My daughter returned from her big adventure yesterday; I have missed her so much. From the day she left us, exactly a month ago today, to the morning before her return, we heard nothing from her. It turns out that she could have made contact on a couple of occasions, but chose not to. She was having the time of her life and wanted to maintain the break from home for the duration.

When she did text it was to say that we didn’t need to pick her up from the return coach drop off point; she had arranged a lift with a friend. This came as no big surprise and was not an issue; my daughter has been eager to extend the time she spends with certain friends from she was at primary school. It proved that she was happy and enjoying herself.

I have spent the weekend anticipating her return. Much as I try not to wish my life away, there are some occasions that I look forward to with such eagerness that I just want the days in between to pass. Her journey home started early on Sunday and I was avidly watching the on line departure and arrivals boards at the various airports she was to pass through, following her progress. I was unsure how smooth her journey would be after last week’s events at a key changeover point (Nairobi airport closes as fire crews tackle blaze) but all seemed to proceed smoothly.

And then she was home, bringing with her the joyful tales of adventure and fun; the stories of new experiences, friendships and mishaps that seemed amusing in hindsight. We poured over the photographs and mementoes, sharing the memories and misadventures. Even the tough times were recalled with fondness; it was the trip of a lifetime.

In her absence the dynamic of our family changed. I thought that it would go back to how it was when she returned but now I am not so sure it will. I cooked a big welcome home dinner; my youngest son baked a cake and a batch of cookies; from the moment I sat down my presence at the table upset my boys so I left them to enjoy my daughter’s return and ate later, alone.

I listened in to their conversation as I sorted the mountains of laundry, washed dishes and tidied away. I did not miss out on the tales but on the camaraderie. My family are a unit of which I no longer feel a part.

This will be a tricky one to negotiate. How horrid it would be for my daughter to find, after a month away, that we had fallen apart without her. I must somehow try to mend the chasm that has opened up. It was not this obvious until she returned because my gradual banishment was accepted, perhaps even desired by the boys. She will not take it so calmly.

And I am grateful for that. I knew that she was my ally, but she is valued by my boys as much as by me. I must work out a way to get by that will be accepted for all our sakes.

I love all of my family very much and want nothing more than their happiness. It is hard to observe that what makes them happy is me becoming silent and invisible. It is hard that my presence puts a dampener on their craic.

This is not about me or my daughter or even my boys; it is how we all interact when together. I need to try to work out why I have become such an irritation. We are all so happy to have our favourite girl home. I do not wish to spoil this for anyone.



Giving advice

I want my children to lead a comfortable life. What parent doesn’t? When they have important decisions to make over subject choices at school; when they are mulling over career options that they may wish to aim for; I am there offering boringly sensible advice that basically boils down to looking at how they can earn a substantial amount of money.

In my experience, even the most creative and imaginative people struggle to achieve contentment in life if they are struggling to pay the bills. Money may not buy happiness but a lack of money can stymy dreams. It is not necessary to be rich but it is necessary to have enough to get by. These days it seems to cost rather a lot to just get by.

And then I see the slightly older kids who have made use of their abilities, worked hard, made the sensible choices, had the luck to get into the good universities on the sought after courses, graduated with impressive results, yet still ended up back at their parent’s home unable to find a job. They took the advice to aim for the well paid job but cannot now make the leap onto the first rung of the ladder.

I remember my mother trying to persuade my siblings and I to aim for the careers that she saw as safe and respected. She wanted us to be teachers or to join a bank; to get a job for life that paid a comfortable wage and would lead to a good pension. She could not have imagined how the world would change in the course of our working lives.

I look at the world around me and I feel so old; I do not know how best to advise my children. They have their dreams and aspirations yet I find myself telling them to save their creativity for a hobby; to put their ideas of working for a better world aside because it may make life tough for them. And I hate that I am sounding just like my mother.

Do not get me wrong, I know that my mother loved us and wanted only the best for us (and still does). She was offering us her wisdom based on the experiences that she had been through. It is how I now look back on that advise and how I am glad that I did not do as she wished that makes me realise that I must let my children find their own way. I should encourage them to take risks if that is what they want to do.

