Purpose

How fab you have all this time say friends. So how come it doesn’t feel fab. Time which was always been my enemy has now become my nemesis.

I have a large collage of photographs on my wall which over hangs my desk. I made it for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. It’s full of dead people.  It is also full of my immediate family. I look at it and remember my life back then. It was a bit of a whirl. Work, parents, housekeeping, children’s parties, schools, homework, social events, sleep overs, bar mitzvas, dinner parties – yes, they were all the rage in the nineties. Not your Abigail-party kind of dinner party that was the seventies!  I remember feeling that I could never catch up and if only I could have an extra few hours that nobody else knew about.   I was stressed, tired and I complained a lot.

I know its not straight. But its the wall!

But looking back – it was a wonderful time and with hindsight – yes that bloody hindsight again – I so wish I had appreciated it more. The people one would have wanted to spend more time with who are no longer here – the time when the children thought you were the centre of their earth and wanted constant cuddles and the work which was all consuming but interesting and fun.

 Because now ironically, I am finding it very hard because I have too much time.  And not enough things to do or people to share the time with.  I could blame it all on Covid – I blame everything on Covid. The weather, the messy house, my bad temper, my insomnia the list is endless.

It’s true that I had intended on doing a lot of travelling and that has sadly been kiboshed but I think one of the big things that happens when one leaves the work place is lack of purpose. I have my yoga, my bridge, volunteer work a huge house to keep clean which in itself is actually a full-time job. But not exactly very intellectually or spiritually uplifting because it just gets dirty again.  I never really got the house work thing you clean, dust, iron, wash, and within a few days it all needs doing again. What’s that about.   I had been shielded from this because I always had nanny’s, au pairs and cleaners.  Welcome to the real-world – this is my new reality. And  I am learning to be a bit of a Stepford wife but without a husband.  Can you be a wife without a husband?

Let’s face it I didn’t really have a good training for this as I grew up in a constant state of mess.  My mother, bless her, could never get on top of housework. We had little money, she worked full time, rode us to school on the back of her bike and  the house, well that kind of had to sort itself out.

Once when grandma was watching over my brother and I because we had chicken pox and mum and dad were at work, she had an instant initiation into our family’s way of cleaning up.  There we were – sick with  fever lying on the two couches in the living room waiting for the doctor. Yes, doctors used to come out in those days. The doorbell rings.  Up we jump and grab everything in sight and throw it into the adjoining room.  Within minutes the room was tidy and we return to our couches. Grandma just stood there open mouthed.  We had been trained well. Keeping every room in our house tidy was an impossibility. Not because the house was too small more that mother was unbelievably disorganized.  And while one could tidy one room it means that another would be full of the stuff from the tidy room.  So, you can see why housework does not come easily to me.

But I digress.

So, I took to google for some advice on finding a purpose in life;   I need to relax and take time – well got lots of that, do things that I love to do – travel! follow my intuition, not sure that is working well at the moment, read – clearly they haven’t seen the side of my bed.

Question myself – I have been questioning myself all my life and quite frankly I am done with questioning myself. And practice gratitude.  I already do this. I say thank you every day, not sure who I am thanking but I am hedging my bets and hoping that there is something out there that might just save the planet because if not – well we’re fucked.

Anyone know a good life coach?

So, my new purpose in life is to find a purpose.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Letter to Tod

Dear Tod

Three years ago, today you left us and yes you left in your own imitable way – not quietly – not without a fight and on both your youngest son’s birthday and Father’s Day.  Quite a spectacular exit – but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

It’s not that today I think of you any more – I think of you every day but I guess 3 years is just another mile stone. You said to me not long before you died that you were worried that we would forget about you – my darling we talk about you all the time. Sometimes as if you are still here. We tell jokes on your behalf some I know of which you would not approve. And that’s the thing about losing someone so close to you they remain in your heart – forever. You don’t get over losing a long term partner you just learn to live with it.  And I will be taking you along with me on this next phase of my life – whatever it is.

Grief is a funny old thing I can be merrily chugging along doing my own thing and feeling relatively okay and then suddenly I do something and it hits me right there in the solar plexus and almost takes my breath away. It’s as if there is a little voice saying ‘so you thought you were doing ok well ….  ‘

Today I was writing Toby’s birthday card and I remembered how you always used to put at the end of your cards to me  ‘Love Me’ and it floored me because I realized that I will never get another card from you saying ‘Love Me.’ And yesterday when I was looking for somewhere to park the car I heard you saying ‘park in the shade Roma’. And I never forget your advice about remembering which side of the road to drive on which will come in very handy when the family dementia starts to rear its ugly head – actually I fear it has already started.

