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The Incredible Unlikeliness of Grief

Yesterday – 16 June 2021 – one hundred and fifty two thousand three hundred and ninety seven people were recorded as having died from Coronavirus within twenty eight days of a positive test. If you have read my previous blog then you will know that one of those people in that very large number was my friend.  She died on 3 January.  Adella.

I’m not claiming that I’m exceptional.  She was.  I’m not.  I know that by my age that grief has affected everyone. It is different for everyone. That it takes us all by surprise and works in very mysterious ways. I have lost grandparents, watched my stepdad fight for his life for six years only to die at forty eight. Stupidly, I never expected a friend to die. Certainly not one younger than me. This has very much been The Spanish Inquisition as far as grief is concerned.

It’s been six months.  The first six months since I was little that I have faced a world without her in it. And I know now that it will never look the same through my eyes.  I never even thought about it because I foolishly assumed that as I was older that I would go first.  And not for a good few years yet because whilst my children think that I’m positively ancient and marvel at how I am still here, we all know I’m not.  I thought that when I finally went, Adella, amongst other people would shuffle into the service and say that it was very sad but what a good innings I had.  That I had lived my life.  And it was a good life.  As far as Adella was concerned, I also expected a modicum of alarm on her part as with my departure it would mean that she only had ten months until she caught up with me.  Therefore if there was something pressing she needed to be getting on with, then she had better get cracking.  Shocked as you may be to hear it, and not for the first time, I was completely and utterly wrong. 

Some dear friends have very kindly offered their ears if I have wanted to talk. But I haven’t been able to talk.  We didn’t have any friends in common. We had pre-dated every other friendship we had or have ever made.  What comfort is there to be had to sit and weep with someone who didn’t know the person you are weeping about – for weeper or weepee?  There are no shared memories.  I can’t say to them “oh do you remember that time when….” and we can laugh and remember together.  I have been so desperate to share memories, to connect with someone who knew her, that I have sat on my hands to avoid crying down the ‘phone to her parents.  Can you imagine her poor parents listening to me whitter on?  Or her ex-husband.  I’m sure he’d be thrilled.  Even driving to her funeral I thought of something that we had giggled about over the years and my brain actually went “oh Adella will laugh about that when I see her. At. Her. Funeral.”  Idiot.

When we were little, Adella and I used to go out for a walk around the country lanes near her parents’ house.  And when we heard a train coming we would run, flat out, to get to the rickety humpback bridge ready for when the train went under it.  Sometimes we would get there.  Sometimes we wouldn’t.  But when we did the bridge would shake under our feet.  And sometimes the driver would sound the horn when they saw us waving from the bridge.

A bit older and we got into make-up. Once we were giggling so much at trying to put eyeliner on that Adella poked me in the eye with the pencil.  Which made us laugh even more.

Like every other girl our age, when we saw Patrick Swayze sashay across the screen in ‘Dirty Dancing’ we knew that he was coming for us.  And much to his inevitable dismay, George Michael was no longer the man we were going to marry. I never let her forget that she suggested we listen to ‘Darty Dincing’.  On a mixed tape.  Yes.  We are that old.  We were that old.

We grew up some more.  Adella had a baby.  I was drunk in a pub.  Adella had two more babies and got married.  I was drunk in a different pub.  I moved away.  She moved further.  We meandered.  Life was busy.  I always loved her.  I wish I had told her that.

On her last birthday, as I have said in my blog, I wished her a happy birthday.  That was when she told me she was going into hospital.  I thought about telling her that I loved her then.  I remember the moment.  I wish I had told her that. Reader, I didn’t. It haunts me. 

After she died her daughter sent me some pictures she had found in her mum’s things.  Amongst them was a poem that I had written for Adella about friendship – she had kept it with her for nearly thirty five years. Turns out she always loved me.  I wish she had told me that. 

