The last few months

These have not been “frost free” months emotionally, I have been processing much about the unfamiliar life without mum, and the new life I have chosen after our big, big changes last year (moving areas, our marriage and J’s retirement).

There have been some happy days and some sad days, such is life I guess, but the roller-coaster has felt more than a little out of control at times, and with some mountainous ups and downs. When life feels like that  I tend only to write in my journal (a lot!) and any creative writing is limited to short poems. This means I have been absent from the blog pretty much all this year.

It hasn’t been an overly creative period but there are poems from the last few months that I want to share here. They concern “roots of family history, place, emotional growth and development.”, which, as I noted when introducing this site, I created this blog to explore. They talk about how it was, what I saw and how my parents lived. Not easy reading maybe (certainly not easy writing) but it is my truth and I am honouring it, moving on with it and letting it be. There is something about these words resting here that means I am letting them go, putting them down, and, finally, being freer from the past. (And thanks, Linden, for your loving conversation with me about these thoughts that helped me to start to put into words why I am sharing here.)


It wasn’t what I would have chosen

He said
The only tell-tale sign of regret
In those words

In future
Cards go to his address
And flowers
Go to hers


Look mum

They all came,
the cousins and the friends.

“No one would care if I lived or died.”
She said.

Look mum,
at the warm friendship
and soothing affection.

“No-one loves me –
Except, maybe you.”
She said.

Look mum,
at all the condolence cards
and fond memories shared.

“I would be better off dead.”
She said.



What he knows now

He remembers her now
With fondness
And love,

He tells the six grieving strangers
at the bereavement group
“I loved her; I loved her for 60 years”.

He talks to her, he reads her poetry!
“She would like that”, he says,
When is the last time he did that, I wonder?

On her last day, round her bedside, we sat,
He held her hand,
“It was years since we touched” he said.



The Diaries

They crouch chronologically, as I left them
in the box I brought here
from the chaos of those times.

They hold secrets
for me; my life, her life
told in loads
of washing
and ironing, and resting
and rows.
Told in letters for Granny
and tales of pets.
Thirty years of life in that box
just like her.



Mothering Sunday

This will be the first time in, probably, 40 years I have not sent a Mothers’ Day card to my mother. Actually she had a very traditional view of this, and it was always my job to find a card that said Mothering Sunday, and not Mother’s Day, the former being the original festival. Having just Googled this I find that the term Mothering Sunday originated in the 16th century, it was a date in Lent when people went back to their mother church, and were said to have gone a-mothering. This was overtaken by an American institution of celebrating motherhood which was begun by Anna Jarvis from West Virginia in 1905 who celebrated her mother in memorial the year she died. It eventually became a national holiday in the US when Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration in 1914. As with other parts of the world in the present day, this holiday is celebrated on the second Sunday in May in the US. The UK is peculiar in that it conflagrated the two things, and left Mothering Sunday in Lent (therefore the date moves about) and overlaid it with Mothers’ Day, so, unlike many other counties, this is not celebrated in May.image

I have missed the search for the card. It was always possible to find a Mothering  Sunday card, although it did get a little harder in more current times, but it had also to be one that wasn’t too soppy or trite; as the holiday got more commercialised this became more troublesome. I found myself automatically looking at the cards in the supermarket about three weeks ago, and then suddenly realised that I didn’t need to buy one this year as I didn’t have an address that I could send it too.  It is the first Mothering Sunday since mum died and it is difficult, unexpectedly so. Given this, and the fact that I can’t  send something, instead, I will say it here, happy Mothering Sunday, mum, wherever you are.


Memories, or lack therof

It is a bit awkward really, I want to write and the main mode I am attracted to is creative non-fiction – either poetry or prose – but I have a small problem; I don’t remember much. In order to write about my life or events therein, particularly if it is not recent, I need to have a catalogue of memories to call on, to populate the page and to lend realism and depth to my stories. I am lucky as I have kept a journal for many years, and so can go back to those volumes to flesh out that shimmering gossamer of recollection that I would like to capture more firmly on the page, but for those things I haven’t recorded in my journal it is a bit trickier.

