Archive for the ‘real life’ Category

the call

Friday, March 7th, 2014

It was the phone call they’d all dreaded,but somehow never really prepared for. Mother was ill, much worse than before, and the carers could no longer cope.

She had not mellowed into a sweet little butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth old lady, her comments were as acidic as ever , carefully ladled up with an extra serving on the side. The manipulation was less effective of course, time and practise had made her daughter more adept as dodging the bullets and disarming the barbs before they hit their mark, but still her criticism stung, just as it was intended to; every  comment carefully loaded and flung with amazing precision for an 85 year old . It came from years of practice.

This was a woman almost surely destined to die alone, with no kin beside her to ease her passing. No family member would authentically  mourn her, though there would be guilt and regret. Most of all there would be great sadness for what might have been, and the mourning of hopes, dreams and love scorched before they came into blossom.

The question of how to provide care for her last days, months or even years was still to be taken. But the woman to whom this task now fell, could, finally,  stand back and make an objective decision, detached enough to make the pragmatic choice, though the tears fell as she made the call.

at the station

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The train arrived on time. Enough time for a quick hug, a fond farewell, and then the two friends were parted. Who could know if they would meet again, or under what circumstances. They had not quite arrived at the stage that life was taken for granted, but they were old enough to know that there were no guarantees. Wisdom had taught them to enjoy the moment, and to hold lightly the memories they shared. They looked back at those years fondly, but never with rose-tinted spectacles, they were way too pragmatic for that!


They’d laughed that day, over a rather ridiculous hat! Not even a real one, but one an artist had stuck on the then Princess of Wales, commemorating her arrival at Alnwick station in 1908, on a rare royal visit to the seat of the Percys of Northumberland. The only other woman in the scene, presumably the Duchess of Northumberland and and not the vicar’s wife, was wearing the most magnificent hat, the light and shade caught precisely by the artist, but Princess Mary’s, they’d tittered, “looked like a mauve blancmange!”‘ Which was a pity really, as the striking colours of her outfit, and the artist’s otherwise excellent use of light and perspective, made her and not the future king George V, the focal point.


They were sitting in what had been Alnwick station, before Beeching made his beastly cuts. Since then Alnmouth, on a much more recent royal visit -though no doubt once again linked with the Percys, had been renamed Alnmouth for Alnwick. Later that same day, the two friends stood on the platform, thankful for friendship which had spanned four decades (“can it really be that long?”), excited, but not fearful or daunted, about what the future would hold. There was no telling where, this side of heaven, these two friends would meet again. God willing, it would be in the not too distant future, and in Northumberland, for surely this was -and is – the most beautiful part of England.

the peppercorn

Friday, January 31st, 2014

He stood out like a black peppercorn in a salt pot; a black man in a world of white people. He knew it, he felt it, but he was not threatened by it. He was where he belonged, alongside the woman he loved and so he could walk tall, proud of his heritage and not threatened by her culture.

The climate was a different matter.  He was chilled to the bone and beyond. It was so cold. And grey. He longed for the warmth of the sun to caress his body.He missed the vibrant colours too. It wasn’t only the weather that was grey, people wore such dark and boring clothes. Where where the oranges and the reds, the purples and the brilliant blues?  Their houses were painted in such neutral shades and hues, and like stepping into a fridge most of the time. Their home would be warmer, there was no question about that!

in praise of love

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

She didn’t tell him she was terminally ill. He didn’t tell her that he knew she was terminally ill. Because of love. She found out that he knew, and kept that a secret too; because of love.

A web of deceit or a tangle of love?
Is love more important than truth?

She concealed the truth to be kind. He too was bound by a code of silence so that she would feel secure -her secret safe. She didn’t tell him -and he didn’t tell her, because neither of them wanted to admit – to themselves or to the other – how in love they really were. Their  ‘to death shall us part’ had taken on a new meaning, and found a new depth.

The plot thickened. Both confided in the same friend. Both withheld the knowledge from their son.

A tangle of love or a web of deceit?
Is truth more important than love?

an exchange

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Tradition dictates that he asks her father.
Tradition dictates that she wears the ring.
Tradition dictates that it is the wedding ceremony which marks the beginning of a new life together.

Traditionalists at heart, the couple dared to make their own traditions. They stood at the altar and exchanged rings. They were not yet married, but this was the moment of betrothal, signalling the beginning of their life together.

It was a day they would always remember.
A milestone movement, blessed by God.

the crowded coffee shop

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

The small boy squirmed in his seat. The lovely little coffee shop was not where he really wanted to be – not when there were all kinds of adventures outside, just waiting to happen! There had been canoeists riding the rapids on the fast flowing river outside, one of whom had overturned and injured his nose and face.  Then there had been winter walkers and their dogs -of all shapes and sizes- the people strolling briskly, enjoying the late afternoon winter sun, the dogs off leash and like him drawn to those lovely slippery,muddy river banks which were waiting to be explored …  and here he was stuck in the coffee shop with his mother and her friend, talking talking talking, and drinking yet another refill of coffee. Would this never end?