I miss sharing the boys with you, our soon to be granddaughter – how you wanted to be a grandfather and finally a girl.  Now I will have to do it for both of us.  I miss your odd food foibles like having to grate the onions because you didn’t like the texture, not wanting to eat anything green, your caffeine free diet coke and your cottage cheese mis mash.  They used to annoy me intensely but now – well I just smile.   Your praises for my meat loaf and chicken schnitzel and my constant efforts to get you  to eat healthily. In light of  what happened that was pretty pointless. I might as well have let you indulge in everything you wanted. And your lovely gifts on my birthday – especially the flowers which arrived every 3 weeks on a Friday. Dotted around the house are the constant Tod reminders. How could we ever forget you?

That said of course, I have forgotten all the things that you did that annoyed me because they are not there anymore – and how petty any way.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if you came back right now with this hindsight – well I think I would be a much nicer wife.

So I have made a unilateral family decision not to celebrate today because why should one celebrate death anyway.  Today I want to celebrate Toby’s birthday and we will celebrate you on your birthday in November. I hope that’s ok.

Wouldn’t it be great if you were allowed to come back for your birthday – well wherever you are for a visit. And I could go to Heathrow airport and there would be a special arrival place for those who have departed earth. Not sure how it would work – maybe a 2 weeks holiday for those people who have had a good and honest life. I suppose you would have to promise to whoever or whatever that you would not disclose the ever after. But I am sure it could be worked out.

You could however come and visit me – others I know have had visits from the dead but you haven’t as yet appeared. I did think one day that a pigeon might be you. Maybe it was.

You would be so proud of your boys right now.  They have turned into wonderful young adults. All those terrible teens, broken windows and awful fights – forgotten thankfully. And yes they look after me very well. I know you spoke to them about that.

Oh, Tod you would not believe the world we are living in right now – maybe you got out just in time.  I have been angry that you left so abruptly – it would have been good to have had someone to share lockdown with. I am constantly reminded of one of your frequent quotations that ‘human beings are not a viable specie’ which is so apt right now. But I think you would probably have fared quite well – I mean you weren’t actually the most sociable man and were more than happy to be at home with me.  And think of all the DIY you could have done!

So tomorrow evening we will be having a small party for Toby and of course after weeks of lovely warm sunshine storms are predicted. I am getting my usual anxious self and I can hear you saying ‘its just a few friends Roma.’ We will raise a glass to you and I promise that you will never ever be forgotten.

Snoopy always gets it so right.

You People

It’s been a while since I posted and for any of you that have missed me – apologies but there’s been a bit of a drought chez moi! Its the get- up- and- go thing that has got- up -and -gone. Leaving my head somewhat empty of ideas. But when I heard one of my close friends recount a recent experience I was drawn back to Serendipity

It’s a while since I have heard the expression ‘you people’ but I guess it’s not surprising in the current climate. Recently a girlfriend interviewed an eminent retired journalist from a well know broad sheet and not a right wing one – who in answer to one of her questions said “Well you people don’t want to spend your money ”.  Of course ‘you people’ could mean lots of different things but in this particular instance it was immediately understood what he meant by ‘you people’. Perhaps the give away was ‘don’t want to spend your money’.

My friend was stunned firstly by the seemingly unprovoked attack and also at how easily it slipped from his lips – without any forethought.   He, of course, realized immediately he had said the wrong thing. But here’s the thing, anti-Semitism is just bubbling underneath the surface and right now and with the anti-Israel feeling running high anti-Semites feel they have a free get out of jail card. And if even this so-called well educated, respected journalist can express such bigotry well…. I wish I could name and shame him – but I won’t.

Am I scared by the rise in anti-Semitism? Am I thinking I might leave the country? No this is not Germany in the 30’s and I don’t believe the government here – or in fact any British government would allow the rise of anti-Semitism?  But I do think it is time that we all shout out.  Keeping our heads down and hoping it will disappear is not enough. Silence is violence and just like the Black Life Matters which I have support 100% so do Jewish Lives Matter.  Would this journalist have said to a black person ‘you people’ and had he done so I doubt I would be writing this anonymously. But somehow it is deemed acceptable to make Jewish jibes.

I have never really understood why people dislike Jews – maybe they have met one Jew they did not like, or had a bad experience in the work place with a person who was Jewish but we are not a homogenous race.  Like any group of people there are good and bad. Unlike David Baddiel, I do not see myself as an ethnic group.    I always describe myself as British and my religion albeit not practicing Jewish.  Like those who are British Christians, British Catholics, British Muslims etc.  