Visual records too may help with remembering, but I harbour this doubt; do I remember the occasion or just the picture? Over the years I have looked through the family photos many times, and I wonder, would I be able to recall some events if I weren’t so familiar with the photos?

When mum died I became the repository for our family photographs. By unspoken consent all the pictures that mum or dad had kept got passed to me. Dad announced that they were to be mine, and then handed me an overflowing box when I arrived for mum’s ashes scattering; I inherited a heap of ancient snapshots to file or discard. I have always loved looking at these pictures and now I have them for safekeeping but still I wonder, what do I actually remember?

As I was reviewing and sorting the ones that ended up in my new album collection, I came across a photo that was of me, I was clearly present, I am in it, no dispute it is me. It is in colour and shows the four of us lined up against what I imagine is dad’s car. Remarkably, and this is a notable event in photos of my childhood, my mother is the only one attempting a smile. We are all, except dad, clutching rocks in our hands, and on the back, in mum’s imagehandwriting it says Kimmeridge Aug 76. And so it is, on one of our many trips to Dorset to visit Granny, we must have had a day out to go fossil hunting. Mum is wearing a dress of hers that I loved, very 1970s with white diamonds on a moss coloured patterned background; it eventually got turned into a pinny, I do remember that! I am in a very twee mainly white frock overlaid with garish red/blue flowers (I am put in mind of Laura Ashley wallpaper), it has short cap sleeves revealing very thin arms – I am nine. Dad and Chris are in non-descript yellow tops, mum has on a yellow cardigan over the dress, the sea and sky is our backdrop, flat and slightly washed out on the picture, really not an exceptional image.

As I look at it I try to dredge up what I recall of that day. I don’t remember the picture being taken, I have vague memories of being on the beach and scouring the cliffs for fossils, but then I worry that this is a mix up with a day where I thought we went to Lyme Regis, where Mary Anning, the fossil hunter, lived – and I got a book about her so that must have happened! This past feels faint and very fuzzy.

I stare at the representation that is me, I am not sure what she was feeling or thinking; she doesn’t look very happy but this doesn’t surprise me; I was not over familiar with happiness as a child. What sort of day was she having? And did she like fossil hunting?

I am left with more questions than recollections that I am happy to pin down as factual but I do think that I can use these graphic sources to produce some interesting writing. This work may veer more to the creative side of the genre than the non-fiction, but that’s OK!

Meditation on my mum

A very strange and surreal week just ends. We were called by dad who asked us to come up to see mum. She had been in hospital for 2 weeks. Very odd to begin with as no one really knew what was wrong; after blood tests, scans and prods and pokes, still the medics seemed to be none the wiser. We were called, mum was asking for us, dad said, so we went. Then to our surprise, shock and sorrow she slipped down hill really very fast, and two days after we arrived she passed away. Her heart and lungs were tired and old, and did in the end fail, but actually, for a woman whose reproductive system was the bain of her life for 70 years, her death certificate proclaimed metastasised malignant ovarian cancer as the secondary cause of death. A diagnosis that was only made this last week, and the prognosis of “maybe a couple of months” I finally heard as she was dying. A rum affair indeed.

So, to a funeral. I have taken on quite a lot of the work in organising this, including working with the celebrant to tell her story in the tribute. To this end I wrote a meditation on mum, and I share it here, respectfully to honour her passing and recognise what an amazing lady she could be.

Mum – my meditation

Mum was an arts person, not a scientist. After studying literature at Liverpool University her greatest love was reading, although in later years she seemed to have “far too many to mention” magazines to get through before she could start on the books – but it didn’t stop her buying books… and books and more books… so many that when we emptied boxes when she moved to her bungalow in Swineshead that they were two abreast on some shelves. We could now fill a library with her collection!

mum and dad's 004

She didn’t just read but was a skilled writer too, her love of words shone through in her creative expression. She wrote creative non-fiction as well as some stories, but also poetry, like the one Harry read at the start of her funeral service. She was a stickler for grammar and punctuation – very old school – and I remember my school essays having her read pen corrections as she tried (mostly in vain) to help me with my English. This upset me a lot at the time, but I am envious of her very great knowledge of the mechanics of the English language. This skill was very useful when she was contributing and then editing the village magazines in Lincolnshire.