If you love someone, tell them.  They might need to hear it. You might need to say it.  And it may not be for that moment that it is really needed – you or they might need to park it and dust it off later.  If you are finding yourself very British about it then find a way. Perhaps a well-timed personal insult will suffice if you need to warm up to it.  But warm up to it.  None of us know what’s coming for us – good and bad.  Of all of the things I could have never predicted, I never could have predicted this.  We can’t tell each other now. Only one of us has to live with it. And I got the better end of the deal.

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Stick It Out

As I am sure many of you are aware there is a certain level of sweariness that is acceptable in an office.  Due to this, many years ago, a colleague and I came up with a few choice phrases that we could deploy in the office that would be deemed acceptable.  So, for example, instead of dropping the c-bomb and being frogmarched into the Senior Partner’s office for a stern word about conduct, we used the word “catflap”. True, the Senior Partner may have wanted a chat about mental stability. Maybe he just thought we were crazy cat ladies and best left well alone.  Whatever his reasons, I have been collecting euphemisms ever since.

Before this all kicked off (you’ll remember when you could go out for something as mundane as shopping without fear of transmitting a disease that could be deadly to a vulnerable person) Diminutive Friend was in her car and exiting a shopping park with her teenage daughter. Someone cut her up in terrifying style, causing an outburst of foul language not seen since King Alfred realised he’d left the oven on.  Her daughter, like every other child on Earth, has the ears of the cloth when her mother is asking her to do something useful.  However, like every other child on Earth, when she is saying something that she would rather she did not hear, said child has the ears of a bat.  Immediately she pounced: “What did you say Mummy?” Slightly flustered and thinking how she was going to get out of this one Diminutive Friend quietly cringed “…er…..chicken sucker…???” as a hopeful note crept into her voice that she had got away with it. Dear Reader, she did not get away with it.  She is now reminded of it at every possible opportunity.  But I have collected another euphemism. 

My final offering has arisen from the word “doppleganger”.  This word has caused some confusion in my family of late.  The person concerned, who had absolutely no reason to know any different from learning a new word, thought that the word for a doppleganger was “double dicker”.  A gift for someone who can’t stop swearing and needs to find ways not to.

Over the past few years I have come to the conclusion that the world is populated by two types of people: those of the human race who are catflaps, chicken-suckers and double-dickers and those who are not.

Let us consider some of the evidence. On the side of the chicken-suckers, a few selected highlights and in no particular order:

  1. Fishermen being abandoned to their fate when a big show has been made by those who were very keen to put the country in the position it is now in, of the importance of our fishing industry.
  2. People who go to the trouble of bagging their dog’s poo up and then throw it in the hedge.
  3. £22 billion taxpayer pounds spent on a Test and Trace System that has never worked.  For comparison purposes, the Mars Rover cost US$2.5 billion. 
  4. I won’t start on the other contracts to mates or I might start ranting.  Follow The Good Law Project and you can rant too.
  5. People who wear their mask under their nose or refuse to wear one at all blathering on about their human rights.  They really need to go and study human rights.
  6. MPs who vote against a pay rise for NHS staff. See point 3 above.
  7. People who have mixed during a pandemic when they have been specifically told not to.  I have heard of people still having their hair done weekly, friends and family visiting their houses in number, sending their children to school when they are awaiting a Covid test result because it’s hard looking after a child when you feel poorly – no shit – (they tested positive)…..
  8. Those who have had their first jab now announcing that they can visit you, whilst neatly ignoring the fact as of time of writing, that seventy three point seven per cent of us have not.  Oh, and it remains illegal to do so.  Well, as long as you’re mostly all right.  Azincourt salute to the rest of us is it?  See point 7 above.
  9. People who are not disabled, parking in spaces for disabled people.
  10. People who park in parent and child spaces when they have no child with them.
  11. Teacher-bashers.
  12. Loo-roll brawlers.

That’s just a few.  I’m sure you have many of your own.

