Friday 29 August 2014

Life's great conundrums

I often find my life is like this:

You are on the west side of a river, with a fox, a duck, and a bag of corn. You must cross to the other side of the river, taking everything with you. However, you have only a very small boat, large enough to carry you, and one of your "traveling companions" at a time. There is no other way across. How do you get everything to the other side of the river, without anyone eating anyone else? (Assume none of them will eat the others if you are present. Also assume nothing runs away if you leave it alone.)

Now, I can work this out, although I can never remember how I did it last time. In my own life, I don't manage quite so well. Two small grandsons to be collected from a halfway point, to stay the night tonight. They need to be home (96 miles away) tomorrow evening. Daughter-in-law prepared to meet again, but she's a busy doctor, and I am .....not. So. I'll take them back. But do I want to do that journey twice in one day? Not really. Plus, the Devizes Carnival Procession tomorrow evening means all the roads will be closed, so I may not be able to get back in.

I won't bother you with the furth complications. Suffice to say that this time, problem solved. Although one grandson has a friend for a sleepover tomorrow night, he and friend actually want to sleep in the living room, so I can stay over in grandson's bed. Whew.

Until next time.

Monday 25 August 2014

PS (to Richard Dawkins)

I'm sorry to trouble you again, Richard, but I thought you might like this. I happened upon it again this morning, and I thought of you. It's a photo of a happy family wedding, just over two weeks ago; the bride and her sister, plus husbands. But who's that on the right, I hear you ask?

Well, that's the mother of the two girls. She's my sister, born very prematurely with severe disabilities. Perhaps she, too, should have been aborted, but fortunately she was not. She looks happy, doesn't she? I'm glad you agree, because she's an amazing woman. Despite all the odds, she trained as a teacher and an actress, married and had these two wonderful - and they really are wonderful - daughters. She writes poems, gives one-woman shows, and although now widowed and living alone, and in constant pain, she coaches schoolchildren, helps out at her local primary school and keeps us all amused with her great sense of humour. (She's also a pillar of her local churh, but I suppose I oughtn't to have mentioned that.)

So you see, the disabled have so much to offer, not least their example. She may not have made any great scientific discoveries (apart from how many times it's possible to fall out of a wheechair without killing yourself), but all of us who know her are grateful to have done so. She is, quite simply, one of the most inspirational people I've ever met.

Now, you must excuse me. I have a novel to write.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Dear Richard Dawkins

No, not God, this time. You've done God to death. I want to complain about your disgraceful Tweet (if that's what it's called. I don't do Twitter) about Downs Syndrome babies. Let me remind you of what you said, apropos an unborn Downs baby: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice."

Why, Richard (if I may call you Richard)? Why immoral? If that baby is wanted, despite its condition, and if the parents are prepared to take it on, who are you to tell them they are being immoral? Are you God (if you'll excuse the term)? Have you ever met a Downs child (or adult)? Do you have any idea of some of the joy and love they can bring?

Let me tell you about Derica. When I met her, she was in her late teens; a regular patient at the surgery where I was practice nurse. She was a much-loved member of her family. Cheerful, friendly, brave (she never made a fuss about her blood tests the way many 'normal' people do), and happy. Yes, Richard. She was happy. And when her grandmother was burgled, at knifepoint, in her own little flat (imagine how that must have felt, if you can), it was Derica who slept in her Grandmother's bed with her for night after night afterwards, to hold her and comfort her.

Sadly, Derica died not long afterwards (so she didn't take up planet-space for too long, you'll be relieved to hear), and her family were all devastated. Because Derica knew how to love, how to care, how to give; in fact,  how to be a thoroughly good  human being.

We had many patients at that surgery, but it was Derica who stood out for me. Not because she had Downs, but because she was a very special young woman.

I wish you could have met her.

Friday 22 August 2014

Grave spectacle...

...or rather, spectacle grave. There are more corpses, all over the house. I sit on them, drop them, drop things on them, lose them. They are nearly all amputees. They get smashed at the bottoms of handbags (one of the many reasons that I shall never be a handbag lady. I hate them), and smaller family members get at them.

But they are/were all dirt cheap, so that's something. More arrived today. This time I shall make a big effort to keep them in their cases.

Well, it's a start.

(What an incredibly dull post. Apologies.)

Tuesday 19 August 2014

How do you know you're old?

A granddaughter asked me this this morning. These (my oldest) grandchildren are very interested in (my) old age, possibly because I'm one of the oldest people they're close to. When they were small, they used to tell me I was "very old, and going to die soon" (thanks, guys). Now the questions are different.

But I think the answer to this one (and the one I gave)  is that I don't think I would know I was old if I didn't know my age. I certainly don't feel it. I ride, play with grandchildren (on the trampoline this morning), wear jeans, even flirt (yes. I do, just occasionally, get chatted up. Hard to believe, I know. But you neve forget how to flirt. Experto crede). We are obsessed by age. Big O birthdays, retirement age, pensions, nice little offers of funeral plan packages or retirement homes coming in the post. You can't get away from it.

I have an actress friend who has told no one her age; not even her son. And I think that must be so liberating. Too late for me now, but good luck  to her. She really can be as young as she feels (awful cliche, but it fits).

Friday 15 August 2014

Money's cascading...

