It’s that day of the year that gets me thinking about things. I know I am not alone in this. I think it is a day that we should at least pause for thought In our life.
And so here it is, that day has arrived once again. Although I am not bothered about being a year older. I am glad that I am here and I still have my partner and my dog to share it with. It will also be nice to catch up with my Mum as I haven’t seen her for a few weeks. I don’t have big fancy plans, a favourite meal in the evening and have seen some of my friends over this week. I am conscious of the fact that it is a blessing to be here and that in itself is my celebration. Age is no indication that we can remain. The world loses many wonderful people young and old every day.
I had planned to do certain things just for me by the time my birthday came around this year, but alas I have not managed to achieve half of what I wanted to do at this point in my life. However, this year has only just begun so I will just have to get stuck in.
But… To return to my original subject now I talked to a few people about my writing in the past month or so and they have said some nice things which motivated me to try some things that I had put to the back of my mind. The first thing being to get the first book out there in physical form. When I set out to publish my first book two years ago I didn’t think that it was important to have a hard copy of the book, but how wrong was I? Time and again the people I know have said to me that if I had a printed copy they would buy it so I hope that they will now.
At the time I just wanted to get it out there and thought that people used kindles anyway, so it seemed like the easiest way to self publish. But since then I have realised the importance of a physical book to so many readers.
I must admit, that when I go to the spoken word poetry nights there are paperback books, sheaves of paper, notebooks and the occasional phone which people read from. I have not yet seen a kindle in use.
So I set about my task for this week, to edit, spellcheck, read through my book once again and attempt to put it into print. This time proper print, which people might actually read on holiday, or the bus, or in their coffee break or anywhere really.
If nothing else, this is my Birthday gift to myself, that I have done it, approved it and sent it for publishing. So that at least my parents might be able to have a copy of it at last.
One thing that I have learned in the last week whilst I have been doing the slight adjustments to the book is that my writing has improved. It felt somehow naive reading those poems back. Although I know that I am my own worst critic. I can see my work warts and all. Thankfully there are also people who enjoy some of it, which spurs me on to write more. But these days I feel more confident as a writer. Like I can actually do it now. I also feel that my poetry has changed quite a bit. Of course the subject matter differs from piece to piece anyway, but I think I am more at ease with the flow, however it comes to me.
I will also be creating the second book of poems this year. A long time ago I had a number in my head that when I’d written that many I would make the selection. But that was some time ago. I wasn’t feeling as though it was the right time to publish so I just kept on writing more. I now feel it’s time.
It has been suggested that I write some poems for children, which should help me along the way as I want to get into reading them out in public. I began a children’s story book a couple lf months ago which I hope will grow over time and I have two people that I would like to illustrate it for me, but since I haven’t finished it yet, I feel that I can’t ask them until its ready. I also have lots of other ideas. So who knows what this year will shape up to be by the end of it.
This has not been the year that I wanted or expected it to be. Neither has it been the year that I manifested for myself, the one filled with good things which would change my life for the better. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been eventful to say the least. But this is not the sort of year that one would ever wish to repeat. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, so don’t be put off reading.
In February, my partner sent me on a trip of a lifetime to visit my very dear friends in Australia. Travelling alone the whole thing was the most amazing experience and I will carry the memories with me forever. I was so grateful to him for doing that for me and whilst I was in a warmer climate, eating a tonne of fresh fruit and veg and drinking filtered rainwater. My health improved greatly, rather like pressing a reset button. I was devasted to find out whilst I was away that he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had four weeks of radiotherapy, he had decided to do this alone whilst I was out of the way. He doesn’t like me seeing him ill. I was worried silly about him. He had been unwell for a while and I suspected that he had relapsed. Although he is not yet well, he is pleased that he has made it through thus far. Neither he or I were sure that would even happen at several points this year, something that over the Christmas period we have been celebrating.