And for balance, on the side of the non double-dickers:

  1. Those not approving of anyone being abandoned to their fate by their elected representatives regardless of their views differing from their own. 
  2. People who donate to their local food banks.
  3. In spite of it never having worked, people who used the Track and Trace system to try to do the right thing.
  4. People who would rather that contracts being paid for with taxpayers’ money were awarded through a transparent system to companies with a proven record and that there are mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with that transparent system. So we know what our money is being spent on.
  5. People who do not need to study human rights to understand that wearing a mask may (even though they will never know it or be able to see it) help save the life of one person, and that’s good enough for them.
  6. MPs who think NHS staff should have a pay rise.
  7. People who have stayed at home, often at great personal cost in terms of their mental and/or physical health because they know in their heart of hearts that it is the right thing to do.
  8. Scientists who developed the vaccine. Badasses.
  9. The NHS who are administering the vaccine.
  10. People who have been collecting prescriptions, shopping etc for people in their locality throughout the pandemic. 
  11. Teachers who have gone into work teaching children both in classes at school and online when on many, many occasions, it has appeared as if the government have been actively working against them. And if not working against them, then giving all the signs of being bloody ungrateful. 
  12. People who have decided that they will not be fighting for toilet roll.  They will not be sweeping tins off supermarket shelves and into their trolley.  They will not take so much fresh food that it is not humanly possible to eat it all before it rots.  They will not. Because that’s not what decent people do to each other.

Again, I am sure that you have many of your own examples that could be added to this list.

Is your politics basically that if there is one parking space left at the supermarket, you would like to have it but you draw the line at the disabled spaces? Would you quite like to know where all of our money, that we have earned and handed to the government to spend, has gone? Have you spent the last nearly twelve months trying to do your best to follow the rules in spite of it making you want to weep because you just want to hug the people you love? On the few occasions you have been out have you resisted all urges to go up to someone and shout “over your nose, you chicken sucker, that big lump in the middle of your face? That’s your nose!”  Yes?  That’s you? Excellent.  I think we can work together.  And we’ re going to need to because we’re not out of the woods yet, and in spite of them being blissfully unaware, neither are the catflaps. As we move towards Spring, and hopefully the light at the end of the tunnel, thank you for all you have endured.  For me.  For my family.  And the double dickers who would not afford you the same, let alone thank you for it. We are nearly there.  We must be nearly there.  And whilst I’m sure it is going to be bumpy for a while yet, there are many lives lost that shouldn’t have been and injustices that will need to be fought that shouldn’t be. But we can only do that if we have a care for eachother. As I said to a friend who has been told to shield again and was most displeased about it – I’ll stick the homestretch out for you, if you stick the homestretch out for me.

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The Way We Are

2021 has started off as 2020 meant to go on hasn’t it? I thought that I should keep my expectations low and then it might end up surprising me. And it already has. But not in a good way. Death rates in this country due to Covid 19 are currently higher than in April and not looking to abate. If only the government had had some sort of warning from the scientists. Oh wait, they did.

I then watched in wide-eyed horror at the events in Washington DC yesterday; gun-toting, mainly white nationalists breaking into the Capitol. Apparently the last time the Capitol was stormed was when the British were miffed about the Americans throwing some tea into the water in Boston nearly three hundred years ago.  As I write I believe that four people and a police officer are dead.  It is a dreadful state of affairs when one is saying that they are glad that it wasn’t considerably worse.  I also had to shake myself when watching to remember that we are also in a pandemic. So whilst the building was stormed and people were taking selfies, no one was wearing masks, no one was social-distancing – it was all one big jolly.  The illness and deaths that will follow from that one act are incalculable.  But follow they will.

