Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Random Summer Moments

22nd August 2012 Wednesday

Random moments from today....

I’m wandering the isles of B&Q looking for a new shower head.  I’m distracted by lovely luminous wall tiles and dream about re-vamping the bathroom which is getting tired and tatty....

I finish reading ‘The Ten Things to Do WhenYour Life Falls Apart” by Daphne Rose Kingma. One chapter is about simplyfying your life. She says ‘What are 10 things you could get rid of immediately? I can think of a few.  And  ‘Can you commit to getting rid of 10 things every week?’ Yes.....

All the recent photographs on my computer get in a horrible muddle when I try and burn them onto a CD.
Photos - definitely something to de-clutter....

I was going to tackle the ironing pile but instead watch the contestants on Celebrity Master Chef make a bit of a hash of their Tart Tatins ......

This evening while the sun shines onto the kitchen counter and the wind whisks the tea towels off the rails, I  cook Tomatoes and Beans and Garlic  - my favourite  Mediterranean summer standby recipe - using purple and lime green allotment beans. I roast aubergines and peppers too - trying to empty the fridge for going away on Friday for a week......

My husband is sad tonight. He couldn’t understand the film we tried to watch. I found the strong Southern American accents hard to follow as well but he disappears into a spiral of loss....

At lunch today he said that sometimes he feels criticised in my blog but doesn’t want me to stop writing I feel sad I’ve hurt his feelings.....

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New School

21st August 2012 Tuesday

Early this morning I cook a batch of Banana Blueberry Muffins for my husband’s family visiting us from their week’s holiday home in Exmouth. His eleven year old nephew calls them Nanaban Muffberry Bluebins and even knows it a double Spoonerism. I haven’t quite got a handle on muffins though - these aren’t as tender feather light as I hoped - but they all disappear anyway.

We take them on a winding discovery trail through deep pine smelling woods - courtesy of The Forestry Commission which provides wonderful things to see and do and play with along the way like a giant hanging Xylophone to bash and a rope climbing frame and swinging hammock. We aren’t alone and  keep stopping for whole familes on mountain bikes to pass us by. 

Life with children....I see how it expands - and also narrows - your horizons. How your focus is naturally different. And always segueing to the next stage. In two weeks time this young man will start at a new school - leaving behind his sister and parents  -  dramatically changing the way their lives have been unfolding up to this point.....

Feels like I’m starting at a new school too  - the school of how to do it differently when the crying stops....or rather how to be when the busyness stops....I'd like it to be a school in the woods with lots of signposts  on the trees saying 'This Way'......and  on hot days, benches in the shade to sit on and  on cold days places where you can sip steaming mugs of hot chocolate when it all feels like too much.....

Monday, 20 August 2012

Stepping Stones

20th August 2012 Monday

Spikey yellow gorse, bright mauve bell heather thrown all over the hillside like a Kaffe Fassett cushion cover. We are walking high up on a ridge - can’t see it through the blanket of trees but can hear the River Dart rushing along below. The sun in a blue and white sky is burning my neck. 

Looks like I’m just walking along a path with my husband on a late summer morning - we could be middle aged holidaymakers on Dartmoor. But actually I’m practising a silent surrendering with each step. I gave up my mostly home-alone plans today when my husband’s day out was cancelled. This walk is my suggestion.

So I guess letting go of something cherished means being willing to let in something unknown - like the possibility of joy. Like today by the river, holding my husband’s hand while we jump over stepping stones in the clear rust red water to reach the  bank on the other side. Not worrying about getting my shoes wet. One surrendered foot in front of the other.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lost Love

19th August 2012 Sunday

A hot restless night, lying awake at 4am and then a haunting dream which stays with me - flitting in and out of my day like a will-o-the-wisp.....a Brief Encounter, lost love kind of dream. It leaves me in a ‘I want to be alone, Greta Garbo’ mood all day - luckliy our planned trip to see my husband’s family in Exmouth is postponed.

I feed spinach leaves, carrots, celery, ginger root, lemons, apples, peppers and cucumber through the funnel of the juicer and then blend it with avocado and spirulina powder to make a murky but sparky glass of breakfast. I drink it slowly while my husband slathers plum jam onto his croissants - or courgettes as he calls them.