Who am I to offer advise anyway; what do I know of the future world that my children will have to deal with? Perhaps the cynicism, energy and desire that they display could make a difference; perhaps the dreams and creativity could lead to success. Just because I know people who tried, failed and subsequently struggled does not mean that this will happen to them. Working hard and making all the sensible choices is no guarantee that they will find success and happiness.

I have become the older generation. My children are growing into the people who will have the chance to shape the world. When I look at how they talk and dream and live I am given huge hope for the future. I must not allow myself to quash their idealism for the sake of a life that may no longer exist in the years through which they must live.

It angers me when I read of employers berating the youth of today for having unrealistic expectations when they enter the world of work. It is the young people who have dreams and ambition who will work hard and come up with the innovative ideas that may just lead to a better world. I want to see improvement and change. I do not like the way things are now with the selfishness, nepotism and corruption endemic in the higher echelons of power.

If my children are to make a success of their lives then they must do so through their own efforts; I cannot do it for them. I had my chance with my own life, now it is their turn to make their mark in whatever way they can.

I will never stop hoping that their lives may be comfortable and happy; I will continue to offer the best advise I can. What I must remember is that they have options and must be free to explore even those that seem so risky to me. I want them to be able to enter the adult world with passion, enthusiasm and belief. I would be doing them a huge disservice if I were to quash their dreams because the world as I knew it demanded skills that they are capable of developing, but which may not be the key to the life that they wish to live.

Each generation enters a world that is different to the one before and must find their own way; I cannot tell my children how it will be. The best I can do is to encourage and love them, whatever choices they make. Their lives are their own. They will fly their own course with or without my encouragement. It is the parent who finds it hard to let go.

Dream girl

A trip to the seaside

England is currently experiencing a heatwave. I love the sunshine and outdoor living so I am not going to complain about this relatively rare phenomena. I will concede though that trying to get anything done in temperatures that are hovering around the 30’C mark can be wearing.

With my daughter now safely arrived in Madagascar I have been checking the daily weather forecasts for the area that she is exploring and, if correct, then she is having to cope with daily temperatures about 10’C lower than back home. This is probably just as well given that she is required to walk a fair distance each day with a heavy pack on her back, and to work outside on projects the group will be challenged to complete. At least it does not appear to be raining and she has a good sleeping bag to keep her snug in her tent when the night time temperatures drop significantly. I do hope that she is enjoying her big adventure.

Having waved her off at the weekend I was whisked away to the seaside to take my mind off her departure. It was a very welcome and enjoyable distraction. For a couple of nights I was able to enjoy the comforts of a hotel on the beach with delicious food and a cooling, outdoor swimming pool as well as the sea. We had taken a room with a balcony that overlooked the water so morning coffee was sipped and pre dinner drinks imbibed whilst watching the yachts and expensive motor boats as they made their way in and out of the large, natural harbour. It felt wonderfully indulgent to spend time in such luxurious surroundings.

There is something about the sea and the tides that calms and relaxes my mood. The beaches were understandably busy on these hot days with young people swimming and diving off the rocks, fisherman casting their lines from the jetties, and the many birds gliding and diving in search of tasty tidbits. The surrounding roads were chaotic with traffic trying to move from one place to another along the coast, or in search of an unused parking space; I was glad that we could walk from the hotel to our desired destinations without having to move our car until it was time to head home.

Due to seasickness, I do not generally enjoy going out on boats. However, our proximity to an island that I was eager to visit and the relative calmness of the water in this weather persuaded me that we could risk the journey to spend a day enjoying the cooling shade of woodland. Thus we had a fabulous few hours wandering the paths between quiet glades in search of deer and the rare, red squirrels of Brownsea Island. We saw families of peacocks and flocks of chickens roaming free as well as the wildlife we had come to admire.

