Friday, 29 May 2015

Empty, Cold, Tight and Bright

 Feel a bit empty...too tired and it's too late to paint a word picture tonight...stayed up watching an  old  ridiculous Arnold Schwartznegger  movie on TV - God knows why.

Walking back from my Carer's Assessment appointment this morning (  nice woman, useful, inconclusive, need to wait for Robin to have his assessment - wheels grind slow) it pours with rain -  I get drenched and  cold - fingers like frozen sausages - can't get my key in the front door - tearful with frustration.

Later the sun comes out, the wind picks up and we walk back into town for haircuts. Come home with short hair, giant black grapes, English strawberries and a dark navy suit from M&S for Robin to wear at my niece's wedding as his other one is too tight now.

I slice up a whole green garlic bulb, fry it with cherry tomatoes till they just soften and burst, stir in floppy leaves of true spinach and a fine feathery handful of dill and spoon it onto our plates next to the yellow gold folded up cheese omelette that we have for supper.

 I draw the curtain to mask the late sun streaming onto the table  - blinding me with its brightness.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Healed Past

 All day long a shadow companion has been walking with me, living in my head as I go about the tasks of my everyday. 

 A much younger self - a nearly 40 years ago self.

As I buy lettuces in the market..... try on a dress for my niece's wedding...... make egg mayo lunch for my husband....... fill out the dreaded Care Assessment form....... drive off to the garden centre to buy hanging basket liners for my begonias........ answer emails........ water the sweet peas and the tomatoes at the allotment...... pull up 13 spears of asparagus.........cut the daisies in the lawn........fill the hanging baskets with compost and trailing begonias....... scrub the new baby carrots and snap the first broad beans out of their pods for supper..........all that time I'm remembering her.

And feeling a new lightness - as if my heart has shed some kilos that I didn't even know were still weighing me down after 40 years - kilos of regret  and sadness and self recrimination laid down.

Thank you to the dear one, an old flame, who reached out across the miles, took my hand and gently led me through that slippery mountain pass with compassion and humour, understanding, forgiveness and love - a gift to both for us.

Giving me back a healed past and  putting a smile in my heart now.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A Good Life?

This climbing rose in the garden has never been more beautiful, covered in buds and blooms, but mostly they are out of reach -  flowing over the fence into next door's garden, preferring to embrace the sky on flying wayward stems rather than to grace my kitchen in a vase.

When the phone rings this morning I'm already ensconced in the back garden pottering about with  old tulip bulbs, new geraniums and my own well rotted compost (thank you, brother, for teaching me how to make it so the brindling worms can do their work). It's the care worker on the phone from Robin's walking group to say she's running late - leaving him at a loose end.  So I abandon my pots and we bake biscuits together to fill in the time - a batch of chocolate chip cookies and flapjacks - a simpler version of my nut and seed and coconut recipe.

After he leaves it's a while before I return to my potting. I put in a call to a friend who is helping me fill in the long details of The Carer's Assessment form which I have to fill in before my appointment on Friday. Questions like

Does your caring role interfere with your sleep?
How often have you felt cheerful and in good spirits in the last 2 weeks?
Do you feel you have control over your everyday life?
What does a good life look like for you and how can you achieve that?

 At the moment a good life feels like someone else's life.

A bit later a nice woman from Social Care rings to talk about the re-assessment of needs that I've asked for for Robin.  She says we'll have to wait up to 4 weeks for an appointment. But at least the ball has started rolling.

I just manage to get three geraniums planted in glazed pots for the patio before I need to leave for my appointment at The Mede. A lovely woman who was a nurse has set up a Care Club for people with dementia in a beautiful house with a garden and views of the river at Topsham. She also provides respite care in the similar house next door.  It feels like a warm and friendly home where Robin could spend the day being occupied, stimulated and cared for in the company of kind people where they give him lunch and a room to sleep in if he wants.....and I could have a day off. I cry with relief on the way home just with the thought of it.

A tiny glimpse of a good life.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Our Bank Holiday

Bank holiday weekend - Mezze lunch on Saturday at my sister's with a long-time-no-see dear friend. Humous in foreground - can't see the babaganoush - but discovered why it wasn't quite smokey enough - didn't leave the aubergines under the grill long enough -although the skins were burned black. I read a recipe today by Yotam Ottolenghi where he says grill them for an hour and 20 minutes  which would certainly give that charcoal flavour - provided you can keep your nerve and not set the kitchen on fire.