Talking of mechanics, this was one skill that was essential whenever she made her beloved train journeys. It was a standing joke in the family that every trip by train was fraught with delay, engine trouble or some other drama. She never failed to complete a journey, but she always alighted with a tale to tell.

Telling her tale was major inspiration in her abundant writings. Many did not make it to print but part of her collection were a set of fine stories she entitled “Pilgrimages” where she was in A&E or subsequently admitted to the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston and these appeared in the Heckington magazine. They still make me giggle, and on reading her collected works I see her humour and storytelling were a large part of who she was even if not everyone was privy to them.

When we went to see Julie, the florist for her funeral, she remarked that mum was a clever lady, and I think that is something people will remember about her. Also her dry wit – quite sharp at times – but always delivered with a straight face. She liked satire, and programmes such as “Have I Got News For You” were a staple in her TV schedule. Intelligent conversation as found on Radio 4 was another source of pleasure, and this station was a long standing accompaniment to her life. I remember as a child we started each day before school with the Today programme, Brian Hanrahan being a favourite. Later on when I would ring her there was often Radio 4 in the background – she liked to listen while she ironed. Women’s’ Hour, The News Quiz… these were all favourites.

Later in life she often resorted to Classic FM, especially at night when she wasn’t sleeping. Her love of music was also revealed in her piano playing, she tried very hard! During our childhood there was a time when Chris, mum and I were all taking piano lessons. (Mum and I were both jealous of Chris’ effortlessness with music, his ability to hear a tune and reproduce it with seeming ease!) She reports from this time the piano teacher saying “You have a good knowledge of the geography of the keyboard…. It is just a pity your map reading is a little off!”  (I found this quote amongst the vast quantity of dog-eared A4 jottings that are her writings) However she persevered and worked hard at difficult Beethoven pieces, the pages covered with many, many black notes… I loved hearing her play, and I now have the privilege of owning the piano we all played.

Singing was another great love; I remember her singing enthusiastically in church all my childhood, and after the move to Lincolnshire she joined Heckington church choir when she was only one of three at times. She also was vociferous when watching Songs of Praise, belting out the words which she always seemed to know from memory, even before the BBC helpfully started to put the lyrics up on the TV screen.

Although mum was much more of an indoor pursuits person it seems she did love to dig a vegetable patch – she found it therapeutic she said. I remember black and white photos of her at various homes in the past, sleeves rolled up, fork in hand, smiling. At Swineshead she still enjoyed her fruit and veg patch, always having copious fruits for jams and pickles – there are still jars and jars in her kitchen cupboards today!

She was very proud of her North-East heritage. Both parents hailed from the Durham area and both degree educated, not usual for mining families in those days – she came from a clever family indeed! Mum loved Durham and many pictures in her home were of this beautiful city and its magnificent cathedral; there is one arresting image I recall vividly of the church looming moodily over the river in a northern fog. Dad has said that the cousins should have these; I think that is a lovely idea.

Being an only child, her extended family; her grandparents and numerous uncles, aunts, cousins, were important to mum. She loved to visit the old places, and talked fondly of the annual trips “up north” with her parents when she was a child. When I went to Newcastle University I think she was doubly proud, and it gave her an excuse to visit once again.

Mum was not an easy person sometimes; she had had many difficulties and sadness in her life, which seemed to weigh heavy with her. When I could approach her in the creative places, (we shared writing and reading as great loves) I found a thoughtful and quick witted woman who would play with words to comic effect. The night we spent alone in the house together just when my parents were moving to Great Hale, and we read Mills and Boon to each other – all heaving bosoms and rasping breaths – we both laughed until we cried. Our shared writings and poems, our exchange of letters, our talking into the night or over long, long days (once for 12 hours straight)  about our shared history and thoughts on that. These were small and, sadly, not so frequent glimpses we each got into the others’ world… I will honour these times.

Rest in peace, mum. 17.8.34 – 20.11.14

The new chapter… what happens now?