As I saw the footage that we’ve all seen of that man who had his face painted, wearing horned hearwear, some sort of bearskin and not a lot else, shout furiously, I decided that perhaps I should turn the television off. I picked up my book, Ian Dunt’s ‘How To Be A Liberal’ ( sounds bland, but is anything but and I recommend for anyone interested in political history).  Hoping that it might provide me with some respite from the reality of living through a pandemic where large sections of the world seemed to have lost their mind, unfortunately I happened to be on the section about Hitler’s rise to power and Stalinist Russia.  Reading that one could be forgiven for concluding that homo sapiens is quite a bit of a shit.

I have wondered for some time what some people throughout history are so angry about.  The Persecution of the Jews, Stalin against his own people.  Further down the sliding scale I admit, but still on the scale Hardcore Brexiters ranting about immigrants and fish, anti-vaxxers screeching about their human rights being violated, Trump-supporting Republicans slavishly believing every deceitful word. 

I am in the section in Ian Dunt’s book where he is talking about belonging and what a powerful pull it is.  A lot of people, furious and red-faced when we see them on the news, don’t feel like they are listened to or that they belong. So when President Fart tells them that he loves them, they genuinely believe him because they feel heard and they want to be loved.  When Boris Johnson talks about putting an arm around people, rather than their skin making a dash for the door, some people actually find that comforting. Yes, I know.  But they do. In spite of their actions demonstrating only their self-interest is at heart, the words themselves matter to people, even if they are demonstrable lies.  It’s what they want to hear.  Through a desperate desire to be heard and to belong, people believe the words.  They just want to be loved. Which means that they don’t feel loved.  That is rather sad.

Now you will tell from my tone that I am not a fan of President Fart and his British Clone. So why do I loathe them when others love them? When the PM talked about the virus being over by Christmas, as (and I am being charitable here) he continually over-promises and consistently underdelivers, I decided to entirely ignore him and listen to the scientists. When President Fart looked at the fact of thousands of his people dying, presumably landing in reports on his desk each and every day and still refused to wear a mask, I wondered if he had seen someone be ill or die from Covid.  I concluded, probably not anyone he cares about. 

All evidence over the last few years would point to a large section of people not caring about something ,or enough about something, unless it directly affects them. Not because they don’t want to, but people have busy and stressful lives and unless they see it, or feel it, they don’t believe it and have little time to accommodate it.  Rather like in Jaws when Richard Dreyfus’s character tells the Mayor that he thought he was prepared to ignore the problem of the shark snacking on holidaymakers until it swam up and bit him on the ass. So people hear a death toll of over a thousand people a day, and they know it to be true, but they don’t honestly believe it until it affects them or someone they love. Because that’s what makes it real.  It is not intended as a criticism, it is just the way we are. And that is the power of a deranged but powerful man telling rioters that he loves them.  Or the rank hypocrisy of a man who claps the NHS once a week which makes the front pages but won’t put our money where his mouth is and give them a payrise.  Their supporters feel like they belong to something or someone more important than themselves. To someone who cares for them and has their best interests at heart because they say that they do, even if all of the available evidence shows entirely the opposite.  Thousands of people are dying on their watch.  Thousands.  The numbers are real.  The people are real. Each and every one of them. And they are the numbers that they can get away with.  Remember that to be counted you have to die within twenty-eight days of a positive test.  If you linger, by day twenty nine you quite literally do not count. Except to the people you belong to, they don’t care about the twenty eight days.

A week last Wednesday was the forty fourth birthday of my childhood friend.  I messaged her to wish her a Happy Birthday, pretty much as we had done for eachother every year for the last thirty five years.  In spite of us drifting through life’s twists and turns, we still belonged to eachother.  She had been taken into hospital on her birthday because she had Covid and needed some oxygen.  I told her that that was a rubbish birthday present, but I was sure that now she was in hospital she would be feeling better soon.  She said her fingers were crossed. I left her alone because who wants to be replying to messages when they’re ill in hospital. Three days later she died. She is one of the 454 people who count as having died from Covid that day because she had the good grace to go within twenty eight days from her positive test. Except to her children, her parents, and to me, one of her many friends. We will mourn her loss each and every day for the rest of our lives. We knew and loved her; she belonged to each and every one of us. And she’s gone.