In the springtime, we went away to our home in Scotland. It was awful when we got there to find that our neighbour had in our absence erected a 6ft high fence all the way along the front of our property, blocking our view and stealing yet more of our land, but we were not in a financial position to fight him to get it back. Even more devastating was when he arranged for his brother to attack my partner and my dog when I had left to come back South to deal with urgent family matters. The police were called and things went from bad to worse up there. We couldn’t come back quickly enough, feeling unwelcome in both places where we live leaves you wondering just where you are supposed to be and questioning so much. We thought about leaving there and not going back, but then we aren’t used to backing down. We have fought so hard to make it work up there. He suffered injury and ill health throughout the summer, largely down to the stress of it when he was supposed to rest and recuperate and his health has not improved either.
This wasn’t the year that I ever thought that our family would get smaller, it was an awful shock to lose my brother, who was only in his forties suddenly and heartbreakingly in an accident whilst he was working abroad. It was not how he wanted me to travel, to go out to the place where he worked to bring home his belongings, but he knew that I was the only one who could actually do it and so he made me next of kin although I didn’t realise this until he died.
I had to travel to Corsica alone and deal with matters there and meet his colleagues who had become like family to him, I realised the profound effect that my brother had upon all who knew him there. Within a couple of months he had become a part of their extended family, was respected and accepted and greatly missed by them all. They were all left reeling from the circumstances and it was both difficult and totally necessary that I went out there to meet them. His employers were totally supportive and arranged everything there. I could not have gone if it hadn’t been for them.
During this time I realised that I had hidden the strength that I once had so deeply. The strength that I doubted I still had within me, but I had to hold it together for the sake of my family and I showed courage and achieved what was required of me in his honour. We gave him the best party ever as a send-off and over 400 people attended his funeral with around 200 people in a celebration of his life afterwards. The organising skills I once had, came to the fore once again and on that day I stood in front of them all and read one of my poems for the first time ever in public. The whole thing wiped me out and my health suffered a knock back afterwards, but I had the support of my loved ones and our relationships have strengthened through it also. United by grief, my sister and my mother and I have grown even closer and other friendships that were lost have been rekindled. My brother left a legacy that continues to inspire people. He also inspires us to not give up and to achieve things now and step outside of our comfort zones. I have since gone on to read more of my poetry at spoken word events since then. Something that in recent years I would never have thought possible due to a severe dip in my self-confidence. We all feel differently since he has gone. We are all grieving and Christmas time was especially difficult since he would normally visit us. But his loss has definitely changed our lives and his spirit lives on and reminds us we will never be apart.
But it was the year that justice was finally served on my neighbour in the south who has terrorised and threatened my partner and I for over two years. He was given a fine and a criminal record for only a fraction of what he has done, but at least he did not get off Scot free and has been held accountable for some of his actions at last. I also got a restraining order against him banishing him from contacting me or coming near me or my home. That was a good day and although I do not feel as though I am safe and I cannot afford to become nonchalant about it, at least there is some recourse if he does anything in the next few months. If nothing else it has bought us some time in which to figure things out and possibly move elsewhere whilst under the protection of the order.
I have been writing again lately, poems mainly and trying to write about other interesting things and be less of a dreamer. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have been writing on another blog lately, trying to find alternative subjects about which to write. But dreaming is where I gain the most comfort I think. I take comfort in the good dreams but due to the illness I have I have had to take some new medication and this had given me the most awful dreams which I did not wish to dwell on or write about. I had hoped that I would awake and they would be gone, alas it was not to be. It has caused depression to return lately and with it other difficulties. I thought that I would get used to the new drug. I thought it was only a matter of time before I could get used to its effects, but I now realise that is not to be. Three months in, I know that I will have to change to something else entirely or have to brave it out again as I did before without meds. I now regret that I succumbed to pharmaceuticals once again and look for the herbal alternative instead which might give some relief. I have been writing more honestly, I do not know if I will publish much of why I have written, but it is there and I have written it and I feel calmer for the process. It has been a huge part of my healing process over the years.
I have been back to the breast clinic this week. I have suffered with pain in both breasts for nine months of this year and having had two mammograms and a scan I’ve been told that I don’t have cancer this week which is a huge relief. But, they don’t know why I am still in pain or why it would be there. So it’s back to the drawing board again.
