Sunday, 29 November 2009


It has been raining here in the UK forever  - or that's how it feels. We seem to be surrounded by a sea of rainwater and mud, each step outside takes an age to prepare for with layers of clothing and footwear. Even the poor dog refused to go for a walk this evening feeling outrage at the unremitting wetness.

I am tired of the dark and wet, tired of this cough that does not seem to lift, looking forward to going to Spain next week, into the light I hope.

We have been in Leeds since Thursday evening. Since then we have done so much. We went to Saltaire on Friday and revisited the place where we went, J and I, on our first outing together. So many memories....

On Saturday we went to investigate the Reform Synagogue service in the morning, and I met friends there who came back for coffee and chat, and catching up which was wonderful. When they had gone we went to my best friend O and had coffee there, came back and found an email inviting us to a concert given by Leeds University Music union and it was their main orchestra who gave us a spirited second half with their performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. They were so enthusiastic and had a drummer who looked as though he came straight from a rock band somewhere.

Today, it has rained and rained but we went to see my friend Sue for coffee and now J is decorating - painting some the doors we did not manage to finish, and tomorrow we will shop for Xmas and other items for this little flat.

I want to know what its like to live here when its DRY!! It is so dispiriting to sit here watching the world go dark at 2 in the afternoon. And my poor dog wants a long walk and run, not the quick dash round we are having at the moment. I do like this place enormously. I am looking forward to experiencing spring here, amongst the trees.

How do I feel?


Part of me is here, part is with my dying mother, part is with my children, part is dealing with my daughter's marriage ceremony to take place without me. Part of me is fretting because I need to get on with some writing and some stitching. Life never does what you want it to do. I was so happy, so thrilled, so contented when I found out my daughter was getting married, and the awful nastiness that has followed has completely overwhelmed me and I don't know how to get past it. Finally hearing my son say that he would rather attend a celebratory party in France with the in-laws rather than one with his mother and her friends has hurt me greatly. Oh well. It will all come out in the wash as they say.

Meanwhile - what will 2010 bring? I dread to think.....I never expected 2009 to be so bad....

Thursday, 26 November 2009

visiting my mother

Today was a difficult day.

J and I drove to Manchester to visit my parents, and I went knowing that my sister would be there. My mother is in the same state - unable to speak, not eating, she has a chest infection, a PEG which is a tube directly into her stomach through which she is fed. She is exisiting, not living. My sister had come up from London yesterday, and I deliberately wanted to see her, as I wanted to reinforce whatever connection we had established last week when we spoke for the first time in some 35 years.

J was a star. He sat and talked to my sister for a while, whilst I sat with my mother and just tried to come to terms with the fact that I will never have the chance to talk to her again in this lifetime - I was just too late, or rather I was asked (allowed?) to come to see her when the chance for any meaningful communication was truly over. Then he went and talked to my father whilst I talked to my sister, who has had a nightmare couple of years dealing with my parents. I cannot understand why she didn't ask me to come sooner, but I suppose she was frightened of my father's reaction.

My father is an enigma. He is totally devastated and defeated by what has happened to my mother, and refuses to let her die with some dignity. To this end, whilst he, my sister and my mother's carer were visiting her in hospital about a month ago, they discovered that she had not eaten or drunk for several days and they made an attempt  to feed my mother using a syringe to get some fluid into her mouth. The hospital staff apparently reported this as an "assault" and social services and the police somehow became involved. The hospital, however, had not fed her, or hydrated her until they were forced to do so. Apparently, and this was news to me, hospitals have a right to withdraw treatment without consulting the immediate family if they see fit to do so, and my sister and father had to get solicitors and barristers involved so that my mother would be hydrated and this feeding tube placed directly into her stomach. I had no idea that this had been such an appalling nightmare for all of them.

I have told J and I have told both my children that it is my wish, my express desire, to be allowed to die with  dignity. This means that if I cannot toilet myself, feed myself, or speak for myself, then I do not want to be kept alive. The quality of life is more important to me than the quantity. I suppose my mother is not in pain, but as I suffer from chronic pain, were I to be mentally impaired in any way, I would not be able to rationalise the pain, and would probably be killed anyway by an overdose of morphine to stop me screaming! Oh the joys of thinking about these things....


Two good things have emerged from this devastation. Firstly I have contact with my family for the first time since I left to marry G in 1974, and have met my sister and have had some type of reconciliation with my father. Secondly, J has been able to talk to my Dad and fill in some of the gaps in his history and in my family history and that has been really helpful to me. I so hope that my sister and I retain our contact even when all this nightmare is over. She is lovely - and I am proud of her. She does what she does with humour, with dignity, with care and pride, and is someone I am glad to have met. I would have enjoyed meeting her even if she were not my sister but there it is - I do love her even though I hardly know her yet.

