Monday, 2 September 2013

Reader, I Married Him.

'Moving on'. A stupid phrase, with so many negative implications, don't you think? When I hear people talk about moving on, it's always about dumping things, dumping people, dumping situations, and in a lot of ways, it is about all that. The things cluttering up your home that you've held on to, yet never really liked.  Clothes that don't fit, or never suited you anyway (what was I thinking when I bought that yellow suit?).

Those so-called friends who were really a bunch of miscreants whose only source of entertainment was to make your life a living hell, with their bitchiness and dramas, gossip and interfering.

The misery, the sorrow, the grief. Dump it all, let it go.

Instead of investing time and emotion on the negative aspects of my life, I choose now to focus on the important things, the things that have made me happy over the past few years, those moments of joy that have kept me going through - adversity I suppose, for want of a better, less worn-out word.

I have wonderful memories of my mother that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I have family who love, value and respect me as much as I do them, and I cherish that.

I have friends who bind me to them with their good sense and humour, their bravery, their companionship and love.

I have pictures that remind me of happy times, and souvenirs of a life well lived.

I have clothes that make me feel good, confident and strong whenever I choose to wear them, and the books on my shelves and music on my iPod stimulate my heart, soul and mind.

My knitting and cooking fire up my passions and move me to create, even if the end results are a pile of crap, I still love and enjoy them so very much.

As well as these, and so much else, I have a partner in life who has held my hand, kissed my lips and loved me unconditionally for seventeen years, through the good, bad and woeful of times.

"Babe", he said to me one day, "let's get married".

And so we did.

As many of our friends and family that could, came together at a registry office in Jersey, Channel Islands, and watched two confirmed batchelors - or so we thought - solemnly(-ish) declare to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives, signing our marriage certificate to the strains of 'Stone Cold Dead In The Market'. A wholly inappropriate song, I suggest you look it up for confirmation. Much later at the reception, we watched as guests laughed, ate a shed-load of cake, swam in the pool and, in the case of our younger guests, beat the living crap out a fish-shaped pinata. Yes, there were tons of pictures. No, I don't have any of them. I'm hoping to see some at some point, if people are kind enough to send them in. I'm told that some are absolute corkers.

What a wonderful bunch of people you all are, I am still overwhelmed that you came, and send you as much love and best wishes as you sent to us.

The next day, Studley and I packed up our stuff and sailed off to the island of Sark, where we walked a lot, talked a lot, laughed and ate (a lot), and fished in the sunshine, and for the first time in a long time I was truly, completely and ecstatically happy.

And so it is that I - that is to say, we - move on with a new sense of selves, a new feeling of belonging. All the things, the situations, that made us unhappy in the past will never completely disappear, we would be foolish to think they ever will. Crap comes along, it brings its' mates and sometimes eats at your heart. That's what crap does, right? It takes up space in your mind and screws with you from time to time.

But things feel different now. I feel different now.

I'm happy. Happier than I have ever been in my whole life.

I married my best friend.

Monday, 1 July 2013

One Year On...

Dear Mumsie,

Well, here we are. One year ago, you passed away. I can't help but think you're looking down at me, knowing just what a shitty year it's been, and being extremely disappointed at how I've dealt with it.

All through your illness, I was the strong one, or so I thought. Supporting you through the chemo, the radiotherapy, cleaning your house, cooking your meals, getting you to your appointments and dealing with the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, the home care, all meant I had to be strong for you. After four years and finally seeing you up and about, able to go to church, visit family and friends, even to go on holiday and enjoy a birthday party, I thought I was doing it right. I thought I was being strong and doing what I was supposed to do.

And yet, I feel like somewhere along the line, I took my eye off the ball. Immersing myself in the routine of taking care of you, I somehow managed to miss that moment, when the cancer returned.

I blamed myself, and it's because I blamed myself that my year turned out to be so shitty.

It's all well and good being told that I did the best I could, or that no-one else could have done more. I know I did the best I could, but will always wonder how much more I could have done. I'm naturally an intra-punitive person, I will always think like that.

Your final diagnosis seemed to break me in two. I fought so hard for you, but when things were taken out of our hands, I felt my spirit dissipate, and then I would cry, loudly, and for so long that I'm sure you wouldn't have recognized the lost, broken and snotty pile of uselessness that I became as someone you had raised to be a hell of a lot better than that.

I failed you, Mumsie. I forgot what it was to be strong. I let myself be consumed by the anger and the darkness that came with the grief.