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A Tale of Two Villages

agriculture clouds countryside cropland
Photo by Ákos Szabó on Pexels.com

 

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Bicester Village, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge against shopping to new mutiny,

Where credit cards make bank accounts unclean.

 

Hunting

A few weeks ago, after I had told Man of the House that he was going to take some time off work he announced that on one of these days that he “wanted to go clothes shopping.” I can count on the fingers on one hand when Man of the House has wanted to go clothes shopping in the last eighteen years and three of them were when we first started going out. I could only assume that the situation in his wardrobe was desperate if he was making such an announcement. On the allotted day, having divested ourselves of the Childerbeasts, we made our way to a local shopping village.

We arrived, found a parking space and I was rather hoping for a coffee and a muffin of some sort. Not a chance.  I could almost hear Sir Stirling Moss saying “aaaaannnnndddd they’re off” as I was frog-marched to the first shop. A shirt shop. Asking me what his shirt size was, Man of the House began rifling through the rails. He identified a few garments he liked, spurned some others and then made his way to the till to pay. Bag collected, thanked for his custom and we were out. Onto the next one.

In the next shop we were looking for trousers. He advised the sales assistant of his size who very kindly brought him various pairs, some of which were roundly rejected and others he deigned to try on. No sooner had I parked myself on a pouffe that the changing room curtain was flung back, rings jangling, and he emerged.  He was Making A Purchase. And no he didn’t need to try the same style on in navy, he would just take a pair of them as well. Geez.

Out. Into a shoe shop. Tried a pair on. They didn’t fit. Didn’t want to try any others on. Back out.

By this point I insisted on going to the loo, even if it was just for a quick sit down and to get my head straight.

In the next shop we didn’t get any further than the doorway, Man of the House stood in the entrance and stated that he couldn’t see a single thing he wanted to buy and stalked off.

I gratefully accepted when he enquired as to whether I would like a coffee. Coffee was purchased. Coffee was drunk. A pastry was consumed. And the route march resumed. Two hours after we had arrived, Man of the House announced that he had seen all that he wanted to and asked if there was there anywhere that I would like to go.

Amongst other places I wanted to go to was a shoe shop. Jimmy Choo to be precise. I don’t like clothes shopping for myself. I find it quite stressful. But I do love shoes. Not that I have anywhere to wear them, or a bank account that can afford them. But a girl’s got to dream. So we went to see Mr Choos shoes. They are sparkly and glittery and beautiful. I coo-ed. I admired. I’m not ashamed to say that I stroked. I picked up the most beautiful pair of shoes in the whole world and with a smile rather like the one that must have graced Judy Garland’s beautiful face when someone pointed to her ruby slippers and said “you have to wear those all of the time” showed them to Man of the House. He announced in a loud voice that if that was what I wanted for Christmas, he could simply buy a plain pair of shoes and let the Childerbeasts loose with a glue stick and glitter. The security guard looked even less impressed than I was. It was time to go home.

Gathering

Due to a diary nightmare, I had a longstanding date to return to said shopping venue with two girlfriends precisely one week hence. Therefore a week later, Blonde Friend, Brunette Friend and I made our way to the same destination. On arrival, without even asking, we all knew that none of us had eaten because in spite of being up at stupid o’clock, we had been sorting everyone else out with their requirements for the day. In a leisurely manner we made our way to a catering venue and purchased something to eat and drink. We sat and discussed what the target purchases were, and which establishments each of us would like to visit. After finishing our breakfast, we meandered down the street. Blonde Friend pointed out a clothing shop that I had never heard of, nor seen before. Brunette Friend advised that they sold lovely clothes at reasonable prices. So we went in. We browsed. Probably for fifteen minutes. Even twenty. Blonde Friend tried a couple of dresses on. She bought one. We then moved on.