By mid afternoon I’m hungry but we drive out to Killerton House for a walk. Too many people for me and children and dogs and cars. My husband buys a big vanilla ice cream cone and I decline his offer of a lick - wanting to keep up my semi- fasting day.  I feel grumpy and thwarted when we can’t walk round the grounds of the house without paying  -  it’s a National Trust property so fair enough -  and we take a tussocky route through a field full of cows and their poo instead. We pass by a game of cricket - the men in their whites, the spectators clapping, the sound of the ball thwacking the bat taking me back to my schoolgirl summers in Oxford....and my first love.

All the windows are open in the house but the air is sticky and still. Later we have a bowl of last night’s supper re-heated and a game of scrabble while the pussy cat curls between us on the sofa, dreaming -  a small soft pillow of bones.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Supper Party

18th August 2012 Saturday

Our dear supper guests have just left.  Shoes kicked off, we’ve been clearing up the kitchen, putting away the leftovers in the fridge, nibbling on Waitrose Chocolate Mint Thins even though I’m completely stuffed.

It’s been sultry hot and overcast all day. Windows and doors thrown open I have to cover the food immediatley I make another dish to stop the black flies landing on it. This afternoon my husband and I sit sweating in the garden shelling peas, and rubbing the muddy, papery skins off the garlic bulbs which have been drying out in the shed.

The pussy cat has been around me all day, awake when he’s usually sleeping. He was sick this morning. I have decided to stop the krill oil/superfood ordeal even though he’s only eating enough to keep a mouse alive. But then they say the less you eat the longer you live.....

This was our supper party tonight:

 A Portuguese Fish stew  - chunks of haddock and salmon in a rich tomato sauce( made with huge orange brandywine tomatoes) spiked with hot paprika....
A garlicky Rouille/green sauce made with basil and parsley....
Roasted aubergines, peppers and courgettes......
Waxy red skinned potatoes -  plain boiled to mash into the fishy stew....
Purple beans, peas and spinach tossed in coconut oil......

And for afters:

An Orange Cardamon Polenta cake glazed with rosewater and honey ( left over from supper with my husband’s aunty and her lovely Armenian family on Monday)....
A Parfait ice cream rippled with blackcurrants....
and a blackberry compote.....

No wonder I’m getting fat.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Talking Money and Syringe Despair

17th August 2012  Friday

In town this morning we bump into four different dear friends, outside the bank, in the Boston Tea Party, at the library. A lovely unexpected pleasure - makes me feel I belong in my city.

We take my husband’s driving licence into the bank to prove he is who he says he is. Realise that from now on I must have a copy of his security details so that I can access our accounts too - I can’t just leave it to him now -  all our money stuff. He used to do it all -  just give me a letter and say ‘Sign here.’

He has just had notification of a ginormous tax bill which we have to pay in January.  We talk about money on and off all day - on squashy sofas in the BTP, eating our avocado and tomato brushetta for lunch, walking along a forest path in and out of the sun, picking sweet peas at the allotment. We don’t decide anything but the conversation hangs in the humid air around us like damp washing.

Trying to get the syringe of fishy liquid into the pussy cat, after three attempts, leaves me in tears - it squirts all over the blanket and I’m afraid I’ve hurt his mouth. Later I mix it up with some natural yogurt and he takes a few licks. He doesn’t eat any of the four different kinds of cat food I tempt him with. I have to keep remembering to trust him. He’s getting thinner as I get fatter.

Tonight the kitchen counter is piled high with giant spinach leaves, purple beans, yellow beans, green beans, bulging pea pods, black radishes, a few cherry tomatoes and a bag of crinkled neroli cabbage.  It’s late and inspiration and energy for cooking desert me. So I put it all away in the fridge and my lovely husband goes out for fish and chips instead.  We watch Puss in Boots on a DVD with our own skinny puss curled beside me, breathing in and out to his own private rhythm. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Offers of Umbrellas

16th August 2012 Thursday

This morning in Marks and Specer’s every top I try on the sleeves are too tight. Did my arms suddenly get fatter?