It has been an amazing year, one that is passing by so very quickly. It is even longer between posts than it was the last time I came here to drop down a few thoughts, but I haven’t been idle; since May the summer has been packed, full of leaving our Oxford home and the city itself, then there was J’s retirement, plus two excellent transition holidays consisting of three weeks in Scotland and then three weeks on the waterways of England. (These will be topics for future posts soon.) Now, as the year grows old, the trees are putting on their autumn colours and the days are growing shorter and cooler. We have lit the wood burner and the airy living space in The Glass House is warming nicely. Time for contemplation…

We have truly entered the beginning of the new chapter now; both of us living here in Shropshire and both of us not in paid employment. This is a big shift in time availability for our own thing, where routines are gone and there is no precedent to the expectations of what we do together and when. Not only do we have no customary schedule but we have a less familiar living space to operate within – there are no rules! In some ways that may be good, as there aren’t old habits that get in the way, but equally there are no structures to help shape our days. Yet.

We are only into our first week of what can be termed the “new normal”, so there is time for all this to evolve. I have a tendency to want to rush things when they are uncertain or ambiguous; I guess I am more of a control junky than J, who is much more likely to sit back and wait to see what emerges. I am hoping that a little of his patience will rub off on me.

So far this week most tasks have been things that have been put off because we were not fully moved in before we then went away or, because we were away for nearly 2 months, needs arose due to the passage of time.  Consequently we have gardening and correspondence backlogs, not to mention the dreaded change of address letters. Combine this with our name changes (we have taken both our names into common use, so we both have a name change) then we have enormous potential to confuse some admin staff at the various organisations where we are customers. Hey ho, such is life!

On the proactive side I am pleased that we have reinstated the weekly update and planning meeting that was useful when we needed to co-ordinate work diaries along with our personal calenders. This is a useful way to ensure we have a catch up at least weekly and it helps allay my lack of control fears. As part of this meeting we review the week just gone and that means we get to focus on the positive things that happened and what went well. This is something we consciously want to do and serves to remind us (me) that life is good and we are doing OK. It also helps us to look at anything we need to continue to focus on. I think this will be a great tool to help us navigate the next few weeks while we figure out what happens now.

Let the future start to unfold…


Merry month of May

The last months have flown by… the planning for our wedding and then a week later the completion of the house purchase have left me with no energy for writing – no head space I guess. I am here now, however, sitting at the dining table in The Glass House with the spring sun trying to break through the early morning grey cloud and I feel the urge once again to capture the moment in wiriting.

Over night it rained heavily and the noise on the glass conservatory that runs across theCIMG0454 whole of the rear of the house is loud and yet at the same time comforting. The sense I get is of being aboard a ship; water sounds are close and the house timbers creak in the wind, and while nothing sways (thankfully!) I feel a motion, a sailing along in time. This morning I can stand on the bridge balcony and appreciate the garden and beyond; it is a wonderful sight.

The weekly routine has had to change to allow J to continue to work in Oxford. I am spending more time in Shropshire alone during the week but I am relishing the time to inhabit my new home and feel how it feels to live in this place and in this space. J joins me at weekends to potter in his new shed/workshop and to do DIY – he has been a frustrated DIYer since we started renting nearly four years ago!

The house is airy and spacious with a pitched roof in the upstairs living area so it feels a little like a barn conversion, and with all the glass it is warm, very warm. We have installed thermometers and have readings of up to 85 degrees in the lounge when the temperature outside is more like 74, in the consevatory it has reached 95, no wonder the grapes on the vine are growing. The solar panels on the roof heat the water, and so far we have had the sun-heated water temperature reach over 70 degrees, in England, in May! We have started to work out how to open windows or doors to allow free flow of air through the living areas, and to create enough draft to cool it down without making such a gale that things blow away – a  delicate balance required for this and a whole new skill.

Another new skill is adapting to being J’s wife – well not so much a skill as a wonderful priviledge. It feels so right and so perfect. On the 2nd May we were joined in matrimony and when we said our vows I felt the truth of our words:

“I promise to love and to care for you, to trust you and be honest with you, to stand by you whatever the future may bring. I promise you loyalty and friendship both now and always.”