In another shop, whilst Brunette Friend was under a pile of bedding (as in choosing, she wasn’t having a little sleep), I was minding my own business in the children’s pyjama section when Blonde Friend rushed over to me and grabbed my arm “Natalie, Natalie, they have some lovely dresses here that I think would look lovely on you. Come and have a look.” I took three dresses into the changing room. I tried them all on. One looked so awful I refused to emerge. But the other two required the opinion of both friends, a shop assistant and another woman waiting in the queue. They all thought I should purchase. I bought two dresses that I didn’t even know I needed.

Our third shop seemed to involve locating Christmas presents for each other’s families. I bought my eldest Childerbeast a book titled ‘How to Swear’, a bright yellow tome which Brunette Friend had ostentatiously waved at me from across the other side of the establishment. Since they have started secondary school, the language from Childerbeast Number One has been so bad I am now at a loss as to what else to do other than to get him to swear properly. I made it very clear to the assistant that the book was not for me. I know how to swear properly thank you very much. It is my Childerbeast that needs the guidance. Yes, that makes it so much better. Yes, Social Services are welcome any time.

Ambling from one shop to another, admiring shoes in windows without any hilarious comments about glitter and glue sticks, we started to flag a little and determined that we ought to have lunch. And probably a cake. There we re-assessed our purchases and also where we hadn’t been that each of us wanted to go. One couple complimented us on the number of bags, and therefore our shopping success. In turn, I berated them for having only one small bag, and suggested that after lunch they go back out there and try harder. We left. Tired but content, and with time for another cup of tea when we got home.

 

 

 

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Judge Me By My Size, Do You?

 

 

milky way galaxy during nighttime
Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

The best stories are always those where there is a battle between good and evil; the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, Frodo and Sauron, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, those of you who love Marmite vs those of us who hate it…… You may recall that just over a year ago I wrote a blog about being involved with a potential building project of a new pre-school. I say potential because at the time of writing nothing was certain. For those who don’t recall it was a blog written about three days before we were scheduled to knock the old building down expressing my extreme anxiety as to the consequences, if, for want of a better phrase, we fucked it up. The two important points to bear in mind were: 1. We had to build it into the Summer holidays so we could open for the new term, and 2. We had one pot of money that had taken ten years to save, and that was it, down to the last penny.  And in that blog I said that I would let you know how our story came to an end; it was a titanic battle.

As many of you who volunteer or work for charities know, we needed cash. And lots of it. You’ll be relieved to hear that we weren’t three days away from the start date when I was writing and still wondering where we were going to find the money. However, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to thank every single person who ever donated anything towards the project because without them we would never have got to it even being a possibility. Previous trustees had been scrimping and saving for almost ten years to try and gather a pot of money together to prepare for the day that the building came down, either because it was knocked down deliberately, or by a reasonably strong gust of wind.

As the gust of wind option became more likely the need for the cash became more pressing. Thankfully we had a committee member who had the perfect skill-set of knowing precisely how to wring money out of people combined with an ability to boss about those of us who didn’t. And to keep it up, consistently, for about four years. It is impossible to express to you just how hard it was to raise that money. And once raised, how incredibly careful we had to be to make sure that money was enough.

Whilst we were getting the money together, because we are not completely stupid (which may surprise most of you), it had also occurred to us that we needed the legal right to actually go ahead with the build. Apparently planning authorities and landowners get a bit sniffy if you just start building on their property.  This is where my complete and utter inability to organise a fundraiser did not matter (“Natalie you look as comfortable with that bunting as [three year old son] looks when I give him a pen”). However, my  skill to work my way through the varying departments at the local authority until I got to speak to the correct person to give us that permission did matter. I exchanged the contract, I believe, with around an hour to spare before an army of volunteers turned up to empty the building before it was to be knocked down and the site cleared the next day. Nothing like taking it to the wire.