Of course, anti-Semitism in the UK is not new I suppose I had just hoped that we have become better educated. At school in the fifties, I was the only Jewish person in my school and because my mother thought I should not attend morning assembly; I was an oddity. It was not long after the war and there was a feeling among some people that if it had not been for the Jews there would not have been a war. And there were teachers made it quite clear that they didn’t like Jews.

  Sitting at the back of the class during religious instruction I felt that I personally was responsible for the death of Jesus. And the way it was taught so did my fellow pupils.   Fortunately, in my adult life I have not experienced much anti-Semitism.  My mother, who didn’t look Jewish always said work colleagues would make anti Semitic remarks in front of her not knowing her identity. It made her afraid and when my father died, she decided to take the ‘i’ out our surname on her letterbox as it looked too Jewish and she felt vulnerable.

Recently I met with a Syrian refugee who when recounting his arduous journey to the UK explained that once he was here, he had to learn and understand the cultural differences between his homeland and the UK. So he educated himself.

“Before I left Syria I had very strange views about women’s rights and Jewish people. It was the culture of my country and upbringing but through education I have learnt to see women in a different light and that Jewish people are not bad. Learning is easy unlearning difficult. Nobody is born a racist – but one learns this. “

I realize that the latest outburst of anti-Semitism has much to do with Israel and the recent conflict and this is not something that I want to go into right now.  This post is not about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This is about anti-Semitic behaviour in the UK.  When my friend recounted her experience with this journalist, I was shocked that an educated man could glibly make these remarks.  So, my request is that we all call it out.  Wanting to free Palestine is not an excuse for anti-Semitism.    Don’t let casual remarks such as ‘you people’ be allowed to circulate.  We all have a duty to ensure that bigotry is stamped out before it gets out of hand.

Everyone needs a dream

“Where I come from

I cannot return

But where I am headed I will,

Live, grow and learn”

stock picture

After a year of semi lockdown life can become somewhat introspective and ‘samey’. Fortunately, I volunteer with a number of charities and get the opportunity to hear about other people’s lives.

Take Lien a  Vietnamese refugee who came to the UK age 13. Like many refugees who flee their place of birth in search of a safe haven, there were many obstacles to overcome but Lien always had a dream and it was this dream that propelled her forward.

It is difficult to dream when you are in turmoil and trauma but dreams are necessary because they give life a purpose, a shape and most important – hope.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be 13 and suddenly catapulted into an entirely alien culture where you don’t speak the language and the food, the clothes, everything you have known previously is now strange and frightening.

“The first time I saw a westerner was in our brief time in Hong Kong and to then become a person distinctly different to everyone else, a minority in a country full of westerners was very disconcerting,”  explained Lien

Her dream was to work hard in school and become something.  No mean feat when you have only spent three months in a resettlement centre learning  English before moving to Milton Keynes a predominately white city.

She explained that at school she was an oddity, older than her peers both in age and maturity. What did her peers know about war and trauma? “They talked about boyfriends, clothes and pop music about which I knew nothing. In Vietnam teenagers at this age were not interested in these things.” Lien was desperately homesick and lonely but she had a dream.

And it was the realisation that she could excel at Maths that helped her to achieve this dream. Here her poor English was not a handicap.  When moved to the top maths tier life changed. Her peers no longer teased her and viewed her as ‘just a poor boat person’ but someone who was clearly clever. 

 “It gave me self-confidence and changed the game. When you have nothing, education can set you free.  It is all we had and so I had to make it work for me. When we arrived, we had no possessions no money, just each other but I was determined to make a difference,” said Lien.

And she did and she has. Lien is the mother of five, married to a fellow Vietnamese who also fled the country and she is now an academic, author and a university lecturer.

So, this got me thinking about the children that I volunteer with at the Separated Child Foundation.  What are their dreams. And indeed, do they have an opportunity of achieving any of them.  It was tough back in the 1980s and it is a lot tougher now, but that doesn’t stop the dreams.

Take Stephen who arrived in the UK as a separated child from Cameroon. Now aged 19 he is hoping to start a law degree. When he arrived, like Lien, he spoke no English. But he too had a dream. He wants to defend those who are dying in silence around the world and are not listened to. “I would like my voice to be the voice of those without a voice.”

“As long as I’m in control of my brain and my mouth, I will continue to entertain the dream and the hope that one day there will emerge leaders in my own country and region, on my continent of Africa, in Britain and all over the world who will not allow that any should be denied the right and freedom, that any should be turned into refugees like I am, that any should be condemned to go hungry, sick and homeless as many refugees are, that any should be stripped of their human dignity.”