The flat in Manchester is cheerless. One enters through a long and narrow entrance hall, with floorboards that creak alarmingly. The bedrooms are off this hall, and it ends where the lounge and dining area begin and they are connected to the kitchen. My mother's bed is made up in what should have been the dining area. The lounge is like a colourless waiting room - chairs pushed round the sides of the room to make space for the hoist should my mother be able to get out bed again at some point, and the walls and furnishings colourless. The temperature is kept high so that my mother - and presumably my father - will feel comfortable.

 The place feels like a box, and my father who cannot walk and will not leave my mother for fear that she will die if he goes out is a prisoner in its walls. He told me that he knows his leg muscles are growing weaker for lack of excercise but then he shrugs his shoulders and says there is nothing he can do. He and mum moved into this flat four years ago when they were both in their 80s, and since then there has been a catalogue of health disasters culminating in my mother's fracturing her humerus which was the start of this final downward spiral.

The awful thing, the truly hurtful thing, is that I have been asking to go and see them for years. I could have been there to help. I should have been there to help. But noone would go against my father fearing his anger, and yet now, after all this time, he gives me a hug when I hug him, and I know that he too feels only sadness and huge aching regret for all the wasted years of our lives, when we could have enriched each other's existences. But I could not follow his religious path, and so he disowned me.

We were both hotheaded and unwilling to compromise. Now, although I understand my younger self, I think I too could have been more circumspect, more willing to bend a little but he too was totally uncompromising, just cutting me out of his life. Ironically, I think I have probably seen more of him and my mother than either of my two brothers during the past few weeks. There is no point in going back over all of it. It is old history and what is done is done.

That is the wisdom - and sadness -  of age.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

These pictures were taken towards the end of this summer. We had had a perfect evening out, following a difficult few days, and driving back home the sky began to glow in these incredible colours.
I don't know why but even when I lived on the opposite side of the country with no way of knowing that I would eventually live here, I dreamt of living where the sun set over the sea. I had spent so many holidays with G and the kids in North Wales, sitting on various beaches watching sunsets and when he died I knew in my heart that I would be doing that again, soon, but I had no idea of how that could be achieved.
I met J a year after I was widowed. I was so low, so agaraphobic, so traumatised by events that had happened AFTER being widowed that I thought life was over, that no happiness or contentment could happen again.
One night I typed the word "grief" into my search engine and found myself in an American chat room for widowed people - a support group. There I went, night after night, to find comfort amongst people who had suffered similiarly. Two or three insomniac British people were in the group, who only met at 7pm US time but one night a person called Waterspirit arrived. I didn;t even know whether Waterspirit was male or female to begin with, but he turned out to be a Brit, and lived about 90 miles away. We met across a very busy chat room, began to correspond, met, and the rest as they say is history. I don't mean that our courtship was some idyllic period in our lives - we were both widowed, both still grieving and both very edgy. But trust grew and with the trust came friendship and love and when we married there was a sense for both of us of something new being born, a new partnership which could offer us a chance to grow and learn together - and so it has been. J is the kindest and most compassionate of men, he is a writer and a thinker, encourages me in every endevour and I try to do the same for him.

It wasn;t easy moving into the house he shared with his first wife. That was a difficult hurdle to overcome and I will eventually write about it. But as with most things, time and patience paid off, and a desire not to compromise our relationship over material objects. I discarded much and regretted it, and so knew that if J couldn;t discard things, then I had to honour his decision. So the alterations have been gentle and done when he has been ready.
The sky in these pictures is on fire, the sun plunging into a darkening sea.
This photo was actually taken through the car window as we travelled up the motorway home.