Most visitors to the island stay close to the visitors centre. We prefer to enjoy peace and quiet so chose to explore the many woodland paths as we circumnavigated the small island. In doing so we came across a small pond surrounded by trees on which interesting paint marks had been daubed. Intrigued by the apparently random nature of the strokes we moved around the pond and discovered that, with the right positioning and perspective, hearts appeared through the foliage. Created by painting a part of a heart shape on several trees at differing distances from the viewer these would only come together from one vantage point. We enjoyed the challenge of searching out the best place to view each of the four hearts.

Having enjoyed a few days of good food, a fabulous location and an air conditioned room in which to sleep, I returned home from our short break feeling rested and relaxed. I cannot put aside my natural concern for my daughter’s well being but, knowing how eager she was to take part in this expedition, I cannot wish her anywhere else.

My boys have now returned to school to complete the summer term before we head off camping next week. If this heatwave continues then it could be an interesting experience; our family camping trips are rarely taken in fine weather. We have coped with rain, wind and overnight frost in the past but never extreme heat. There will be no assisted air conditioning in our tent; neither will there be wifi. That could be the biggest challenge for my gadget addicted children.

In the meantime I have a few days of quiet reflection and preparation. With my daughter away I have the house to myself while my boys are at school; I must ensure that I make use of this time. Although she was only at home in the day with me for the few weeks around her recent exams, it quickly came to feel normal making this solitude more noticeable. How quickly we humans adapt to changing circumstances.

For today, the heat is building once again and I have much to do. Whatever the good or bad that comes our way, life goes on. I am grateful that, for now at least, the life I am living is very good.


Good times

So many good things have been happening to me recently; I need to take time just to sit back and savour the pleasure. I have activities to look forward to and recent, fun events to look back on. Whilst I can certainly enjoy what I am doing at the time, I derive pleasure from the excitement and anticipation of an event as well as satisfaction from the happy memories. With so many good things going on in a short space of time I want to be sure that I allow myself moments of reflection. Pleasure should never be taken for granted. Joyful life experiences, particularly those shared with others, are precious and should be valued.

Since her exams finished in late June I have had my daughter home all day and we have been able to go out together on some lovely, long walks in the beautiful countryside surrounding our home. These have been all the more enjoyable since the warm, summery weather has arrived. This month has offered us sunshine and heat in abundance; a rare treat in the England of recent years. As a family, we have been spending much of our time outside. I love outdoor living, especially from the comfort of home.

My daughter and I have been walking together, swimming together and yesterday went on a cycle ride. I do these things on my own regularly, but it has been lovely to have such good company on my excursions. I am grateful that she appears to enjoy being active as much as I do.

As well as being a welcome companion, my daughter can be left to look after the rest of the family and I have had opportunities to take advantage of this. Last night I enjoyed a trip to the theatre with an old friend who I only get to see about once a year. I can enjoy the night out all the more knowing that my little family are being well fed and cared for. They remembered to put the chickens away without prompting and even the dishes were washed when I came home.

One of the things that is left undone when I am busy enjoying myself is the general housework. Somehow the never ending need to vacuum floors and wipe down surfaces seems less important when we are not spending so much time inside observing the mess. My ironing pile is growing at a scary rate.

When my boys are in the garden playing ping pong, or we are all sitting around the patio table enjoying a refreshing drink, I am not going to walk away from this family time. The fluffy seeds that are blowing in through the wide open windows from our neighbouring woodland may be showing up the spiders webs that I have failed to clear, but I cannot make myself care enough to deal with them. They pose no danger; there will be time enough to be house proud when my family are not around for me to enjoy.

The transience of moods can be hard to remember when life is more difficult. These good times will not go on forever, life’s path is never that smooth. I wish to appreciate this time, reflect on what I have now that I may use the memories to keep me going when things become tougher. Perhaps if I did not have to deal with the more difficult issues then I would not be able to fully enjoy these better times.

For now though, I will enjoy the cool freedom of my summer clothes, even if I am a little old and rounded for shorts and short skirts. I will bask in the warmth of sunshine and family life. I will lie back in my hammock and watch the wispy clouds drift overhead instead of dealing with the household dust and debris that is never fully tamed anyway. When life can be enjoyed this much I will live it to the full.


