Terry

A while back I started talking about my two favourite authors. The first was Carl Sagan and now it’s time for the second. Many guessed correctly.

The wonderful and sadly missed Terry Pratchett.

Back in 1983 my mum bought me a book for Christmas. She would always buy me a book as a present. I had no idea who Terry was. Mum had heard him on the TV and thought maybe I would like his new book. I loved it….. He became my favourite author.

That was it. A tradition. Every new Terry book would be given to me at either Christmas or on my Birthday. She never missed a release. Apart from one. His last book. She never got round to buying that one, she would have if she had more time.

The Shepherds Crown was a tough read. Memories of mum and Terry. I decided to not read the last page. I can still say I’ve still not finished reading all his books….

Terry now has his own international day. April 28th. Let’s indulge in a bit of Pratchett wisdom a bit earlier than that.

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they haven’t forgotten this.

Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

Evil begins when you start to treat people as things.

Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

And what would humans be without love? RARE said Death.

If cats looked like frogs we’d realise what nasty, cruel little b*****s they are.

Always be wary of any helpful little item that weighs less than its operating manual.

The enemy isn’t men, or women, it’s bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.

The presence of those seeking truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they have found it.

So much universe and so little time.

Remember

Sadly I won’t be able to visit here today. Its 50 miles away and currently just so out of reach. My mind will wander there today. Not for too long as my mother would give me a stern talking-to for fussing too much. So I will make myself a cup of tea and take a few moments to remember some mum memories.

  • Her famous meat and two vegetables Sunday lunches. She even amended that to Quorn and two vegetables for an awkward son. Followed by the best ever apple crumble and custard.
  • How she would call everyone (including the pets) Pidge so that she never forgot a name. You knew you were in trouble when she called you by your real name,
  • Going to her house and hearing Sinatra or Cash singing as you went through the door,
  • Walking into her living room and her first words being, Do you want a cup of tea and a biscuit,
  • Sat on a plane at Heathrow Airport with her and she started eating toffees to stop her ears popping. She finished all three packets of sweets before the plane had even started taxiing. And yes her ears popped,
  • The day she went into a small shop for a paper and she ended up being smiled at by one of Europe’s best footballers, who had come in for a prematch chocolate bar,
  • Every year asking me to put a 10p bet on the big horse race. I never told her that I always made the bet up to a £1,
  • Her refusing to be called Granny or Great Granny, so she became little Nan,
  • Every time I would take Hawklad round to see Little Nan on a Sunday and she would somehow have managed to find another Mr Men book which he had never read,
  • Mum with my oldest sister running out of the Dracula museum in a fit of giggles when a man dressed up as the Prince of Darkness had unexpectedly appeared behind them,
  • On a morning finding various little garden birds stood patiently in her kitchen waiting to be fed.

And so many more memories from a truly wonderful mum. So it’s time for a cup of tea and a biscuit. Time to remember. Days like this that photographs from so many years ago become treasures.

Mum

Hopefully a sign of some slightly better weather. It was so cold yesterday afternoon that when we went outside for a talk, I had to dig out my winter down jacket. It’s supposed to be the height of summer. But our current weather patterns are mixed up. They have been for a few years now……. One day our leaders might notice this.

Dad you have never really been a beard person have you?”

No when I was in my twenties I did experiment with a moustache. Managed to get the nickname Goochy from that. But it was quickly ditched. Didn’t help that it was jet black apart from from little strip which bizarrely went ginger…..

But you have started having a beard now”

Well not exactly. A few dabbles with what I like to call a fashionable bit of designer stubble. Makes me look rugged……. trying to not laugh……

“So why did you start doing it. You never had one with my mum did you?”

No, never. But it wasn’t anything to do with your mum. She quite liked them. It was your Little Nan (my mum)!!!! She didn’t like them. She had a firm no to beards, no to moustaches policy for her youngest son. That policy was NEVER dropped. Even when I was well past childhood years and living independently, you would here the quiet but stern words “Gary you will be having a shave today, won’t you….”. Using my actual name was always a sign of trouble ahead. Only one response allowed. YES.