Even now, one year on, I can still remember the warmth of your hand in mine for the last time. The pain of losing you still runs deep within me, and I feel like all the strength I had just fell away.

I haven't been good to your memory since then, Mumsie. I haven't been good to myself, and I haven't been good to Studley (actually the truth is I've been almost too good to Studley. So good, in fact, that he's feeling smothered, and plans to take up fishing to get away from all the attention I've transferred from you to him. He preferred it when I was always out).

With my routine gone and with you gone, my life changed forever, and for a long time, I found that some heavy shit to deal with.

I need to find a way to fill the emptiness that doesn't involve drinking my body weight in alcohol, or having a mid-life crisis that involves PVC miniskirts, tattoos, weeknight clubbing, or burlesque classes. I'm about a couple years away from a hip-replacement as it is, and my bone density measurement is nothing to be proud of.

Give me a little more time, Mum. I promise I'll get my shit together. I love you.

Being a middle-aged orphan really sucks.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Evelyn Smith, 1934-2012

Darling Mumsie was a fighter. Her whole life was a series of challenges, most of which were faced head-on. Behind her quiet dignity was a steely determination to surmount any obstacle in both her way, and in the way of every one she loved. Some of the decisions she made changed the course of my life. Mum didn't believe in good or bad decisions, just decisions, and life was about making them, living with them whatever the outcome, and moving on.

Mumsie was a giver. In both her working and her personal life, she cared for people. She helped babies into the world. She helped shape young people into responsible adults, and maintained lifelong friendships with a quiet and gentle demeanor.

If there were any regrets in her life, she never voiced any but one. That there wasn't enough time. My mother had plans. There are birthdays she wanted to celebrate. There are weddings she wanted to attend. There is a sister who needs her love and support. Best friends to phone up, or spend time with. There is a beautiful new baby girl waiting for a cuddle from her great-grandma.

Mumsie loved a cup of tea. Nothing gave her greater pleasure than sitting down in a comfy chair, with a cup of tea in hand. She liked to watch her favourite programmes, or talk with people, or just sit alone enjoying a good cup of tea and a little something to nibble on.

Mumsie's funeral was yesterday. The church was packed with people who knew and loved her: friends, family, former work colleagues. So many people came to pay their final respects that we ran out of copies of the Order of Service. So many young men offered themselves as pall-bearers. So many words of condolences to stop and listen to. So many cards. So many hands reaching out to us, so many hearts reaching out to us. There are no words to explain how much we appreciated them all.

My darling Mumsie, it was an honour - a pleasure - to have spent so much time with you. Even through the worst of times, we found something to talk about, to laugh about, over a million cups of tea. Whatever will I do with all my days now, I wonder?

While I feel like my heart is breaking right now, I know you bequeathed me your special brand of strength, courage and humour to help me through the worst of times.

I love you mum, and miss you desperately.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day, And I'm All Alone...

... and all is well.

It was a long time coming, so let's fill you in.

Studley had the operation on November 3rd. At 8.30 in the morning, I kissed him goodbye, and watched him go into surgery to donate a kidney to his bro. I went off for an hour to have breakfast, then returned to the hospital, took a seat and picked up my knitting.

And there I sat, knitting through my fears and worries, a silent prayer in every stitch. Hours passed, so many hours. People came, people went. I met a couple of people, knitters drawn in by the colours of the yarn. They sat with me a spell, and talked knitter-talk. I will be forever grateful that they took the time out of their lives - out of their own worries - to talk to me.

At 7.15pm, Studley finally arrived in the ward, and found me sitting at what was to be his bedside. Still in a lot of pain, he was nonetheless surprised to see me waiting for him. His first response was "did you get a lot of knitting done?". Too right I did.

On finally leaving Studley's side, I went immediately to see how his bro was doing. I have no idea how I got onto the ward, as there was a quarantine in place after an outbreak of Noro virus. You'll be pleased to hear that the kidney fired up almost immediately, and the difference in him was obvious. I was able to visit him every day until Studley was fit enough to leave hospital, and everyday he was looking better and better.

My biggest pleasure was when I got home from the hospital that first night, and phoned Studley's parents - known as Nearly-ma and Nearly-pa, living out in the Peculiars - to let them know that both their sons were doing okay.

Which sort of explains why I'm all alone on Christmas Day. Looking after Studley at home was far easier than I had at first feared, and it didn't take long for him to be fit enough to pack off to spend Christmas with his family in the Peculiars. Nearly-ma, like any other mum, needed to see her son, to hug him and know for herself that he's fit and well. It was the very least I could do for her.