Allowing kids to mess up

Amongst the blogs that I follow on WordPress there is a fun one by Dorkdaddy. This blogger does awesome things with his kids like this Lego Maniacs and this Walking On Air. I read these posts and I think what a fabulous childhood his kids are having. He is creating so many amazing memories for his kids to look back on and treasure. I would never have been willing to spend the money on such projects given that I couldn’t be sure that I could successfully get them to work or that my kids would respond as his have done.

Even the more simple achievements such as this one Butterbeer… YUM!! would have worried me – a bit like letting my kids paint at home. With three children under five to care for I could never rely on being there to provide the necessary close supervision at the stove or mixing stuff up. I didn’t want my furniture finger painted while I dealt with a toilet visit or stopped elder son pouring black paint all over his younger sibling’s prized creation.

One thing that I could let them do though was chalk paving slabs. I would buy cheap buckets of of thick chalks and, on a dry day, let the kids loose on our patio and driveway. With chalks there were no limits; walls, slabs, fences and outdoor furniture could be decorated. Whatever mess they made would be washed away with the next rain shower; the kids and their clothes could be washed just as easily; they had fun. I do remember one friend’s dad picking up his daughter after a particularly creative afternoon and exclaiming at the state she was in. I felt a bit guilty about that.

My kids were not bought good clothes or expected to stay tidy. They were provided with cheap and practical outfits, many of them handed down from relatives, and I never worried about mud and mess. I learnt from experience that when other people’s children came to play at our house their parents had to be warned that they may get dirty. I don’t think that the parents always understood how literally I meant this. Our garden has interesting slopes, perfect for racing sand trucks down or for sliding and scrambling on. They get very muddy when wet.

We have a big sand pit that I filled with cheap, builders sand which can turn kids and their clothes orange before it is washed through often enough with rain. The pit held two tonnes of sand so was not going to be kitted out with the sanitised stuff advertised as safe. I am a firm believer in letting kids get messy, thus building their natural immunity to bugs. My children are rarely sick.

Playing in this sandpit my kids and their friends would build castles and tunnels; craft out canals; fill them with water from our rain barrels; sail plastic boats between fortresses manned with plastic dinosaurs, dragons and knights. That sandpit gave more pleasure over more years than the expensive climbing frame and swing set that soon lost their novelty because every child’s garden had them.

Our garden also has a section of gas pipe linking a raised deck to the lowest ground and providing a tunnel slide. Visiting kids loved to clamber up this on the outside; the unprotected drop from the top gave several of their parents palpitations. The rope ladders and wobbly fireman’s pole (a section of scaffolding sunk into concrete) provided enough perceived danger to feel exciting. Yes, I allowed risks to be taken.

The only time visiting kids encountered real danger was when a group of them played hide and seek inside the house with all of their parents present at a party we threw. They managed to knock a large and heavy television off a chest of drawers while trying to crawl behind it; I still thank God that no child ended up underneath the fallen and broken mass. That was the last time that I let visiting kids run free and unsupervised upstairs. I know what my children are likely to do but could never guess how other people’s children would behave or how their parents would react to what I saw as normal children’s interactions. Leaving them to sort out their own problems, and learn from the experience, was not always seen as acceptable.

From what I can see, Dorkdaddy is an amazing parent, providing his kids with awesome experiences. I have friends who do this in different ways. They spend the school holidays taking their kids around theme parks and attractions, to movies and shows, giving their kids memories to discuss and treasure. I guess I just do things differently.

I know that there are times when my kids feel that they are missing out because we wait for the latest ‘must see’ film to come out on DVD before we buy it. We have not done Disneyland or even travelled abroad as a family. What we have done though is walk and cycle and camp together. We get messy, climb trees, cook on an open fire and talk endlessly.