Our day was so beautiful, and we are reminiscing about it already – it’s only 3 weeks ago! While we await the professional recordings on video and film we have constantly been looking over the photos sent to us by family and friends, where everyone is smiling, talking and enjoying the day, I was stunned by how well our small group of guests got on. For me the day was a perfect blend of intimacy, fun and romance.

The ceremony was in an oak panelled room in a small country hotel and for this most precious part of the day our guests were comfortably sat on sofas. This seems to sum up the wedding; not too formal and a little different to convention.  After the celebratory lunch we continued to buck wedding trends with a non-conventional steam train trip and then an evening hostelry tour… no first dances for us! I bet it is a day we and many of our guests will long remember fondly.

And so today I am sitting and writing in my lovely Glass House and remembering my wedding day. The weather is cooler now and the morning sky has darkened; rain is on the way – however nothing can dim the bliss that is mine; this truely is a merry merry May.





2014… so far

I am finally thinking I want to get back to the writing life, and this is a good place to come to do that. It has been a while since I stopped in and left some thoughts I know, but I have much to tell…

This year started well with a sense of promise and optimism. J  is due to retire in August, and the future began to open up before us like a budding rose. Then two things seemed to happen simultaneously; J asked me to become his wife, and we decided our most pressing priority is to set up home together.

Whereas the wonderful marriage proposal was well within the plans we had been formulating, the powerful desire to set up our home right now did come as a bit of a surprise. It was the antithesis of the choices we had been contemplating about this year where top of the list had been a plan to travel to the other side of the world and then spend 2015 living snail-like in a camper, exploring the Australian wilderness. Our change of heart to yearning after a fixed abode was flummoxing; we felt we had been set on the idea of our Gap Year, and we both mourned the loss a little.

These feelings were soon overwhelmed by the excitement of starting to plan our wedding. On Friday 3rd January J asked me to marry him. It was a joyous and unexpected evening of loveliness. His demeanour all day had betrayed his nervousness and although I could sense that, I could not make sense of why. He had been out to visit his father and had taken longer to get back home than I had anticipated; when he unexpectedly insisted that we go out for dinner (unusual for us as we don’t tend to go out on a weekend evening) I finally understood. I came downstairs after getting ready to go out only to find him standing in the lounge holding a large bouquet, and looking scared.  He had been to fetch the flowers impulsively after his visit to his dad; he decided to propose today! I had apparently given him some grief at Christmas about not asking me then… I really don’t remember; the sloe gin had overtaken me obviously, but he knew then that The Question would get a positive response!

So, I appeared in the lounge and he popped The Question.  We spent the next hour 1546046_10152481881004045_1977100360_nlaughing, crying, and arranging the beautiful flowers in all the vases I could muster. As the evening progressed, it transpired that we both wanted to be married soon. I certainly hadn’t appreciated the chain of emotional events that would be set in motion by a proposal that I thought I was prepared for. It was a wonderful and happy period; we both felt it was right and were delighted by the effect it had on our relationship; a settling happened, like a bird onto her eggs, a peaceful and contented sense was with us.

Maybe because of this goodwill things happened quickly and easily. By the end of January we had the major pieces lined up; a venue; a photographer; a florist; a dress; a guest list; and, most importantly, a date, only 13 weeks away at the start of May. This was quite a lot to manage already, but I was relishing my role as the wedding planner.

And then we took a turn out to look at a few houses in South Shropshire, just to “see what it was like to look”. We had talked, sensibly, about waiting to see houses until after the wedding, but we are both impetuous sometimes and were drawn to the temptations of Rightmove. Unsurprisingly perhaps, given our desire to find a home for our new life, some houses talked to us. So, under the guise of “exploring Shropshire”, a place I am drawn to for no rational reason, we picked three that were well placed for a day trip of viewing.

