Wednesday, November 14, 2018

As the clock strikes one

As the clock strikes 1am on Sunday 18th November I will be sleeping, curled up on my side while Mr H quietly purrs in a deep sleep beside me.

At the same time in 2008 it was a different story, Mr H was, with hair pulling terror, trying to shake me awake from a blue faced, shaking, shuddering black hole I had disappeared into. 
A seizure. 
My first. 
His first. 
Six hours later, drugged on anti-seizure meds, I lay on a hospital bed.  Mr H was still by my side. Then the news was delivered, which like dynamite was to blow our world in two.

I had a brain tumour. 

Ten years ago things were different:
My weekdays were full of jobs I had to do. Mind blurring meetings; rushing from one ward to another during outbreaks of infection; driving hundreds of miles from the top to the bottom of Wales. Snatched lunches gobbled down between jobs to do. Too tired to prepare food from scratch I threw quick ready meals into the oven at home.

Never a thought for my own health.

But Now
My days are full of things I want to do. I listen with a slow beating heart to the melodic voice of Katie Melua or Eva Cassidy. Or to the French radio station ABC Lounge music; a tip from my friend Jenny who recently passed on to a different world. I meditate. I choose when I sit down at the computer to type. Mr H and I grow some of our own food. I cook healthy meals from my perching stool in the kitchen. I smile a lot more. 
My mental and physical health are now at the top of my virtual to do list.

Ten Years Ago:
I climbed mountains and mind buzzing with work, Mr H and I pounded the streets and paths in our running shoes.

Nowadays:
I grin when I feel the breeze on my face as I walk slowly through wind scattered autumn leaves on a short walk back from the shops. It’s a good day. Unable to drive, I get the community travel bus, the old ladies’ bus I tell people with a grin, to my exercise class. A class I do with a group of older gents affected by Parkinson’s disease who are as wobbly on their feet as me! And on Friday the bus comes again to carry me to choir for two hours of soulful singing amongst my new friends.

Ten Years Ago:
I thought I had to keep in touch with everybody, even friends and acquaintances who made me red faced with anger or wet faced with tears. I rescued people; almost anyone who asked for my help. I carried other people’s burdens like rocks on my shoulders.  I didn’t have the skills to shake them off. I was a nurse, wasn't that what nurses do?

Now:
I surround myself with Positivity. That doesn’t mean I turn my back on friends and family in trouble. The exact opposite is true. But through counselling I have learnt that I don't have to soak up other peoples troubles then carry them around like heavy wet rags. I have learnt to use my ears more, actively listen; a troubled friend almost always knows the answers to their problems. It just helps to have someone actually listen for a change.

Ten Years Ago:
Mr H and I were already a unit. In love; Joined together through love and respect.

Today
We are Mr and Mrs and my heart swells with pride when he walks into a room. He is a gentleman, his Mum taught him that. His respectful pride in me oozes out of his every pore. I am proud of what he achieves; his integrity is as strong as an ox. We have been through a tsunami of challenges but hand in hand, we surf them together. We are bonded by a respectful love which is deeper than any ocean.

I am lucky

We are lucky
"And like the flowers in the fields, that make wonderful views, when we stand side-by-side in our wonderful hues...
We all make a beauty so wonderfully true.
We are special and different, and just the same too!
So whenever you look at your beautiful skin, from your wiggling toes to your giggling grin...
Think how lucky you are that the skin you live in, so beautifully holds the 'YOU' who's within"
Michael Tyler, The Skin You Live In



Friday, August 31, 2018

Finding Feathers

On a Saturday evening in May 2012, like a snowflake, a tiny white feather drifts down and settles on my knee. A shiver runs up my spine as I sit gazing at the feather while I listen to a beautiful rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which fills the Church of Santa Maria Dela Pieta in Venice.

Jon I think with a sad smile. 



On July 31st 2018 after two days away to say see you in my memories and dreams to a dear friend I arrive home. Sitting on the floor beside the door is another white fluffy feather. Jenny I whisper as I stoop to pick it up and lay it gently on the worktop.