This afternoon I meet a dear friend and her bright-eyed, elegant mother for a proper tea at the Welcome Inn on the Quay. We sit in the walled garden surrounded by tubs of geraniums and trailing lobelia and tuck into fat cheese scones with homemade chutney. We are half way through warm apple and frangipan tart with a dollop of vanilla icecream, yellow as butter, when the sky suddenly turns steely grey and in seconds we and our tarts are drenched in a spattery cold downpour. We are rescued by the lovely staff with open umbrellas and dry out inside with another pot of fresh tea. 

This evening I make another attempt to squirt a syringeful of diluted superfood (a grey green powder) and krill oil ( orange, fishy smelling drops) into the pussy cat’s mouth. Yesterday my sister held him swaddled in a soft purple fleece while I tried to insert the plastic syringe between his canines. Most of it landed on her arm and the blanket and straight out of the other side of his mouth. He didn’t seem too distressed though.

This time my husband holds him in the fleece and most of the liquid dribbles out of his mouth,and sticks to his chin.  He escapes into the garden and sits in the rain licking his fur and looks at me reproachfully. Now he smells like an old deep sea fishing boat. I’m going to buy a bigger syringe tomorrow. I wish I could tell him it’s to make him feel better.

Tonight we reach another scary stage in this journey as my husband’s word loss bites into a big area I’ve been avoiding - our money. The bank where we have our mortgage calls him. He doesn’t recognise the name, thinks it might be a scam, says he hasn’t got an account with them. I tell him who they are. He rings them back but tomorrow he needs to take ID into the bank to prove he is who he says or they won’t let him access the account.

One step at a time. This one feels like wading into the rapids......waterfall ahead ......but I'm praying for offers of umbrellas.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Field of Opium Poppies

 15th August 2012 Wednesday

After the wedding.....

A sense of anticlimax - hard to say goodbye to my family travelling back to their lives in other cities, other countries after our gathering together  - fluttering moths round the flames of our newly weds....

Monday  - I consult  a lovely psychic, intuitive woman. I ask her,

What’s it all for - this brain disease?   For my husband and for me? How do I need to be in this new circumstance? It can’t just be to suffer.’

She says -  stay with the feelings of loss and rage and don’t supress are much stronger than you realise and you only have to deal with each stage as it comes along, you have the resources already....the gift he has given you is that it is a slow process - you didn’t lose him all in one fell swoop and there is time to adjust....he is offering you the chance to learn to surrender and find your own power.... 

he must go through this journey in his own way - and he is doing it very gracefully already, he’s not fighting it, as he  gradually peels back to the essence of in the present, living from his heart....without words....

I think there will be - there is already -  lots of horrible practical difficult stuff to deal with but she confirms for me that there is a wide field of opium poppies somewhere, hidden in this steep and rocky landscape -  and waiting for me  - each  open gossamer petal a fragile gift of healing for both of us.....

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Snapshots at a Wedding

14th August 2012 Tuesday

Snapshots at a wedding......

My sweet nephew and his beautiful bride standing at the altar in the church full of morning light - the church in Plymouth that my father helped to save from burning down during the war  -  saying their vows and smiling and smiling at each other like twin stars.....

Standing on the steps of the Guild Hall in the circle of my family waiting for the bride and groom to arrive..... our women -  bright birds of Paradise, their skirts swirling in the wind, our men alongside us -  dark suited storks holding champagne flutes....

and my little great nephew in the arms of his grandma playing with her necklace, his forehead burning with temperature......

Putting my hand on the firm round tummy of my neice and feeling her baby move inside her  - a tiny nudge, a dolphin wave from her safe warm world.....

Much later, when the sun has gone down, riding alone in a taxi, leaving my husband sleeping in the hotel, leaving my anger and guilt and grief behind, trusting he will be safe, going back to the music and the dancing at the wedding.....

You are a party girl, then,’ says the taxi driver. No. It’s just that I crave the dear company of my family - wanting to prolong this unique day that we we’ll never have again......

The day I realised that in the ending of how it has been with my husband something new can grow out of that a baby coming....but not till she’s ripe.......

