateful for my life.

So I'm remembering now before it's too late and today turns into tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Chutney Night

7th September 2011 Wednesday

I break a recent habit of catapulting myself headlong into my morning and instead I sit back to back with my husband on the carpet in our bedroom, and we breathe together - just for a little while. And I feel supported and not crushed. So my day starts from a softer, calmer place.

This afternoon, in Sidmouth Garden Cente restaurant I join the residents of my father’s Abbeyfield home. They are having a cream tea outing. I sit next to an amazing old man who is a hundred and one years old. He plays scrabble with my father every Thursday afternoon and says he nearly always wins. He left school at fourteen and has never been beyond the Isle of Wight. I remind him of one of his daughters who is a retired dentist. But he doesn’t say how we are similar. He is lucid and bright and charming.

Tonight when it’s already late - the washing machine is still churning, the hessian bags on the kitchen floor are still full of Sainsbury’s shopping, my emails are unopened, the lunch soup bowls are unwashed and supper is unthought of - I start chopping a mountain of pale, hard green tomatoes. My husband takes on the peeling of the apples and the slicing of the chillis and the crushing of the garlic. I weigh out the sugar and the sultanas, the onions and the coriander seeds. They aren’t in the recipe but I throw in big handfuls of frozen redcurrants. And soon the house smells sweet and sharp - two cauldrons of bubbling chutney on the stove

Catapulting me into Christmas.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

What's Good for Me?

6th September 2011 Tuesday

My father sends me a sweet card - a black button eyed baby seal on the front - encouraging me to keep on writing. His words make me cry - his belief in me, that it’s all worth doing, that he cares..... Especially as tonight I feel empty of words.

My sister comes and whisks through my toppling in-trays with wonderful lightness - creating simplicity and order out of my paper chaos. I’m glad to be warm inside while our husbands are buffeted about in the gales high above the sea on the cliffs at Branscombe.

I break the two week sweetness ban this evening - the remains of the blackberry and apple crumble from yesterday’s lunch - such a glorious syrupy claret red - calls to me from the fridge and I accept the invitation. But I still feel guilty. I’ve been struggling with this free from everything I love diet. I’m doing it to support my husband - but as a dear friend said it doesn’t help him if you are resentful. I’m trying to disentangle what’s good for him and what’s good for me - not always the same thing.

Now the wind is rattling my sash window, sneaking in through the casement gaps, making the curtains billow out and blowing round my ankles. Long, light summer nights forgotten in this September howling.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Underwater Stories

5th September 2011 Monday

Late this afternoon we walk along the quay path following the river Exe with my husband’s family. We stop to watch a skein of swans flying into a low sun. I’m talking to his seven year old niece about the stories she writes. I ask her where she gets her ideas from. She says,

‘Well, I call them my underwater stories because that’s where I get my ideas - when I’m swimming.’

Her father walks with us and says he gets his ideas for tunes and songs when he’s in the shower. Something about the rhythm of the water, the white noise of it blocking out his normal thoughts. And when he walks alone.

I didn’t say it, but I get ideas when I’m washing up. Or ironing. But mostly my head is full of trivia at those times. I’ve been thinking that I’ve lost the art of daydreaming. Or walking alone. Or meditating. Or doing nothing. Actually I’ve never been good at any of those things. But I’m feeling the need now, the impulse - to find a way of clearing a channel in my relentlessly busy life to let some inspiration swim in.

Today I wanted to be one of those swans, hefting myself into the air, curving into the light, with grace in my wings. Leaving the endless white water of the weir behind me.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Apple Day

4th September 2011 Sunday

This morning, under a clean blue sky, we pick the apples - my husband standing on a ladder or climbing up into the tallest branches. Every now and again he shouts,

‘Mind your head,

as another apple thuds onto the ground and splits it’s red skin on the brick path. I reach for the ones on the lower branches and sort and store the bulging plastic carrier bags into shallow boxes in the shed.

They join the stacked trays of garlic and onions. And tonight two more boxes - green tomatoes this time. My husband comes back from the allotment dripping wet and carrying three huge bags. He’s upset and despondent - his tomatoes have blight so he rescued the unripe tomatoes and tried to burn the plants but the rain put an end to it.

I don’t know where we are going to store all the pears, nearly ripe now, dripping from their branches like giant khaki earrings. And there is only so much green tomato and pear chutney you can make.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all this produce clamouring for my attention -

Do something with me quickly before I go rotten.

Yesterday I sat back to back with my husband on a soft carpet. We were surrounded by dear friends also sitting back to back. We were attending a workshop with the beautiful Indian healer, practising a breathing technique. Although our backs were only touching I had the unshakeable sensation of being crushed. Like being pushed to the ground by a ton of hard apples, falling on my life. Burying me.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Toad and the Rabbit

2nd September 2011 Friday

The beautiful Indian healer looks into my eyes and says she can see my pain is trapped in my body. She tells me a story.

There is a toad sitting in a muddy rut in the road. A rabbit, going for a jog, says to him,

Why don’t you come for a run with me?’

The toad says, ‘No thanks, I don’t run, I’m very comfortable in my muddy rut.’

A few minutes later the rabbit is surprised to be overtaken by the toad running like mad.

I thought you said you don’t run,’ he said.

The toad replied, ‘Have you seen that lorry coming up behind us?’

The beautiful Indian healer says, ‘Sometimes if you won’t wake yourself up, life will give you a push. Don’t let the lorry run you down. And remember that nothing is impossible.’

Then she gives me a wonderful massage. And a box of tissues by my elbow to mop up the river of tears that comes with the touch of her silk soft fingers in the rigid rock muscles of my back.

Tonight I lit scented candles and we stayed a long time in the bath. Taking a small step out of the muddy rut.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


1st September 2011 Thursday

No time to re-boil the chutney today.

Instead I’ve been trying to keep the flickering flame of my energy alive. But it keeps going out. I yawn all the way to Glastonbury and fall asleep in the car on the way home. I can feel the sun burning my arm through the windscreen. I find it hard to keep my eyes open driving to see my father ( in my very clean car - polished and hoovered by my lovely husband) even with the windows wound down and Beethoven blaring out.

After our visit to the clinic to check his Warfarin level I sit with my father while he eats my sister’s Victoria plums and two ripe figs. I tell him I’m suffering from his current condition which he calls lassitude. He says.

I’m so glad it’s not just me.’ If it’s two of us then he doesn’t feel so bad.

He tells me about his father and a letter written to his mother by a friend and colleague after he died. This friend said ‘He had the sun in him.’ I’d love to have met him - this shining grandfather of mine. I’d ask him how he kept burning bright - even in the foggy times.

I expect he'd say all the answers are inside me already - just a question of tuning in - with love.