In August during a weekend trip to the British Birdwatching fair I stop my mobility scooter with a jerk in the Art Marquee when I spot beautiful feathers sculpted from wood. The artist Tom (T.A.G) Smith has captured the curves of the feathery fronds and the changes in shade and colour by the use of different woods. Mr H and I gawp open mouthed at such curious creativity. Beside the wondrous wooden feathers is a sculpted owl face, its wide eyes stare, unblinking at us with a twit twoo grin. We move closer. My eyes twist and turn to feast on each feather on display; from a gigantic Golden Eagle to a fine, tiny, Goldfinch feather. We chat to bearded Tom while surrounded by these precious pieces of art. 


Later we return and pluck a brown and cream Buzzards feather, displayed on Purpleheart wood, from his stand for our wedding anniversary gift to each other.



In the afternoon at the far end of Marquee Two, a purple book cover catches my eye: Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather Fashion Fury and Feminism – Women’s fight for change. I park my scooter to get a closer look. 



I open the hard-backed book and read the first few lines. I am hooked and watch like a hawk as the cashier handles my purchase. 
The following morning Mr H and I sit and listen to the author of Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather Tessa Boase in the Harrier Lecture Marquee. My blood bubbles with indignation as Tessa tells the vivid story involving fashion, the slaughter of birds and the four unacknowledged female founders of the RSPB. 



Their fight was fought at the same time as the suffragettes but was in direct opposition to the real purple Ostrich feather which Mrs Pankhurst chose to adorn her hat. During the 1800s and early 1900s, millions of wild birds were slaughtered all over the world to provide milliners with the birds heads, bodies, wings and feathers with which ladies chose to decorate their hats. As I turn the pages of The Purple Feather I learn that Emily Williamson set up the Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889 and was joined in 1891 by Etta Lemon, Eliza Phillips, Hannah Poland and Winifred,  Duchess of Portland. Together they campaigned to stop this slaughter of birds, many of which, by this stage, were near to extinction.

On Saturday evening we stand at the edge of the calm waters of Rutland Lake. We are waiting to board the Rutland Belle for an ‘Osprey cruise’ with Naturalist Simon King. As we sail out onto the water the wind picks up so these once near extinct birds stay tucked into trees. But we ooh and ahh as common Terns spiral into dives for their fish supper and watch while little white Egrets paddle at the water’s edge adorned with black beaks and yellow shoes.

As dusk descends, almost an hour passes before Simon calls out Osprey over the damn ahead. Our heads snap up and a boat full of binoculars eagerly peer ahead at the white and brown swooping bird until it flies into the distance...
On Sunday, once again we stop at Tom’s stand in the Art Marquee to stare at his exquisitely detailed wooden feathers. I pull out my credit card as I can no longer resist Mr H’s imploring gaze. It’s your birthday present I tell him as we walk away with his beautifully crafted Golden Eagle feather carefully wrapped. 
On our way home we dip into Lyndon Nature Reserve for a last sight of the Ospreys; this once virtually extinct species are here because of the Rutland Osprey Project. In a hide we peer through scopes at a male and female with their last chick who sits silently still on a fallen tree preparing for its first solo flight to Africa. 




Walking back to the centre I stoop many times to pick up grey, black and white silken feathers dropped by their owners as they moult. 








The last feather I swoop up has a gloriously multi coloured tip. We gaze at its splash of blue, dots of rust brown and white and guess which bird it is from. 

I imagine a feather such as this was often plucked from a slaughtered bird to be worn on a hat.  













Let me be as a feather
Strong with purpose Yet light at heart,
Able to bend.
And, Tho I might become frayed,
Able to pull myself together again.
Anita Sams

Friday, July 27, 2018

Leaving Doors Open

Yesterday a friend I have known for thirty years visited. I hadn’t hugged her for five or six; I see her smile on FaceTime, her voice on the phone and she reads my Blogs but we live some distance apart. I should have made more effort I think, as her familiar face pops into view when she walks into our green, bamboo swishing garden. 