We saw the Glass House last. It was magnificent on the brochure pictures, a splendid architecturally designed upside-down house with a striking full length conservatory and balcony. It had been my secret favourite all along and I hoped for something wonderful as after seeing the other two properties I was a bit disappointed; they had seemed much more bleak and dismal than I had wished for. It was a grim rainy day and by 2pm the sky was darkening. We arrived for our viewing and rushed to the front door, dripping because the heavens had just opened. Once inside we were struck by the warmth and the airiness of the living space and we loved the feel of the downstairs bedrooms, all facing out onto the conservatory. We saw potential loveliness in the gardens (hard to assess really at the start of February) and in the studio and garage/workshop started imagining all sorts of uses and hobbies and fun things we could do…

We left, we were smitten but both trying not to show it. Also we were weary; it was a long day with a drive and all the houses, so we retired to the hotel we had chosen. By the start of the next day after a lovely meal and a long talk followed by a long sleep we had decided we would take the bull by the horns and return to the Glass House to see it again. This morning was, by contrast, a super sunny one and as we sat having tea with the owners we knew we could live in this house and make it our home.

Time has rushed by since then; it is now only 6 weeks to the wedding, and potentially only one more after that until we sign for the house. The finer details of both events are still being sorted out, but it is a superb start to the year of dreams .


Advance Australia Fair

I was away in Australia for a month and got back 2 weeks ago. It feels like a long time since I was writing here about packing now that I have subsequently unpacked and put away all that was eventually decided upon. (Note to self: I must remember it was too much as I wore only about half of what I took.)  The intervening couple of weeks since the return has felt disorienting while I deal with the readjustments that ensue from travelling half way round the world.

Most obviously is the time zone change. We literally are awake all night and sleep all day, if you go by British time. This is not helpful, and I find that immediately I am on the plane I need to start to adjust to the new time, so on the way out I do this by sleeping when it is night in Australia. This is easier in international airspace, where it is “no-time”, than once we have arrived and are faced with daylight that feels “wrong” for the body clock. On the way back we had a stop off in Singapore for a few hours, where we slept in the transit hotel, which was a marvellous idea; a bed and a shower! Then once on the plane from Singapore to Heathrow I should have been sleeping as it was nighttime in England, but I couldn’t sleep so watched 6 films in a row and arrived at breakfast time, 13 hours later, with square eyes. The jet lag thing was quite insidious for me this time. I felt fine then I suddenly felt tired… at about 7pm. Then I awoke at 3am, ready to start the day. This pattern went on for ten days, the longest I have ever had it! This is not so great in December when it is already dark by 7pm and not light until 8am; the daylight was not on my side here.

The day length links to the second thing I notice; the season change. In the antipodes it is spring at the moment, and the days are lengthening while the weather is warming up. Now, we did not have it purely hot and sunny while we were in Oz, it was a very mixed OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbag, and in the mountains in was positively cold in fact it snowed the week we were there!  The day we arrived in Sydney we were nearly blown over by the strength of the wind, and the photos of us wearing fleeces and under grey skies looked more like the land we had left – except for the Opera House in the background, there was no mistaking that. We experienced rain and storms, snow and wind and then…. the sun came out, and it was hot! Coming back has been a bit of a shock, admittedly it is not freezing, but it is winter and as such colder and darker, which feels a lot less hospitable when the day before we left Sydney we had 14 hours of sunshine and the mercury reached 32 degrees.

Another thing about coming back to the UK is how small it is, how compact the towns and the roads feel. In Australia the land is big and seems to go on for ever – there is a sense of grand scale to the landscape that seeped in while I was travelling through it. The roads are wide, and the towns are not cramped, I guess they have space! Here I notice the short distance between everywhere, and particularly here in the south, how there are not many open spaces – houses, and people, everywhere. There is more room to breathe and more accessible solitude in the bush and the mountains that we visited. I miss that in our own countryside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The least explicit readjustment I need to make is back to living within the British culture. The contrast to Australia where the people are more extravert and have a candid approach to conversation, which is disarming at first, appears vast. Where the language is superficially the same as English, but you soon learn that the way it is used is not, so you can be fooled into thinking you grasp what is meant (you probably don’t). Where they have a pioneering and exploring spirit, and because they conduct much of their lives outside, this comes through in the way they socialise, spend leisure time and think about what is possible. Never has the metaphor of the young buck and the old imperialist nation been so uppermost in my mind. I am unsure about Britan, and indeed Europe, what is the prospect here? While Australia is going forward, towards Asia and the future. This puts me in mind of what the kangaroo keeper explained to us at the zoo; kangaroos can only move forward they cannot reverse as their muscular tail prevents it, so just like their anthem, they must Advance Australia Fair. It feels very much like they are of one voice in that belief.