On the other hand, I have ENT and Rheumatology appointments booked for March which is the earliest I can be seen, These are to look into the constant pain I’m in, the lack of my sense of smell which largely disappeared almost a year ago and the tremors and spasms I now suffer with daily. It’s more of that waiting game. Meanwhile, I did not expect that all of my benefits would be stopped and I would have to start from scratch again just when I thought that things could not get any worse. If it had not been for the support and help with food from my family then I do not know where I would be now, I was worried that I might lose my home being left unable to pay for it or the bills. That really scares me. It is sorted out now for the time being, but I am now worse off financially than I have been for the past 3 years of being unwell and I had to take on more debt to cover the interim.
I have certainly learned to adapt this past year. I lost my sense of smell in the early Spring, right when I had thought that I would be making scented products in my spare time and might be able to raise funds in this way and incorporate a hobby. I had to have a rethink, I made things which weren’t scented or used only the tried and tested recipes which I had already which is rather restrictive. I concentrated on cooking new things instead, my taste buds were working just fine so I baked more interesting things and tried new foods.
I spent time with my sister and got creative again, trying new things and found that my artistic skills had improved, my drawing and painting and I took some stunning photographs to cherish. I sold things to make ends meet and sourced be things which I hoped would raise some funds and learned from my experiences.
I know that life has taken a turn in a different direction now. I am not sure what the future holds for me in my working life at the moment but I have changed as a person. I will be true to myself and if I am unhappy in my work life I have promised that I will not just stay there and make the best of a bad situation. I owe it to myself never to go through what I did before again. I do deserve better and I will no longer settle for less. I don’t even know what I’m capable of right now. With chronic fatigue and other health issues its very limiting but there must be something out there for me. I have received a lot of encouragement in my poetry writing since getting it out in the open, so may begin work on another book early next year. The first one is still available on Amazon if you feel like having a read and meanwhile I’m still writing my reviews on Trip Advisor occasionally which have had over 17000 readers to date.
So, on that happy note. Christmas has been a very quiet time for us, dwelling on what has happened has not been easy, but the gratitude we have for still being here and together as a family is immense. The fact that there was food on our table, the generosity of our family and the kindness of friends meant that we had a happy Christmas and are looking forward to the new year with new hope.
Yes, we hope that things generally will get better for us. We certainly don’t want them to get any worse. Rock bottom has not been very nice and we have been held down there way too long. Things will have to change for the better soon, we will do all that we can to make that happen. We are still fighting for a healthier life for us both and improvements to our surroundings. There are times when we have been unwell and depression has taken hold but thankfully despite our ups and downs this year, we are still in love with each other and if you have love, then anything is possible. Our mindset is positive. We will not let this past year bring us down. We are not giving up or backing down we are stronger together and looking forward to a healthy and happy future together.
We do not make resolutions, there has been little point when so much of what has happened has been out of our control. We will make plans, but also intend to create more happiness in our lives, spend time doing more of the things we love, visit the places, see the people and cherish whatever time we have left together. As this year has taught me a valuable lesson. Since tomorrow is promised to no one, hold your loved ones close. Live each day not necessarily as if it were your last, but make something good of each day. Note your gratitude, it will reassure you when you are feeling low. Hug the ones that love you and if you love someone, tell them. You are worthy of love and you deserve love in return. Think of the wonders you carry with you every day, the things you see and experience and love the skin that you are in, it will love you back.
May your New Year 2019 be Healthy, Happy and Blessed.
It’s happening again, the broken sleep, the intricate dreaming.
Woven stories with such a huge amount of detail that it feels I am not sleeping at all, but reliving a moment in the past, except that it can also feel like the future.
Things that I should know, are laid out before me. As clear as day.
Unrecognisable places where my life is unfolding.
People who seem to know me, where I am a part of their unknown life.
Like the ghost of Christmas past has visited and gone, is this the present and the future all rolled into one?
There is such clarity, a picture in time, just there. No explanation of it.