He squirmed again in his seat. Suddenly mother’s friend looked up and gave him permission to leave the table and return the ‘feedback cards’ he’d filled in. Quickly squeezing between the two tables, trying hard not to bump the man on the next table or knock over his crutches, he bolted off to find the waitress.

When he got back the adults from the two tables were talking. Mother’s friend was telling the strangers about his having prayed for her aching hip, which God had healed. He’d forgotten all about that. Grown ups remember the weirdest things!  The strangers were Christians too, and suddenly the conversation and atmosphere had changed and become more electric.

As the strangers got up to leave the small boy cried out ‘Goodbye, God bless you’. The lady turned, thanked him and said ‘God bless you too!’ A chance encounter in a crowded coffee shop had become a means of grace.

forever lost

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

She’d only been made aware of his existence a week earlier. Seven short days. She hadn’t picked up any of the clues, she’d failed to read any of the signs; there was a huge void -a disconnect – between what she knew, or what she thought she’d known, and real life.

When she heard the announcement, she immediately turned to her diary. In her head she already knew that that month was going to be the busiest in the whole year for her. Three dates were immovable,  as close to being set in stone as you’d find in the postmodern electronic era. Her heart sank, and instead of rejoicing in the moment, and as best you ever can over the phone- of taking her friend by the hand, and savouring the moment, she blurted out that there was no way that date would work.


A chasm formed,  the moment lost forever.

There would be no turning back of the clock, no erasing of the self-centred careless words. From this moment on, their roads would lead in different, ever-diverging directions.



Monday, January 13th, 2014

I noticed him across the foyer.

One leg-the left-was badly deformed, which meant he hopped rather than walked. His body was damaged in other ways too, perhaps an accident with a car, or another vehicle, was to blame. Or perhaps it was the result of a fight. Who knows? His disability was not what first caught my eye, though. It was his determination and bravery. The pigeon -ever watchful- hopped closer and closer, one eye firmly on me, until he reached the trail of crumbs.

Those crumbs also have a story. A story of a child sitting close by, moments before, eating her pasty with full concentration, her parent close by, keeping an eye on the travel announcements.  Having eaten, the child stood up, and an avalanche of flaky pastry crumbs cascaded to the ground, unnoticed by all except by me. And the pigeon.

differently creative

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The old me would have said I didn’t have a creative gene in my body. Then I learnt something new about myself. I was reminded of this when I saw this in a shop window earlier this week. It’s beautiful isn’t it?

I might not be musical, and crafts, sticking, painting, drawing, modelling and the like, might not be my thing at all, but I am creative. Learning that about myself -that I am differently creative – has been part of my healing and growing process. In recent years I have rediscovered my love of photography. I love photo exhibitions, I love seeing photographers at work, and I especially love seeing how the light and composition and catching the precise moment make all the difference. I love my little pocket Nikon. It’s a great companion and travels with me all the time.

Words too are a bit part of the way I express myself (and what makes living in a non-English speaking environment a challenge and sometimes a frustration). Picking up this blog again, writing for me, is giving me space and the freedom to experiment. It’s where I can be creative, in a way that is important to me. I find myself wondering what shape will my writing take today? What story will unfold, what tale is waiting to be created, what narrative is struggling to burst forth to be heard? There is so much that is still unknown. What kind of writing do I really enjoy? What message(s) do I want to share? If I were to write a book – a lifelong dream – what kind of book might it be?

We are differently creative and today I am so very thankful for the ways in which I am creative, the ways I bring colour and perspective to different situations.

I do, however, still wish I could sing like an angel.


Friday, January 10th, 2014

The woman, a mother of a child no more than three or possibly four, disciplined her. She grabbed her daughter’s precious dolly and made to dispose of it in the swimming pool’s overflow system. I do not know what the child had done, or had failed to do. But immediately I was transported back in time, almost fifty years.

I had been standing on a chair at the kitchen sick with my paternal grandmother helping with the washing up. I was three or possibly four years old. I squirted the washing up liquid a bit too enthusiastically and there were a lot of bubbles and laughter. A split moments later there were tears, deep heart-breaking sobs, as my Mother, in a fit of rage, and to punish me, took my favourite doll, and marched the length of the balcony, me trailing in her wake, pleading with her to stop. She disposed of her in the public chute (rubbish collection). She was never seen again.

I don’t remember the dolly’s name,but the pain of her being snatched from me lives on. I never knew if I was being punished for the washing-up liquid or for the laughter. It was the last time my grandmother visited our home.