While this year has not been the best for us, I will take this time out to look to the future.

I have no immediate plans, apart from work. There are no priorities, either. What I would like to do is sort out this blasted laptop - it died recently, taking with it the first chapters of the book that I'm working on. It took three hours at the Apple store to get it up and running again, and all my work retrieved. It was both a relief and a joy that they were able to do that for me (and for free, too!). Hopefully, I'll be able to get the photo-thingy to work too. Watch this space.

Knitting? Well, this year it was all about the socks, and perfecting my techniques. Next year I'm adding hats. It seems to me that it would be one of the quicker ways of reducing my yarn stash. Plus I have a plan to make something really special - Studley's owed a sweater. And it will be a gansey.

Personally, I need to get fitter. Next year, I'm going to be 50. Yes, really. I think it's important that I be in the best health possible, and I have everything I need at my disposal. Weights - check. Supreme 90 Day Workout dvds - check. Zumba fitness kit (with the shaky-shaky hand weights) - check. Tosca Reno's Eat Clean cookbooks - checkity check check. This time next year, you should be able to bounce a penny off my round and perfectly formed ass. I will still be making cake. But I won't be eating as much of it.

Wow. Long post, huh? That's another thing. It wouldn't have been so long if I was a regular poster. I need to sort that out, too.

Before I go, I would like to take the time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, wherever you are. If you are spending the day alone without family and friends, get up, get dressed and get out there. Take a walk, smell the air. There's no traffic on the roads, so it will be a lot cleaner. If you are with the people you love, why not tell them? They probably don't hear it often enough.

Oh, and it wouldn't kill you to eat some fruit today, too.

Thank you all for being there for me and Studley. For caring about us, and supporting us through this very trying year. I'm going to work hard to make next year so much better.

Hopefully with photos.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tough Times Ahead At Hand Wash Towers...

Hello all.

I'm not one for baring my soul. The past few months have been full of ups and downs. I like to keep most things to myself, and wrap myself in the "Duvet of Blue" when times get tough.

It's not about me this time, or mice, or knitting. It's about my darling Studley.

We took off on a trip recently, to Paris. It will be the last time we go away together this year.

Studley has a brother in need of help. He's young, married with a beautiful child and another on the way. All was lovely, and then his kidney started to pack up for no discernible reason. He's not a drinker or smoker, and leads a clean life. Now he needs a kidney.

Studley stepped up to the plate, before he was even asked. He's donating a kidney to his bro. After going through a barrage of tests, and with one more major one to go, a date has been set for the operation. It's really going to happen.

I have never been prouder of my wonderful man. Or more scared of what is to come next. We have put off planning our wedding, which is why we were so evasive when people asked for a date to pencil into their calendar. I did go looking at dresses, but frankly right now my heart just isn't in it. Now you know why I get so frustrated about all the cleaning - Studley will need about 3 months of proper care at home after the operation. I need to make sure that Hand Wash Towers is spotless, germ and mouse free. It's up to me to do everything I can to facilitate a healthy recovery. I have to have it done NOW, so that I can devote time to care for him when - for the first time - he really needs me.

For the past few months I've done nothing but worry. I want everything to go well. I want both Studley and his bro to be properly cared for, so they can both get up and happily get on with their lives with the people who love them. I worry that Studley's mum is worrying more than me - and quite frankly, she doesn't need the stress.

Now that a date has been set, it all seems so real and happening so fast - but of course it's taken months of discussions, meetings and tests to get to this point. Lots of information has been flying towards us, so we are clear about what's going to happen next, what's to be expected from us, from the hospital. So much information, I won't go into it. I'll just cry. Again.

I apologise if my postings have been so few and so far between. I tend to post on Twitter from time to time, and maybe on Ravelry when I get a chance.

Thanks to you who follow me patiently, even though it may seem sometimes that I have fallen off the face of the earth. Those of you who've been waiting for photographs and news and knitting and cake, and stuff - I will try to get on it. I'll check in once in a while, but don't expect me to talk much about this. I'm finding it all so very scary.

And Studley, if you are reading this (even though you claim you don't), know that you are best part of my world. I take my responsibility to take care of you very seriously. I love you so very much, and will do everything to get you safely up and about again after the op. Just don't take the piss, alright? I'm not going to feed you your body weight in cake, burritos are limited, and I'm not going to come running every time you ring that blasted bell. ; )

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What, No Pictures?