A thought echoed by Egerton Gbonda, a teacher who fled to the UK from Sierra Leone. Here he worked as a supply teacher in a number of London schools and completed a Master’s degree in Refugee Studies at the University of East London. He has run Club Class for  separated refugee youths since its inception in 2010.

Last week he asked them about their dreams and what they wanted to do with their lives.  They all had goals.

To be a politician, business man, engineer, teacher, solicitor, social worker, soldier, nurse, doctor, bus driver and of course like so many young men a footballer.

I remember speaking to one young man who had fled Syria and was passionate about making something of himself here in the UK.  “Now that I feel safe, I can dream. When you are just surviving this is not possible,” he said.

“My father was killed by a bomb and my mother used all her money to pay for me and my brother to leave Syria.  When I get a job, I will send money back so that she and my sister can join us.  That’s my dream.”

Schadenfreude, mattresses and wild garlic

So I want to know if I buy an EMMA mattress will I wake up like this?

Emma Mattress - Home | Facebook

And will I be sleeping like this?

Emma Mattress - Posts | Facebook

It reminds me of the 1970’s Martini advertisements which I only drank in my teens because I wanted to become one of the ‘beautiful’ people.

Martini Advert 1970s Fotos e Imágenes de stock - Alamy

It didn’t work!

Back to EMMA which I am sorely tempted to try especially as they offer a 200-night free trial period – it’s a win win situation unless I am missing something. I would love to wake up feeling refreshed, jump out of bed with vigour, full of positivity and happy to start my day.  Are there people out there who really do jump up and feel wow what a great day – good to be alive?  If so, whatever they are taking I want some.  And now more than ever. Even pre COVID days – historians will now be calling this period PC and AC – I would wake up   trying to claw open my eyes, very slowly crawling out of bed and trying to muster every ounce of inspirational energy to start my day. Apparently, the experts say it is sleep inertia and has to do with my REM sleep. Considering what happens to me when I am asleep – the bizarre adventures I go on it is probably not surprising that I am exhausted when I wake up

 That said I do remember back in the day the luxury of a Sunday morning, pre children, lounging in bed with coffee and the Sunday papers.   Which of course I could do now except that every day is a Sunday morning! So, where’s the fun in that.

Ok so you haven’t heard from me in weeks (writer’s block – yes honestly been staring at a blank page and am two weeks behind delivery of two promised articles ) and all you are getting is misery and moaning.

But having just watched a very depressing documentary about someone else’s misery I am now feeling a lot better. Think it’s called schadenfreude – there isn’t an English equivalent because of course we Brits don’t have it! But the   Japanese have a saying “The misfortune of others tastes like honey.” The French speak of joie maligned, a diabolical delight in other people’s suffering. In Danish it is skadefryd; in Hebrew, simcha la-ed; in Mandarin, xìng-zāi-lè-huò; in Russian, zloradstvo; and for the Melanesians who live on the remote Nissan Atoll in Papua New Guinea, it is banbanam.  Think that’s the island that I wrote about earlier in my posts when I was looking for somewhere to escape to.  

 A 2015 Germany study found that football fans smiled more quickly when their rival team missed a penalty, than when their own team scored. “To see others suffer does one good,” wrote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Indeed, the wonderful Mr Bennett in my absolutely favourite Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, which I have read numerous times and watched – well certainly more than 10 times – I just love it when Elizabeth and Mr Darcy finally get it together. I am an incurable romantic – said, “For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” Ok so now I don’t feel so bad. I am not alone. That’s the thing about one’s dark or ugly thoughts, I tend to think that I am the only one who has them

 So, I shall stop beating myself up and accept that I am just not a perfect human being.

Walking in my woods today with the pungent smell of wild garlic I was remined of my early posts more than 12 months ago.  Who would have thought that here I am more than a year later still in semi-isolation?  But come April 8 I get my second vaccination and once it has kicked in, I AM OUT – yes, I will be careful but friends I AM COMING OUT.

And for those of you who have access to the abundance of wild garlic available right now I leave you with that very yummy recipe for Wild Garlic Soup that I posted 12 months ago.

2 x medium white onions thinly sliced, 2 x large potatoes washed and diced to fingernail size. Bay leaf and thyme if available. Glass of white wine. 1 Vegetable stock cube. 4 large handfuls of Wild Garlic. Washed half a lemon.