After lunch we walked in sunny bluebell woods and

checked out the new Jacob lambs - this darling one lost his twin after he was born.

Sunday -  Although Robin was with friends in the morning I felt guilty about leaving him on his own most of the afternoon and evening on Saturday, so on Sunday I packed a picnic and drove us up to North Somerset to one of our favourite NT properties - Dunster Castle.

I love all the tropical plants in their gardens....

I told Robin this was a banana tree - the best way to describe a banana to him is to say it's the fried fruit you have with bacon when you have the French toast that we had in New Zealand - and then sometimes he knows what it is. Afterwards I realised it wasn't a banana tree but a giant canna - but no point in confusing him with that one.

This flower of a huge palm tree looks like millet to me....

As we walked around the gorgeous gardens I picked a few leaves of sage and rosemary for Robin to eat - he loved them -  and as there was so much wild garlic lining the paths I thought it was OK to snip some leaves to add to our egg salad picnic.

Bank holiday Monday - late afternoon after strenuous shopping at Waitrose and buying begonias and geraniums at Otter Nurseries to plant in my neglected hanging baskets we headed out to Dartmoor and walked along the river bank at Parke.....

loving  the new soft green of the beech leaves over the water....

and this pink campion.....

and Robin's big smile....and nearly a whole afternoon with no obsenities spurting unbidden out of his mouth.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Leaving Us. Blessing Us

One of Robin's weird and wonderful ceramics - one of two hippos, his gift to my cousin a few years ago, cooling off in the shade round the new pond in their garden -  a reminder of our African childhood connection.

Last Saturday we were late for my cousin's funeral. I was driving, my brother was in charge of the SatNav, my big sister was in charge of the map, my husband was in charge of comments on the beauty of the Welsh countryside and we were all in charge of the timing. Which somehow we let slip into another dimension after we stopped for the picnic lunch I'd packed at The Old Station near Tintern Abbey. After that, the minutes sped away as we stuttered in traffic in Monmouth and flew down the winding lanes, trumpeted with lacy cow parsley, hunting for the Woodland Burial site.

We were the last to arrive at the long barn already packed to the rafters with his family and friends all come to honour and remember him. He would have laughed though at our lateness as  he was often the one who would arrive after the start of some family event, full of apologetic smiles. But I was just always happy to see him whatever time it was.

Which is why I'm still struggling to imagine that I won't see him again. It was a beautiful funeral, everyone speaking from their hearts  - hurting raw with the loss of him - remembering the laughter,  the gentleness and the goodness of him.

I'll never forget the sight of his woven wicker coffin, strewn with spring flowers, carried high on the shoulders of the ones who love him.... carried along a wide mown path through a wild flower meadow......  laid to rest in the deep red earth....... circled by the ones who love him....... sung into the the deep red earth by the ones who love him. One heart beat spade of red earth at a time.

Leaving us. Blessing us with his life.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Love in the Air

 If you are this small the steep white road to the heart of the matter can look daunting..

In the Botanical Gardens, Christchurch, NZ......reminding me that world peace starts with me mending fences in my own backyard.

Up a ladder at Killerton House Estate ....risking gravity to get a better view.....

There was peace making today in my a lovely house .... 3 of us sitting around a table... one of us holding the space.....opening the channels which were blocked.....searching for a way through with intention, with willingness, with honesty, with generosity.

I was anxious all day.....  shopping for a mezze lunch for tomorrow and making a slushy, smokey aubergine Babaganoush, and a garlicky lemony humous helped to distract me..... that, and Robin being out most of the time in the tender care of friends.

But I needn't have worried  - nothing can go wrong with that amount of love in the air.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Hungry Gap Is Over

The hungry gap is over - all these fresh young things in the farmers' market this morning ( the radishes are ours from the allotment). Can't wait to use the green garlic.

All the way through the EFT session this afternoon Robin speaks quietly, fluently, in loops. No obscenities. He says he's been talking to some young people in his head - asking for help. After the tapping, our councillor tells him about the experiments with the effects of good and bad treatment of water.