The committee also had a number of very detailed conversations late into the night about the minutiae of the building. A long list of all of the things that would be necessary in order for it to function as a pre-school, together with the associated cost of those items and the difference between essential and desirable. My colleagues and I now know far more about toilets than frankly, we ever wanted.  Consequently we have also given more consideration and had more open conversation than we would have ever wished to regarding the dimensions of the human bottom.  Nevertheless, if you need a lavatorial expert, I know just the woman, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Taking the old building down and the new one going up was where committee member number four came in. We had employed a company to supply and construct the building but once it was plastered we were going to need some other people come in. Committee member number four knew (and presumably still does) an inordinate number of people with diggers and trailers, those big metal fences, drills, chain saws, and lots of other manly equipment and power tools. A selection of eager husbands, fathers and I think some people who just fancied joining in turned up the next day and took great delight in dismantling the old building and chucking it into skips. Committee member number four took five days annual leave to work on the project. And that excludes evenings and weekends.

This is not forgetting other committee members, and the Manager in particular, who were doing boring and unsexy but extremely necessary administrative stuff and things like sanding handrails for hours on end, digging holes and spending a thrilling evening on their hands and knees putting nails into the floor so the carpet could be laid.  All to ensure that we finished. On time. And on budget.  Ready for the new term.

Perhaps when you are surrounded by people who are all working towards the same goal, even if you differ at points as to how to get there, the thing that binds you together is that you all do want to get there.  Although there was a web of red tape involved which was exceedingly challenging to navigate, we didn’t feel that we were up against the wrong side.  It was realizing that some people are wandering through life with entirely and exclusively their own interests at heart that did.  One of our volunteers was working on the building one evening after being at work all day and looking forward to their dinner at eleven pm when their partner telephoned as they had come home to discover that they had been burgled. The plasterer walked off site the reasons for which we will never know and in doing so risked everything everyone had worked for, and five people’s jobs. Orcs? Death Eaters?  I think so. By contrast a local builder found us four plasterers who were in the building the next morning to try and catch up the time. A local farmer who grows and sells sunflowers for charity had heard about the project and gave us a donation.  Rebel Alliance?  Gryffindors?  Yup.

And us? The committee as was? What happened to us?  We are still around, but not putting our hands up for any charitable building projects any time soon.  Any number of people could have done what we did.  And we could not have done it without everyone who had gone before us, and everyone who stood with us at the time.  We just happened to be the people who were in the right place at the right time.  And we knew it.  Although some days it felt very much like the wrong place and the wrong time.  But it is my view that the anything worth having in life, something worth truly having, is something that you have to fight for – love, respect, friendship.  Do you remember that scene in Star Wars when Yoda lifts the X-Wing out of the swamp using The Force? If you don’t (unconscionable but possible) look it up on YouTube.  Luke Skywalker stands amazed and can only just manage to say “I don’t believe it.”. Yoda turns to him and in his distinctive, ominous and slightly squeaky voice, utters the immortal words: “That. Is. Why. You Failed.” We were a group of people for whom failure was not an option. We knew that together we had the ability to pull it off.  But only together.  Which I think by my own assessment, makes us all Yoda. Yikes.

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Tea and Cake

Tea now, gin later.jpg

Afternoon tea is very in at the moment isn’t it?  Or it certainly seems so.  Not that it ever really went out of fashion.  The idea of tea and cake becoming unfashionable seems to me to be very odd indeed.  Perhaps with the advent of ‘Friends’ and the rise of the Starbucks and Costas of this world, the unthinkable happened and the popularity of tea wained slightly in England.  Well I am pleased to see that it is back, and so is gin apparently.  Yippee! I need to do more research on the gin before I am able to write with any authority on that particular subject.  And I also suspect that you might also need to do some more research before you are able to see whether or not you agree with my views on gin whenever I come to express them.  So let’s agree to re-group on that one in the future.