Sweat the onions with little olive oil, low and slow and season well with salt. When starting to get translucent add bay leaf and thyme.  Caramelise the onions to a latte-ish colour, then add the potatoes with more salt.  Bring a pan of water to the boil. Blanch the wild garlic leaves, a handful at a time for about 15 seconds, moving them around so they cook evenly. When out of the water cool them quickly in icy water or under cold running water. Set aside

When the potatoes have started to soften crumble in the stock cube and wine. Reduce by half, add litre of water and cook on gentle heat for 20 mins until potatoes are soft

Blend the blanched leaves, the onion/potato mix and stock until a velvety vibrant mix. Return to pan add squeeze of lemon and heavy crack of black pepper. Serve with lots of toasted buttery bread.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Sex on the to-do list

Have you noticed how small tasks post Covid take on a disproportional significance in one’s life? The kind of tasks that one would normally just fit in around everything else can suddenly take up the most inordinate amount of time. and need to be scheduled, timed, and diarised.

Today’s task was  washing my hair. It is my Bete noir.  Fortunately, I have the kind of hair that can survive quite happily unwashed for up to 2 weeks. But when I can’t bear the itchy scalp any longer, I know the time has come. I think about it for few days, prepare myself mentally and then just go for it. Why now during COVID has it become such a big thing. Surely, I hear you say you did this pre Covid. Well no.  It was my treat to myself.  My indulgence. My hairdresser has a little salon in her garden, not pish posh, but cheap and cheerful. And that’s where I go to make myself presentable.

Now left to my own devices I endeavor to mastermind the hair dryer. No mean feat. After a few minutes trying to get that ‘oh so finished shiny look’ my arm tires, my shoulder aches, my fingers cramp up and I start to feel dizzy. So, I give up. And the result is a bit like this – not me but I do see a resemblance.

Bad Hair Day? Your Period Could Be Why — Bad Hair Day Causes

So, this morning at 5 am when I woke hot and bothered as the central heating had been left on all night, I googled how to dry your hair to get that ‘finished’ look.  Of course  I had been doing it all wrong. So, for   anyone else having blow dry issues I share this advice with you. .

Apparently, I was blowing in the wrong direction and thus opening up my cuticle and creating frizz. I was putting the dryer far too close to my hair while it was still really wet creating yet more frizz and  I wasn’t doing it in an orderly manner. Yes even more frizz.

Organisation is not one of my best attributes so it’s not surprising that the blow dry suffers. Which brings me on to the question of lists.

See this is just what I mean here I am waffling on about inconsequential stuff because my once quite interesting life has shrunk beyond measure.

I have become a devoted list maker. Without a list to adhere to I am lost. It’s my safety net and with a bad memory its an absolute life saver. On an  insomnia night, I  can be found propped up in bed at 3 am  writing my list for the day ahead.  Everything goes on it from remembering to take my vitamins, pay bills, dog walk, call friends, weeding, check my oxygen levels, call electrician, zooms, cleaning the toilets and so on. It can vary from as little as 10 things upwards.  Sometimes I  put something on that I have already done just so I can cross it off because the crossing off bit is the best. Hugely satisfying and one needs all the satisfaction one can get right now.

There are two kinds of people in life those who make lists and those who don’t. Maybe the non-list makers just don’t need them because they have great memories and are naturally organised. Never been one of those.

To-Do List Cartoon | Organization quotes, Birthday quotes funny, Funny  quotes

I have a girlfriend who is also a list maker at least she was back in the day when we had young children and we were busy juggling family, children, parents and work. She used to put sex on her weekly list. It was a weekend ritual that had to be adhered to. Now us mums know that while enjoying a bit of the physical is very nice, sex can be very low on our  list of priorities – a good night’s sleep being number one on the agenda. But sex only happens if you make it happen. Spontaneity   doesn’t occur when there are nappies, laundry, cooking, deadlines and school runs. Which is something my girlfriend knew only too well so one morning when she woke unusually early, she started thinking about her to do list.  On it was the weekend sex with hubby.   Not wanting to waste any precious time she woke him up for a bit of nookie. Afterwards he said, “darling that was lovely we should do this more often.” She hadn’t the heart to tell him she had just crossed him off her list. Oh, to be able to cross sex off my list now! I know careful what you wish for. 

“Let’s be careful out there”

Synchronicity

Yes, it’s been a while. And I realise that my thousands of Serendipidy followers — I know you wish — have been concerned. “Has she got COVID? Is she still there?  We miss you,” I hear you cry.  Ok so I might be hyperbolising a bit.  But I am ok. Still here. No COVID. Just that groundhog day is not very interesting. I wonder why with my busy diverse lifestyle. But come April 24th when I get my second vaccination willy-nilly I am coming out!