No voice to tell me why.
Or a statement of fact or truth, like a lightning bolt, waking me from slumber, forcing me to sit up and take note. Literally.
Sometimes, I am able to return to sleep, much later on in the night. Then I go back to dreaming the same dream, the same people the story growing as the night continues. I awake and can relive these dreams over and over, remembering the minutest detail once I am up for the day. Sometimes I feel that I don’t want to be there at all, not with a part to play or even as a bystander. Sometimes the subject matter concerns me so greatly that sleep is gone for the rest of the night and I am perturbed or upset.
Occasionally I just awake with a different feeling, as though something has changed its course and I am unable to do anything about it. I merely have to accept the new direction and go with the flow.
And in my waking hours things have also changed. There are skills that were previously hidden from view suddenly out in the open. Improvement in my mathematics, mental arithmetic and that is a first for me. Also painting and drawing that actually looks like its meant to. Recognisable artwork, just because I have tried a new technique I’ve seen or a different medium.
Things like I have experienced some sort of awakening to the real me. The feeling that nothing is impossible and I just have to try and it will all pan out. Perhaps the universe is finally working in my favour. Teaching me how to be better or stronger, preparing me for some unknown.
Just one week in a new place, one of the last holidays I remember us having all together as a family.
That home from home we didn’t want to leave.
Where we arrived and Mum began to bake,
The farmhouse kitchen just begging to be used. A basement store its dark cavern, full of unknown but interesting jars of produce waiting to be discovered.
A big pine table we could all sit around for breakfast overlooking the apple tree, laden with fruit as the tractors went about their business.
The big wooden bed with the patchwork quilt that you had to climb up onto and window seats to while away the time with a book.
The room I shared with my sister, looking out at the cows who came to the back wall to the cottage curious as to what we were doing laying on the floor looking out over the fields.
Memories of a Summer Holiday and the new friends we made.
A farm with barns and hay and animals, freedom to run wild and free in nature.
A true country farm cottage in the place with a very strange name.
This is a true story, we stayed in a holiday cottage at a place named Normanby-by-Spital, in Lincolnshire when my sister was very young, my brother and I were teenagers and although he was bored by the idea, we soon made new friends and explored the countryside. It turned out to be one of our most favourite holidays together.
I have awoken once again as I have done for as long as I can remember in the past few months, exactly two and a half hours after I had gone to bed. It seems to be such a regular occurrence now, part of the new normal forcing its way into my life. Again I am compelled to write about what has happened in the past few months and get it out of my head in the hope that it will not spend more time there and that I will be able to move on from it in some small way. I do not know if that is forcing something which is not ready to leave, or just stop it from occupying most of my thoughts.
I have been quietly writing in the background the past few months, so much has gone on in my private life which needs to remain private for now, but the difficulties of the past few years seem to pale into almost insignificance in comparison. I have sat and purposefully written in a bid to explain, but those posts will not be shared publicly, there has been so much pain to deal with and I have been fighting still despite feeling ill equipped to do so. I have also written a few more poems, some of which I’ve posted here on the blog.
It is difficult to know where to begin so I guess it will just have to come right out and say it, that which I am able to share with you. My brother passed away, he died suddenly and although it was a huge shock to us all. I am struggling to deal with it. The past almost three months since his passing, have felt like a year, endless in its quest and dragging onward. It is not over yet, since the grieving process has really only just begun due to the delays caused by legal formalities. He is not gone from my thoughts and remains very much a part of me. In my home I am surrounded by his things which bring back memories all of the time. Of course this does not just affect me, the rest of the family are left reeling from the shock of it all, he was a relatively young man at 48 years old and this was totally unexpected.