Her daughters have grown, they remember their last visit well. I let the young girls loose with a box full of ribbon, furry bits and pieces and labels to wrap a few presents. Put as much on as you want I smiled. They burrowed their heads in paper and glitter while Mr H told them stories about climbing mount Everest from the inside.
Today we sit in the garden and with grinning faces the six of us chat about life while munching on homemade rhubarb and carrot cake. They are whizzing around on a whistle stop goodbye tour. Off to Australia, we’re not sure how long Michelle replies when I ask. Richard adds, with glares from his daughters, many say they don’t return.
I hate goodbyes Michelle says as they get up to leave. Let’s Facetime in August I say then we can still chat and see each other. And who knows you may even answer your Australian door one day to another hug
I leave the door open…
Even so I watch with a lump in my throat, as their car disappears out of view but walk inside with a contented smile as I know I will see them again. 

Whenever I go to see my 86 year young Mum, friends or family, as I leave I say I love you, I will ring you later. See you soon.

I  leave the door open…
Earlier this year I blogged about a shopping trip with my friend Jenny. Mr H and I met Jenny during a tropical storm. We were visiting gardens in St Vincent in the Caribbean and the rain fell without warning as though someone was pouring warm buckets of water over our heads. Amidst loud parakeet sounding laughter most ran for shelter. I didn’t, couldn’t, and therefore neither did Mr H. Behind us were two ladies who also couldn’t run, their knees stopped them. They were Jenny and Lyn and giggling we ambled along together as the rain soaked through to our knickers. We spent the rest of our sun and laughter filled cruise in the company of these bubbly ladies.
But sadness was tucked behind the smiling photograph of Jenny and I on our shopping trip. Jenny’s breast cancer had returned and like bind weed, had rapidly spread. 

During the last few months Jenny often asked me for advice and I reached out with my listening ears. When I couldn’t be with her we Facetimed while she was living with her daughter or staying at her sons. Your word is gospel Liz her daughter in law kept saying each time we spoke about some element of Jenny’s care. Jenny trusts you. 

We Facetimed as I sat on the beach on holiday so Jenny could hear and see the sea. I sent her a video of waves gently swishing on the pebble beach, she used it to get to sleep. I tried to bottle the salty smell of the sea in a jam jar to take to her bedside...
When Mr H and I visited after our holiday, I sat on her hospital bed in the spare room of her sons house while I rubbed soothing hand cream into her frail thin skin. We held hands as we talked about Cockleshell beach in St Kitts and how Jenny had held my hand to get me safely into the warm shallow sea. How we dug discarded pink and cream conch shells out of the white sandy dunes. How we walked through market stalls looking for our jewellery made from local shells. How we watched in utter disbelief and then hugged with delight as whales butted our boat on a trip around Dominique.

As Jenny's eye lids drooped with fatigue I stood up to leave, I hugged her and we kissed.  I love you Jenny. I will FaceTime you I said. Jenny smiled then closed her eyes as sleep swept her into dreams.
But I left the door open…
I woke early on Wednesday as a message gently slid onto the screen of my phone;

Jenny is at peace now Liz wrote…


Life is not always about saying Goodbye then closing the door.
It is also about walking through life while leaving doors open…

God Bless Jenny I'll see you in my memories and dreams x



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Brain Blancmange


I grab Mr H's handrail arm as I cautiously step out of a cafĂ© into the golden, bright blue sky day. The heat bites into my shoulders with its sharp teeth as we amble down the hill on narrow, knobbly pavements. I try not to step into the busy road as we pass shops crammed with curios and cakes. 

My walking is slower than my normal snail stepping speed and I mutter to Mr H:

My head feels like wobbly blancmange. My brain is mushed. Its three steps behind me I say as I glance behind and with a hesitant step hope that it will catch me up.

I clasp Mr H's arm tighter as we cross the road. My head droops. A concentrated frown fixed to my face. 