So Dad how did you manage to grow a moustache then?”

I was living 350 miles away in Portsmouth. It was shaved off the morning I was due to visit her…… She never knew.

Mums always know best…..

Angry clouds

It’s just been days of angry weather.

When I see this type of stormy clouds I remember back to my childhood. As you got older you started to realise that in our seaside town the weather would always seem to come from over the hills and follow the river to the sea. For us that would mean the weather would first appear to the north west. That was in the direction of one of our neighbours gardens. So the following weather expression was frequently heard from my parents.

It’s luking black ower Mr Homans Potting Shed, aye get thy washing in.

When means you have just a few minutes more footy before your summoned in as the heavens have opened. If the weather ever came from over Eddie Cook’s Pigeon Loft then it was time to get the paddling pool out.

Strangely parenting forecasting from the 70s was far more accurate that the current UK Meteorological Service best guesses. Currently the weather scientists are telling us that we have light cloud and less than a 10% chance of light rain. Well tell that to the paving stones which are currently being jet washed in the nonstop monsoon.

So let’s ditch the UK’s dodgy weather science and go old school. So here are a few other old weather laws that were passed down to me.

  • Red sky at night fisherman’s delight, red sky in the morning fisherman’s warning,
  • Mackerel Clouds in the sky then the weather is going to change,
  • The Sun or Moon saying hello means that rain is on the way (saying hello means having a halo around it),
  • The greener the Rhubard leaves the worse the weather will be,
  • Wet seaweed means rain is coming (I never bought into this one as surely that just means the tide has been in recently),
  • Rain at lunch will be gone by tea (basically saying the UK weather is changeable),
  • When rain is coming the spiders will disappear,
  • Rainbows before lunch tells us that rain will be here all day,
  • Cows sit down when rain is due (must admit this is clearly true as I was watching an episode of Ben & Holly where the wise old elf foolishly took shelter under a cow when it started to rain),
  • When smoke rises the weather will be good. When it fails to rise them bad weather is due,
  • Expect a bad winter if the hedgerows produce loads of berries,
  • If you want a dry day best to have dew on the grass in the morning.

One last weather law. I had a friend whose dad was a complete nutter. So funny. I remember him telling me once about his rabbit. He explained that his rabbit would only eat carrots when it was raining. I asked what it had to eat when it was sunny and he told me with a smile – I don’t know, will tell you when we get the sun, patience lad I’ve only had the rabbit 3 years.

So that’s me out of weather law. Can anyone add to my knowledge?

Looking at this photo I think I can confidently predict no need for sun protection….

Where’s the shed

Here once stood the garden shed. But then an ageing Oil Tank had to be changed. The new rule was that flammable items had to be at least 6 feet away. A wooden shed just 3 feet away just didn’t cut the mustard. So it had to come down. I remember the day so well. My partner organised the skip. She took the first swing with the sledgehammer and then left the rest to me. It was a tough fight. Eventually I won the contest on a split points decision. Yes the shed was down but most of it now appeared to be imbedded in me.

We never did get round to putting a new one up. Actually we didn’t need one. The area became a little bit more green. A place to randomly put those potted plants which we have collected over the years. A nice home for a 90 year old wooden bench which has long since served its purpose and has been retired. It’s also a bit of a magnet of our sons footballs….

It so needs a good weeding but actually yellow poppies and wild strawberries are starting to grow here. Well that’s my excuse.

I’m not sure what my partner would make of it. Maybe a bit too chaotic for her. She liked organisation. The new shed was high up on my list of things to do before the world changed. But then she left our little world. Then every weekend her mum would pop over for an hour or so. She loved it. When she came over at the weekend she would often sit and look at it while drinking her coffee. Thinking about life. Watching the birds make use of it.