You know that thing when you say that’s a coincidence, I was just about to……. well really is it a coincidence or is it something else.  It happens so much in my life that I am reluctant to believe in the randomness of it.  Synchronicity is why I called my blog Serendipidy (Serendipity was not available) that and because I just love the word.   I am not a particularly airy-fairy kind of person but I do believe that the mysterious life long relationship that we have with natural phenomena has all kinds effects on what we do, how we think and what we feel. The events which happen to us are not by strict cause and effect but because there is acausal relationship between the inside and the outside, a sort of cross talk between mind and matter.

Synchronicity - Wikipedia

I am not alone Dr. Jung believed in a underlying kind of ‘field’ affecting a whole different level of experience. I have vague memories of reading his book in psychology class which focused on Synchronicity.

I wonder what Jung would have made of my experience this week.   One of my sons had asked me for some photographs of him with Tod so I delved into my huge box of photographs in search of the said pics.  In so doing I found a photograph of an old friend I had not seen for 40 years. He was also the close friend of another friend so I sent her the pic with a message “look who I just found.”  Neither of us have seen this man or spoken to him for 40 years. Today I received a phone call.

“Its Sally thank you for the photo you sent me.  It’s very odd though.”

“Why” I replied.

“Well about 2 hours after you sent me the photo, I got a phone call from a friend in Cornwall who told me that this other friend (the one whose pic I had sent – no names for obvious reasons) was in hospital as he had just tried to kill himself.”

Random –   Or is it?  more like synchronicity – something urging me to find the pic. If my son had not asked me for the photos, I would not have found the pic of my old friend, I would not have sent it to Sally so did that somehow influence this person in Cornwall to call her? Who knows? But you have to admit it is very odd.

I have had many many experiences like this but perhaps the most bizarre occurred when my brother was dying in hospital and I camped out in his hospital bedroom. In that week before he passed, I began receiving emails from and/or about people who had passed many years before. Including one from the editor of Woman’s Own which said “Thank you for sending us the idea for a feature on living with my mother who has dementia we would like to commission you to write it.” My mother had been dead for 8 years then. But the most bizarre was a message from my friend Kate who died 3 years previously giving me directions to our joint close friend Penny’s funeral.  Even Tod who was a huge cynic had goose pimples.  The emails were in a loop and kept coming until my brother died, and then they all stopped. So, what was that about?

This whole photo experience has propelled me along a path that is long overdue. Collating and organizing the photos that go back nearly 5 generations.

Two enormous boxes. Great great grandparents, long lost cousins, numerous holidays snaps, way too many naked baby pics, weddings, barmitzvas, parties, 135 school photos and then they abruptly stop as digital takes over.  When I am no longer here my children will be looking at some of these pics and saying “who are all these people?” So, I see it as my responsibility to name them – well as many as possible. Although the naked baby pics all do look a lot alike!  

Top 25 Family Quotes and Sayings | Quotes about photography, Family quotes,  Memories quotes

“Let’s be careful out there”

Freedom

I am not going to lie woke up this morning feeling a bit gutted when I heard the news that the vaccine, I only had last week might not work. Suddenly summer freedom seemed a long way off.  Will I ever get a hug again? I know a bit dramatic but honestly, I have tried hard to remain positive throughout but today – well I think it is going to have to be a duvet day.

It did though get me thinking about freedom and what it means.   And I dug out my old philosophy books and looked at Jean Paul Sartre who back in the day was one of my heroes. Of course, I have now forgotten everything he said.

Image result for jean paul sartre

But he had an interesting take on freedom, and I wonder what he would be pronouncing about today’s situation.  On life during World War 2 he said – and obviously, I am not equating the trials of living under Nazi occupation with living with the scourge of COVID-19. ‘Never were we freer than under the German occupation.’  He believed that it is only when we are physically stopped from acting that we fully realise the true extent and nature of our freedom. If he is right and with my glass half full hat on – see I am trying – the pandemic is an opportunity to relearn what it means to be free.

Right now, we are free just ‘to be.’ So, has the pandemic liberated many of us?  We no longer have to make so many decisions about how we live our life, who we should meet up with, who we have not seen for a while, places we have not been, restaurants we haven’t visited, concerts we haven’t attended and so on. 

I have begun to reflect on how many things I did just because they were there. How perhaps I was going along with what others wanted me to do or expected me to do. We all live in a fast -paced consumer society with endless options and truly little of what we or maybe I did was because of a considered decision.  Maybe doing exactly what we want but without too much thought is not a very valuable freedom.  

Today apart – as I have had a bit of a dip –   lockdown has not been that tough for me.  There is much less I have missed than I thought. Undoubtedly, I have missed my partner, but he died before COVID19 and the contact with my children, but I have enjoyed the peace, the lack of social pressure and ‘have tos’.