He lived his life in the enviable position of having no responsibilities in fact he positively shied away from them, left no will and made me his next of kin. Suddenly, there was a policeman on the telephone, faced with the duty of informing me that there had been an accident and that I was to contact his employer urgently. At that point, he was in a critical ward of a hospital in Corsica and it was my job to inform Mum. We spoke on the phone since I was also away at the time, and only a couple of hours later, he was dead. Gone forever it felt surreal. He had been working away for most of the last five years, returning only for short periods in between and staying with friends, who were extended family, whenever he was back in the UK we tried to catch up, but during his trips he would call me at length and tell me all about where he was living and the people he was working with. He was excited by life and new experiences and I loved those conversations. I was lucky to have had one such conversation the afternoon before he passed away, which made me wrack my brains and replay every moment in my mind to see if I could have sensed that something was wrong, if it could in some way have forewarned me of what was to come. But it did not. What happened was just an awful accident, cardiac arrest brought on by shock of the extreme heat of the climate, to cold water in an outdoor swimming pool. One misjudged moment in time, deciding to go for a swim and he drowned. It was awful and it still is. To think of a life so suddenly gone, I am still coming to terms with how final that is. He was just getting to do the things that he wanted to and living the life he felt that he should. He had plans and was excited by what the future may hold.
I still can’t believe that he is gone and not coming back, as a seasonnaire chef, his summer stint would be over and he would be back by now. I like so many others, his friends and his family are waiting for that phone call we would normally have had by now, saying “Hello, I’m back”. He stopped calling it home a couple of years ago, when he decided that he wanted to live in Italy and began looking for a flat there, alas that was not to be. But here was where he returned to, his roots and the extended family he had chosen, lifelong friendships with people who anticipated his return.
It was August when he passed away. It took two months to get him home and have the funeral since there was an inquest and repatriation to deal with. I am relieved that his employers were a reputable company who had insurance, otherwise I for one could not have coped with it all and the costs of bringing him back and dealing with it all would have been impossible. It would have been a very different situation since as far as I can find out he had no insurance to cover him for his death. He had not written a will and had no savings whatsoever surviving from one pay check to the next and never quite managing it consistently living beyond his means.
Thankfully, from a leaving people behind point of view, he did not have a wife or children, just parents and siblings, me and his sister. He also had literally hundreds of friends, dotted around the world. I honestly feel that he never lost touch with anyone he ever met, leaving a lasting impression upon them, they stayed in touch or he would walk into a place somewhere in the world and someone would know someone who knew him, or an old acquaintance would reappear. It was uncanny. He was a loveable rogue and when we planned his party for him, in celebration of his life it only then became clear to us how loved he was. He did not want a funeral where everyone was sad, he wanted a party where everyone could gather and talk about the good times, drink and dance and talk. Throughout the planning I was worried, wondering if I would make him proud. It had been many years since I had planned an event, but I wanted it to be perfect for him. Nothing would spoil it and as it turned out it was a wonderful night, which a month later people are still speaking about with fondness, cherishing new memories along with the old and rekindled friendships. It was a wonderful compliment to be told that if he had made it to fifty and had a party, then this would have been exactly what he would have wanted to do and it couldn’t have gone any better.
We picked a location he loved as fate would have it there was a real ale festival at the first pub. A local place where he always returned to, it was the perfect setting on a beautiful warm and sunny day. A refreshing seaside breeze after a funeral service packed out with around 400 people. It was massive and although emotionally exhausting, it was filled with love and tributes. We spoke, which was something I knew that I had to do, anecdotes from growing up together and then I read a poem I had written just after his passing, called My Brother. (You can read it here) It was a first for me, reading something I had written out loud in front of an audience but it was very well received. Our sister, who is a musician, sang a song live which she had written, also a first for her and it was emotional and beautiful. Our Mum told everyone stories from his past which had everyone laughing and smiling at the memories. My partner got up and spoke, thanking all of the people who had helped and been there for my brother and for us and the tribute from his friend, reliving the memories growing up, were both entertaining and captivating.