Two glasses of water.
One glass is harangued, criticised, hated every day by a group of people.
Freeze the water. Cut into the ice and under a microscope you see a muddled, dark, discordant pattern of crystals.
The other glass of water is loved and cherished and appreciated every day by a group of people.
Freeze the water. Cut into the ice and under a microscope you see a clear, shining, beautiful pattern of crystals.

As our bodies are made up of something like 80 percent water, imagine what power we have with our words to create our world.

So when Robin says to himself out loud 'You s***** f*******a******', he lowers his vibration, and mine and those of the people around him and actually of the world. So it is a darker place to be for all of us.

And when he says You are so wonderful and I love you, he raises his vibration and mine and those of the people around him and actually of the world. So it is a brighter place to be for all of us. 

He says it all makes sense. We suggest it's something he can do to make a contribution to the world - to feel useful again.

In the car driving home after eating  our ice cream cones, watching the long slow waves crash onto the pebbles, he only says You s***** f****** a******* once and then he remembers.

 I turn up the volume of Handel's Water Music..... wind the windows down.....let in the hot breeze.... and he beats out the rhythm, with his teeth, with his hands on his thighs, on the dashboard in front of him,  singing along to the tune with different words which sound  clear and shining and beautiful....

You are so wonderful and I love you. 

Maybe another hungry gap is over  - for the moment.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Clean Green

May blossom on the edge of a field of

green wheat,

or barley. I stop to take all this clean greenness in a winding country lane on the way back from my Family Constellation session. It soothes all the fiery heat of all my pent up anger.....which I discover from the pattern of my ancestors, when repressed, gets turned into helplessness, powerlessness and sighing -  instead of the clear sharpness of released energy.  Clarity and kindness and courage is what I need at the moment....preparing myself for a difficult conversation on Friday.

This afternoon, after cutting the daisies in the lawn I find more tender green shoots - a Christmas tree  conifer -  at the bottom of the garden in the shade,

and the first climbing rose bud reaching for heaven.

You can't see this  waving white wisteria from the house,

or the black berries of this fatsia which started out as a tiny two inch cutting in a pot - a gift from friends -  and which is now as tall as a teenager.

I wish you could bask in the perfume of the honeysuckle rampaging through the hedges on the fence,

or brush your fingers over these
 delicate papery new leaves, a plant in a pot - another gift from a friend which returns every year like a  soft recurring blessing.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


The sky this afternoon - a brief silver lining

swamped by grey.

Garden tulips after the rain....

sheltering their hearts.

 8.30 am-  I leave my brother at the bus station. He waves goodbye through the nearly black glass window of the coach - a sleek, towering monster streaking off into the rain.....taking him and all those other long ago, wrenching goodbyes packed in his trunk in its deep belly.

9.30 am - Another ending - the last session with our young Clinical Psychologist....NHS cuts.....but I suppose we've had our fair share over these last four years...what price the space to listen/be heard?

 RC is uncontrollably vocal most of the time...with his usual obscene one point, as we are leaving, he starts shouting them, his voice raising to a higher and higher pitch...both the CP and I try to shush him.... I take his face in my hands and say STOP.... but doesn't.

In the car I ask him not to say those things to other people, in public places....ask him if he thinks he can. He says he'll try.....then starts shouting them - his obscenities. I shout NO but he can't stop. The knot in my stomach is an eagle's claw squeezing a shrew.

 10.45am We arrive at our friend's house. On the doorstep he repeats his phrases - high falsetto voice....I say Remember what I said.  But he doesn't. She welcomes him into her calm and gentle care and I drive home, tight with rage and despair. I start hoovering the house....sucking up all the dust and  the crumbs and the griefs of last week.....till the pain in my back halts me..... I sit on the bottom step of the stairs and wait till it passes....and it's time to go back and collect him.

Our friend has worked her magic and RC is calm and smiley. We go out for lunch in Topsham and he doesn't say a single foul thing even though the meal is 25 minutes in the waiting and mine is greatly unappealing - flabby salmon swimming in olive oil, wilted, wet, impossible to eat without dripping on your chin rocket, a huge heap of hard halved new potatoes in a pink sludge of beetroot mayonnaise. 
When the waitress asks if everything is OK I  just say yes - today I haven't got whatever energy or guts it takes to complain....something much bigger claiming my attention....when you can't control the uncontrollable  - what do you do?