I’m writing this at about the time her mum would have been visiting. I’m sat in the chair she would be sat in. Yes I do think the little green area works. Maybe that new garden shed can wait for a few more years. Sorry my love…..

Pathway

The gap between the hedge and the Apple tree has basically disappeared. All this enforced time at home and somebody has been neglecting the garden. Unbelievable. But I quite like the results. Often it’s best to let nature takes its own course. So much easier that way as well…..

Every second Wednesday is becoming a right bind. Our bins are emptied every two weeks. This includes the garden waste bin. So when it comes to the day of putting out the bins I get that sinking feeling. Please let the green bin (now a brown bin for some reason) be at least half full. When I open the lid, I want to see plenty of grass cuttings, hedge trimmings and pulled up weeds. I want that feeling of elation that comes from two weeks worth of gardening. So I can close the bin lid and wheel it out onto the road. A job well done.

That’s the theory.

In practice I open the bin lid to find its completely empty. Oh big pants. Now I feel bad. I clearly have been wearing my laziest big pants. The inner shame drives me to fill the bin before the refuse wagon arrives. This being Yorkshire means a mad couple of hours gardening in driving rain and hail. That regular routine was repeated this morning. While I’m fighting the gardening elements I can hear my Mums words echoing around my exceedingly wet head. You just need to do 10 minutes a day of weeding and you get the perfect garden without breaking your back. One day I will follow this sage advice.

So the bin was filled. It was wheeled out onto the road and it felt like that was the gardening done for another two weeks. See I never learn.

Not finishing

Every few weeks this rose blooms and every three months we get a large envelope

One thing life doesn’t prepare you for is dealing with the admin side of bereavement. It’s a seemingly never ending slog. Trying to wade through treacle. Form after form. Call after call. Ever decreasing life circles of bank, utility firms and lawyers. Eventually you end up losing the will to live. Which is rather ironic when you think about it. But finally you just about get there. Most of the stuff is sorted. Yes there are a few loose ends but they can either wait or just be left dangling there.

One of those dangling things here is the regular large envelope. An envelope still addressed to my partner.

When she was much younger, my partners parents bought her a life time membership to a national heritage trust. The type of thing which gives you free access to many sites across the country. If you can afford the one-off lump sum they are a great idea. Unfortunately not a great idea if you die young. No argument here as the condition is crystal clear

Rights and benefits shall cease on death and no refund shall be made….

So I really should have phoned up and started the process of cancelling the membership. I can’t transfer it to our Son. But then a thought. Ok Son won’t be able to use it to get into any places for free. But every three months they send out a magazine all about history and nature. Every year they send out a members handbook listing many of the countries best sites and a comprehensive list of what’s on for the year. That’s something. Son will get some some benefit from his mum’s membership. So we are leaving this one dangling. Once the large envelope makes it out of the week long garage quarantine then son will get a free history magazine. Curtesy of his mum and his grandparents. Which is so nice.

Yes not finishing a job is sometimes the best strategy.

Judging yourself through your grief

I am so thrilled that Katie and Evee have been so kind enough to write another post for me. I know from all the comments that the last one they penned was so loved. Please checkout their blog (The Grief Reality), it’s such a wonderful source of love, human spirit and hope. You might also come across another post from me there today as well.

I know how tough this post would have been to write for them. I have been feeling similar emotions about my Partner as well. They set these out so beautifully.

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Mum was always so protective of her daughters. If we came home from school crying about being bullied, she’d be straight on the phone to the headteacher even if we begged her to just forget it. She said her fierce protection was something we’d only understand when we became mothers ourselves – perhaps that is true. 

 

However, as time went on and we understood our mum’s growing fragility, we too stepped into a more protective role, that perhaps only children in our position would understand – we don’t know for sure. Eventually, simple things such as birthday parties became hazardous as they opened the risk of Mum becoming neutropenic with her compromised immune system. 