After the initial meet up where the beer festival was held, we moved onto another pub, where we had organised a buffet, some of his school friends who are DJ’s played the music he loved for a packed out pub full of people from all walks of life and all age groups who were there to say goodbye. Our sister played live with her bands and we were fortunate that the entertainment that the pub had already booked for that night flowed effortlessly from what we had done for him. Everyone had a great time it was not like a funeral at all. It was a day and a night filled with love for someone who has left a wide gaping hole in our lives by his sudden departure. We had guest books and reading them after the funeral was lovely. We encouraged people to write their memories of him and are planning to publish his story at some point, the book he didn’t quite get to write. I am sure that he was still too busy living his life to write it all down. I have spent two months looking for the book he always spoke about writing one day, but have not yet found any evidence of it. We decided that the stories should not die with him. They are too funny, heart-warming and vivid to let go.
I was sent out to Corsica by his employers, they arranged for me to attend where he lived and worked and meet the team, his working family and the ones who had tried to save him. It was cathartic towards the end of the trip, I was so pleased to be able to do that and it helped immensely to piece together the time before his death and share some wonderful memories with those who surrounded him. I returned only six weeks ago, it feels much longer. Time seems to drag on and all of a sudden it will be three months since he died, this weekend it has been a month since his funeral. The seasons have changed and with them so have I. Although I am not sure whether it is for the better or worse and I am so far out of my comfort zone lately that I can’t remember where it is any more.
As I deal with his affairs in the line of duty, my own personal grief has kicked in it catches me out at the most awkward of moments, creating havoc in the day to day. Having dealt with the formality of the funeral now, it no longer consumes my every moment, I am still dealing with formalities as this will take some time to do. I have time to think now and remember and those memories which fall as tears when I think of him, of that lump in my throat which arrives when I get to thinking about the fact that I will never again get to hug my infuriatingly haphazard, but very endearing and loving brother. Meanwhile I am surrounded by the belongings which I am still gathering in able to sort them out and share out amongst family and his closest friends. He left his things all over Europe and even now I am not quite sure where, some are only just coming to light now. I do not know if I will be able to recover it all. Despite my daily routine being somewhat relaxed, insomnia and concerns are wearing and damaging to the health and mine has suffered, along with that of my partner who has been at my side, supporting me every step of the way. He is tired, for that read exhausted and already suffering ill health it has really taken its toll upon him, I must look after my rock and not let it crumble. As he pointed out to me, life is for the living and we are still here.
Last night I visited one of his close friends, I called round on the off chance and we talked for over an hour about the funeral and how he would normally be home by now. That he still shows up now and then, in the strangest of ways. She has been married to his best friend for over 20 years and they were a very large part of my brother’s life, always there for him come what may. Only 3 months ago I had never met her. It was the case for so many of his friends throughout his life he kept them and his family separate. But the love and warmth that they had for him has been extended to me and the rest of us and never fails to move me. I came home happy but emotional it was good to talk about my brother, but I am conscious that we also talked about other things in our lives such as making plans for the future. It was just what was needed after a week where I have been going stir crazy at home, seemingly chasing my tail to get things done, although I have made small progress nevertheless.
As time goes by, things are slowly changing, things which are forcing me to re-evaluate and make new plans. I need to concentrate on improving our health and moving us onward. I hope that down the line I can begin to follow some of my dreams with regard to work and I want to be able to write again, not just poetry but other things. The future could be a long time, there is much to do.
Ever the artist, sometimes I paint
Beautiful images, starting feint.
Starting out with something raw,
Time goes slowly as I draw.
There an image starts to appear,
It may take a month or even a year.
But once it is there, there it remains,
A memory or moment it just frames.
And as more colour or depth of field,
The picture growing it starts to yield.
More of me than I thought now,
I don’t even really know how.
Put down on paper there on a page.
The hands still paint at any age.
And I can create a beautiful thing,
Ignore the telephone starting to ring.
Incorporate nature and beauty,
It is my right and not my duty.
For mind over matter is often the cure,
Medicine for the soul I am sure.
By way of explanation, these three poems came about literally as I awoke from the first dream. As I wrote it, I then thought about the other dreams I often have about the things which I can do so much better in my dreams than in reality. It spurs me on at least to attempt the new things from time to time or revisit the old to see if I have made any improvement. If at least it provides encouragement to follow them now and then, then it is worthwhile to continue to dream.