I am way off being an awesome parent but I do my best, as all parents that I know do. I hope that when my kids are grown up they will look back on their childhood as a happy one. Whatever else passed us by we didn’t fuss, we got dirty, and we didn’t follow convention.


Crash and burn

I know that only I am responsible for my happiness. I know that only I can ensure that my life is heading in the right direction. I know that I cannot rely on another person to make my life complete. Knowing these things and living by them are very different things.

No matter how many times it happens, I still allow myself to ride euphorically on a wave of happiness when I am given the priority and attention that I crave, only to crash back down to earth, wiped out and miserable, when it hits home that I am not so important after all. I have, once again, allowed myself to feel of value because of someone else’s treatment of me rather than for how I am.

Growing up I remember my mother telling me what a clever girl I was for some minor act; skipping or running fast or some such thing. I felt such happiness at receiving attention and recognition from someone I loved to please. I wanted her to watch me do this thing again and again in an attempt to keep getting the positive interest and response. Even at such a young age I could see that she was tiring of my act; that the praise had been well meant but over the top for the achievement.

I had a friend at primary school who won many medals in Irish dancing competitions. I attended ballet classes but, as a rather fat and ungainly child, did not do well in this discipline. I decided to take up Irish dancing in an attempt to win medals; this was the only reason for the interest. I managed to achieve a couple, but soon realised that they were not going to bring me the glory that I desired. I was seeking to be honoured and revered, but could never be good enough to have others admire me as much as I required.

As I grew older and more realistic I accepted that I was never going to excel. I could achieve competency but not greatness. I would be drawn to those who had natural ability; circling those who displayed aptitude in areas I respected. I would lurk like a shadow, feeding my own desire for achievement by trying to break into the inner circles of those who achieved; learning what I could and feigning knowledge that, in truth, I struggled to comprehend. I never truly belonged; friendship groups moved on, rarely noticing that they had left me behind.

When I finally departed from my homeland I determined to put these destructive tendencies behind me. I determined to start over and create a persona that was as good as I could be, and accept that this was enough. With work and marriage and children my life became busy and full. It was many years before it registered with me that I was still living in the shadow of those I admired. I still craved the attention, admiration and regard; I was still unable to excel as I wished.

I try hard to build defences that will protect me against the painful feeling of rejection when I am ignored by those I love; when I am accused of acting unreasonably for expecting another to act in a certain way. And I guess that is the issue; I cannot require anyone to treat me with the regard I desire. It has to be their choice, made freely, because it is what they want to do.

If I choose to continue to live in another’s shadow then I must lick my wounds quietly and learn not to fuss. To avoid the hurt I would need to learn not to care; such a hard lesson to learn. Perhaps my greatest fear is of succeeding; if I no longer feel the pain will this mean that I no longer love? That would be too high a price to pay.


Music and sunshine

The weather has changed for the better. After the long, cold and damp winter the return of the blossom on the trees and the warmth of the sun feels like a generous gift. I have been spending as much time as I can outside and can feel my body relax and unwind as it draws in the heat from the sun and the beauty of the plants awakening from their long sleep. I have missed this.

Having been looking forward to this long weekend it started out by disappointing me; too often this can be the case. When I expect little I can be pleasantly surprised; high expectations allow a fall. The romance of my midweek wedding anniversary, which had lingered agreeably, quickly dissipated when my husband announced that he had not saved the weekend for us as I had expected. Determined not to make a fuss, I opted to use the sunny evening for a long walk. It is one of the pleasures of a late sunset that evening activities such as this are possible. The day may be used to the full and I made the most of it.

The pulchritude of the countryside helps to put my muddled mind in order and the effort of a brisk walk took up the excess energy that is required to sustain a low mood. I returned home feeling ever so much better. My personal issues put in perspective, I was happy to find that one of my children had stayed home. A little company for my fish and chip supper was much appreciated and I determined to stay cheerful for the rest of our planned family time.

It is enjoyable to go out and about with those we love; meals out, trips away and other adventures provide moments to look back on. Often though, just spending time together can be as satisfying. A day of cooking and gardening followed by a meal and a DVD at home may not seem to offer as much enjoyment as an exciting night out, but can feel just as good. We benefit so much from time spent just being together.