This photo shows the beach, the light almost gone, but the fire in the sky refusing to be put out just yet. Nature at its most breathtaking, surely.
And here is J! This photo was taken in near darkness so I did not expect it come out at all, but thanks to the miracle that is digital photography here it is. And here he is, camera round neck as usual, memory stick firmly in shirt pocket, shirt out!! This is my love for this second part of my life. I can tell him anything and everything. I can spill my heart out to him and even if he gets tired of some of the difficulties I go through - and who wouldn;t! - nevertheless he supports me. It is a difficult thing to write about, but sometimes being widowed gives one another chance at another life, and I have had to learn not to be embarassed at my incredible fortune. I was married for 29 years the first time and had no right to expect to be happy this time. But I am. I love this man. He is my husband and with him I can experience miracles.....that is what these photos mean to me. A miraculous evening we shared one evening, an evening that brought us close....
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 23 November 2009

Another home

So I am back by the sea in Wallasey, but haven;t been to the beach because the weather has been so atrocious,( the constant rain causing flooding in Cumbria on an unprecedented scale) and because there has been much to do here and I have also been ill - again. I must be run down mentally to be catching so many bugs.
I have had 2 chest infections and a virus/flu/bug over the last two months and tonight my throat is sore and I can;t breathe properly - again! This is getting too boring and is sapping my energy.

I am also feeling extremely anti-social. I want to guard my privacy at the moment, feel the need to be alone for periods of time and just think and stitch and listen to the radio. We are going to Spain in under a fortnight and I am getting ready mentally for that, and then for the onslaught of Xmas, with all that that means in terms of crowds in shops, food to buy, and missing family as well.

I need to get on with some writing but even that is difficult to achieve. J has decorated the hall here which is wonderful, and the place is now light and airy and clean, but there has been so much tidying up to do, and that combined with moving things to our new flat in Leeds is exhausting physically.

I tried to cut down painkillers thinking they were slowing me down but they aren;t - its just this bug, and when I tried to do without them for 48 hours my pain levels went through the roof and my tinnitus went from bad to worse. I went back onto the meds, slept properly again last night for a few hours and felt more like a human being today, so was able to catch up on a lot of chores. Living with chronic pain is like having an unwelcome guest to stay in your house, someone you don;t want there, and yet you can't get rid!! Neuropathy is cruel - invisible, and all engulfing, to the point of being terrifying at times. It is impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't suffer from the condition just how strange it is to have an arm that feels as if it is being burned/frozen/crushed/shredded and yet looks totally normal, and to have pins and needles everywhere if there is so much as a breeze in the room. And yet this is how I have lived my life for the past 18 years, and the pain is getting worse.

That is why we are going to Spain and why I wanted the adventure of a second home. This is my life - here and now  - and I want to experience as much as possible in case my health doesn;t hold out forever. That haunts me and I know it haunts J.

I am going to settle down to write tomorrow evening. I can;t do 50,000 words in a month. But I can write 1000 words a day and that is enough for me to carve out the rest of my book and to recast my memoir. All that will have to change if I get to know my sister a little.

I haven;t written about that. We called in to see my parents. I hadn;t seen them for 35 years the first time I went about 7 weeks ago. This was my 3rd visit, and my sister H was there. She was friendly but guarded, and quite formal. I really liked her and just hope that we get to know each other a little better but it will have to be on her terms. I disappeared and it is not her fault that we are estranged. I was the one who ran away and complicated her life as a child. I cannot now imagine the pain and hurt that my family went through, but I had to do things my own way. I could not have grown in a fundamentalist religious household, I doubt I could have survived at all.
When I was young music was my religion, and Beethoven the God-like figure above all others. Now it is Bach I love above all else,  but music is no longer a religion. It still has the power to move me above all other arts or even religion itself, but it is now music and that is quite enough!

Well - enough for today. I think I will take my sore throat and cold to bed early tonight and try to get rid of them - again! Or should I say - yet again. I am sure much of this illness is stress related but even so I can't do anything but suffer this bug until it goes away. On Saturday I couldn't even get out of bed my temp. was so high, so at least I have managed to DO something useful today and restore order to our home - partially at least! I would so love to make it a palace...

I have been looking at books to get rid of - but it is an impossible task. They all look so inviting and I want to read them ALL. Oh well. We will have to live in our library rather than our palace! J won't mind.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

words of comfort..

"This being human is as a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of it's furniture. Still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

This is a very mature way of dealing with psychic hurt and harm. I don't know whether I am - even at my age  -mature enough to deal with hurt in this way. But for sure I have always used every experience, however horrific, as a learning curve, as something from which to grow.
Just now I am dealing with my daughter's anger and her upset with me, my mother is dying and has dementia and I will never have the chance to talk to her again, my birth family will not contact me, my son is very very distant, and my creativity seems to have gone out for a walk. I hope the latter isn;t permanent, the other things ? I don;t know.
It is hard to stay positive. I feel as though I am walking through glue. I cannot make headway. Its all very odd and difficult. Having said that, I am not depressed, just sad which is different. And lacking in energy which I think is my own fault - not eating properly or sleeping enough. I can;t keep anything regular - eating sleeping writing etc -  without J here it seems. He gives my life its meaning.
He's coming tomorrow though - at last. Thank goodness!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

away from J

Well, its been over a week since J went back to Wallasey and I have been here with my son. It's been ok but very strange to be without my husband. I feel strangely as though I were widowed again, most odd. Just the thought of getting up in the morning and jumping into a bath is foreign without someone to do this most basic of functions for and that is exactly how it was when I was first alone.