 

We miss our mum every single day and there is so much we have not been able to share with her over the last 18 months. Yet, with the current world events that are unravelling, quietly, we have both admitted to thinking “Thank goodness Mummy isn’t here to see this”. For the pair of us, this thought hasimmediately been silenced by shock, guilt and self-judgement: “I can’t believe I just thought that”. And it took a while for both of us to open up to one another to talk about this guilt. We were afraid to voice this utterly shocking feeling; about someone you physically ache to see again.

 

The fact that we can miss someone so much, but not want them to be here to bear witness to all the wrong in the world, is an unexplainable feeling. When we were early on in our grief, we thought it unthinkable when a counsellor told us we will one day consider that our mum is ‘safe’.

 

Well, we guess we are finally there. Mum cannot be touched or hurt anymore; and she is more protected than we could ever make her. We thank goodness that our mum is safe now and she does not need to worry about delayed chemotherapy treatment due to Corona Virus, or what we’d do if she needs to go into hospital. 

 

It is a conflicting emotion for us as this fear no longer lingersabove us. Yet, we still cry for the families who are living through it. 

 

Underneath everything, we know, no matter how far we come, all we will ever want is a cuddle from our mum, to be told this will all pass, and we will be okay. Isn’t that all anyone ever wants?

 

Go gently, 

 

Katie & Evee

Random memories

Today’s mobile phone, out of focus, wildlife photo. Another bird flying.

Another night and another bizarre dream. An LP (yes vinyl) was being released and I wanted to make sure I got a copy. So I camped out overnight outside a small record shop. During the increasingly wet and cold night the public telephone (just a few paces away) kept ringing. When I picked it up I could hear my partner at the other end, but she couldn’t hear me. Finally the record store opened and I walked in to find that what was the towns only music shop had been turned into a hairdressers…..

The record store in my dream was one from my past. I lived in a small seaside town which had few record store options. We had a Woolworths which was great for a few compilation records and those bizarre records that had the hit songs on but always performed by not the real artists. We had a Boots the chemist which sold a few records but only those from the likes of Sinatra or Shirley Bassey. Boots never allowed you to return records if they were scratched. Thankfully the town also had a little record store. A small ground floor, with an even more cramped first floor attic. The store was next to the towns Bus Station. Tony’s Records was my Saturday Mecca. I would spend hours pouring over album covers, carefully working out which record to buy.

Got so many memories from Tony’s. That time I bought a Mountain Live double LP. It was reduced due to a few minor scratches. Basically every song was unplayable accept one. Thankfully that one song, Nantucket Sleighride lasted 24 minutes. For those of a certain age in the UK, that song was the theme tune to the Sunday political show – Weekend World. I did get to see Mountain play that song live at my first ever music festival at Knebworth.

I remember Peter Cook and Dudley Moore bringing out the Derek and Clive records. Painfully funny but shocking. That bad you had to be over 18 to buy it. Tony’s wouldn’t sell it to me so I asked my mum. Nine the wiser she strolled into the store. The look my mum must have got when she asked if they had a copy of Ad Nauseum.

I bought my first cd from Tony’s. It was Rory Gallagher. Bizarrely I didn’t actually buy my first CD player for another year. I just couldn’t afford one. I just wanted to have one of those circular works of high magic.

That little shop closed down many years ago, but clearly it’s still going in my dreams

Grieving during quarantine

As much as I like writing (well my version of writing), my favourite part of blogging is getting to read other blogs. They can make you laugh, cry, think and fill you with renewed hope. One of my favourite blogs is by Katie and Evee. It really captured me as like my son, grief often hits when we are far too young. They talk about it so beautifully. It’s grief with hope, loss with the desire to live again.

I’m really excited as today Katie and Evee are here on my blog. They have also rather recklessly allowed me to write on their wonderful blog today as well.

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Grieving During Quarantine

Hello, our names are Katie and Evee. Gary has kindly shared his platform with us today to write a little about our experience with grief during quarantine. 