Can't write about my cousin's funeral yet....

Friday, 15 May 2015

Small and Ordinary

No fresh words tonight.... too knackered....... it's  very late. I've been faffing about trying to decide what to wear tomorrow..... the house is quiet brother asleep in the spare room, my big sister on a mattress on the floor in my study.....RC is playing solitaire in his office above me.....his chair squeaking on the plastic runner on the carpet.

In the kitchen there's a box of flapjacks and a vegan Banana Walnut cake that I made this afternoon to take with us when we drive up the M5 and across the Bristol channel into Herefordshire  tomorrow for my cousin's funeral.

Just had some more sad news about my friend's daughter.......making me more determined to make each day precious least some moments in each day...however small and ordinary.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Siblings Unrivalled

Siblings unrivalled....three of the four of us.... enfolded in a wet spring afternoon in the frothy white and green lanes by the River Otter....thank you, other sibling, for the photo.

We spend the morning in a steamed up cafe, drinking mint tea and coffee and hot chocolate....eating coconut, raspberry flapjacks topped with thick chocolate..... collecting memories of our dear cousin....recording them on the computer.....moving on to another cafe.....  eating big plates of salad, roast vegetable bruchettas  and goat's cheese parcels..... sharing the big stuff of our lives -  the things that hurt and humble and nourish us... holding hands across the table....blowing noses....drying tears....laughing ....remembering.....feeling the ache of goodbyes that will come too soon.

When the rain stops we walk out into the dripping green afternoon, stepping round deep muddy puddles in the path, stopping to skim stones on the surface of the churned up brown river water...still playing outside like we did in our African childhood.... usually separated by oceans and cities but together on this one brief precious day in Devon...honouring the spiral of love between us which can never be broken by time and distance.


Last night while I was cooking for the family I let the peas boil over on the hob. Twice. It fused the cooker. I turned the mains power off in the fuse box which didn't fix it. But it messed up the broadband connection so no internet, no emails, no google, no blog.
This morning it's pouring with rain. I need to mop up the puddles on the kitchen floor, find a man to fix the cooker,  arrange to talk to dear friend about how to go about getting a Care Assessment from the social services,  and go the market and buy extra salad greens and green leaves as my brother, who eats a plant based diet, is visiting from Fiji.

 But it doesn't matter about the rain because the best thing about today is that I'm spending it with  my    brother and my two sisters -  us four together - a very rare and precious day....who knows when it'll happen again.  The last time was in South Africa after our father died and we planned what to say at his funeral. Some of today we'll talk about our dear cousin and what to say at his funeral on Saturday....  only words of love and laughter.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Smiles and Tears

Down on the farm on Saturday in the Blackdown Hills. My sister's neighbour keeps a rare breed of sheep called Jacobs.

We spent the afternoon with them and their sweet faces and 5 gorgeous little children all under 4 years old plus their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles - stroking the lambs, jumping in muddy puddles and running after blown up footballs and beach balls..... 

which kept a smile on my face all day - all that joy and energy and new life,

claiming the space, the air, the sunshine of the moment.

A river runs through it... the National Trust's Lydford Gorge on Sunday,

a wet green  Spring paradise, scented with  realms of wild garlic and bluebells. I could have walked the steep slippery paths all day but RC feared for my safety so much that we turned back,

and ate our picnic in  a windy meadow near the loos, with a bold grey headed crow strutting in front of us waiting for crumbs.

Haldon Woods on Monday evening. RC says he wants his funeral here at Haldon Belverdere.

 We stand and look at the view out over the estuary and I say I know you can hire it for weddings but not sure about funerals. He says he went to the doctor's that morning and asked her if she knew how long he had to live as it could affect his pension. She said no one knows. You can't predict it. I asked him if he was afraid of dying and he said no. But I don't know how to even imagine it - not being here - him or me.

A  birthday gift of tulips which I planted very late in the year  - not sure they would come up  - but they have -  tall and straight and delicate - soft tinged magenta, blooming long after all the others have died away. 
Reminding me to trust the new life you can't see yet - below the ground, in the darkness, gestating - waiting for the spring which always comes...thank goodness - as I'm getting tired of all these tears - more tonight -  which seem to start so easily at the slightest thing.