I don;t really understand why but the separation brings back all the memories of the anguish and terror of loss - especially such sudden loss. I think if I were to write about widowhood, the things I would mention most are the fear and the aching lonliness. The first was most unexpected, and still strikes at me in strange ways. I have difficulty in getting out into unfamiliar places on my own, I have to force myself into meeting new people, and I struggle when I spend too long without some company - although I don;t need someone to be actually in the house as it were. Very strange.

I do like my own company more than I used to, but then I suppose I have always liked to read, to sew, to practice, to listen to music so now that I am older being alone is not such an issue. But being separated from the person I love most is hard, even though I know I will see him at the end of the week.

I wish I could achieve more, but seeing D and A today, and realising how much pleasure they take in just being together, having a life that doesn't depend on notions of success and reward but in the knowledge that their love for each other and their families is their touchstone, has shown me that I need not strive all the time. It is enough to be sometimes, and to wait for life to show you the way. I think, perhaps, I have been forcing the pace. I certainly did when I first moved in with J, anxious not to impose myself on him in my lonliness, and aware that my lack of friends in a strange city was putting him under a certain degree of pressure. I went everywhere, joined things, made friends almost too quickly. Now, I have put the brakes on. I recognise that I need time to think, to see, to be. I can't run around all the time from person to person. Sometimes, when I feel anti-social, then its ok to be antisocial. I need the space to breathe mentally.

Living with my son like this, just the two of us,  is to have travelled through a time warp. He may be 25 at the end of this year, and have travelled and lived abroad, but as soon as he comes home he is back to his  mummy and just lives his 14 year old life again. Do sons ever grow up? I watch and wait. He is kind, he has charm and is intelligent as his father was, and I hope that soon - very soon  - someone falls in love with this young man who I love dearly, and that he falls in love as well. I think that will make him happiest, however strenuously he denies it.

I think that aquiring this little flat in Leeds has been a wise move. It gives us life at the coast and north Wales, but a life of the soul here in Yorkshire amongst dear and very loved friends. As I approach my 58th birthday I relish the prospect of next year, with J, and with a very different way of life to come.

Nanowrimo week 1

I am trying so hard to write my first 50,000word novel but I am stuck- I am swimming in detail and words and the plot is not progessing. I don't know how to move the thing on.

Do I just carry on, or do I jump and then come back and fill this difficult passage in? I know what happens afterwords, I know what the affect will be on the characters of what is about to happen to them, but how to do it? I know there is a really really good novel in there. The characters are all correct, the plot is correct, I like the way they speak and I write good speech  (there, at least I am being honest for once) but I actually prefer to read descriptive writing and I am writing short staccato sentences, a hangover from a writing group I attended and which almost destroyed my wish to write. This is the last blow of their influence on me.

The advice to writes is to show and not tell. I don;t understand this yet and will have to find out what it all means as I progress. It is like learning a craft, and I don;t know why I find it so discouraging that it is difficult. At least, even if I do this badly, I will end up with a 50,000word novel on my computer and one that is ready to take to pieces and rewrite. I suspect one of my difficulties is that what I really want to write is a long family saga, and what I am doing is something much more racy. How to combine these two elements in what is really a first draft novel is so hard for me.

Perseverance - and writing this journal will help me to excercise my writing muscles. Thats the hope.

Now - coffee and a 3 hour stretch of novel to see what happens next. Maybe I will like the next section more. Wish me bon voyage.....

first posting

The first posting in this new blog. I want it for once, to be about me, the real me, to share what I am thinking, hoping, fearing, creating. I want to learn how to use its features, to learn to write honestly instead of always hiding.

I have been reading Nina Bagley's astonishingly personal blog called Ornamental and I love it. She also requires solitude, loves nature - and her dog and her walks with him - and she quotes a lot of poetry.

That is the kind of blog I want to create here, one that is emotionally open and honest, and is somewhere for me to experiment with my writing, and also my creativity - my altered art, my stitching, and to write about how my life experiences shape all these things. I am going to leave this blog open - private matters are attended to elsewhere. I just hope I can find some kindred spirits to connect with.