I will my brain to follow me, catch me up. I can't lose it. Leave it behind.

Mr H leads me into a second hand bookshop. It is so full of books, comics, old typewriters, even a harpsichord  my blancmange like brain decides to stay at the door. I stumble past books piled on the floor. My eyes dart from corner to corner, shelf to shelf desperate to find a chair.

I need to sit I whisper.

Now!

Mr H scans the shop but can only locate a set of old wooden steps. I perch on the third rung. Stare blankly at the floor as the blancmange spreads into every crevice and crinkle of my brain. My stomach rises into my chest. I call this familiar feeling nausea. 

I stare at Mr H's red freckled legs as he stands protectively by my side. How do you feel he asks.

Awful

Sick...

I sweep my dusty hand across my forehead. Pull my hair away from my skull.  Lift my head and glance at the doorway. Fresh air.

A clock ticks away five minutes. Ten. I slowly ease my head off my shoulders. Look around. The corners of my mouth twitch into the start of a smile. My brain wafts through the door and slips back into place and...





like clouds in the sky, 
the blancmange gradually dissolves 
as the sunshine returns.





Feeling better?

Outside again Mr H firmly grips my hand as we cross the same road and walk towards a bench. I plonk myself down with a thump. Dipping my hand into our bag I pull out chunks of a crumbly Dorset scone which I greedily cram into my mouth. With each bite I feel the colour return to my cheeks. I look into Mr H's eyes and smile as seagulls sing their squawking song overhead.

Ten minutes later I stand, my post seizure brain now fully rested and restored. I wave goodbye to the wobbly blancmange as we walk, hand in hand, past ice cream stalls, a pebbly beach and shops selling sun hats, buckets and spades...

 



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Scarlet Lipstick



I stand at the window with a lump in my throat and watch a great tit dip it's glorious black and white head into the feeder. Bird feeders which no longer blend like a mist into the background of bushes. Instead they now hang clear and proud in their green and silver suits.



A female blackbird bobs along the stone path below - a path that until Wednesday looked like a sea of sand to my cataract misted eyes - and I gaze in wonder as it pecks up a stray seed with its yellow beak... 

As I turn my head I spot a red breasted robin, its chest is as bright as scarlet lipstick. She lands on a branch of our candy floss pink, cherry blossom tree. I stare as she dives at the feeder to snatch a seed to feed her fluffy baby waiting below. 



My feasting eyes stray to our display of tulips which gently sway in the breeze. Mr H planted bag after bag of bulbs last autumn for us to enjoy. The startling pink stand behind the purest red and white I have ever seen.






Tall cups of colourful petals look up towards the grey sky which, to my new eye, is as bright as the Caribbean sun.





Now each morning when I wake my face splits into a huge smile as I watch the white brightness of daylight enter the room. The daylight that has been filtered by my cataracts for so long. 

But the temptation to carry on flirty winking is hard to beat. I have to cover each eye every day to check that my new cataract free eyesight is at least as good as the day before. This cover, check, mantra means that I am reminded of the grey world within which my left eye still lives.

When I read, the words are clearer, and at long last I can read on a deckchair in the garden; the words are no longer clouded from view as soon as my eyes see daylight.  

But reading glasses will be by my side for the rest of my life. My miraculous artificial acrylic lens only gives me distance vision. The lens can't adjust like my own lens used to before I turned 45 when reading glasses became permanently perched on my head.

After a week of rest, my energy bank is topped up and with sunglasses on I test my eyes on a pavement walk. I stride with more confidence as cracks and dips no longer hide from my trippy up view.  

Four times a day I drip drops into my eye which I protect with a patch at night. My calls to Mr H for help are more frequent as I drop things I cannot pick up or have to stop myself from reaching into low drawers. Bending to the ground is forbidden for a while. With military precision I follow the regime for fear that this gift may be lost if I do anything else.



And for now, I tingle with the joy of my new bright world. 


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Patch

I can't see it I say as Mr H repeats: it's on the left near the bottom

No I still can't see anything I moan - all I can see is black.