Sent Packing

I find myself with one day to go before we set off on the big trip down under. Now, I have decided in the main what I want to take in the clothing department, and which suitcase I will take. But this really is only about half the job. In my past I used to make a list of everything that I was planning to take on a trip with me, often a few weeks in advance. All outer layer clothing items were listed under categorical headings: trousers; shirts;  jumpers; shoes; coats. I used to count how many pieces of underwear were required and carefully record that too. I would also list the books I wanted to take and other items such as binoculars, camera, journals. Then packing would proceed in an orderly manner according to the list.John's australia 2011 047

Today I do not have a list of the items that will end up in Australia on Sunday. I am not even sure I completely know what those items will be, I don’t  have them all in one place and I certainly don’t have them anywhere near a suitcase. To my former self this feels highly unorganised and scary, a “flying by the seat of the pants” moment to pick out a pertinent metaphor.

The previous lists I made served the purpose of tightly managing the environment around me. I wanted to be in control; keeping control of the environment gave me the illusion of being in charge of what happened around me, and this increased a feeling of safety and security within me.

I realise now that very many of my former habits have slipped away as I have become more aware of how life is free-flowing, and I don’t have control. I used to be organised and ultra tidy – I could hardly tolerate any type of disruption or unforeseen event – now I still prefer not to have unanticipated things happen, but I am less likely to freak out. I can accept a level of disorder or muddle, and if I spot that I am starting to notice or fret about it then I know it is a fair indication that my stress levels have risen.

So, the packing will happen tomorrow morning, I am not unduly concerned about the content. I am much more of the opinion now that as long as I have my tickets, passport and some money – then for everything else there is Mastercard…

Been busy….

… away from my computer and from home, so thought I would share here one of the adventures.

Roz at 5

Me at five years

Last week I enjoyed a couple of days with my adopted mum reminiscing over my childhood. Well, I was only able to cover 3 years in the time we were together, but I left with a promise that I would return for more.

Mum used to keep a housekeeping and events diary during the time I was growing up. It was used mainly as a way of completing the weekly letter to my Gran who lived in Dorset, whom we saw twice a year in the half term weeks. Apart from that I think it recorded household expenditure (in the days long before home computers) and some reminders for birthdays. It was the family “go to” book for what happened when. This was true for my inquiry, and the main thrust of our discussion on this occasion centred around 1972 – 1974 when I was between the ages of four and seven. In this time we moved house twice, dad seemed to always be painting and repainting rooms, and mum was constantly washing bedding of various sorts, as well as massive amounts of clothes and curtains. These were the events that were worthy of inclusion, along with the car breakdowns, plus the job and school starts and stops. Included too are what appears to be a constant set of illnesses of one sort or another; we were faithful congregation at both doctors and church.

I am engaged in life writing, and am working on the autobiographical material in my life. I had spied the diaries in the bookshelf last Christmas when I was up with the parents, and it reminded me that they would be a good way to access some facts through the years of my childhood; what really happened when and where. At the time I arranged the visit this was all I was thinking would be possible, but as mum and I were talking, the factual record became dotted with living memories. We recalled my brother’s 8th birthday, long forgotten until we remembered him being car-sick and not making it out of the car in time during his special day out. The car had plastic seats, and although mum and dad tried to clear it up as best they could, the car stank for weeks afterwards.  Mum reckoned that it stank until they sold it – lovely!

We talked too of mum’s history and childhood; my grandparents and her cousins. She has a great pile of stories ready to come out, some of them she has already written for various magazines, competitions and writing groups over the years. I love reading her reminiscences; by doing so and in hearing the stories (some old favourites of hers I have heard many times before!) I am able to add adult understanding to my own history, and that of my adopted family. This feels like an important process of growing up and accepting what has gone before as well as appreciating the long and winding road that brings me to where I am today. Besides, it is all work in progress, and grist for my writing mill…