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Only Way Out

9th August 2012 Thursday

We arrive early at the Tribunal  - my husand and I and our dear moral support friend. It’s boiling hot.

The man behind the desk says they are running late.

I ask how late.

He says the clerk will come and talk to us.

When she comes and says they have cancelled our Tribunal I find myself in tears. She says she’s really sorry, they will send us another date and she’d like to give me hug but she isn’t allowed to.

All I can think is ‘I don’t want to go through this again.’

My friend and I sit on a shady bench outside the offices and I cry some more while my husband takes a calll on his phone. When I ask him who it was he says some company he doesn’t know and puts the phone down, although their name is familiar to him..... 

They are your accountants,’ I say. They have been for the last 20 years. So he calls them back.

I feel better after a Salad Nicoise lunch at Carluccios. And as my friend says we don’t know the reason the tribunal was cancelled but it probably means it will turn out better the next time.

And of course it isn’t really about this tribunal at all - all this grief. It’s just been a distraction from the realisation that my life as I’ve known it is over now. And I’ve been trying to cling on to my old life imagining I can just include my husband’s communication problems as a sort of minor detail. When actually a whole new strategy is called for. Starting with letting go of the how it was, how it could have been....

As as my big sister reminds me on the phone - ‘The only way out is through’.  Not backwards.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Ants and Cakes and Kittens

8th August 2012 Wednesday

It’s a good job we went to find the place where the Tribunal is going to be tomorrow. Actually in a lovely quiet complex of buildings surrounded by trees. Not at the more intimidating Law Courts. We deliver the GP letter that got missed out of the original documents when they were faxed. It may be too late but I don’t mind any more. About any of it. Whatever the outcome I just want to have my life back without this looming thing gnawing away in my head like ants building a nest - their tunnels reaching further and further into my being.....

It’s unbearably hot and sticky in town - especially as I have my cagoule slung round my waist - it was raining when we set out this morning. I know he doesn’t need it but I buy my husband a new shirt to wear for the wedding.

Wonderful to have an afternoon of baking - whisking up vanilla meringues, sieving blackcurrants for the parfait, squeezing lemons for the cake. In my ideal world I would devote all afternoons to baking and recipe-reading, spoon-licking and wafting sweet aromas around the kitchen.

Tonight I am introduced to our next door neighbour’s new kitten - only eleven weeks old -  a silver and white tabby mysteriously called Tiger. Her tiny white paws are pristine and she wriggles and purrs in her owner’s arms - so full of verve and bounce. I remember when our pussy cat was like that -  and to misquote A A Milne’s poem about Pinkle Purr and Tattoo
a little silky nothing of feet and fur.’

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Day Off

7th August 2012 Tuesday 

A day off. We drive through spattering rain to the beautiful cathedral city of Wells.

The last time we were in Wells was the day after my nephew’s wedding. We bought shoes that day. I want to buy another pair today to wear at his brother's wedding on Saturday. My husband wants to absorb the cathedral. Perfect compromise - we split up and rendevous later for a walk round the moat of the Bishop’s Palace, passing giant white plaster models of swans, huge beech trees and ducks skidding in from the sky, landing between the water lillies.

They have nearly run out of food at The Good Earth restaurant but manage to scrape out a small bowl of salad for me and a slice of Brie quiche for my husband. We fill up on sweet strawberries and fat glossy black cherries from the market stall by the car park and drive home in more spitting rain.

Home to the pussy cat who is so quiet these days he doesn’t come and greet us like he used to, running down the stairs. So I go and find him - this time in the garden crouched under the patio table, his bones all knobbly under his fur.

The first peas and pale lime green beans for supper. The slugs have eaten all the basil so it’s parsley and mint chopped up to dress the new potatoes. We watch a late film  -  The Day After Tomorrow about an ice storm destroying New York - a climate change drama. Unusually my husband stays to the end. He recognises the Statue of Liberty in New York because we have been there. But he won’t remember the name of the place we visted today.

No days off for words flying away forever - like ducks into the clouds.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Oozing Away

6th August 2012

We sit at the kitchen table and I read out loud the letter for the tribunal - written by our lovely  CAB  woman - setting out the case for my husband’s appeal. So he’ll know what questions they are likely to ask him.