I am always aware that family time is in constant flux. As the children grow older and develop their own interests they opt to spend less time with their parents. Even when we are together their preferences and conversation changes over time. They are becoming their own people, a process that I find fascinating as I get to know the grown ups they will become. What moulding can be achieved in childhood is more or less complete by the time they reach their teens. Support from parents is still so important, but they are no longer mine; they belong to themselves.

We did not plan to spend the whole weekend at home. My eldest son has a burgeoning interest in classical music so I had booked tickets for a Sunday afternoon concert in a nearby city. Growing up I tried to play several musical instruments with mixed success. My father is very musical and I suspect that my interest was as much an attempt to garner his favour as any real interest on my part. However, studying the form and content of classical music for school exams and learning to play those instruments gave me an appreciation of the genre and I am happy to encourage my son’s interest. There are some evenings when a piano sonata fits my mood so much better than my daughter’s heavy rock.

One of the few downsides of living in a rural location is the inaccessibility of the arts. There is also the issue of cost. A trip to the theatre is not an outing to be undertaken lightly; it is very much a special treat. We combined our concert trip with a visit to some specialist shops as sports gear was required that needed to be personally fitted. My son and I then spent a most enjoyable couple of hours listening to Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Borodin. I must ensure that he is allowed to experience live music with some frequency such was his appreciation of this event.

Today we have been blessed with another warm and sunny day. I am unaware of any plans that will take us from home unless we choose to go so I anticipate a relaxed and cheerful day. If the weather holds through to the evening we may even light our barbeque for the first time this year and eat alfresco.

There are times when I wonder if I rely too much on others to provide my happiness; I am well aware that it is not their responsibility but mine. How hard it is though, when we have invested so much of ourselves in those we love, to not feel some degree of expectation that willingness to share and give will be reciprocated. Perhaps this is why those moments, when time and self are offered without limit, feel so precious; their rarity adds to the value.

For now I must go forth and garner the enjoyment on offer. I will live for the moment which today, in this glorious spring sunshine, has the potential to be quietly fabulous.


The cost of a night out is going up

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. My husband and I celebrated by going out for a lovely meal at a local restaurant. The children were fed at home and then left to sort out their busy evenings for themselves. I felt a bit guilty about this; so much of my life has been spent trying to be the best parent that I can. Sometimes though, we just have to take our adult time and make the kids cope. It is important for them to understand that, although we are happy to support them, we too have lives to lead.

I had a lovely evening and came home feeling happy and relaxed, much later than I would normally stay out, especially on a week night. Today I am paying the price for that. It would seem that, as I get older, the cost of a night out is going up. I barely know what to do with myself today I am so tired; it feels as though my very bones ache. It is hard to believe that I could once stay out half the night and still bounce into work the next day. I know that there are plenty of people my age and older who can still party the night away and get by. Whatever the reason, I am not one of them.

As I lie here trying to rest and recuperate, I am thinking back to those younger days when a night out such as I enjoyed last night would have seemed tame. My husband and I were never wild, party animals, but we enjoyed our share of socialising and had a good group of friends. Many of these lovely people came to our wedding, and we still keep in touch. Our big day was planned as a chance to celebrate with those we enjoyed spending time with; we didn’t see the need to provide our large, extended families, who we rarely saw and many of whom we would barely recognise, with a get together. Selfishly perhaps, we did it the way we wanted.

After the excitement of our engagement had abated and we started discussing the next step, it was decided that we could do the whole white wedding in a church thing, but not necessarily follow too many of the other traditions. I saw no need to wait too long to do the deed; not for us a lengthy engagement of several years. I wanted a chance of decent weather which ruled out the approaching winter, but I didn’t want to be a June bride; too twee for me. We opted for May 1st as we liked the links to summer festivals and workers rights. It also fell on a Friday in the year we got married which made booking venues and services a whole lot easier.