Sartre wrote that ‘Total responsibility in total solitude – is this not the very definition of our liberty?’   Of course, he was talking about 1941 when life was vastly different. Because then choices were literally about life and death. Resistance fighters found themselves thinking ‘Rather death than …’   We are not in that situation, but death is maybe a bit more prominent in our lives right now, and it does remind us to take seriously the choices we make, about our work, our relationships, and our lifestyles.

The BBC has a new property programme A Simple Life – focusing on families that want to up and leave the city for a quieter life.  I have just watched it from under my duvet. The pandemic is focusing us more on our life choices. It has made us realise that maybe we   are living a life that we never freely chose but just drifted into. There is now almost a new urgency that unless we make a change – this is going to be our lot until we die. 

Certainly, I have drifted. If I talk to 16-year-old Roma, the non-conformist, the questioner, the one that argued and fought for what she thought was right, she would not be that impressed.  I had so many ideals and passions but somehow, I allowed myself to become consumed by the desires and thoughts of others and came to falsely believe that money and materialism offered me security. So, I bought into that life. I had houses, cars, jobs, private education for my children etc etc.  But now, in true Sartre mode – I am rethinking it all.

I am waking up to perhaps a new kind of freedom. The challenge for me and I think for society is how we now respond.  Can we recover and make a post epidemic life richer and more worthwhile?  Looking at the leadership around the world I am not that confident.

The pandemic has given me the time to think and ponder about my life and my future. And remembering my now favourite  poem “We have two lives and the second one begins when you realise you only have one,” I need to get my ducks in a row  so I am ready to dance when  I can finally experience the outside world again.

Image result for cartoon pondering life

So, when I get out from under my duvet — thank you Judy I am writing this blog while still in bed on the new laptop which you bought for me – – I will endeavour to put this new positivity into practice. 

In the meantime, I leave you with one final Sartre quote:

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

“Let’s be careful out there”

Dementia – a note for my children

Over heard telephone conversation between two of my sons.

” Mum has lost the tea she has just made.”

“Again – she’s becoming Nana.”

No I am not , I shout – or am I?

It get’s me thinking maybe I should compose a briefing for my children.

What to do if I get dementia?

Many years ago, when your Nana started getting confused you asked. “What do you want us to do if you get like this mummy?”

It’s a tough one. They watched me care for my mother with patience, love and humour and I would like to think it showed them the way. But they are not me.

 When I began what, I call ‘the journey’ with my mother when she was first diagnosed with dementia I made an important decision – do it with good grace and celebrate the good bits.  And there are quite a lot of good bits. For one thing, she forgot a lot of things that you used to make her angry particularly who she bore grudges with. And my mother was a big grudge bearer.

It was a journey not to the far-flung corners of the world, or something that I particularly looked forward to. It was an altogether different kind of trip, where I knew the road would be rocky, unpredictable, sometimes very painful, and    sadly not with a  happy ending. But while she was here and I was in charge, we were going to have a lot of laughs.  And that is the thing with dementia it is how you approach it that makes all the difference, especially in the early and middle stages. Admittedly towards the end it can get a bit grim. And in that case boys just give me the pills!!

My mother was 82 when she got dementia –  Vascular Dementia, which means the poor brain is isn’t getting enough oxygen – it is being attacked on all fronts and doesn’t stand a chance.  Dementia  is one of those few words, like ‘cancer’ or ‘coma’ that seems to carry a primeval power.  It doesn’t matter what advances have been made, what treatments there are nowadays; it conveys a finality, a definitiveness that instantly redefines life. It is horrible, irrevocable, and merciless.  I didn’t know how rapidly she would  deteriorate but I did know that we would travel the road together.  

We had become part of a growing statistic –  a new socio-demo-psycho-medico-political segment. Somewhere out there, a computer was whirring away and saying ‘Don’t send them holiday brochures anymore’.  And just when my children were almost grown up and becoming independent and I had thought that I was getting back my freedom – puff, just like that, I had to start parenting all over again, only this time for my mother.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you boys that there were some days when I had some very uncharitable thoughts as will you and that is ok.

My mum’s diagnosis was not a complete surprise. I had watched her memory begin to fade.  There were small things, almost funny at first; occasionally she would forget what day it was, or get lost while driving in familiar neighbourhoods, or forget names or words; all were things I noticed, but didn’t label. I invented excuses and put it down to ‘old age’.

But the diagnosis helped. I stopped  getting  frustrated and angry by what I thought was simply irrational and scatty behaviour. I now knew what was happening.  I called her; not once or twice a day like before but seven or eight times to remind her what is happening that day, to check that she is eating, to see if there have been any important letters and generally chat.  While before these calls made me feel stressed and anxious, I  began to  find them reassuring; she may be ‘slipping’, but for the most part she’s still there.