Okay, here's the story:

Not long ago, I had to relocate from my sit-at-a-desk computer to an inherited-from-Studley laptop. Which is fine, if I want to surf the 'innerweb' from the comfort of my bed while eating biscuits and watching Loose Women. But, when Studley had the laptop, he ditched the software he didn't need as he wanted to get more of his music on, so he got rid of all the games except chess, Garageband (which, let's face it, is not really useful unless you really are planning an assault on the pop charts) and iPhoto, with the promise that, should I need either, they would be easily re-installed using the disks provided.

This was not important until now. I want to show you pictures. Of Cake. Of knitting projects. Of me with Anne and Emily at Knit Nation with Jeanette Sloan. Of the skein of Knitglobal yarn and the sock kit from Rennaissance Yarns that I bought. I can't show you any of it.

I stood over Studley while he tried to re-install iPhoto. It wouldn't work.

He tried again. Still no joy. By this time, there were beads of sweat on his brow.

I threatened to withhold his dinner. Nada.

I threatened to withhold other things (yes, now is the time to waggle your eyebrows). Zip.

To top it all off, I can't go back and blog from my desk computer, as it's not connected to the internet (don't ask, but it has something to do with our recent visitors, the little blighters).

I did lose it, but in a very British way. I held out my hands, my eyes rolled upwards, I shook my head, and walked to the kitchen to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

This afternoon will probably be spent erasing his music collection from said laptop (and into oblivion, you have no idea what this man listens to) in an effort to create enough space to re-install iPhoto.

In the meantime a musical interlude, in the form of an example of the kind of music Studley listens to. My fingers hover over the delete button...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Good Housekeeping, I Love You...

...I honestly love you.

While life itself is full of hit or miss days (like watching the corpulent opera singer slide off the bonnet of a car on stage - hit. Or stepping outside for a cigarette, then realizing firstly, that you quit smoking and, secondly it's pissing down with rain - miss.) there is one constant in my life that has never let me down, and that is the Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium, 1955 edition. There is so much about this book that I love, the thousands of pictures, the style of presentation, the introductions to each section, the detail, Detail, DETAIL that makes each recipe seem achievable, however complicated it may look. The best thing? Hundreds upon hundreds of recipes for old-style cake, pies, puddings, deserts - oh, my goodness, my heart, my stomach, my weight!!

This particular edition is literally three books in one. Part 1: Basic Cookery, starts just like it did in my first cookery class in school - with cutting a grapefruit in half and serving it with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. So totally idiot-proof, this book holds your hand and leads you through the simplest of meals with the most basic ingredients. While most of the meals are not for the modern palate (lard and beef dripping, anyone?), the first part is excellent as a foundation in cookery, telling the novice cook about shopping for food, cuts of meat, types of fish, food storage, how to use equipment, foundations of soups and sauces, and basic bread, cake and pastry making. On its own, this part is worth its' weight in gold.

Part 2, Picture Cookery, for the more adventurous cook, ramps up the techniques and attention to detail required for when "wifey" has to entertain her husband's boss. How to clean fish, prepare shell fish, joint poultry and rabbit, more soups, more sauces, jams, pickles and preserves and even more cake, it just gets better all the time. I made a Game Pie, using hot-water crust pastry, following the step-by-step pictorial guide that was so delicious, I ate the whole thing myself (sorry Studley). Plus, this section includes instruction on how to use a Pressure Cooker! (Scary things, but I feel confident I could handle one now.)

Part 3 - the best bit - is all about the cake making. This part goes through all the equipment, ingredients and techniques you need to make any kind of cake. Let me say that again - any kind of cake. Plain cakes, fruit cakes, jam cakes, buns, traybakes, biscuits, pastries, gateux, icing and sugarcraft, up to the big one: The Wedding Cake.

I cannot even begin to tell you about the deep joy I get from reproducing the food from this book, even from just turning the pages, looking at the pictures and admiring the font. I look at this book everyday, whether I choose to cook from it or not. Visitors to this country (and foreigners who have never visited) like to taunt us with the myth that British food is bad. These people are so easy to dismiss because they obviously don't know where or what to eat, but when it comes to "afters", I do believe the UK is the real deal. We are unbeatable, we are nonpareil, sine qua non, and this beautiful book is proof, if proof were needed.

I wish I had the pictures to show you. I wish you could smell, taste and appreciate the good old fashioned traditional British fayre that comes out of this book.

I wish you could see how much exercise I have to do to allow me to indulge myself the way I do (just kidding - although I do a Zumba class twice a week)!

While most of my diet is, in fact, clean, we do allow ourselves the odd indulgence of the baked goods variety, otherwise Studley is a very sulky boy.