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Sometimes, during big events where the whole world is grieving such as the time we find ourselves in today, our own personal grief can feel small, detached and forgotten.

Evee: We lost our Mum 18 months ago, on the 9th of September 2018. We still feel it every day, but recently, the want for our Mum during such chaos, is deafening. For example, when I was at university trying to work out how to get home before lockdown, everyone had parents on the phone to call for comfort, or to pick them up. I felt the loss of my mum then.

Katie: Over the past 18 months I have been learning what grief is and how I can fit it into my everyday life, and our blog has been a great means of doing so. When life shifts, as it tends to do, I try to bend with it. I try to shape my grief to fit the big hole where Mum used to be. Before quarantine, I was working on allocating time to fit grief into my fast-paced life; 05:45 start, the commute, work, the commute home, cooking, exercise, writing for the blog, sleeping, and amidst that, trying to maintain friendships and socialising and trying to find time for me. Each of these parts were like spinning plates.

With this global transition, I now work from home. I think I speak for the whole nation when I say that this is a hard adjustment. We are all confined to the house, yet working towards the constant harsh deadlines. This, alongside the anxiety, fear, and sadness that the whole world is feeling right now has been intense and hard to escape. For me, something has had to give in the last couple of weeks and a couple of my spinning plates have fallen down – grief being one of them. 

Getting to grips with my new quarantine routine, I have not been able to dedicate any time to reflect on my grief or to sit quietly with my thoughts at all. But grief doesn’t stop just because our lives seemingly have, and as Evee mentioned, we both miss our Mum more than ever right now. 

Evee: On the other hand, I have a lot more time than Katie, because all of my exams and most of my assignments have been cancelled. I haven’t been able to do work because it feels like the minute I do, I get an email saying that the module that I’m working on has been abandoned. This week, the only thing I have been able to count on, is my home exercise routine. 

The gym used to be a huge part of my life; it would often be a place where I think about Mum and process everything. I enjoy the feeling of my body being spent, and of stretching my aching muscles out. For some reason, while my body is active, my mind can chug away slowly and think about everything that is happening in the world, and its impact on my small world. 

When the gym became a breeding ground for the pandemic, I began to create workouts at home. I have created a hard work out for myself to do during the day. I find this gives me a sense of normality, and enables me to have that time to myself and for me to think about Mum. Like what she would say and what she would do in this situation. My one hour outside I use mainly for cycling or walking.

I also spend a lot of time cleaning, tidying and making this house cosy and homely for my little family. It is things like this that make me feel like I am helping out, and easing the pressure off of my sister and Uncle.

It is in these moments where I can clear my head and remember happier times, and think of who I have, and what I can do to get through this period. And that also involves a lot of blog writing! 

Writing has always been a big part of my life, but particularly now, I find it indulgent and wonderful to log onto our online community, talk and feel less alone.

Katie: Thankfully, the clocks went forward recently which gifted us with an extra of sunshine in the evening. I use this extra hour of daylight to take my walk and I’m truly grateful for it. Evee pointed me to the direction of a nearby, beautiful church. It has become a wonderful addition to my newroutine. I go there to stop. Sit, think and reflect. It is an hour dedicated to being still and quiet. I close my eyes and reflect upon life and our Mum. I use this time to ground myself during such pandemonium.

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This is a challenging time for us all. We constantly receive intrusive breaking news notifications on our phones. Our head is clustered full of worries, anxieties, and fear. It feels like at any moment our spinning plates will fall. Dedicate time to yourself. Dedicate time to reflection. Dedicate time to processing. In a little while, you’ll be able to pick these plates back up.

Stay safe, sane and smiling, friend.

Today we leave you with a song from one of our favourite and happiest artists; Newton Faulkner. 

 

My best-laid plans are washed away

No time to make ’em all again

Sometimes life gets in the way

We’ve got to keep on breathing

Look how far we’ve come

Look what we’ve made

Started from nothing, building

Brick by Brick – Newton Faulkner

 

Katie & Evee x