...into my coffers (I'm not entirely sure that I have a coffer, but if I did, it would be pretty full by now).

Three offers received by email yesterday; several more today. One even from the representative of Christine Lagarde, no less (she of the IMF). Usually US dollars, but no matter. Money is money. Some of it purports to come from very poor, unfortunate  (even, literally, legless) people in poverty-stricken communities.

And they all want to give me millions of pounds/dollars, right now. So when I've moved into my palace and parked the private jet on the velvety lawn, and watched my early string of  racehorses on the gallops, and been served a sumptuous breakfast by my butler (I've always fancied the idea of a butler), I shall take my new, expensive camera (I'm sure my good friend Adrian will advise here) and show you all photos of my great new life.

Please, don't mention  it. No problem at all,  I assure you.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

The black dog

In common with many thousands of others, I feel so very sad for Robin Williams and his family. A great tragedy, and a terrible waste of a prodigious talent.

I've been there too. For much of my life, I suffered from depression. It's debilitating, mysterious, at times crippling. And however sympathetic others may be, they do not - cannot - really understand.

Everyone can identify with, say, a broken leg. It's easy to understand. It hurts, and you can't walk properly.You don't have to have one to have an idea what it's like. Not so depression. Depression feels like a lead weight, can come out of the blue, and can be totally paralysing. And only someone who has been there can understand. You may know you have a lot to be happy about; that there's no reason for it. But that makes it even worse. I recall my then GP, whom I must have called upon in desperation, looking at my two toddlers and telling me how lucky I was, because she couldn't have children. So that brought on even more of the guilt I already felt.

When I was a student, I was hospitalised for several weeks. The hospital was Victorian and very grim. We were watched every second of the day, and even had to ask for the taps if we wanted a bath (no privacy, of course). I was treated with a bizarre therapy called 'insulin therapy'. Lord knows how it was meant to help, and I don't think it did anything at all except  make me feel even worse.

But in a way, I was lucky. My black dog is now kept at bay most of the time, and during that time in hospital I met, among others,  the girl who is still my life-long closest friend. I also  learnt to listen, as there were so many who were worse off than I was. In the end, I think I was a better person because of it.

Robin Williams has left a tremendous legacy for those of us who can still enjoy his work. I hope that he is now at peace.

Friday 8 August 2014

For a granddaughter; to cheer her up after a disastrous haircut

A camel might well get upset,
Because this is the best she will get.
But I want you to know
That your hair will soon grow,
And the camel will never
Have blue eyes, be clever,
Or get to play parts
In school plays. So you see
You're enormously special
Especially to me!

(And I love you very much xx)

Monday 4 August 2014

Of wedding photos

My short story about a fanatical photographer received some interesting comments, and it got me thinking about wedding photos.

How many weddings have you been to where the guests' enjoyment has been marred by having to wait around for hours - probably in the rain/wind/snow - while the photos are taken? There are the happy couple ones, some in the most unlikely of positions (like the one above), posed by fountains, lakes, on blaconies; and looking dreamy and (I think) just plain silly. And then there are the group photos. How we all love the group photos.

A bouncy man (it's usually a man) with a camera, calling out instructions: "now the family of the bride...the bridegroom's family...all the people the bridegroom has ever got drunk with...all the men the bride has ever slept with...". And on, and on, and on. And just when you think it can't get any worse: "and now we'll have a photo of EVERYONE!" And 'everyone' picks themsleves off lawns and out of bushes and trudges back for that last, shivering photo. Which (in all likelihood) nobody will ever look at again.

Personally, I love the informal ones, taken when nobody is posing and people look natural. One of the prettiest photos of one of my daughters-in-law is of her carefully navigating some steps, holding her dress out of the way, unware of the photographer. Oh, and weeping, reluctant bridesmaids clinging to theri mother's skirts (same wedding). Because that's the way it was.

Next post: wedding speeches. I can feel myself warming up already.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Magpie 231

Lizzie stood in the sand in her bra,
And tried to lasso a parked car.
Some thought it was clever,
But I think   I've never
Seen anything quite so bizarre.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales, for this photo of Elizabeth Taylor)

Saturday 2 August 2014

You can't take home a sunset (flash fiction)

Together, they leant on the balcony of their honeymoon hotel, looking at the sunset. She soaked up the warm summer evening, the fragrant cooking smells from neighbouring houses, the distant lapping of the sea. He just took a photograph.

As time went on, holidays were always the same. She revelled in new sights, smells, people. He collected them and took them home in his camera

"Look at the composition in this one!" he would cry, when they got home. "The way I've got that tree, that bridge."

But he hadn't seen the lightening streak of a kingfisher,  heard the gentle plop of a trout, or even noticed the new dress she was wearing.

Ten year on, it was the same.

 "Leave your camera behind, just for once," she pleaded, as they prepared for an anniversary holiday.

"Not a chance!" he laughed.

"But you can't take home a sunset," she told him.

"Just try me," he said.

They travelled to the coast.

"I must catch this," he said, as they stood on a cliff top, watching the  waves foam  and crash on the rocks below. But he didn't hear the cry of the gulls that wheeled above, or feel the soft turf beneath his feet.

He probably didn't feel the push, either. It was such a gentle push. Almost loving.

But this time, it was the police who took the photograph.