Yes, so afternoon tea.  Imagine my friend’s delight when she was invited to afternoon tea with a group of friends.  This is my friend who openly admits to never having met a cake she didn’t like, so she was very happy indeed.  I am not sure she has met a gin she didn’t like either.  Nevertheless, she womanfully presses on with trying to find either a cake or a gin she isn’t keen on.

Unfortunately the date of the afternoon tea fell on a day when her significant other had to go to work, and she was going to have to take her (very well behaved and older) children with her.  I’ve been both in and out with these children on many occasions, not only are they very well-behaved, they also entertain the other children, which is a win-win situation as far as I am concerned.  In the meantime, my cake/gin loving friend had another friend get in touch with her who was having a childcare nightmare on that day; she and her partner had to work and there was no one who could look after her child.  My friend agreed to help out, because that is the sort of person she is. The child happens to have a severe food allergy.  My friend checked it out with her parents, the restaurant where the afternoon tea was to be taken and also happens to be trained in the use of an epipen.  All was in hand.  Everyone who needed to could go to work.  And everyone else was having cake.  Marvellous.

I need to declare an interest here.  My son has a food allergy. Several actually.  Thankfully none of them are life threatening, but if he has an allergic reaction it is pretty unpleasant for him.  He gets hives on his hands and his face, his lips swell, he can find it hard to breath and eventually he throws up.  He usually feels rather ill for the rest of the day.  He has medicine, which he usually throws up as well.  I discovered his food allergy when he was eight months’ old.  I won’t bore you with the details, but after about six months’ of carefully noting what I had prepared and a process of elimination, I had nailed it.  The hospital confirmed that which I already knew.  My son is pretty wonderful about it – he has never let it put him off trying new foods or eating out.  And I know that many many children have so many more serious things to worry about.  Most people have daily shadows lurking in the back of their mind when it comes to their children, that is one of mine.

Back to the story.  After having taken every precaution, my friend then notified the afternoon tea organiser of the additional child.  Down to the last exclamation mark, this was the response she received:

“Seriously!!!! I thought she had a severe allergy!!! Don’t want to put you off but it’s not a risk I would take!!!! I’m there to have a giggle with friends not stressing about someone’s allergy!! Sorry if that sounds harsh but I do panic about these things 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (: (: (: (: ”

My friend asked me if I thought this rude.  I thought it exceptionally rude and told her so.  In addition, I have a few comments in response because my friend is far too polite to say them, nor does she have a blog:

  1. Yes, you do want to put her off.
  2. You’re not stressing about anyone’s allergy, you don’t want the child there.
  3. It doesn’t sound harsh, it is harsh. Couching it with a ‘sorry’ at the start does not make it less so.  Besides, you’re not sorry. And you don’t panic either.  You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
  4. A sarcastic person might suggest that it must be very difficult for you spending your days stressing about the food allergies of other people who are not in your care.

Now we all know what is really going on here.  And I agree with what is the main thrust of the women’s response is that children can be a pain, particularly one’s with allergies. But that’s life.   It very rarely fits neatly into boxes.  Children certainly don’t.  Suck it up.

We don’t really get to choose many things in life – our looks, our intelligence, who we fall in love with – all of these things are outside of our control, however much we like to think that they’re not.  But there two things that we can choose.  The first is that we are sufficiently privileged in this country to be able to choose to have children.  For me, having children meant that however they were to come to me, they were mine to care for, come what may, until the day I die.  And when our friends have children, they become part of our lives too.  And the second, for which I am grateful every single day, is that we can choose our friends. The one who will be pissed off if my son happens to be ill in spite of carefully checking everything?  Or the one who will hold my son’s head whilst he is sick on her shoes?  Hmmm…tricky….The one with the barf-spattered trainers please. I choose that one.  But I promise faithfully to replace the shoes.

 

 

 

Photograph courtesy of OneManOneShed on etsy.com/uk