Let me look again it's probably moved... no it's still there he says with furrowed brows as he adjusts our birdwatching scope at a Dorset bird reserve in the summer of 2016...you can even see the snipe's stripes . try using your other eye...


Back home I booked an opticians appointment and after testing then retesting my eyes and the promise of a warning letter to my GP, I left the shop with a pounding heart. 


The following couple of weeks I squinted in and out of hospital doors to attend appointment after appointment and was soon lying flat in the noisy hoop of an MRI. With my brain tumour history; blurred vision could not be assumed to be just that; blurred and cloudy vision.


But at the eye hospital, my
pupils were dilated with dripping drops and peering inside them the eye hospital consultant said; you've got rapidly progressing posterior capsular cataracts. This type of cataract is usually caused by steroids...I had steroids during my brain tumour and breast cancer treatments I say with a shoulder shrug and wry smile - no one warned me I mutter...


I stumble through the weeks and months with my unfocused camera lens vision. People give me puzzled looks as I develop a habit of flirty winking! It's hard to resist a constant check to see which eye is worse, which one is more out of focus... it's like looking through a peasouper fog! 


I grumble to Mr H that I can't see the pavement cracks and potholes swim in and out of focus, adding layers of risk to my wobbly walking. I grumble that I can't read books anymore as the words hide behind cloud covered pages. I grumble when, in the dark,  I crash into our gates as I walk down the drive and at the dazzling super moon of light around every headlight...


This year large print letters plopped onto my mat and after two further trips through hospital doors, my name is, at last, added to the cataract surgery waiting list. Two weeks and a phone call later, I have a date for the following Wednesday, and it's not with Mr H, wink wink! 


I have to tape an eye patch over my eye at night for two weeks after the surgery I read out loud to Mr H. Will you still love me as I get more and more like long John silver? He laughs; of course it's the person not the patch that I love!
Back home last night in time for fish and chips

You don't realise how important your vision is until it starts to fail
So relish the colours of summer flowers
delight in the blueness of the sky
take pleasure in swishing grass swaying
and be thankful for the gift of sight




Friday, March 16, 2018

Stuff

Jenny slides into the seat of her wheels. I clutch the handles of mine...the automatic doors spring open and like a snake slithering warily across the floor we exit into the unknown...

Ping! 

The lift doors open and the cool air wafts around our smiling faces. Take a sharp left I call out to Jenny who by this stage has found the forward lever and liking its feel, zooms off ahead!

Wait for meeeeeee echoes in the vastness of the mall.

She's a learner I say to a lady who generously steps out of the way to protect her toes from not one but two sets of wheels. Look at these trousers I squeal as Jenny stops with me right in the middle of the aisle. We create a wide roadblock and titter as other shoppers are forced to walk back the other way to get to the rails...

With our wheels piled high with three pairs of trousers, a skirt and top we skid towards the sign saying Pay Here. Jenny safely attempts a 12 point turn to swing around a tight corner to the till but I get stuck behind her, my wheels are too wide. I decide on a two wheel approach and force my way through sidewards... we leave bewildered shoppers scattered behind us as we pay. The grinning saleswoman says it's far too tight there isn't it, it's always the same shops rarely think about us wobbly ones getting in and out I reply.

Back out on the track, our transport stacked with bags, we move from shop to shop. We have booked our taxi home as we know we only have a maximum of two hours fuel on board! We buy a take away lunch to eat at home and trundle slowly back towards the exit. Head for the lift at the end I call to Jenny who yet again is whizzing ahead of me. I push my wheels faster trying to keep up. 



Oh no we cry at the sight of a big yellow OUT OF ORDER sign swinging in front of the lift door. What now Jenny mutters.

Straight ahead, the only way is forward, through John Lewis we can use their lifts...

The sound of metal on metal makes everyone crammed into the lift jump as Jenny squeezes her forward lever thinking it's the brake...

..but there is no brake you just have to stop squeezing... an easy mistake I remind her as we exit laughing.