When I read ‘......the difficulties I have are to do with my frontal cortex degenerating’ he says,

‘I don’t know what that means.’

When I explain degenerative he seems surprised, upset - as if he didn’t realise his condition is likely to get worse. Except they said that from the beginning. Did he just forget?

He gets more and more miserable the more I read, so we leave the papers on the table and take a long walk by the river. He cheers up in the clean open space of the water meadows and even talks about the possibility of painting the clouds.

My version of cloud painting is to cook. I cut carrots, beetroots, potatoes, red onions and elephant garlic into wedges and roast them olive oil. We eat them with allotment beans and spinach sprinkled with walnuts and green herb dressing. I let the tribunal letter ooze away into the air of my fragrant kitchen.

Later I’m inspired by a Horizon programme about diet and fasting and aging - including an interview with a hundred and one year old man who ran the London Marathon in seven and a half hours and who only eats child sized portions of Punjabi food.

I think I need to do more exercise......and eat like a mouse....

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sweet Pea Tears

5th August 2012
This afternoon my husband brings rain-dropped flowers from the allotmemt -  bunches of sweet peas - soft pastel pinks and mauves, gladioli stems the colour of butter, violet heads of buddleia and tangerine orange marigolds.  On Friday his old school friend came to stay bringing a delicate spray of deep purple and red and magenta sweetpeas. And on the table already another vase  - crocosmia, fuschia and geraniums from the garden of a dear friend. I love my kitchen dressed in floral colours - it makes me smile and remember the people who brought these gifts every time I walk in the room, chop an onion, turn on the tap, breathe in perfume.
Yesterday we stood in the rain and dressed my parents’ grave with a bunch of roses the colour of African sunsets.
Today I started a book called The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma. In the first chapter she says it’s OK to cry a lot - that tears are healing. It’s not a mistake - it’s a necessity and that tears are the medicine of grieving - the cure for the pain of loss.  Because afterwards, after the crying there’s a clean space for something new to flow in. Hope maybe.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Looking Up

2nd August 2012
Easy to see the full moon tonight after the window cleaner came this afternoon. A harvest moon. A time to gather in the fruits of summer. My husband comes home with bags of smooth red and  gold potatoes - crumbly black earth clinging to their skins, a clutch of giant knobbly garlic bulbs which we brought back from Madeira last year, two small pale green courgettes and a bunch of sweetpeas - the colours of early sunset  - mauve and lavender, shell pink and violet. Their intense fragrance mingles with the scent of freshly dug garlic and I start thinking about supper.....
What I  can’t get it out of my mind are the pictures of the UFO over the Olympic park on Friday- hovering above the explosion of fireworks - a domed potato moon in the sky - reminding me to keep looking up. 

I love what Denise Lynn says about this. She says for her the opposite of fear is faith and that looking up is stepping beyond fear into faith.....
‘Having faith that there is a higher power - there is.
Having faith that your life is guided - it is.
Having faith that there is a hole in the clouds - it’s there, you just need to look up.’
Then you might see the moon. Or a UFO.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Ancestor Echo

1st August 2012 Wednesday
The lovely CAB advisor is sitting in the big chair in our front room. She has her laptop on the table and is reading out the  submission letter she has written for the Tribunal on behalf of my husband.

She says  ‘It’s short because we want to get to the crux of the matter’.

My husband looks blank. I explain crux.
The crux of the matter for me is that also in the room are my sister and a dear friend who has stepped up to be there on the day of the Tribunal to offer moral support. It feels like I have a whole Team GB on my side - working for us, helping us, reminding me of the context of this whole thing  - that how I am being is much more important than what I am doing.
So trusting and being unafraid and light will make much more difference than getting all the words right in the letter.
I also realise that what I do trust are my genes. I come from an amazing family of strong and bold pioneers and survivors and difference-makers. So whenever I doubt my ability to come through this particular time in my life, if I listen hard enough, I can hear the persistant echo of my ancestors thrumming in my bones.
 If they could do it then, I can do it now.