I liked the idea of dressing up in a white wedding dress, but was reluctant to pay a large amount of money for something that I would wear once. Luckily for me, my sister-in-law still had her wedding dress, it fitted me and she was willing to let me wear it. She was my bridesmaid and wore a dress worn by one of her own bridesmaids. Friends leant me a veil, head dress and a hooped underskirt so I just had to buy shoes which I hoped I would be able to wear again. My husband bought a good suit as this seemed a more worthwhile investment; he still has it all these years later.

My talented parents-in-law made the wedding cake and the bouquets. I bought the invitations at a local stationers and hand wrote them. A friend recorded the event on video although we did use a professional photographer for the stills. We also hired one wedding car with my brother-in-law decorating his black car with ribbons to provide a second. I did my own hair and make up. All of these little details provided the setting but did not seem hugely important. What was important was that we were getting married!

We wanted a fairly small ‘do’ so limited invitations to close family and friends. In the end we provided a sit down meal at a good hotel for about forty guests. It was a lovely day, made all the more so I think because I was not worrying about everything being just right. The whole thing was put together with so much help from others and nothing had to particularly match. Looking back, the only thing that I would change would be to rein in the photographer who took too long getting his shots. It is hard enough finding time at a wedding to talk to all the people who make the effort to attend without having to spend what felt like hours posing in organised groups. I would have preferred more informality.

As each anniversary has gone by, my husband and I have made the effort to celebrate. Some years we have gone away for a night, on other years we have marked the occasion with a simple take away meal at home. In many ways my husband is more romantic than me and will make more of an effort to ensure that the occasion is special. It was he who insisted that we go out last night and I am glad that he did, even if I am suffering for it today.

Life can have as many special occasions as we choose to celebrate. I may need longer to recover from a night out than I once did, but if I lived too carefully then I would not be generating more happy memories to look back on. Agreeing to marry my husband was the best decision that I ever made and our wedding, however selfishly planned, was as happy an occasion as I could wish for. As each anniversary passes I am reminded of how lucky I am that he continues to put up with me. The cost of a night out with him may be going up, but it is still a price that is well worth paying.


Battery requires recharge

Am I the only one who heads home after a trip away in a state of near exhaustion? I have just spent a very enjoyable weekend exploring a beautiful part of the country, but have woken up this morning feeling shattered. I used to believe that holidays were conceived to provide an opportunity for rest and recuperation; it would seem that I now need to come home for that to happen. It doesn’t help that I rarely sleep well in a strange bed, but this is more than just lack of sleep; this is wrung out and bone weary. On days like today I am so grateful that I do not need to go out to work.

When any member of my family is to stay away from home it is left up to me to sort out what needs to be taken. My eldest child will do her own packing, but everyone else expects me to fill their cases. Camping trips are the hardest to prepare for as we have to take absolutely everything that we will need whilst away. This is undoubtedly more straightforward now than when the children were younger as their entertainment needs are less bulky, but I still spend a lot of time checking through mental lists and trying to figure out what it is that I will forget on this trip. There is always something.

Having sorted out what needs to be taken and somehow squeezed it all into the required array of cases and boxes, it is transferred to the car where my husband will inevitably complain about the volume of stuff that I expect him to load. I have no idea how we would cope if we ever decided to fly away on holiday; we do not seem able to do minimalist packing. We will drive to our destination where I am left to unpack and set up our temporary home while the other members of the family explore their new surroundings. Our days will involve numerous long walks to places of interest, which we will investigate and examine until we run out of time. We will then go through the whole pack up and travel procedure again in order to head home.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy our family holidays. Having time to spend together out in the fresh air is very satisfying, as is the break from our normal routine. It is simply that I find the whole thing very wearing; the near constant activity coupled with the lack of sleep leaves me feeling drained of energy. Whilst away I seem to be able to keep going; it is amazing how enjoyment distracts us from the messages of need that our bodies send. On my return home these demands hit me and, in the worst cases such as this morning, it feels as though I have crashed.