And we had a lot of laughter, and a new contentedness.  We joked about her forgetfulness and blamed Ginny, the family ghost, for losing things. And we giggled about the fact that she had forgotten many of the things that used to annoy her.  Mum used to have a memory like an elephant, and could hold a grudge; she would never forget nor fully forgive anything that we or anybody else had done wrong. Well now, the grudges are gone; she doesn’t remember them or the events, which created them. Last week she said, ‘I don’t think I like so and so’ and I when asked why, she laughed and said ‘I can’t remember.’

You boys were less fazed by the situation. You had spent a lot of time with your nana and although you were tough and abrasive with each other you were always   warm and sensitive with her. And while you noticed the changes it didn’t cause you any alarm. Of course, it will be different if it is me – your mother.  I remember after one visit to Granny’s house you asked, “Why does granny write messages and stick them on the door?” and when I told you that she couldn’t remember things and these were to remind her you just took it at face value.  

So, boys this too was part of my journey.  Not only was I engaged in the ultimate role reversal, not only did I have to watch my Mum’s decay and cry for her and my loss of her, but, if I am honest, there was an additional concern. Beyond my pain for my mother, I was also worried for myself.  Is this my future?

My memory has always been my downfall. I have put it down to being slightly dyslexic. My friends say having a conversation with me is like playing the panel game Don’t Say a Word. “You know who I mean, …. the man with the red hair and the big nose …. he has the squeaky voice….’. On a good day, I would laugh at myself.  On a bad day, I get frustrated and angry. Now I am terrified. Is my memory getting worse? Am I on this path too?

“Don’t worry” said one my boys  “by the time you get old they will have found a cure.”  That should be reassuring, but its not; I fear his flippant statement is neither true nor confidently said, and that deep down, they do have fears.

 And on bad days when I was alone I would feel a deep sense of loss.  The essence of my mother was still there, and much of the time she was not only quite lucid but she retained her wicked sense of humour.  But my best friend, who my mum had always been – the personality that was my Mum – was  starting to fade.

So, my dear children  my quest is to share the journey I made with my mother and there is no pressure for you to follow suit.  But if  there is any money left in the coffers rather than one of these soulless old age homes, use the money to keep me at home with a live in carer and a good supply of marijuana.  And when it gets bad  just dispose of me however you wish. Preferably  quick and mercifully.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid

What a difference the sunshine makes to one’s life. I am thankful today looking at a blue cloudless sky and crisp white snow on the ground. I am thankful that  I feel relatively healthy and I am thankful for an unexpected gift which  arrived last week from a friend – it was as if she knew  what was going through my head over and over again. The  book The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse (yes for some reason the  B and the H is a capital) is beautifully bound and illustrated. 

It almost felt like the author Charlie Mackesy  was also reading my thoughts and  had written this book just for me. Of course he had also written it for thousands of others because it’s the stuff we all know but don’t take notice of and sometimes  the simplicity of a book like this is a reminder to put these thoughts and emotions  on the top of our agenda and action them.

Yes, today I am in a philosophical mood.  

Apparently the idea for the book came about when  Mackesy  was chatting with a friend the explorer  Bear Grylls about what is meant by courage and what was the bravest thing  they’d  ever done.  Grylls is well known for his courage  but Mackesy said “the bravest thing I’d ever done was when I was struggling and had the courage to ask for help.” And so, he explained “I drew it.” I loved his illustrations that accompanied the words.

“I wonder if there a School of unlearning

“What do you think is the biggest waste of time? Comparing yourself to others

charlie mackesy on Twitter: "The biggest waste of time.… "

“Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid

and another that really resonated with me

 “Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves

This is now part of my morning Yoga and meditations.  

Perhaps it is even more pertinent now as  I am in the last phase of my life and I do really want  to make it worthwhile because if not, well what is the point? I did warn you people that I was in a thoughtful mood today.  So, I dug out that wonderful poem My Soul Has a Hat.

 It goes:

I counted my years

and realised that I have

less time to live by

then I have lived so far

I feel like a child who won a pack of candies and at first ate them with pleasure

but when she realised that there was little left, she began to taste them intensely

etc etc

and ends with

……….We have two lives

and the second begins when you realise you only have one.

The poem is now pinned on my wall in front of my computer

Indischa Flower - After reading this beautiful poem,... | Facebook

Note to self:  It is time to stop ‘talking the talk’  Roma and begin ‘walking the walk’  (Think I might just have had this Note to self several times before)

“Let’s be careful out there”