Our taxi is waiting with his doors and boot open ready for us to fill with our stuff - my word for the week. I love saying stuff I keep telling Jenny as we slide wearily into the seats with grins smeared across our faces...


Friday, December 22, 2017

Love can build a bridge

A lump rises in my throat as I read yet another Christmas card message, this time its from a friend in Cardiff who I haven't seen for over a year....

            

As I write your address on the card I feel such a longing to come and see you, I've missed seeing you, I miss our chats and catching up...










On my walk through life, like beautiful shells from beaches across the world, I have collected friends along the way...but unlike my shells which are stored in glass jars and baskets to be admired around my home, many of these friends live far away. Now I am unable to drive or get on trains or buses with ease, even those living relatively nearby prove too difficult to reach. 

Mr H is my willing chauffeur but he works, he gets tired, and we no longer venture out when the dark evenings draw in. Without a guiding arm, I trip over unseen holes, uneven kerbs and even walk into gates as my rapidly progressing, cataract choked eyes fail me. 

Last week Mr H dropped me off at the post office where I took a deep breath as I asked for eighty second class stamps.  I stepped out into the dazzling daylight with a much lighter purse! At Christmas I always sit down with a pen and write personal messages into the hundred or so cards which I send. I also enclose a short snappy, blog like, newsletter for those friends I see infrequently but think of often.

Like my shells, my friendships come with happy and sometimes sad memories and they have all left their imprint on my heart. More often than not when Mr H comes in from work I am out with a friend or on the phone, or nowadays iPad, calling or FaceTiming my friends; mostly laughing with a grin on my face. But sometimes we share sad news and support each other by quietly listening as the other pours their worries into the phone.

I am lucky to have lots of local friends too and today I stand nestled between my dearest Choir friends  while we sing...

                             Love can build a bridge, oh oh between your heart and mine,
                             Love can build a bridge, don't you know its time....

my heart swells and my eyes fill with happy tears as I am reminded of the many bridges of friendship I have built. I reflect on how those bridges of love have remained in place despite the distances between us. Knowing I have so many true friends makes my world that much richer. I am thankful that I constantly receive the gift of friendship. 

So don't hesitate, this Christmas reach out to friends who you haven't spoken to for a while, call them, it will be the best gift you can give...


I wish all my friends, family and readers a peaceful Christmas
and a calm friendship full 2018. 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Watching a leaf uncurl

She is so tiny I excitedly exclaim, with a grin as wide as the ocean. I sit in the chair as my new nephew in law, with hesitant hands and a longing look, passes his perfect bundle into my arms. I gaze at her pretty pink face and my heart melts into molten mush.

I am in love.

But there are too many miles between us and thanks to my epilepsy I can't step into the car on the driveway and zoom up the motorway for cuddles and hugs whenever I want.

I need a Halle fix I often tell my niece in a phone message. I am home in an hour lets FaceTime she replies.

So an hour later this gleeful Granty, is playing pat a cake with her gorgeous great niece.

I watch as she screws her nose up when she eats her chopped figs. I am there when she learns to say Ta as her Mummy hands her a toy.

I marvel at her tiny fists clinging onto the ropes of the swing I bought for her, then watch as her legs cartwheel around mid air and best of all I get to see her face come alive with a grin as her Grandad pushes her to and fro.

Halle knows my voice and grins at my screen covered face when I blow her kisses, then tries to blow me one back. She reaches out to grab my hair, smiles when I sing to her, tries to hand me her toy.

I remember a conversation not that long ago, who it was with I have no idea, but we spoke about the horror of making phone calls when we could see each other. But this potential horror lights up my weeks and brings sunshine smiles into my days...

...until next week when I get to feel her face against mine, cover her in kisses, give her my latest knitted creation.

I can only imagine how it would have felt to be handed my own baby. My bundle of love and watch as she or he slowly uncurled like a leaf, but thanks to technology I once considered in horror, this is pretty near perfect.

The adoring parents of Happy Halle
Pom pom hat created by Dawn!