Feeling as I do I am glad that I managed to complete most of the required post holiday tasks before I climbed into my own bed last night. Just as I am expected to do the packing, so it is left to me to unpack and put away all of the travel paraphernalia on our return. The mountain of laundry that I put through the washing machine and that is now adorning every hanging place in our house needs to be sorted, but the cases are emptied and stored away ready for next time and most of their contents have been returned from whence they came.

I do not resent being left to complete these tasks; everyone else in the family had to return to the routine of work and school today so it is only just that I should be the one to re-establish order. What bemuses me though is the common perception of a holiday being a time of rest and relaxation. Perhaps it is more the benefit of a change rather than a physical wind down that should be emphasised; or perhaps others do not fill their time away with activity as we do. I cannot imagine how my boys would cope with days spent idle; I suspect that my daughter may rather enjoy trying it.

This past weekend we managed a long, linear walk over the Quantock Hills to the coast and then along the cliffs to the seaside town of Minehead. My husband and son stopped to watch some of the cars start out on the Somerset Stages Rally before boarding a steam train on the West Somerset Railway back to our start point. On our second day we visited Dunster Castle and spent several hours exploring the buildings and grounds whilst learning about the history of the area. I will be mulling over the fascinating facts learnt for some time.

Today I will take it easy and appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do so. We had a lovely weekend of fine weather, good food and enjoyable activity; a few days of rest to recover from these exertions is a small price to pay for the happy memories. Life would be so much more dull if it were not interspersed from time to time with such breaks from the daily routine. I am grateful that we have the ability to offer ourselves such indulgences.


A good day

I had such a lovely day yesterday. A friend I have known from when I was a teenager in Belfast has travelled over from America on business and we were able to meet up for Sunday lunch. It is so lovely to get together with someone after many years of communicating only electronically. The few hours that we spent together passed too quickly; I love it that there are some friends who it feels so natural to be with.

This friend was part of the large group of teenagers that I hung out with through my late teens and early twenties. He lived nearby and attended the same university as me, doing the same primary degree course, but a year ahead. His career has always sounded much more interesting than mine though. He worked at the ever fascinating CERN  on the Franco–Swiss border in the nineteen eighties, during which time I managed to travel out to see him. He showed me, amongst other things, the delights of Chamonix in the summer and the spectacle of  the Grand Fireworks Display at the Fêtes de Genève. I travelled extensively at that time but these still stand out as highlights.

I must have spoken at some length about this friend over the years as my children were also eager to meet him, especially my youngest who is interested in pursuing a career in IT. The last time he visited they were very young and remember only his tales of bears in his back yard and the other fierce sounding wildlife that he had encountered. It was a delight yesterday to see them all interacting so well and talking technology with a knowledge that now eludes me. It is no wonder that my children find it hard to imagine that I ever held down a well paid job when I see how advanced their understanding is in comparison to mine.

I was, however, grateful that my children had agreed to eat separately from the adults as I wanted to have my friend’s attention to myself for a few of the hours that we had together. When opportunities to meet up are so rare they must be made the most of. I have managed to keep in touch with a number of friends from my youth, mainly through Facebook, but face to face meetings are few and far between. I guess it says something of our mutual desire to get together that we take the opportunity when it presents itself.

All friends should be valued, but there is something particularly precious about the shared memories and acquaintances of old friends. They have chosen to remain in touch over so many years; they have accepted the inevitable changes that occur as time passes and life experiences alter our perceptions; it is possible to get together after years apart and find conversation flows naturally and freely with no effort required. Time spent together brings such pleasure and satisfaction.

I have chosen to spend today working around my house and garden to savour the positive mood yesterday has put me in. Too often I feel that I rush around, allowing myself to be sucked into feelings of concern or self doubt; to pick up on negative comments or perceptions and apply them too personally. I demand more of myself than it is possible to achieve and then fight the feelings of failure. Yesterday I had, quite simply, a lovely time. I am going to allow myself to appreciate that pleasure; to bathe in the afterglow of a very enjoyable day.


Chamonix, July 1988